Changes Proposed for Muzzleloader Hunting

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The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a regulatory change that would allow hunters participating in the October muzzleloader antlerless deer season to use "any long gun muzzleloading firearm." The change, requested by Commissioner Stephen Mohr of Bainbridge at the January meeting, aims to provide hunters more options and opportunities in the early muzzleloader season. The season, which was established by the Game Commission in 2000, serves as a management tool to reduce antlerless deer numbers in the herd prior to the start of the whitetail breeding season. The number of hunters participating in the hunt does appear to be growing.

This proposal must be approved at a subsequent Board meeting before taking effect.

In a related move, the Board of Game Commissioners withdrew a proposal to remove the current deadline by which muzzleloader stamps must be purchased by hunters who plan to participate in the season. The proposal, also requested by Commissioner Mohr at the January meeting, would have eliminated a deadline that has been in place since 1984. The deadline was established to curb the escalating number of antlerless deer that were being taken outside the antlerless deer license allocation system.

"The muzzleloader deadline was established to limit the number of deer being harvested by hunters who did not hold an antlerless license," said Cal DuBrock, Bureau of Wildlife Management director. "Antlerless licenses allow us to limit hunters to counties, particularly those where deer populations are excessive. We lose that management leverage with hunters who hold a muzzleloader license."

Established in 1974, the state's first muzzleloader season drew 2,064 hunters. By 1983, the season had attracted 113,695 hunters. A year later the muzzleloader license deadline was established. It helps ensure the Game Commission's ability to adjust county deer populations won't be negatively influenced.