Pennsylvania’s senior-citizen sportsmen who hunted in the 1960s era continue to be in a “culture” shock. In these early days afield, not even in their wildest dreams could veteran outdoorsmen have visualized the present day season and bag limits, new regulations, and the varied hunting opportunities it would be possible to enjoy The 2014-2015 PGC seasons and bag limits have now received final approval from the Board of Commissioners. Most of the modifications were expected by the Keystone State sportsmen.
This fall, successful lottery winners will be able to harvest a Pennsylvania elk. The last elk season in the Keystone State was in 1931. Many sportsmen can well remember 1978 when the elk count had dropped to 38 animals. It was thought the herd was finished. However, thanks to an aggressive wildlife management program, the number of elk now stands at about 700.
That’s too many of these animals for the available range and PGC officials have decided to go forward with a modest harvest. For a $10 non-refundable fee, sportsmen will be able to enter an elk lottery. Information is available on the PGC website at www.pgc.state.pa.us. The elk hunt has been scheduled for November 12-17, with other dates available if the harvest quota is not met.
The bobcat lottery system will be in effect for the second year. The game commission will establish the number of tags to be allocated at a later date. Last year’s goal of 175 animals was not met. Hunters and trappers harvested only 58 bobcats. It’s interesting to note that in 2000, 119 bobcats were killed on the state’s highways.
The whitetail deer rightfully enjoys the distinction of being Pennsylvania’s official state animal. The one million license buyers in this state have more interest in deer than any other animal. In 1961, there was a short archery season and a two-week buck season. There was also a three-day doe season with only limited permits available. That year, 38,776 bucks and 17,327 does were killed, for a total of 56,103 deer.
Last year, there were 830, 650 antlerless deer licenses allocated and slightly more than 301,000 does were tagged. During the fall 2001 season, PGC biologists expect to harvest 350,000 female deer. In the 2000 season, close to 200,000 bucks were taken in the combined seasons.
During the 1960s era, a sportsman could take one deer per year. If he tagged a buck and he was fortunate enough to have obtained a doe permit, that tag was forfeited. Now, in most counties, it’s possible to kill an antlered deer and two antlerless deer. In special-designated counties, it’s possible to kill more than three deer. Combining all the available deer seasons, whitetail enthusiasts are now able to spend 75 hunting days afield.
Perhaps the most significant change in the upcoming year’s hunting regulations include the fact that during the entire two-week buck season, hunters with the appropriate antlerless permit will be able to take a doe. The any-deer concept is foreign to Keystone State sportsmen. The week-long muzzleloader season in October for doe will make the state’s black powder fraternity happy. It will also induce more deer enthusiasts to take up the muzzleloader sport. Junior, seniors, disabled persons and active duty military personnel will also enjoy a three-day October hunt. That’s sure to increase the antlerless harvest. The conservation agency has gone on record saying they want to increase the antlerless harvest from 301,000 to 350,000 or about a 16 percent boost. Veteran sportsmen believe that with all the liberal regulations, this figure could go higher. Several sportsmen organizations and at least one powerful legislator have voiced their disapproval of the changes. Another change is that this year the second or bonus doe license is not required to be used on private property. Many sportsmen believed that to be a working concept to reduce the deer population in areas where there were many complaints.
Beaver trapping has also undergone a major transition. In 1959, the beaver season was from February 15 to March 21. Five beavers could be trapped and the trapping area was restricted to 42 counties. Trappers were allowed to set only 10 traps at any one time. What a difference 42 years has made. This year the trappers can do their thing from December 26 through March 11. In some prime areas, they can trap 20 beavers day and 40 throughout the season. In other areas 20 is the season limit. Only six may be harvested in Zone 6. During the last five years, the annual beaver take has averaged more than 9000. In 1958, 2,420 beavers were trapped.
The expanding turkey population is yet another Pennsylvania phenomenon. In 1965, conservation officers estimated the turkey kill to be 15,000. The fall season was two weeks in length and there was no spring gobbler season. While the results of the 2000 season are not yet available, in 1999 spring hunters killed 37,808 gobblers and fall hunters tagged another 40,721 turkey for a total of 78,529.
It took 131 years, but man-made turkey blinds are now legal in Pennsylvania. It was 1869 when it became unlawful to use a blind to hunt turkeys. This year, the use of an artificial blind again became legal.
This fall, Pennsylvania sportsmen can hunt bear from November 19-21. In 1968, hunters bagged 218 bears in a week-long season. Last year, in a three-day period, Keystone State sportsmen bagged 3,075 bruins.
Occasionally, we hear sportsmen talking “about the good old days.” Perhaps if they take a few minutes to compare our present day hunting opportunities with those earlier-day harvest figures, length of seasons and bag limits, they would quickly realize that, “hunting isn’t the same as before, it’s much better!”