Pennsylvania Game Commission wishes bowhunters safe days afield.
Pennsylvania’s statewide archery deer season begins Saturday, Sept. 30, and its return is prompting the Pennsylvania Game Commission to issue some helpful reminders.
Archers statewide can hunt for antlered or antlerless deer from Sept. 30 to Nov. 11, and during the late archery deer season, which runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 13.
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. An early season for antlered and antlerless deer in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C and 5D kicked off on Sept. 16 and ends Nov. 25.
Properly licensed bowhunters in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D also may take antlered and antlerless deer during an extended late archery season, which runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 28.
Archery hunters may use long, recurve or compound bows, or crossbows. Bows must have a draw weight of at least 35 pounds; crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 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.
“Food availability changes year to year based on a number of factors, and in areas where food is spotty, deer will move to find it,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “That means last year’s hotspot might be somewhere else this year, and the only way to know for sure is to get out there and find it.
“Even after the season begins, tracking changes in deer activity, their movements and the foods they’re targeting are keys to success, especially early in October,” Burhans said.
Bowhunters are urged to take only responsible shots at deer to ensure a quick, clean kill. Archery and crossbow hunters should take only broadside or quartering away shots at deer 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 are illegal.
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 portable hunting tree stands and blinds are not permitted on state game lands until two weeks before the opening of the archery deer season, and they must be removed no later than two weeks after the close of the flintlock and late archery deer seasons in the WMU being hunted.
Tree stands placed on state game lands also must be conspicuously marked with a durable identification tag that identifies the stand owner. Tags may include the owner’s name and address, the CID number that appears on the owner’s hunting license, or a unique identification number issued by the Game Commission. Identification numbers can be obtained at The Outdoor Shop on the Game Commission’s website.
Safety tips for bowhunters
• 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 cellphone 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. Keep yourself in good physical condition. Fatigue can impact judgment, coordination and reaction time, as well as accuracy.
• 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.
While hunting in October often offers pleasant days afield, the warm weather also presents challenges for successful deer hunters in assuring harvests result in high-quality venison.
Especially in warm weather, harvested deer should be field dressed quickly, then taken from the field and cooled down as soon as possible. While hanging a deer carcass in a shady area might be fine in cooler temperatures, if the air temperature is above 50 degrees, hunters should refrigerate the carcass as soon as possible.
Information on warm-weather venison care, as well as instructions on deer processing and other tips, are available on the white-tailed deer page on the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.pa.gov.
Hunting in Disease Management Areas
All who hunt and harvest deer within either of the state’s Disease Management Areas (DMAs) must comply with special rules aimed at slowing the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania.
The prion that causes CWD is concentrated in high-risk deer parts including the head and backbone, and these parts may not be transported outside the DMA.
It is legal to remove meat, without the backbone, from a DMA. The skull plate with attached antlers, also may be removed if no visible brain or spinal cord material is present.
Harvested deer can be taken to a cooperating taxidermist or deer processor associated with a DMA in which they’re taken, 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 the many disposal sites established within the DMAs.
By the start of the statewide archery season, collection bins where hunters can drop off the heads of the deer they harvest to have their deer CWD-tested for free also will be set up at sites within the DMAs. Meanwhile, the backbone and other deer parts may be deposited at high-risk parts dumpsters set up in some of the same locations.
A list of all parts-collection sites is available on the CWD information page at www.pgc.pa.gov. Lists of cooperating processors and taxidermists also are available on that page.
CWD always is fatal to the deer and elk it infects. In Pennsylvania, it’s a growing threat to the state’s deer and elk, and its hunting tradition.
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