Antler Restrictions Modified and Limited Crossbow Use Approved

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The Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to the 2003-2004 deer seasons that includes modifications to antler restrictions and the use of crossbows in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C and 5D during certain firearms deer seasons.

In January, the Board gave preliminary approval to retain the old antler restrictions (one point greater than three inches in length or one antler with at least two points) in place for WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D. However, growing public support for antler restrictions has indicated a desire to see antler restrictions applied statewide, except for junior license holders, certain disabled hunters and active duty military personnel. For the 2003-2004 deer seasons, antler restrictions will follow the new alignment:

-- In WMUs 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and 2D, hunters will be required to abide by the four points on one side antler restriction;

-- In all other WMUs, hunters will be required to abide by a three points on one side antler restriction; and

-- Statewide, all junior license holders, disabled hunters with a permit to use a vehicle and active duty U.S. Armed Services personnel will be able to abide by the old antler restrictions of one antler of three or more inches in length or one antler with at least two points.

The Board clarified what qualified as a “point” in terms of what counts toward meeting the minimum antler restriction in a given area. The Board revised the definition of a “point” to “any antler projection at least one inch in length from base to tip. The main beam tip shall be counted as a point regardless of length.”

The Board also approved the use of crossbows in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D during the two-week concurrent rifle deer season (Dec.1-13) and the late firearms deer seasons (Dec. 26-Jan. 10). Crossbows already are legal statewide during the two-week concurrent rifle deer season.

The deer seasons and bag limits for 2003-2004 follow the same format as last year. Following is an overview of the approved seasons.

  • A concurrent antlered/antlerless rifle deer season from Dec. 1-13. In order to harvest a doe during the concurrent seasons, all hunters must possess a valid, WMU-specific antlerless deer license for the unit in which they are hunting.
  • A firearms antlerless deer season from Oct. 23-25, for junior and senior license holders, Disabled Person Permit (to use a vehicle) holders, or Pennsylvania residents serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Services, who possess the appropriate WMU-specific antlerless deer license. Also included are persons who have reached or will reach age 65 in the year of the application for a license and hold a valid adult license, or qualify for license and fee exemptions under Section 2706.
  • A muzzleloader season for antlerless deer from Oct.18-25. The flintlock muzzleloader season, which is set for Dec. 26-Jan. 10, continues to be an antlered or antlerless season for hunters with primitive flintlock ignition firearms, provided the hunter possesses the appropriate license(s).
  • Archery seasons will be Oct. 4-Nov. 15, and Dec. 26-Jan. 10.
  • Late season antlerless deer hunting in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D will be Dec. 26-Jan.10.

In other deer hunting-related action, the Board gave final approval to a measure to extend the deadline for hunters to purchase a muzzleloader stamp from Aug. 31 to the second Saturday in November. For the 2003-2004 season, the deadline for purchasing a muzzleloader stamp will be Nov. 8.

The Board also approved the 2003-2004 antlerless deer license allocation of 973,000, which is a decrease from last year’s allocation of 1,029,350. Last year, hunters purchased 1,010,693 antlerless deer licenses, which resulted in a harvest of 352,113 antlerless deer.

Following is a listing of the antlerless deer license allocation by Wildlife Management Unit: WMU 1A, 44,000; WMU 1B, 37,000; WMU 2A, 45,000; WMU 2B, 45,000; WMU 2C, 65,000; WMU 2D; 58,000; WMU 2E, 29,000; WMU 2F, 44,000; WMU 2G, 52,000; WMU 3A, 28,000; WMU 3B, 45,000; WMU 3C, 40,000; WMU 3D, 50,000; WMU 4A, 37,000; WMU 4B, 38,000; WMU 4C, 46,000; WMU 4D, 58,000; WMU 4E, 38,000; WMU 5A, 28,000; WMU 5B, 60,000; WMU 5C, 66,000; and WMU 5D, 20,000.

“If the license success rate for each Wildlife Management Unit is within five percent, plus or minus, of the past year, we should see an antlerless deer harvest of between 320,000 and 355,000,” said Dr. Gary Alt, Deer Management Section supervisor. “Overall, the anticipated effect of the deer harvest will be a two percent decrease statewide in the deer herd, which is consistent with our objective of improving the health of the deer herd by bringing it into balance with the available habitat.”

A new antlerless deer license application and distribution system was given final approval by the Board in January.