Two bills seek to reverse deer season changes

Legislation will be introduced in the state Legislature moving the opening day of deer hunting with a rifle to the Monday after Thanksgiving.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission changed the start of the hunting season in 2019, moving the season’s start to the Saturday after Thanksgiving rather than the Monday after Thanksgiving. A December 2021 survey showed 60% of the state’s deer hunters strongly or moderately support having opening day of the regular firearms deer season on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, with 27% strongly or moderately opposing it. Opposition to the Saturday start date is higher among older hunters with support stronger among younger hunters.

Rep. Brian Smith has released a co-sponsorship memorandum to move the opening day back to the Monday after Thanksgiving while Sen. Lisa Boscola plans to introduce a similar bill in the state Senate. Smith said his bill is driven largely by complaints from businesses and volunteer organizations.

“When the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) changed the opening day of antlered deer rifle season to the Saturday after the Thanksgiving holiday, they disrupted the positive economic impact that many small businesses and volunteer organizations experienced in years past,” Smith, R-Punxsutawney, wrote in his memorandum. “In changing the opening day to Saturday, they took away the family time that was traditional for many that weekend, as hunters now have to leave earlier for deer camp. This also meant losing the family traditions of attending fundraising events and of shopping on Friday and small business Saturday. The loss of revenue to these small business owners, volunteer fire companies and other volunteer organizations has been devastating to their bottom line.”

Boscola, meanwhile, said her bill is prompted simply by constituent complaints.

“The annual deer rifle season is special in Pennsylvania,” said Boscola, D-Bethlehem. “My office received a number of letters and phone calls regarding the impact of moving opening day to the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Local business owners and hunters seem aligned that the move of opening day has hurt businesses and many of the traditions associated with the longstanding original opening day. Currently, deer season begins the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It has been this way since a change in 2019. This legislation will not affect Sunday hunting, nor will it determine the duration of the season. It is my hope that you will join me in supporting legislation to change opening day back.”


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