The opening days of the mourning dove and the first Canada goose seasons on September 1 are well-established traditions in Pennsylvania.
However, the statewide squirrel kickoff this past weekend, Saturday, September 10, is something of a new tradition for early-season hunting here in Pennsylvania. It is the third year of the squirrel season which begins in early September instead of the long-established opening in mid-October.
When the Pennsylvania Game Commission approved this change for fall 2020, the reason was to provide increased hunting opportunities. And moving the season forward five weeks has certainly done that for hunters who want to participate in small game hunting during September.
Hunting squirrels this month presents a different set of challenges than October. The weather is often more like summer with warm days with lots of pesky bugs still around. Most of the trees still have all of their lush green summer leaves that provide plenty of hiding for squirrels in the upper canopy. One strategy to overcome those obstacles would be to hunt early in the morning when the weather is likely to be more pleasant and the bushytails will forage in the open on the forest floor.
Before moving the opening of the squirrel season to September, a special juvenile squirrel hunt was held for two weeks before the start of the regular squirrel season for hunters under the age of 17. With the earlier opening, there is still a two-week juvenile hunt, but it takes place at the same time as the regular statewide squirrel season.
This year, the young squirrel hunt is from September 10 to 24, but it seems to be mostly irrelevant. Because anyone can hunt squirrels during the full two weeks of the juvenile squirrel season, the only possible benefit would be that a junior hunter does not need a hunting license to participate in the juvenile season, but must have passed a chipmunk education course. hunter-trappers. Most people take the HTE course because they need it to purchase their first hunting license. I have to believe that not many kids are going to put in the effort to take an HTE course just to be able to hunt squirrels for a couple of days without having to buy a hunting license.
In recent years, the number of in-person HTE classes has been drastically reduced due to COVID restrictions. Fortunately, many sports clubs and other groups and organizations are once again offering in-person HTE training. Many of these classes fill up almost immediately, so if you need to enroll a youngster in an HTE class so he can hunt this fall, you’d be wise to do so as soon as possible.
Online HTE classes are another option that many young people would readily accept. Any Pennsylvania resident age 11 and older can take the full HTE course online for a fee of $34.95. A free class sponsored by the NRA is also available online. Complete information about HTE classes in person and online can be found on the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission website, PGC.pa.gov.
Young rabbit and pheasant hunts continue as usual and will give young hunters an early start on those popular small game species. The junior rabbit hunt is scheduled for October 1-15 and the junior pheasant hunt is scheduled for October 8-15. Youth hunting license holders and mentored hunters under the age of 17 are eligible to participate in youth hunts, but must be accompanied by an adult as required by law. Junior Pheasant Hunters must also have a free Junior Pheasant Hunting Permit to hunt pheasants.
During the early years of my hunting career, my hunting partners and I looked forward to the opening of the small game almost as far in advance as deer season. The memories of shooting my first pheasant, grouse and rabbit are still as fond and vivid to me as the morning I shot my first buck. And some of my most enduring and cherished hunting memories are fighting through a favorite grouse cover, watching the pheasant blush from behind a pair of hounds, or kicking a rabbit off a fence, all shared with some great hunting buddies. hunt. Small game hunting was always more fun with a good friend or two.
Small game hunting can also be one of the best ways to introduce young hunters to the sport of hunting. A day in the woods can be a fascinating experience that allows young hunters to learn and bond one-on-one with their mentors. When hunting small game with more partners, everyone works together to work the cover-and-dump game. Everyone in the group is involved regardless of who takes the shot.
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