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Pennsylvania Archery Deer Season Awaits
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 09/13/2021

If something can be routine and record-breaking at the same time, Pennsylvania's archery deer season is it.

It's routine in its consistency. Pennsylvania held its first statewide archery season in 1951; this year's hunt is the 71st in a row since. It stretches across seven weeks, includes a Sunday and gives hunters the chance to be afield during the peak of the whitetail rut.

The 2021-22 statewide archery season runs from Oct. 2 to Nov. 13, continues on Sunday, Nov. 14, then goes Nov. 15 to 19. It comes back in on Dec. 27 and goes through Jan. 17.

Archers pursuing whitetails in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 2B and 5C and 5D, around Pittsburgh and Philadelphia respectively, can start hunting two weeks sooner, get an additional Sunday and can go later into 2022. Archery season in those WMUs runs from Sept. 18 to Nov. 13, continues on Sunday, Nov. 14, goes Nov. 15 to 20, continues on a second Sunday, Nov. 21, and goes from Nov. 22 to 26. It comes back in on Dec. 27 and goes through Jan. 29.

Where archery season is record-breaking is in participation.

The state's first archery season drew a little more than 5,500 participants. In 2020, by comparison, the Game Commission sold a record 373,700 archery licenses, counting those sold to Pennsylvania residents as well as hunters from other states. That was an increase of 9 percent over 2019, when 341,847 licenses were sold, and of nearly 29 percent over 2010's license sales of 289,414.

And those buying archery licenses aren't the only archery deer hunters in the woods. Holders of junior and senior lifetime combination licenses also are permitted to participate in archery season, and untold number surely do.

David Stainbrook, chief of the Game Commission's Deer and Elk Section, said that's the trend all across the country; participation in archery is increasing, and as a result so is the overall percentage of deer harvests taken by archers.

The National Deer Association (NDA) put some numbers to that, surveying state and provincial wildlife agencies across North America to determine the percentage of the total white-tailed deer harvest taken with a bow or crossbow.

It calculated that, over the three years from 2017 through 2019, archers accounted for about 25 percent of all whitetails harvested nationally. In the 13-state Northeast region, archers took about one-third of the deer harvested in that time.

That's largely in line with what's going on in the Keystone State.

According to Game Commission data, archers accounted for 32 percent of Pennsylvania's total deer harvest in 2017, 30 percent in 2018 and 37 percent in 2019. They accounted for 37 percent again last year, or 160,480 deer, which included 80,130 bucks.

That doesn't mean archers are adding significantly to the state's overall deer harvest.

Stainbrook said those figures represent a shift in the harvest rather than additional harvest since many archers also are rifle hunters. They're just taking advantage of the seasons available and filling their tags earlier in fall, with a bow or crossbow, than they might have done otherwise with a firearm.

Expanded opportunities, like that offered by archery deer seasons, are, though, "great for the future of hunting," the NDA said. They help even 'occasional' hunters stay engaged, enhance opportunities to young hunters and help retain aging hunters, the NDA said.

Hunters can also explore opportunities to get Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permits, which allow them to take antlerless deer in areas where additional CWD monitoring is wanted.

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