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

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

If you read last week’s column, you know there will now be a PA statewide bear muzzleloader season, Oct. 19-26, 2019, and a statewide special firearm bear season for select individuals, Oct. 24-26, 2019. Other new black bear hunting opportunities not covered last week include an expansion of the PA statewide bear archery season, which will now run for two weeks, Oct. 28 – Nov. 9, overlapping with our deer archery season. Additionally, the extended bear fi rearm season, which runs concurrently with regular deer firearms season in select Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) will now run from Nov. 30 – Dec. 7, 2019 in 16 WMUs. In the past, it was somewhat confusing because only 4 WMUs permitted bear hunting during the entire first week of the regular deer fi rearms season and the other 12 WMUs didn’t open until the first Wednesday of the season, when not a lot of hunters were in the woods. Now, in all those 16 WMUs, hunters will be able to pursue both deer and bear from the opening Sat. two days after Thanksgiving until the following Sat. PA’s all-time bear harvest record was established in 2011 when 4,350 bears were taken (surprisingly, the 2018 tally was 3,153), and with all the additional seasons in 2019-20, the harvest record should be broken and the potential exists for a 2019 PA harvest of up to 5,000 black bears. The bottom line is there’s never been a better time to purchase a PA black bear license because the hunting opportunities coming up this Fall are unparalleled. Similar to black bears, there will be unprecedented additional elk hunting opportunities for those individuals fortunate enough to be drawn in the annual August elk application lottery. In addition to the traditional general elk season, Nov. 4-9, 2019, and the extended season, Nov. 11-16, 2019 (there are 98 licenses allocated for those seasons: 27 bulls/71 cows), there will now be a first-ever PA elk archery season, Sep. 14-28 (with 15 licenses allocated: 5 bulls/10 cows), and also a new January antlerless elk season, Jan. 4-11, 2020, with an allocation of 29 cow licenses. All total there will be 142 elk tags awarded for 2019-20, which breaks down into 32 bulls and 110 cows. The PA elk hunts are considered three different hunts: (1) archery, (2) general/ extended, (3) late antlerless; so, hunters will have to decide whether to apply for one, two, or all three hunts. The application fee is $11.90 for each of the three exclusive drawings, so it will cost you $35.70 to apply for all three hunts and as in the past, you will receive one bonus point/year that you apply and are not successfully drawn. This will greatly expand the opportunities to hunt these impressive animals, here in PA, and you just may want to submit an elk lottery application. Other changes you’ll want to be aware of include an extension of the PA statewide late archery and flintlock deer seasons by one additional week, so they will now run through the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday. Also, there are upcoming changes to a few waterfowl bag limits, some trapping seasons, the use of leashed tracking dogs, and the mentored hunting program (which now includes youths 12 to 17 who were previously omitted). Please check out the 2019-20 PA hunting & trapping digest now available online or read the copy you’ll receive with your license. One somewhat confusing area the PGC addressed for 2019-20 is fluorescent orange. Prior regulations had some archers not in compliance because they were not cognizant of what other hunting seasons overlapped with Fall archery season. The new simplified requirements are well-documented on Page 10 of the 2019-20 PA hunting & trapping digest and eliminate the requirement to wear fluorescent orange during any archery season and the Fall turkey season. However, it is still highly recommended by the PGC when moving during the Fall turkey season. Hunters have a lot to think about and look forward to in the upcoming 2019-20 hunting seasons! I plan on addressing the latest information on Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in the future, when space permits thorough coverage. God Bless, Be Safe, and Great Outdoors! ©WBB 2019

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