Statewide Deer Firearm Season Wraps Up on Saturday

| December 8, 2023

HARRISBURG, Pa. (EYT) — Pennsylvania’s statewide firearms deer season will conclude on Saturday, December 9.

The National Deer Association (NDA) regularly ranks Pennsylvania tops in the country for hunter density.

According to NDA, there were 14.4 hunters per square mile in Pennsylvania in 2021–the most recent year for which statistics are available. Only three other states–New York (12), Wisconsin (11.4), and New Jersey (10.5)–hit double digits.

“Pennsylvania’s firearms deer season is truly a tradition unlike any other,” Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said. “We’ve got lots of deer and lots of hunters pursuing them, some from camps far from home, others in woodlots and fields near where they live. But all share the same passion for wildlife, hunting, and conservation. That’s something special.”

Pennsylvania’s hunters typically do well overall, too, compared to their counterparts around the country.

NDA  reported that Pennsylvania ranked in the top five states in 2021 for antlered buck harvest; antlered buck harvest per square mile; antlerless deer harvest; antlerless deer harvest per square mile; and antlerless deer per antlered buck harvest. That wasn’t the first time, either. Pennsylvania stands among the top states in those categories all the time, NDA continued.

“We are in a very productive part of the country for deer, and we have a lot of deer out there,” David Stainbrook, Game Commission Deer and Elk Section Supervisor stated.

Last season, in 2022-23, hunters harvested an estimated 422,960 white-tailed deer: an estimated 164,190 bucks and 258,770 antlerless deer. The buck harvest in particular–considered a good indicator of the overall deer population trend–was 2% higher than the most recent three-year average, so right in line with recent trends.

Some of those bucks were very nice in terms of antler structure. Thanks to antler point restrictions, the average Pennsylvania buck harvested is older and usually bigger than those of yesteryear.

Whereas once hunters harvested 80% of Pennsylvania bucks as 1.5-year-old yearlings, now more than 60% of the antlered harvest is made up of bucks 2.5 years old or older. That one extra year typically allows them to express twice as much of their antler potential, and even more if they reach older ages.

But every deer harvested, regardless of whether it’s got antlers or not, provides healthy venison for the table. They serve up memories, too, on opening day and later in the season. The harvesting of antlerless deer is critical to achieve deer management goals.

“Success in harvesting deer starts with scouting and knowing the land,” said Game Commission deer biologist Bret Wallingford. “But patience and putting in time are important, too. So this season, hunters should hit the woods every chance they get.

“Persistence matters, as one additional day hunting can make the difference between a successful season and an unsuccessful one.”

Extended hunting opportunity

Deer hunters–including firearms hunters–can take advantage of additional days afield in DMAP Unit 6396, which encompasses more than 140,000 acres in Dauphin, Northumberland, and Schuylkill Counties.

The Game Commission extended the late archery and flintlock muzzleloader deer seasons within DMAP Unit 6396 and will hold an extended firearms season for antlerless deer there, as well. These will run from December 26 to January 27 within DMAP Unit 6396, as well as in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C, and 5D.

In the rest of the state–including the areas of WMUs 4C and 4E outside of DMAP Unit 6396—there is no extended firearms deer season, and the late archery and flintlock deer seasons run from December 26 to January 15.

The extended firearms deer season is for antlerless deer only. Hunters participating in this season must wear, at all times, 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest, and back combined, with orange visible from 360 degrees. Within DMAP Unit 6396, hunters seeking antlerless deer in this season must have either a valid DMAP Unit 6396 permit or a valid antlerless license for the WMU where they’re hunting. Hunters in the extended firearms deer season have the same firearms options as in the regular firearms deer season.

The late archery and flintlock deer seasons are open for antlered and antlerless deer hunting.

DMAP Unit 6396 is within CWD DMA 8, which the Game Commission established earlier this year in response to two CWD detections in Dauphin County: the first CWD detections in free-ranging deer east of the Susquehanna River.

The additional hunting opportunities within DMAP Unit 6396 serve to help limit the establishment and spread of CWD in this area.

Each hunter may purchase up to two DMAP Unit 6396 permits while supplies last. DMAP Unit 6396 includes portions of State Game Lands 210 and 211, and all of State Game Lands 264. A map of the unit is available at the DMAP participating properties page at www.pgc.pa.gov.

“Increasing opportunities to harvest deer within the DMAP area demonstrates our commitment to using hunters as the first line of defense against the spread of CWD,” Burhans said. “CWD is a serious threat to Pennsylvania’s deer and elk. Hunters who participate in these extended seasons will be playing a significant role in the fight against this disease.”

Upcoming Deer Seasons

Archery (Antlered and Antlerless)

WMUs 2B, 5C, and 5D: December 26 through January 27, 2024.

Statewide: December 26 through January 15, 2024.

One antlered deer per hunting license year. One antlered deer, and an antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

Antlered or Antlerless Flintlock

WMUs 1A, 1B, 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5A, and 5B with required muzzleloading license: December 26 through January 15, 2024.

(WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D) with required muzzleloading license: December 26 through January 27, 2024.

One antlered deer per hunting license year, or one antlerless deer and an additional antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.

Antlerless Extended Regular Firearms

(WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D): December 26 through January 27, 2024.

An antlerless deer with each required antlerless license.


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Jacob Deemer is a reporter for EYT Media Group, who is based out of Venango County. He started his career as a sports writer for a local newspaper before contributing to TheHockeyWriters.com as a beat writer for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has spent over 6 years covering sports, crime, and local news in Venango, Clarion, and Jefferson Counties.
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