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Change in hunter licensing coming

Pennsylvania hunters have long commented on the troubles that they have had with the antlerless deer licenses required to hunt primarily whitetail does as well as any antlerless deer.

For many years, it was the luck of the draw if a hunter would obtain a doe license. The PA Game Commission would use the doe tags as one way to control the statewide deer herd and limit the number of licenses to each county. The County Treasurers would handle the mail in only license application for each county and it would be a lottery system until the last tags were given out.

The first change to the outdated system which many complained of having political edges was when the county system was replaced by the Wildlife Management Units which covered much larger geographic areas. Butler County ended up in several different WMU’s including 2D, 1A and 2B and could be applied for at any county treasurer’s office by mail statewide.

As the statewide deer herd expanded and the hunter base decreased over the years, the number of available tags also was increased. Obtaining two or three doe tags was not only possible but very probable.

The timeline of mailing in the application, filling in the forms properly, using two stamps and having a check made out with the proper amounts for up to three hunters in a group as well as resident or nonresident hunters proved to be a burden hunters grumbled about.

Why couldn’t the doe license be bought at the same time the other licenses were purchased in person or on line?

Then came along Senate Bill 431, sponsored by Dan Laughlin, the Erie County Senator and Chairman of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee. Senate Bill 431 allows hunters to buy antlerless licenses through the HuntFishPA automated licensing services. The bill was signed into law this week and will take effect with the 2023-24 license year. Antlerless licenses will be available for purchase online or in person at any license issuing agent.

If there are second or third rounds of antlerless deer licenses available, it looks like we will still need to complete the pink envelope process at that time.

Prime archery season

The prime archery hunting season is now on with the final weeks of the season upon us, ending Nov. 18. Sunday hunting takes effect this Sunday. Hunters can hunt public land or private land with written permission that they must carry on them.

The second Sunday for hunting will be on Nov. 20, which coincides with Bear Season (rifle) and the last will be on Nov. 27 with Deer (rifle) season. The PA Hunting – Trapping Digest has a Sunday Hunting Landowner Permission Slip available for use on page 4 of the digest.

Many landowners may not allow Sunday hunting, so please respect their wishes and keep their land open to hunting the rest of the legal hunting days. When you hunt on private or public land, take out what you bring in there and don’t be afraid to pick up any litter you may find along the way.

Turkey season

We are in the middle of the fall turkey season and turkeys have been pretty spotty for some hunters.

A friend of mine, Dave McMasters who is also a H-T-E instructor for the PGC, shared a story the other day. He was hunting turkeys and sat down to try his hand at calling one in to him. He was successful in getting a reply from a gobbler and did his best to coaxing him into his hunting spot.

However, every time that he called, a pheasant rooster replied as well. A pheasant can make a raucous noise when it is crowing a reply. Dave would call and both the turkey and the pheasant would reply. It was not too long before Dave had the gobbler in range and he made a good shot on his wild Thanksgiving turkey.

He forgot about the pheasant until he saw him sneaking along, watching the

hunter. Dave ended up making a good shot and, in a few minutes, had the luck of harvesting a turkey and a pheasant. Now that is what you call a good day of small game hunting.

Until we meet again, get those fluorescent vests on and be safe hunting! Remember, archery, turkey and small game hunters are afoot! If you use the state game lands for any activity other than hunting, you are still required to wear the fluorescent orange safety clothing.

Jay Hewitt is an outdoors columnist for the Butler Eagle

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