Pennsylvania Deer Season Opens Oct. 13th

Send by email Printer-friendly version Share this

The Commonwealth's October firearms antlerless deer seasons - early muzzleloader season, Oct. 13-20, and special firearms for junior and senior hunters, Oct. 18-20 - are just around the corner and many hunters are spending more time afield to prepare for them, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

"It's been seven years since Pennsylvania held its first October antlerless deer muzzleloader season; six for the special firearms antlerless season," said Calvin DuBrock, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management director. "Both have been warmly received by tens of thousands of deer hunters, because they have created additional hunting opportunities and a chance for more hunters to get some venison in the freezer before Thanksgiving.

"There is no doubt these seasons provide Pennsylvanians more ways to fit deer hunting into their busy schedules, and offer a more relaxing hunt to people who dislike cold weather and woods filled with large numbers of hunters."

But the October firearms seasons are so much more than another time and another way to hunt deer, emphasized DuBrock.

"These October firearms seasons are part of our deer management strategy to stabilize whitetail numbers in most areas of the Commonwealth, and in the process, improve forested wildlife habitat and deer health, and reduce crop damage and other deer-human conflicts," DuBrock said. "Although the October antlerless seasons increase hunting opportunities, their harvests still are controlled by antlerless deer license allocations, which are set to remove a pre-determined number of antlerless deer from a Wildlife Management Unit (WMU).

"These October seasons contribute to a balance Pennsylvania has long-strived for, but only recently realized through deer program changes. Today, Pennsylvania is better for it. And tomorrow, it will be better yet."

Hunters heading afield for the October firearms seasons should find fair to good numbers of deer in most areas, but others will support substantially less or more, depending upon how close you are to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, or if you hunt exclusively on crowded State Game Lands or other lands open to public hunting. Agency field officers are offering their observations - even some where-to-go information - in the Game Commission's "Field Officer Game Forecasts," found on the agency's homepage at Visit for a closer-to-home overview of what is going on afield.

Last year, hunters took 12,300 deer in the early muzzleloader season and 8,500 in the special firearms season, based on the agency's Game-Take Survey. Those figures compare with 12,200 in the 2005 October muzzleloader season and 6,400 in the special firearms season. The combined total of both October firearms seasons comprised less than 10 percent of the 2006 antlerless deer harvest, which was 226,270.

"Large numbers of antlerless deer are not being taken by hunters in these seasons," said Dr. Christopher Rosenberry, who supervises the Game Commission's Deer Management Section. "Nonetheless, these seasons are important because they provide more - and often more agreeable - deer hunting opportunities. In today's society when so many things compete for our time, hunter surveys have shown that having more time to hunt is very important to Pennsylvania hunters. These early seasons provide another way for us to meet our deer management goals and additional hunting opportunity for Pennsylvania's hunters."

Hunters who wish to participate in the early muzzleloader season must have a general hunting license, muzzleloader stamp and an unused antlerless deer license or Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) antlerless deer permit. Hunters may use in-line, percussion and flintlock muzzleloaders during the early muzzleloader season. They also may use scopes, peep-sights and other lawful sighting devices on muzzleloaders during the October hunt.

To participate in the special firearms antlerless season, hunters must have a general hunting license and unused antlerless deer license and qualify in one of the following license categories: resident junior and senior license holders; nonresident junior license holder; nonresident adult license holders age 65 and older; persons who hold a disabled person permit to use a vehicle as a blind; residents who are serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces; and those who qualify for license and fee exceptions under section 2706. Sporting arms permitted include: manually-operated center-fire rifles, handguns and shotguns; muzzle-loading long guns; 44-caliber or larger muzzle-loading handguns; long, recurve or compound bows; and crossbows.

DuBrock noted that these two antlerless deer seasons are not open participants of the Mentored Youth Hunting Program, which was created for those under the age of 12, since mentored youth may not harvest antlerless deer. He stressed that the Mentored Youth Hunting Program does allow eligible youth under the age of 12 to harvest antlered deer during the archery deer season (Sept. 29-Nov. 10), the two-week concurrent firearms deer season (Nov. 26-Dec.8) and the late flintlock muzzleloader season (Dec. 26-Jan. 12). (For more information on the Mentored Youth Hunting Program, please consult page 15 of the 2007-08 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which is provided to each license buyer.)

Hunters are advised that they may take only antlerless deer in the early muzzleloader and special firearms seasons and that they may hunt only in the Wildlife Management Units or Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) areas for which they have obtained antlerless deer licenses. An antlerless deer is defined as a deer without antlers, or a deer with antlers, both of which are less than three inches in length.

Muzzleloader and special firearms season hunters are reminded that when multiple harvests of deer per day are permitted, only one deer at a time may be taken. Before attempting to take an additional deer, the first deer must be lawfully tagged. Deer must be tagged immediately after they are harvested and before the carcass is moved. The tag must be attached to the ear and remain attached until the deer is processed for consumption or prepared for mounting.

Any hunter who by accident or mistake kills a deer is required to deliver the carcass - entrails removed - within 12 hours of the kill to any Game Commission officer in the county where the deer was killed. A written statement also must be provided to the officer explaining when, where and how the accident or mistake occurred. The deer must be tagged with the appropriate deer harvest tag.

Hunters may purchase muzzleloader licenses at any time. The license entitles them to hunt in both the fall antlerless muzzleloader season and the traditional flintlock season (Dec. 27-Jan. 15). Regulations for the after-Christmas muzzleloader season remain unchanged: hunters may use only primitive type muzzleloading long guns .44-caliber or larger with flintlock ignition systems and primitive sighting devices. Fiber-optic inserts are permitted in sighting devices.

Hunters in either October firearms season are required to wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange clothing on the head, chest and back combined at all times. Bowhunters afield during the overlap of the archery and October antlerless firearms seasons also must wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent orange while moving and display an orange alert band while on stand.