Thursday, October 8, 2009

Season of Change on Horizon for Bowhunters; Pennsylvania Game Commission Advises Hunters to Look at Bucks Closely; Bowhunters Urged to Practice Safety USA, LLC

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HARRISBURG, Pa., Sept. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Change will greet bowhunters when they head out for the start of Pennsylvania's six-week archery deer season on Saturday, Oct. 2.

Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Vern Ross said bowhunters will face changes that modify the archery safety zone and fluorescent orange requirements. He also noted that hunters in many areas will likely find that whitetail movements have changed since last fall, when a poor acorn crop plagued many areas of the Commonwealth.

"Adapting to change is something that is second-nature to most of Pennsylvania's deer hunters," Ross said. "Every year they spend countless hours preparing for the upcoming season by scouting for deer sign and activity, becoming familiar with the regulations, and measuring changes in the availability and distribution of fall foods. Hunting truly is what you make of it."

The change in the safety zone law, sponsored by Rep. Timothy J. Solobay (D-Washington) and signed into law by Gov. Edward G. Rendell on June 23, opens areas throughout the state that bowhunters previously weren't permitted to hunt by establishing a statewide safety zone for archers of 50 yards. In 1996, the General Assembly established a 50-yard safety zone for bowhunters in the state's six Special Regulations Area counties - Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia. Firearms hunting safety zone remains 150 yards.

"We believe the safety zone change will improve hunter success in many of the state's urban and suburban areas, where deer populations are excessively large and increasingly difficult to control," Ross said. "In addition, bowhunters, for the most part, are taking shots of 20 to 30 yards and usually from an elevated treestand toward the ground. Because of these two factors, and the fact that we have not had any incidents occur in the Special Regulations Area counties since the establishment of a 50-yard safety zone for archers, we do not foresee this being a problem."

Ross noted that this change in law was enacted by the Legislature after the 2004-2005 Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest went to print, so it is not reflected in the publication. The Digest is the annual publication provided to every license buyer, and provides a summary of all the current seasons and bag limits and hunting and trapping laws and regulations.

Under the new fluorescent orange regulations, during the overlap with the fall turkey season, archers must only wear a hat with at least 100 square inches of solid fluorescent orange while moving, and they no longer are required to post an orange band while they are stationary. However, during the overlap with the muzzleloader and special firearms seasons for antlerless deer (Oct. 16-23), archers still must wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange while moving and post a 100 square inch band within 15 feet while stationary.

No fluorescent orange must be worn or posted by bowhunters at other times of the archery season.

The fluorescent orange regulations changes are outlined on pages 84-85 of the Digest, and were adopted by the Board of Game Commissioners on Oct. 7, 2003.

Game Commission biologists are expecting deer hunters to have a good season this year, because deer populations are high in most areas. In addition, hunters should encounter some large, older bucks in the upcoming seasons.

"We'd really like to see bowhunters - in fact, all hunters - increase the pressure in areas with excessively large localized numbers of antlerless deer," said Dr. Gary Alt, who heads the agency's deer management section. "It can make a considerable difference as we endeavor to balance the state's whitetails with the habitat that supports them."

Last year archers shot 34,440 antlerless deer, or about 25 percent of the statewide all-seasons antlerless harvest. That compares with 36,172 in 2002; and 33,298 in 2001. Archers also took more antlerless deer later in the 2003 early season than in previous years.

Last year's archery buck kill marked the third consecutive year bowhunters have posted declined buck kills. In 2003, archers took 30,960 antlered bucks; in 2002, 33,476; and in 2001, 40,753.

"The decline in the archery buck harvest from 2002 to 2003 can be attributed to the fact that hunters were required to adhere to new antler restrictions for the first time in special regulations areas, where archery hunters take their greatest number of deer, and an enlargement of the four-point area in the western part of the state," Alt pointed out.

Last year, biologists and other agency employees saw an increase in the proportion of adult bucks in their annual age sampling of harvested deer at meat processors, but most were still 2.5 years old or less. This fall, biologists expect a noticeable increase in the number of 3.5-year-old deer in the harvest. Prior to antler restrictions, 3.5-year-olds made up only a small fraction of the overall statewide population.

"The sacrifices hunters made over the past two years have brought about unprecedented changes in the state's buck population," Alt explained. "But we've still got to make more room for them by harvesting more antlerless deer. It's important to our forests and our deer herd. Archers can play a critical role in making that happen, because it all starts with them."

The Game Commission has offered hunters additional opportunities to take antlerless deer through its Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) in the upcoming deer seasons. Now in its second year, DMAP offered 47,366 antlerless licenses for more than 1.7 million acres of private lands where deer are causing excessive property damage.

"Interest in DMAP has been great and thousands of hunters have applied for these special property-specific antlerless deer permits," Alt said. "Rest assured, the Game Commission will make every effort to issue DMAP permits to hunters before the start of the archery season.

"When the DMAP permits are combined with Pennsylvania's allocation of 1,039,000 antlerless deer licenses, it becomes pretty apparent that anyone who wants to harvest a doe in Pennsylvania shouldn't have had any problem acquiring the necessary license or permit. Our allocation is designed to stop the population growth in most units. DMAP was developed to allow hunters to help landowners achieve their deer management goals, and we're counting on hunters to help us move the state's deer management program forward."

The Game Commission advises hunters to spend time scouting for deer activity before they decide to hang their treestands, because fall foods - both hard and soft mast and agricultural crops - seem to be fairly abundant in many areas of the state.

"Hunters really should spend some time afield before the season to get a handle on what deer are doing and where they're going before committing to a hunting location," Alt said. "It's also important to continue to scout as the season progresses to ensure you're not hunting in an area where deer are no longer passing through, or feeding or bedding. Remember, when hunting deer, the first and most important step a hunter will take is heading to the right location."

The Game Commission urges bowhunters to take only responsible shots at deer to ensure a quick, clean kill. For most, that's a shot 20 yards or less at a deer broadside or quartering away. Bowhunters should shoot at only deer that are in their maximum effective shooting range - the furthest distance from which a hunter can consistently place arrows into a pie pan-sized target.

Archers also are reminded of regulatory changes in tackle requirements that took effect in 2002. All bows must have a peak draw weight of at least 35 pounds, and broadheads must have an outside diameter of at least 7/8th-inch with no less than two cutting edges in the same plane throughout the length of the cutting surface.


With two years of antler restrictions under their belts, Pennsylvania hunters are expected to have little trouble with antler restrictions this fall and winter. Less than a quarter of one percent of all Pennsylvania hunters had problems making adjustments over the past two years, according to Pennsylvania Game Commission records.

Hunters are reminded that a legal antler point must be at least one inch in length from the base to tip in all cases. The main beam tip shall be counted as a point regardless of length. The brow tine, which is found near the antler base, also must be a full inch in length to be counted.

With regards to antler restrictions, Pennsylvania's four-point area is comprised of Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, and 2D. The remainder of the state is part of the three-point area.

Junior license holders, disabled hunters with a permit to use a vehicle, and Pennsylvania residents on active-duty in the U.S. Armed Forces, may continue to harvest bucks statewide that have at least one three-inch spike or an antler with two or more points. Senior hunting license holders still are required to follow the new antler restriction criteria.

Hunters also are reminded that it's important to the Game Commission's deer data-collection effort to record the WMU number on any deer harvest ear tag that they fill out. As a follow-up, hunters also are asked to mail deer harvest reports as soon as possible to the Game Commission.

"Every deer harvest report card received by the agency provides invaluable information to our deer management program," Alt emphasized. "We really need hunters to make a strong effort to get those harvest cards in the mail."


Safety is always a mandatory consideration for bowhunters because they scale trees, use treestands, hunt in remote areas and hunt with razor-sharp broadheads.

"In the past 20 years, there probably hasn't been a year where someone hasn't fallen out of a tree or treestand, or cut themselves with a broadhead while afield in the archery season," said Keith Snyder, Game Commission hunter-trapper education chief. "But most of these accidents can be avoided if bowhunters use proper fall-restraint devices and carefully handle broadheads."

Many of the dangers bowhunters face can be eliminated or reduced considerably with common sense and foresight. It's also a huge plus to be in shape, to get plenty of sleep before you hunt, and to move slowly with firm footing when afield.

"The potential to get hurt while hunting deer is a threat all archers must be mindful of from the time they enter the woods until they leave," Snyder explained. "Climbing trees and handling broadhead-tipped arrows, dragging deer considerable distances and sitting 10 to 20 feet off the ground in trees for hours on end, is very serious business. If you make a mistake, it may very well plague you for the rest of your life."

Safety tips all bowhunters should consider before they head afield include:

-- Make sure someone knows where you're hunting and when you expect to
return home. Leave a note or topographic map with your family or a
friend. Pack a cellular telephone for emergencies.

-- Always use a fall-restraint device - preferably a full-body harness
- when hunting from a treestand. Wear the device from the moment
you leave the ground until you return. Don't climb dead, wet or icy
trees. Stay on the ground on blustery days.

-- Get in good physical condition before the season starts. Fatigue
can impact judgment, coordination and reaction time. Staying
physically fit makes a difference.

-- Always carry a whistle to signal passersby in case you become
immobile. A compass and matches or lighter also are essential
survival gear items to have along. An extra flashlight bulb also
can be helpful.

-- Use a hoist rope to lift your bow and backpack to your treestand.
Trying to climb with either will place you at unnecessary risk.

-- Don't sleep in a treestand! If you can't stay awake, return to the

-- Always carry broadhead-tipped arrows in a protective quiver.

-- If you use a mechanical release, always keep your index finger away
from the trigger when drawing.

-- Follow the manufacturer's recommendations for all equipment and
check your equipment before each use.

-- Practice climbing with your treestand before dawn on the opening day
of the season. Consider placing non-slip material on the deck of
your treestand if it's not already there.

-- Bowhunters may use deer calls, attractant and cover scents,
mechanical broadheads, lighted sight pins and mechanical releases.
However, it is illegal to use baits, salt blocks, liquid mineral
mixes and transmitter-tracking arrows. Bowhunters may not possess a
firearm while afield.

-- Treestands and climbing devices that cause damage to trees are
unlawful to use or occupy unless the user has written permission
from the landowner. Treestands - or tree steps - penetrating a
tree's cambium layer cause damage. It is unlawful to construct or
occupy constructed treestands on State Game Lands, state forests or
state parks.

CONTACT: Jerry Feaser of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, +1-717-705-6541 or

Web site:

Source Citation:"Season of Change on Horizon for Bowhunters; Pennsylvania Game Commission Advises Hunters to Look at Bucks Closely; Bowhunters Urged to Practice Safety Afield; Just in Case You Were Wondering." PR Newswire (Sept 15, 2004): NA. Academic OneFile. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 8 Oct. 2009

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