Pennsylvania’s statewide archery deer season begins Saturday, Oct. 5, and its return is prompting the Pennsylvania Game Commission to issue some helpful reminders.
Archers can hunt statewide for antlered or antlerless deer from Oct. 5 to Nov. 16, and during the late archery deer season, which runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 11.
At the time of the statewide opener, archery hunters in three urbanized areas of the state will have had a two-week head start to their seasons. Again this year, an early season for antlerless deer was implemented in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D. That season kicked off on Sept. 21.
Bowhunters in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, also may take antlered and antlerless deer during an extended late archery season, which runs from Jan. 13 to Jan. 25.
Archery hunters may use a long, recurve or compound bow, or a crossbow. Bows must have a draw weight of at least 35 pounds; crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of at least 125 pounds.
The Game Commission encourages hunters to spend as much time as possible afield this fall prior to and during the hunting seasons to pattern deer movements and identify areas where fall foods are abundant.
“Hunt as often as you can, and scout every time you head afield,” Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe said. “Try to figure out which food sources deer are using. And pay attention to prevailing wind direction. These adjustments really can make a difference.”
Those participating in the archery seasons are urged to take only responsible shots at deer to ensure a quick, clean kill. For most, that’s a shot of 20 yards or less at a deer that is broadside or quartering away. Archery and crossbow hunters should shoot only at deer that are within their maximum effective shooting range – the farthest distance from which a hunter can consistently place arrows or bolts into a pie pan-sized target.
Hunters may use illuminated nocks for arrows and bolts; they aid in tracking or locating the arrow or bolt after being launched. However, transmitter-tracking arrows still are illegal. It also remains illegal to use dogs to track wounded deer.
Tree stands and climbing devices that cause damage to trees are unlawful to use or occupy unless the user has written permission from the landowner. Tree stands – or tree steps – penetrating a tree’s cambium layer cause damage, and it is unlawful to build or occupy tree stands screwed or nailed to trees on state game lands, state forests or state parks.
Hunters are reminded that Game Commission regulations limit the placement of portable hunting tree stands and blinds on state game lands from two weeks before the opening of the first big game season – which is the archery deer season – to two weeks after the close of the last big game season – which is the late archery deer season – within each respective Wildlife Management Unit, excluding the spring gobbler season. Stands must be removed from state game lands two weeks after the late archery deer season.
“Hunters need to remember that placing a tree stand on state game lands does not reserve a hunting area,” Roe said. “The first person to arrive in a certain spot has the right to hunt that area.”
Other safety tips bowhunters should consider before heading afield and while hunting include:
- Make sure someone knows where you’re hunting and when you expect to return home. Leave a note or topographic map with your family or a friend. Pack a cellular telephone for emergencies.
- Always use a fall-restraint device – preferably a full-body harness – when hunting from a tree stand. Wear the device from the moment you leave the ground until you return. Don’t climb dead, wet or icy trees. Stay on the ground on blustery days. Get in good physical condition before the season starts. Fatigue can impact judgment, coordination and reaction time, as well as accuracy. Staying physically fit makes a difference.
- Always carry a whistle to signal passersby in the event you become immobile. A compass and matches or lighter and tinder also are essential survival gear items to have along. An extra flashlight bulb also can be helpful.
- Use a hoist rope to lift your bow and backpack to your tree stand. Trying to climb with either will place you at unnecessary risk.
- Don’t sleep in a tree stand! If you can’t stay awake, return to the ground.
- Always carry broadhead-tipped arrows in a protective quiver.
- If you use a mechanical release, always keep your index finger away from the trigger when drawing.
- Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for all equipment and check your equipment before each use.
- Practice climbing with your tree stand before dawn on the opening day of the season. Consider placing non-slip material on the deck of your tree stand if it’s not already there.
- Never walk with a nocked, broadhead-tipped arrow or bolt.
- Cocked crossbows should always be pointed in a safe direction.
Hunting in Disease Management Areas
Archers hunting and harvesting deer within either of the state’s two Disease Management Areas (DMAs) must comply with special rules aimed at slowing the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania.
High-risk deer parts – essentially the head and backbone/spinal cord – may not be transported outside the DMA.
Harvested deer can be taken to a cooperating taxidermist or deer processor associated with a DMA, and the processed meat and/or finished taxidermy mounts may be removed from the DMA when ready. Successful hunters who intend to do their own processing and who need to transport deer meat or other low-risk parts outside a DMA may stop by one of four state game lands within the DMAs where dumpsters have been set up to collect high-risk parts.
High-risk parts dumpsters have been set up at State Game Lands 249, 242, 147 and 41, and the exact addresses of their locations are available at the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us.
Successful hunters who live in a DMA also may use the dumpsters, but those hunters can also dispose of high-risk parts by bagging them with household trash and sending them for disposal.
Regardless the method of disposal, hunters are asked to do their part to make sure high-risk parts end up in a landfill and away from free-ranging deer. Because CWD can be passed from deer to deer through direct as well as indirect contact, and because the prion that causes CWD can live in the soil – perhaps forever – hunters should understand that dumping deer carcasses on the landscape only increases the risk of spreading CWD.
The state’s two DMAs are the result of deer in those areas testing positive for CWD, which is fatal to deer and elk, but is not known to be transmitted to humans. DMA 1 encompasses a 600-square-mile area of York and Adams counties. DMA2 encompasses nearly 900 square miles in Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon and Cambria counties. Maps detailing the perimeters of the DMAs also are available at the Game Commission’s website.
While hunting in the DMAs, the use of urine-based attractants is prohibited.
The feeding of deer within DMAs also is prohibited.
The Game Commission plans to sample about 1,000 deer within each DMA this year to determine the prevalence of CWD, but not every deer taken to a cooperating processor or taxidermist, or dropped at a high-risk part dumpster, will be tested for CWD.
If hunters want to ensure the deer they harvest will be tested, they need to make arrangements to drop off a sample of their deer at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture veterinary lab in Harrisburg. There is a fee for the test. Taking a deer head to the lab for testing is an approved exception to the rule prohibiting removal of high-risk parts from a DMA. The head should be double-bagged in a plastic garbage bag before transport.
Those who are interested in CWD tests can call the Department of Agriculture at 717-787-8808, or click on the CWD link at the department’s website, www.agriculture.state.pa.us.
Logo courtesy Pennsylvania Game Commission