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Hewitt: Firearms season opening up

FILE - A 10-point white-tailed deer walks through the woods in Freeport, Maine, on Nov. 10, 2015. Wildlife agencies are finding elevated levels of PFAS chemicals, also called "forever chemicals," in game animals such as deer, prompting new restrictions on hunting and fishing in some parts of the country. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty, File)

I was talking to my friends Brian and Howard this week and they were excited about their upcoming hunting trips to Wyoming and Colorado.

October and November are the prime hunting seasons across North America and Pennsylvania is no exception. In fact, the special firearms season opens up for antlerless whitetail deer and black bear on Oct. 15. In the first part of the week, we are permitted to hunt with both muzzleloaders and archery equipment for either deer or bear. Then on Oct. 20-22, a special firearms season opens for junior and senior license holders.

This is a great opportunity for senior hunters that don’t want to be trudging the woods in the coldest times of the hunting seasons. The prime time to hunt elk in the general season then kicks off on Halloween Oct. 31 through Nov.5. My hunting opportunity for elk hunting starts on New Year’s Eve Dec. 31 through Jan. 7. The locals up in the PA Wilds tell me it can be pretty cold up in the north woods that time of year! I made the best of it considering that this was a year that I passed on a western states hunt.

The PA Game Commission provides an optional service for licensed elk hunters. Elk guides are regulated by the Game Commission and the State Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The guides really do a lot of leg work for the successful hunters who draw tags and do not have days free to spend in elk country scouting. Contrary to some beliefs, the PA elk herd can be very elusive to locate after some hunting pressure has been applied. It takes a lot of experience to pattern elk movement in order to provide a successful hunt.

The big game animals of Pennsylvania still consist of the whitetail deer, the black bear, the wild turkey and the PA elk. Drawing the elk tag is the hardest part of starting out to hunt the PA Grand Slam in the same hunting license year. My experiences place the most difficult to harvest, due to many circumstances, is the elk, black bear, wild turkey and then the whitetail deer.

It certainly is doable, but some skill sets with a sprinkling of good luck is required for this task!

Sunday hunting

Several years ago, the Commonwealth of PA and the PA Game Commission decided that some Sunday hunting would be permitted. They agreed upon three weekends in which Sunday hunting would be allowed. These dates are three consecutive Sundays on Nov. 13, Nov. 20 and Nov. 27. To hunt on Sundays, you will need to either hunt on public lands or on private lands with a Sunday Hunting Landowner Permission Slip.

It is a pain in some ways, but it allows both landowners some peace of mind in knowing who might be hunting on their land and if they want their Sundays to be a quiet time. On these three Sundays, hunters on private land are required to carry written permission from the landowner.

Hunter-trapper education

I was in West Sunbury last week and a kid greeted me by flashing his H-T-E card. The H-T-E card is the hunter-trapper-education verification that the owner of the card successfully completed the exam. The course takes a full day of class work covering all facets of entry level hunting knowledge needed for a safe and ethical hunting experience.

Outdoor lunch

I was able to gather up a few of the outdoor sports people and provide a lunch for about 50 participants. The menu was simple as we grilled hotdogs, stewed a roaster full of meaty chili, threw in some chips and apples and got out of the way as a bunch of hungry potential hunters enjoyed their free lunch. Thanks to instructor Dave McMaster for making, it all possible for all of us!

Check your guns

This is the time to check over your favorite hunting rifles and shotguns for accuracy and patterning. There is a big change in the firearms allowed to hunt turkeys for the Fall season. Centerfire and rimfire rifles, handguns and ammunition are no longer permitted for fall turkey hunting. There is also no Sunday hunting for turkeys and turkey hunters are no longer required to wear fluorescent orange material.

Personally, I think that is something that I disagree with, but you are not supposed to be moving about and hunting turkeys. How many turkey hunters have shot a turkey in the fall when hunting other small game where orange is required?!

Hmm … interesting thought to consider, until we meet again, have a safe and successful hunt in 2022!

Jay Hewitt is an outdoors columnist for the Butler Eagle

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