Let’s Preview Upcoming Changes for the 2019-20 Hunting Seasons (Part 1 of 2)

Outdoor Opportunities By COL(Ret.) Grey D. Berrier II

Summer hasn’t even officially started and important dates pertaining to our upcoming 2019-20 PA hunting seasons are already rapidly approaching. Here in PA, our hunting licenses run concurrently with the annual State fiscal year, so new 2019-20 hunting licenses are required starting July 1, 2019 and are valid through June 30, 2020. A date you may not know is Monday, June 17, 2019, which is the first day 2019-20 PA hunting licenses go on sale at issuing agents (i.e.: retailers), County Treasurer offices, Game Commission offices, and online. One significant change for 2019-20 is that all individuals purchasing their hunting license will receive a FREE 2019-20 PA Hunting & Trapping Digest. This revision goes back to the way it was in the past, before the PA Game Commission in 2017-18 and 2018-19 charged an additional $6.00 for the same document or required you print off your own copy. I’m glad they realized the importance of getting this information in every hunter’s hands, and I’m sure their advertisers are happy too! When it comes to movies, TV shows, or books, you never want someone to be a “spoiler” and tell you how things turn out before you get to watch or read it for yourself. However, it’s different with hunting seasons, since most hunters appreciate a heads-up, so they can make plans as far in advance as possible. Well, I received my advanced copy of the 2019-20 PA Hunting & Trapping Digest on May 23, 2019, so I’m going to share with you many of the critical dates you’ll want know before the calendar even turns to June and over two weeks before 2019-20 PA hunting licenses go on sale. This way, you can make decisions regarding your vacation days. The one change affecting most hunters is our PA firearms deer season will now open on the Saturday two-days after Thanksgiving, instead of the traditional Monday after Thanksgiving. According to PGC press releases, we’ve had a Monday opener for over 50-years, so this will be a paradigm shift for most active hunters. The 2019 opener will be Sat., November 30, 2019; so, I can foresee a lot of hunters altering their Thanksgiving plans, either leaving for camp right after their meal or sitting down to their family feast up at camp. This change should definitely allow more hunters to participate in opening day, but I’ll be real interested in seeing how many hunters are back out on the first Monday. This change expands our firearms deer season from 12 to 13 days and adds an additional Sat., so time will tell how it impacts the total 2019-20 deer harvest. The changes I’m most excited about are the significant revisions to our PA black bear seasons. With the PA statewide bear population growing steadily and climbing well above 20,000, bear harvests have failed to reach the desired 4,000 mark for several years, primarily due to inclement weather on opening day. In an effort to keep the black bear population within the habitat’s carrying capacity and minimize bear-human conflicts, the PGC has greatly expanded bear hunting opportunities for 2019- 20. For the first time, there will be a statewide bear muzzleloader season, Oct. 19-26, which will run concurrently with our annual October antlerless only deer muzzleloader season. That week, hunters will be able to pursue bears with the flintlock, in-line, or percussion cap muzzleloader of their choice. Here’s something really unique, the last three days of that same week in Oct., Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 24- 26, junior & senior license holders, active-duty military, and certain disabled persons’ permit holders will be able to harvest a bear with a firearm during a special fi rearms bear season (as well as antlerless deer with each required license over the same 3 days). This warmer weather firearms bear hunt should definitely enable many younger and older hunters to successfully harvest their first PA black bear. Next week, we’ll expand on bear, elk, and other hunting opportunities, and also touch on vital updates on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and changes in fluorescent orange requirements. It truly is an exciting time to be a PA hunter! God Bless, Be Safe, and Great Outdoors! ©WBB 2019

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