Pennsylvania’s 2021-22 hunting season begins in earnest on Wednesday, with the opening of the Canada pigeon and goose seasons.
There are many changes for hunters to follow this year. The following are some of the most prominent.
SUNDAY HUNTING EXPANSIONS
Once again, three Sundays will be open for general hunting this fall. What is added is small game.
The three open Sundays for hunting will be November 14, November 21 and November 28. Small game deer and archery will be open for hunting on November 14; small game, archery deer and bear will be open for hunting on Nov. 21; and the gun deer will be open for hunting on November 28.
Turkeys and migratory birds are not open to Sunday hunting.
Both antlerless and antlerless deer will be legal hunting during the entire statewide two-week firearm deer season, from November 27 to December 2. eleven
In addition, the extended firearm antlerless deer season after Christmas will be open in all Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C and 5D, from December 27 to January 1. 29
Previously, that end-of-season firearms hunt was only open in Special Regulations Area counties within those WMUs. This year, the search will be open at those three WMUs.
As we’ve discussed before on this page, every hunter statewide this fall can now carry up to six dehorned licenses at a time.
And as long as the allotments hold, a hunter can replace those tags as they fill up.
So let’s say I have six tags and I shoot two females. If there are any tags left anywhere in the state, I can go buy two more.
Pennsylvania began the third round of tag sales on August 16. Any hunter who has three tags can go buy three more without a prescription at any county treasurer’s office starting Sept. 13. (You can also apply by mail.)
As of early last week, WMUs 1B, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4C, and 4E had all sold out their tags.
WMU 5B, which covers Lancaster and surrounding counties, still had 6,900 remaining.
The WMUs with more than 20,000 tags remaining are WMU 2B, with 42,366; WMU 5C, with 31,391; WMU 4A, with 28,385; and WMU 2A, with 23,522.
CHANGES IN FIREARMS
Centerfire and rimfire rifles and pistols will no longer be allowed for fall turkey hunting anywhere in Pennsylvania.
The Game Commission notes that this change is not made in the name of safety, but rather to limit the fall harvest of turkeys, which includes chickens.
Turkey populations have been struggling in many parts of Pennsylvania, and the agency believes eliminating rifles and handguns will help reduce the number of turkeys taken by hunters.
In addition, the use of straight wall centerfire cartridges is permitted within the Special Regulations Areas.
This rule is not in the Hunting & Trapping Digest because it was approved in late July, but the new rule will apply to the 2021-22 firearm deer seasons.
Popular straight wall cartridges used by deer hunters include the 350 Winchester Legend, .444 Marlin, .450 Bushmaster, and .45-70 Government.
Basically, these are weapons with a maximum effective range of 200 yards, just like modern firearms.
NIGHT VISION OPTICS
Night vision and thermal optics are legal for use when hunting fur-bearing animals, except porcupines.
This rule change was actually made last year, following a change in state law, but it’s only being included in Hunting & Trapping Digest this year for the first time.
These optics are very popular throughout the country for hunting foxes and coyotes at night.
CHRONIC WASTING DISEASE
Hunters here have been dealing with the CWD rules for the last few years. The Gambling Commission has extended those rules for the 2021-22 season.
Most notable is the new ban on bringing “high risk” parts of deer, elk, and other cervids into Pennsylvania from anywhere else in the world.
Previously, the ban only applied to places outside of Pennsylvania where CWD was known to exist. Now it applies to everyone.
Prohibited high-risk parts are the head, skull plate with attached antlers if brain matter is present, cap if brain matter or spinal cord tissue is present, spinal cord, spleen, upper canine teeth if roots or other soft tissues, unfinished. taxidermy mounts and brain-tanned leathers.
Another rule change this year prohibits moving high-risk parties outside of the CWD Establishment Area, which is a swath of south-central Pennsylvania that includes and around Bedford and Fulton counties.
A large portion of Lancaster County, stretching from West Cocalico Township to Drumore Township, falls within Disease Management Area 4, following the discovery of CWD among captive deer at a farm in the Lancaster County area. Denver in 2018.
Among the special rules is a ban on moving high-risk parts out of the DMA.
So how do hunters deal with these prohibitions if they hunt deer outside of Pennsylvania and want to bring them home, or if they want to take a dead deer outside of a DMA?
Butchered meat is fine to move as long as there is no brain or spinal cord matter or spleen. Cleaned skins and skulls can also be moved, including finished taxidermy mounts.