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HARRISBURG, PA — Starting this fall, rifle deer season in PA will start on a Saturday for the first time since 1963. Members of the Pennsylvania Game Commission voted five to three on April 8 to adopt the new schedule, which means the first day of rifle deer hunting will be the Saturday after Thanksgiving rather than the Monday after Thanksgiving.
The public had the opportunity to weigh in on the question the day before the vote. Supporters said the move would be a way to halt the decline of the number of hunters in the state. Sen. Dan Laughlin said, “If we don’t take drastic and bold moves to make hunting more accessible to our children and young adults, many of whom have to work on that Monday, and simply can’t afford to miss work, our numbers and our sport will continue to decline.”
On the other side of the issue, some hunters said the move would be disrupting to tradition. A hunter named Max Merrill said the commission members needed to listen to the opinions of the people who hunt. He said, “Sixty-five percent of us do not want this to change, and you have to represent us, the hunters.”
In the end, the commissioners voted in favor of the Saturday start to the season. The new schedule expands the rifle season to 13 days and will now include three Saturdays rather than two.
Information from the commission says that hunting has declined steeply in recent years. “Sales of Junior Hunting licenses have declined more than 40% in the past decade, despite a robust hunter-trapper education program that graduates more than 25,000 youth annually. The traditional model of hunter education continues to draw significant numbers of participants but does not currently translate to increased license sales for those under the age of 16. During the same decade, sales of Resident Adult Licenses decreased 13%.”