Pennsylvania, a U.S. state, was founded by William Penn. Enormous hunting opportunities are provided to the prospective hunters by the state of Pennsylvania, thanks to its 20 state forests and 121 state parks.
Avid hunters can pursue both the big and small game during the established hunting seasons. Deer hunting in Pennsylvania is best offered on the east coast.
The diverse habitat is a unique lineament of Pennsylvania.
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1. Hunting Seasons
Hunting seasons in Pennsylvania are decided by taking into account certain vital factors such as breeding or nesting, age or gender distribution, economic and recreational concerns.
The simple norm is that if the animal population is large, moderators will time it to give the hunters a greater hunting advantage.
However, if the animal population is dwindling, the sates are defined in such a way to give the animals a greater survival advantage.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission has bifurcated the hunting season into two: Big Game Hunting Season and Small game Hunting Season.
1.1 Big Game Hunting Season
Big-game species in Pennsylvania include deer, elk, and black bear. The hunting season for each is enumerated below.
- The general season to hunt elk is from November 2 to 7 and January 2 to 9. For archers, the season is from September 12 to 26.
- For bowhunters, the deer hunting season is from September 19 to November 27 and December 26 to January 23. Muzzleloading deer hunting season is from October 17 to 24.
- The archery hunt elk season is from September 12 to 26, and the general season commences from November 2 to 7 and ends on January 2 to 9.
1.2 Small Game Hunting Season
Small game species in Pennsylvania include squirrel, rabbit, pheasant, bobwhite quail, grouse, and woodchucks. The general hunting season for each is enumerated below.
- The squirrel can be hunted from September 12 to November 27, December 14 to 24, and December 26 to 27.
- The hunting season for rabbit commences from October 3 to 17, October 17 to November 27, December 14 to 24, and December 26 to February 27.
- Pheasants can be hunted from October 10 to 17, October 24 to November 27, December 14 to 24, and December 26 to 27.
- The general season to hunt bobwhite quail is from October 10 to 17, December 14 to 24, and December 26 to February 27.
- Grouses can be hunted between October 17-November 27 and December 14-24.
- Woodchucks have an open hunting season and can be hunted on any day except on Sundays and during the regular firearms deer season.
2. What Species To Hunt In Pennsylvania?
Throughout the state of Pennsylvania, white-tailed deer are widespread. As the name suggests, they have a white underside to the tail. They have a four-chambered stomach and shed their antlers each year.
They turn their reddish-brown skin coat into grayish-brown in the winter season. They have the ability to discriminate visual colors and can run very fast. The bag limit is one antlered deer per hunting license year.
The elk is quite a popular game mammal in Pennsylvania. They may weigh up to 600 to 1000 pounds. They have excellent abilities to jump and swim and can keep trotting for miles.
They emit a vocalization known as ‘bugling’. During the license year, only one elk may be taken.
2.3 Black Bear
Pennsylvania is the residence of about 20,000 healthy black bears. Their heavyweight does not deter them from being agile. Moreover, they are quite intelligent and have excellent power to discriminate visual colors.
They produce a range of vocalizations such as jaw-popping, growling, woofing, etc. Hunters are not allowed to lure bears by food, and this act of them is strictly against the law.
In Pennsylvania, only one bear may be hunted during the license year.
2.4 Wild Turkey
Wild turkeys can be described as ‘chicken-like’ birds and named ‘gobblers’ for adult males. They may weigh up to 25 pounds and can have a height of up to 3 feet.
They have excellent eyesight and hearing ability. They produce a variety of sounds ranging from whistle to ‘kee-kee-run’. Pennsylvania has a wild turkey population of about 5,000.
The daily bag limit for wild turkey in this state is 1.
Three species of squirrel are native to Pennsylvania and include fox, red and flying squirrels. Fox squirrels are 21 inches in length and prefer to live in the open woodlands or forests. They mate in January, and the average litter size is 2 to 4 young.
As compared to the other species of squirrels, the red squirrel is quite alert and full of energy. Their behavior is the same as the fox squirrels and has a 40-day gestation period. They have rusty brown fur with off-white or grey undersides.
Flying squirrels are nocturnal creatures and have large eyes that are adapted for night vision. They have a unique ability to soar in a downward direction from one tree to another. It is a bit difficult to have a glimpse of them since they are nocturnal and arboreal.
The daily bag limit for the combined species of squirrels in Pennsylvania is 6.
The cottontail rabbit in Pennsylvania is very popular among hunters. It is a medium-sized animal with brown and white fur. They have an excellent sense of hearing and smell. The daily bag limit is 4.
Ring-necked pheasant may weigh up to 2 pounds and is long-legged with a beautiful plumage of bright colored feathers. They are strong fliers over short distances.
Both male and female pheasants may be hunted in all WMUs. The daily bag limit is 2, with a possession limit of 6.
2.8 Bobwhite Quail
Bobwhite quail has a short body with a small head and rounded tail. They are named so because of its characteristic “bob-bob-WHITE” whistle.
They are quite social in nature and can be found in the abandoned areas and open pinelands and farms.
Grouses are like chickens and have feathered nostrils and legs. Their legs can adapt to the weather conditions in the winter season and thus can walk efficiently on snow.
They are hunted mainly for food, sport, and other applications. The daily bag limit for grouse is 2.
3. Where To Hunt In Pennsylvania?
3.1 Public Lands
The Pennsylvania Game Commission owns and manages about 1.5 million acres of state hunting lands. Enormous hunting and outdoor recreational opportunities are provided by the public hunting lands in the state.
The following list summarises certain important and popular lands that are largely frequented by the hunters.
- Buchanan State Forest, having vast acres of land, offers wonderful deer, turkey, and grouse hunting opportunities.
- Allegheny National Forest, of 517,000 acres of land, provides the best deer, turkey, and bear hunting options.
- Susquehannock State Forest, of 265 thousand acres, bestows excellent deer, turkey, and grouse hunting scopes.
- Michaux State Forest, of about 85 thousand acres, also offers deer hunting opportunities along with fishing options.
- Tuscarora State Forest, of 95780 acres, has excellent deer, turkey, and grouse hunting opportunities.
- Bald Eagle State Forest, spread over an enormous area of land, has deer, turkey, grouse, and bear in large numbers and are available for hunting.
3.2 Private Hunting Lands
Through the Hunter Access Program, the Pennsylvania Game Commission collaborates with the private landowners of the state to provide public hunting opportunities to the hunters.
It is primarily a term-lease agreement and aims to improve public hunting chances and wildlife habitat on the property enrolled.
About 2.18 million acres of the state are private lands and spread over the state’s 67 counties.
It is strongly recommended, by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, that hunters must seek prior permission from the landowners to access the private lands.
It is also urged that the hunters behave politely with the landowners and must be presentable and avoid wearing dirty outfits.
4. License Requirements
The law of Pennsylvania demands that all the first-time hunters and trappers, irrespective of their ages, must complete hunter education certification to obtain a hunting license in the state of Pennsylvania.
4.1 Types of Hunting Licenses
4.1.1 Pennsylvania Resident
To enjoy the privileges of a resident, one has to live in Pennsylvania for at least 30 days. A resident hunting license is a must for all the residents of the state.
Moreover, in the Mentored Adult Hunting Program, Pennsylvania residents ages 18 or older who are first-time hunters may be eligible to participate.
A non-resident hunting license is a must for all the non-residents of the state. They can also take part in the Mentored Adult Hunting Program, only if they are non-residents ages 18 or older and are first-time hunters.
4.1.3 Youth Hunting License
A junior hunting license may be purchased by the residents and non-residents of the age range 12 to 16. Hunters ages 12 to 13 must be followed by a licensed family member age 18 and above.
They may also apply for the Mentored Youth Permit but must be under the age of 12 and must be accompanied by a licensed mentor of age 21 or older.
4.1.4 Senior Hunting License
Residents of ages 65 or older may purchase the Resident Senior Hunting License for a reduced fee or may apply for the Resident Senior Hunting Lifetime License for a one-time fee.
However, the renewal of the lifetime license each year is a must to receive valid harvest tags. The process of renewal takes place without charging any fee.
4.1.5 Disability License
To receive disability permits, hunters with physical disabilities with a current hunting license may apply for it.
4.1.6 Military and Veteran License
Pennsylvania residents who are active-duty military members but stationed elsewhere may purchase a reduced-fee hunting license, only if they are on leave.
Also, resident veterans who have a service-related disability may avail of either the reduced-fee or free Resident Disabled Veteran (DV) Hunting License.
4.2 License Expiration
Hunting licenses are valid from July 1 to June 30 of the next year in the state of Pennsylvania.
5. Hunter Education Courses
Hunter Education Course is a must for all the first-time hunters and trappers. They have imparted knowledge about wildlife management, outdoor safety, responsible hunting behavior, and knowledge about firearm applications.
After the completion of the course, students are awarded a certificate that is accepted in all the states of North America.
However, you must be at least 11 years old to take this course.
5.1 Traditional Hunter Education Course
In the classroom format, students first need to register themselves and are required to choose if they want to attend either a 6-hour class requiring some pre-class independent study or an 8-hour class demanding some pre-class independent study and a skill-station format.
5.2 Online Hunter Education Course
The online hunter education format can be availed by anyone age 11 years or older. In this mode, students are required to complete the course online on smartphones, tablets, or computers.
After completion of the course, they can take a print-out of their certificate and then be eligible to buy a hunting license.
6. Rules and Regulations
6.1 Distance Regulations
In Pennsylvania, firearm hunters are restricted to hunt within 150 yards of occupied buildings or 50 yards for hunting with bows.
6.2 Legal Shooting Hours
The legal shooting hour in Pennsylvania commences from 30 minutes before the sunrise and ends 30 minutes after the sunset.
6.3 Hunter Orange Requirement
The Pennsylvania Game Commission strongly urges all the hunters to wear fluorescent orange. Bowhunters and turkey hunters may not wear hunter orange.
However, big-game hunters are required to wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent orange and must wear it on the head, chest, and back.
6.4 Bag Limit
Depending on the size of the game animal, the tag permits or bag limit vary. Usually, the bag limit is more if the game animal is small and vice-versa.
6.5 Can You Hunt at Night?
No game animal can be hunted at night except raccoon, fox, coyote, and bobcat. Hunters hunting these animals on foot may use a hand-held light.
However, furbearer hunters are not allowed to use a flashlight or spotlight that projects a laser light beam.
In Pennsylvania, the hunters do not need to complete a bowhunter education course. However, hunters may take the course to improve their archery skills.
A high degree of stealth, perseverance, and effort is required for bowhunters, and completing the course makes them efficient.
7.1 Bow and Arrow Requirements
- The long, recurve or compound bows must have a peak draw weight, not less than 35 pounds.
- Crossbows must have a draw weight of not less than 125 pounds and not more than 200 pounds.
- Arrows must be equipped with broadheads having an outside diameter of at least 7/8 inch with no less than two cutting edges, which shall be in the same plane throughout the length of the cutting surface.
8. Game Calls
Game calls refer to the signals emitted by the hunters to lure animals to the trap. Using game calls is a stratagem of hunters to harvest animals and conclude the hunt to be successful.
There are two types of game calls: hand-held and electronic. Hand-held game calls are carried out with the aid of wood or plastic and are extremely cost-friendly.
Electronic game calls are not considered to be legal in many states, and Pennsylvania is no exception. Recorded or amplified sounds may not be used to hunt any non-game bird or non-game mammal, except coyotes, raccoon, or opossum.
With plenty of fauna and beautiful scenic views, Pennsylvania has turned out to be a hotbed among the hunters to pursue a variety of game mammals.
A unique and enjoyable experience awaits the hunters in the state of Pennsylvania. However, it is strongly recommended that they must follow all the hunting rules and regulations.
For further details, please visit the official website of the Pennsylvania Game Commission: https://www.pgc.pa.gov/.
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