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Outdoors: Rifle deer season opens Nov. 27

The much-anticipated rifle deer hunting season will have its traditional post-Thanksgiving Day opener on Saturday, Nov. 27 and continues on Sunday, Nov. 28, one of the three and final Sunday hunting days this year. The season then runs through Dec. 11 closing only on Sunday Dec 5.

Then there’s the post-Christmas season for flintlock and extended firearms in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C and 5D.

New this year is that properly licensed hunters can take either an antlered or antlerless deer anytime throughout the season and anywhere in the state. This is a change from last year when just 10 WMUs allowed concurrent buck and doe hunting

Added to this, the Pennsylvania Game Commission says they made it possible this year for hunters willing to use antlerless tags to get more of them if the allocation hasn’t been sold out. It adopted a regulation change allowing hunters to hold up to six antlerless licenses at a time which is up from three previously. According to the PGC, this is designed to give hunters desiring to take deer the opportunity to do so and maybe even let last-minute license buyers to get in on the action.

The PGC claims that last season there were more than 16,000 antlerless licenses remaining in mid-November in WMUs 2A and 4A. Hunters, they say, who already had three tags couldn’t buy anymore even though no one else wanted them.

As for field conditions, the PGC reports that land managers have found abundant soft mast crops like apples crabapples, hawthorn, black cherries and many berry-producing shrubs, all of which deer love to eat. Find these and you should find deer.

According to David Gustafson, Chief of PGCs Forestry Division, many areas of the state report the best apple crop in years and supplies of hard mast also look good.

Gustafson went on to say that white oak and chestnut oak acorns, other deer favorites, are abundant and widespread everywhere except where gypsy moth defoliation was an issue this spring. And in those areas white oak acorn crop is almost nonexistent.

“In spring we sprayed some State Game Lands to control the moths and we’re seeing the best white oak group acorn crop in several years, while areas that weren’t sprayed on neighboring properties that suffered significant defoliation failed to produce,” Gustafson said.

Gustafson adds that acorns from trees in the red oak group - namely red, black and scarlet oak - are widely available as well with a few exceptions. Plus, he says, heavy frosts in certain areas in spring 2019, limited production of red oak acorns. But in some places, you’ll find red oak acorns high on the mountains where winds prevented the damaging frost, while the lower slopes have none.

On the positive side, Gustafson said hickory nuts seem at near-record levels with many areas of the state seeing more than at any time in the last decade. They’re also good in a cake.

Hunters hunting in Special Regulations areas are advised that buckshot is no longer permitted for deer hunting, but the PGC approved short-range straight-walled cartridges in place of buckshot. However, the PGC won’t be enforcing the change since it was approved after the Hunting/Trapping Digest for 2021-22 was printed. But hunters should be aware of this change.

Deer seem to be everywhere these days. And places you wouldn’t expect them to be. Unfortunately, many of those spots are off-limits to hunting.

Press photo by Nick Hromiak When Pennsylvania's rifle deer hunting season opens Saturday, Nov. 27, hunters would love to have a trophy buck like this in their sights.