HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits for 2010-11, including broad changes to deer, bear, turkey and small game seasons at the agency's meeting in late January.
The public may offer comments on all proposed 2010-11 seasons and bag limits, as well as other Board actions, between now and the Board's next meeting, April 19-20, at which time the Board will finalize seasons and bag limits for 2010-11. 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 2009-10 seasons will be available in mid-March.
Following are several articles on meeting highlights.
Board adds other WMUs to split rifle deer seasons
The Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a slate of deer seasons for the 2010-11 seasons that includes adding WMUs 2C, 2E, 4D and 4E to the split five-day antlered deer season, Nov. 29-Dec. 3, and seven-day concurrent season, Dec. 4-11. Those WMUs now part of the split season structure are WMUs 2C, 2D, 2E, 2G, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E.
The proposed package retains the two-week (12-day) concurrent, antlered and antlerless season in the remaining 14 WMUs.
Deer harvest data from 2009-10 is expected in mid-March, and will be used to guide the Board's establishment of antlerless deer license allocations.
Two other changes proposed, so far, is to eliminate the two-week antlerless deer seasons held following the close of the regular firearms season leading up to Christmas in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C and 5D. However, the Board voted to extend the concurrent antlered/antlerless deer hunting for archery hunters in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D from Jan. 17-29.
Board closes bobwhite quail season
The Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to close the bobwhite quail season statewide beginning with the 2010-11 seasons. However, under the proposal, quail could be hunted on regulated hunting grounds, and hunters would be allowed to release captive-raised or propagated quail for hunting on public and private lands by permit.
Roe noted that Game Commission staff currently are working to complete a state bobwhite quail plan that carefully reviews the status and trend of Pennsylvania's quail population, restoration potential, and management practices.
Board creates junior rabbit season
To continue its efforts to recruit young hunters, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a special cottontail rabbit junior hunter season that coincides with the ring-necked pheasant junior hunter season in early October. The proposal was requested by Game Commissioner Jay Delaney in July.
"Most people agree that one of the best ways to introduce youth to hunting and encourage their continued participation is via small game hunting," Roe said. "Rabbits are an underutilized game mammal, and are a perfect addition to the junior season offerings that have been implemented by the agency over the years."
If approved in April, the junior rabbit season would be held Oct. 9-16. The season would be open to those juniors age 12-16, when properly accompanied by an adult as required by law, with or without a license. The daily and field possession limits would be the same as the general rabbit season, four daily and eight in possession.
Roe noted that the junior rabbit season would not be part of the Mentored Youth Hunting Program, which is for those youth under the age of 12.
In other small game season action, based on a recommendation from Game Commissioner Robert Schlemmer, the late cottontail rabbit season will be Dec. 27-Feb. 26, which equates to a three additional weeks of hunting. The Board also gave final approval to include the use of crossbows for small game seasons.
Board proposes adjustments to bear seasons
The Board gave preliminary approval to sweeping changes to black bear seasons for 2010-11. Included in those changes are a statewide five-day archery bear season (Nov. 15-19), and a three-day statewide bear season that would open on Saturday, Nov. 20, and then continue on Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 22 and 23. The Board also eliminated all extended bear season that previously were held during all or portions of the first week of the firearms deer 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, and the Board has made adjustments to those areas that are included or closed based on population trends.
Preliminary approval given to expand elk hunting opportunities
The Board gave preliminary approval to a regulatory change to allow any unfilled antlered or antlerless elk license awarded for an annual elk season to be valid for taking either an antlered or antlerless elk anywhere within this Commonwealth outside of the elk management area during any designated extended elk season following the regular elk season.
The Board also approved the 2010 elk season to be held on Nov. 1-6, and to an extended elk hunting period for those with unfilled elk licenses to be Nov. 8-13.
In related action, with the agency continuing to work to update and implement the elk management plan, the Board gave preliminary approval to regulatory changes to address a somewhat confusing aspect of elk management policy. Under the proposal, terms such as elk range, elk management area, elk hunt zones will be clarified in the management plan and regulations.
Under the regulatory change, "elk management area" would be defined as that portion of Wildlife Management Unit 2G in McKean, Potter, Tioga, Elk, Cameron, Clinton, Lycoming, Clearfield and Centre counties, bounded on the north by Rt. 6, on the east by Rt. 287, on the south by Rt. 220 and I-80 and on the west by Rt. 219.
Furtakers may have opportunitiy for bobcat, fisher
After 10 bobcat seasons with a specified number of permits, the Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to shorten the lengthen of the overall bobcat season to three weeks (Dec. 18-Jan. 8 for hunting, and Dec. 18-Jan. 9 for trapping), and allow all licensed furtakers the opportunity to purchase one permit to harvest a bobcat in Wildlife Management Units 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4D and 4E. This action, if approved in April, would do away with the need to hold a public drawing for bobcat permits.
Also approved was the creation of a six-day fisher trapping season (Dec. 18-23) and allow all licensed trappers the opportunity to trap one fisher in WMUs 2C 2D, 2E and 2F.
"Following careful review of recent seasons and, in consideration of hunter and trapping input received, beginning with the 2010-11 season, we are using season length to regulate bobcat taking in specified WMUs," Roe said. "All indications suggest that bobcat populations have increased significantly during the previous years.
"In order to continue to assess interest, participation, effort and harvest, we believe it prudent to retain a permitting process. However, we believe that we can offer an unlimited number of permits to all each licensed furtaker the opportunity to harvest one bobcat in the specified WMUs."
Additionally, the Board approved the creation of a limited, one-week fisher season, which was part of the Game Commission's initial plans when it reintroduced fishers back in the 1990s.
Residents and nonresident furtaker license holders, as well as combination license holders, are eligible to participate in both the bobcat and fisher seasons. Bobcat and fisher permits will be able to be purchased through the agency's license sale system for $6.70 each ($5 for the Game Commission, which is the same as the previous application fee; $1 for the issuing agent; and 70 cents for the license sale system operator).
In other trapping-related action, the Board also gave preliminary approval to open the cable restraint season on Dec. 26, rather than Jan. 1; and to increase the number of body-gripping traps that may be used to harvest beavers in Wildlife Management Unit 1B in northwestern Pennsylvania to address increasing number of beaver nuisance complaints.
HUNTERS REMINDED ABOUT PROCESS FOR SETTING WATERFOWL SEASONS
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to nearly all of the 2010-11 seasons and bag limits; however, there is one group of seasons that won't be finalized until summer: waterfowl and migratory bird seasons.
In July, in concert with federal frameworks, the Game Commission will set seasons and bag limits for September resident Canada goose and webless migratory birds, such as doves, woodcock, snipe and moorhens.
In August, the Game Commission and waterfowl hunting organizations will host waterfowl organizations, individual sportsmen and the public to attend a briefing on the status of waterfowl populations and proposed preliminary federal frameworks for the 2009-10 hunting seasons.
In addition to reviewing frameworks established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for upcoming waterfowl and migratory bird seasons, Game Commission staff, along with conservation partners, will provide updates on current and planned research and management programs, as well as past hunting results.
Based on public comments received and gathered at the meeting, Game Commission staff will prepare and present recommended composite waterfowl and migratory bird seasons, bag limits and related criteria to the USFWS for final approval. All migratory bird hunting seasons and bag limits must conform to frameworks set by the USFWS. States select their hunting seasons within these established frameworks.
By mid-August, once the final selections are made, the Game Commission will print and distribute brochures outlining the seasons and bag limits for waterfowl and migratory bird seasons to U.S. Post Offices, where hunters may purchase their mandatory federal duck stamp. The brochure also will be posted on the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) along with a news release announcing the agency's final selections by mid-August.