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Pennsylvania Game Commissioners Propose 2008-09 Seasons, Bag Limits

From Pennsylvania Game Commission

-- The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners recently gave preliminary approval to hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits for 2008-09. 

The public may offer comments on all proposed 2008-09 seasons and bag limits, as well as other Board actions, between now and the Board's next meeting, April 21-22, at which time the Board will finalize seasons and bag limits for 2008-09. 

Also, the Board will take action on setting antlerless deer license allocations for the 22 WMUs at its April meeting. Deer harvest estimates for the 2007-08 seasons will be available in mid-March.

Following are several articles on meeting highlights. 

Changes Proposed for 2008-09 Deer Seasons
The Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a slate of deer seasons for the 2008-09 seasons, which retains nearly all of the opportunities provided in the past to address the goals of the agency's deer management plan. 

The only substantial change for the deer hunting seasons is a proposal to have a five-day, antlered deer only season in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 2D, 2G, 3C and 4B starting the Monday after Thanksgiving, followed immediately by seven days of concurrent, antlered and antlerless deer hunting.

The proposed package retains the two-week (12-day) concurrent, antlered and antlerless season in the remaining 18 WMUs. The change to the four WMUs is to evaluate the impact of changed season length on hunter success rates for future use as a new management tool.

"The goals of the deer management plan have not changed," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director.  "The proposed changes to these four WMUs will give us another 'tool in the toolbox,' as we move forward with our deer management plan."

Roe noted that the four WMUs chosen were because: WMUs 2G and 4B have ongoing deer research in them; WMU 2D is an area where antler restrictions are set at four points on one side, and is where the agency previously had deer research conducted; and WMU 3C is an area where antler restrictions are set at three points on one side, and is an area of the state where no extensive deer research has been conducted.

"Antlerless deer harvest versus number of days of opportunity, or the overall season length, will be evaluated following this year of five days of antlered deer and seven days of concurrent seasons," Roe said.  "Also, we will conduct annual surveys of hunters to address other aspects of the program.

"In the future, stakeholders may be able to provide input by sharing whether they'd like more opportunity via time, such as two weeks or more, or more people involved through perhaps more tags and shorter seasons."

Additionally, the Board specifically directed staff to prepare a four-year study to determine the impact and effectiveness of the proposed five-day antlered/seven-day concurrent season on the deer management plan before additional WMUs may be considered for this season configuration.

As part of the 2008-09 deer season frameworks, the Board proposed to continue to permit the use of crossbows statewide for hunting bear and elk and during any of the firearms deer seasons - including the regular firearms deer seasons, the early muzzleloader season and the late flintlock muzzleloader season - and in all deer seasons in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, which are the most urbanized areas in the state.

Statewide, hunters using crossbows during the early muzzleloader season or late flintlock season must have a muzzleloader stamp in addition to their general hunting license and appropriate WMU antlerless deer license.  Late-season hunters with a muzzleloader stamp, but using a crossbow, are permitted to take an antlered deer or an antlerless deer anywhere in the state with their unused antlered deer tag, just like other late-season flintlock hunters. 

In WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, hunters planning to use a crossbow during the archery seasons must purchase an archery stamp in addition to their general hunting license and appropriate WMU antlerless deer license.

Disabled hunters must obtain a permanent or temporary disabled hunter permit to use a crossbow during the statewide early or late archery seasons outside of WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D.

The Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) that addresses landowner deer management objectives within Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) remains in place. 

"DMAP provides a tool to harvest antlerless deer on specific properties to lessen deer impacts for landowners and the habitat," said Calvin W. DuBrock, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management director.  Fees for DMAP permits are $10 for residents and $35 for nonresidents.

WMU Boundaries Proposed for Changes
The Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a regulatory change that seeks to shift some of the boundaries of the present 22 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs).

In 2003, the agency first approved a uniform system of 22 WMUs to replace the system of multiple, species-specific management units. The primary objective of WMU system was to simplify regulations, and develop and implement management decisions on a system of more homogenous units based on physiography; land cover and use; human population density; and land ownership. 

Boundaries were defined using recognizable physical landscape features, such as rivers and highways, rather than political boundaries that are largely unmarked on the landscape.

"At the time of the approval of new units it was agreed to evaluate use of the units after five years," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. 

"The 2007-08 seasons marked the fifth year of using the system. Input on possible changes to WMUs was solicited from Game Commission headquarters and region staff. Wildlife population and harvest data also were analyzed. Recommended changes were relatively few."

The following WMU map revisions are proposed:

1) the boundary between WMUs 2C and 2E near Ebensburg was not clear on the state highway map or on the ground and needed correction;

2) new highway construction around Lewistown has changed the location of Route 22, the boundary between 4B and 4D, requiring a map correction;

3) the boundary between WMUs 3B and 3C between Towanda and Tunkhannock is Route 6, which closely follows the Susquehanna River.  Using the river as the boundary will reduce hunter access problems and property split problems and better-align WMU and township boundaries;

4) due to continuing increases in human populations in southeast Pennsylvania, the north/south border of WMU 5C around Reading and Allentown was shifted farther north, affecting boundaries with WMUs 5B, 4C and 3D; and

5) the east/west boundary between WMUs 5C and 5B were moved farther west to include more of Chester County and a portion of Lancaster County.

"These proposed changes to WMU boundaries will have minimal impact on wildlife databases," Roe said.

The Board tabled a proposal to align the "Special Regulation Areas" boundaries - currently county boundaries - within the WMU system.

Mentored Youth Hunting Program to Continue for 2008-09
The Mentored Youth Hunting Program, first implemented by the Board of Game Commissioners in 2006, will continue for the 2008-09 seasons. The list of eligible game for those youth under the age of 12 participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program will remain squirrel, woodchuck (groundhog), spring gobbler and antlered deer.

Youths participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program are required to follow the same antler restrictions as a junior license holder, which is two or more points on one antler or one antler three or more inches in length. Mentored youth may only pursue antlered deer, and may only participate in seasons in which antlered deer are legal and must follow appropriate sporting arm restrictions.

The program also requires that both the mentor and the youth abide by any fluorescent orange regulations, and that the mentored youth must tag and report any antlered deer or wild turkey taken.

Under the program, a mentor is defined as a properly licensed individual at least 21 years of age, who serves as a guide to a mentored youth while engaged in hunting or related activities, such as scouting, learning firearm and hunter safety and wildlife identification.  A mentored youth is defined as an unlicensed individual less than 12 years of age who is accompanied by a mentor while engaged in hunting or related activities.

The mentor to mentored youth ratio may not exceed one mentor to one youth, and the pair may possess only one sporting arm while hunting.  While moving, the sporting arm must be carried by the mentor.  When the pair reaches a stationary hunting location, the mentor may turn over possession of the sporting arm to the youth and must keep the youth within arm's length at all times.

Board Proposes Continued Archer and Extended Bear Seasons
The Board of Commissioners gave preliminary approval to the traditional three-day statewide black bear season before Thanksgiving, extended bear seasons in certain portions of the state that is concurrent with the first week of the firearms deer season and a two-day archery bear season in nine Wildlife Management Units (WMUs).

While most bear seasons remain the same, extended hunting opportunities were added for WMUs 4C, 4D and 4E, and will run Dec. 3-6, Wednesday through Saturday, along with the concurrent firearms deer season in this unit.  Also, the Board removed WMU 3D from this extended season.

Pennsylvania extended modern-day bear hunting started in 2002, when bear hunters were given the opportunity to fill their tags the first week of the firearms deer season in Carbon, Monroe and Pike counties. With the advent of the state's 22 WMUs, the extended season was held in WMU 3D in 2003. In 2004, the number of WMUs open for the concurrent deer/bear season was expanded.

Bear licenses must be purchased prior to the opening of the firearms deer season, Dec. 1.

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