WILKES-BARRE — With deer becoming increasingly active, and daylight-saving time soon to put more vehicles on the road during the hours when deer move most, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is advising motorists to slow down and stay alert.

Deer become more active in autumn with the lead-up to their fall breeding season, commonly referred to as the “rut.”

Around this time, many yearling bucks disperse from the areas in which they were born and travel, sometimes several dozen miles, to find new ranges. Meanwhile, adult bucks more often are cruising their home ranges in search of does, and they sometimes chase the does they encounter.

When daylight-saving time ends Nov. 6, there also will be increased vehicular traffic between dusk and dawn — the peak hours for deer activity.

“While the peak of the whitetail rut is still a few weeks off, deer already are spending more time on the move and are bound to be crossing roads more often,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “While motorists always should remain alert while driving, it’s especially important now in the coming weeks to be on the lookout for whitetails.”

Data from around the country indicates Pennsylvania drivers face some of the highest risks of a vehicle collision with a deer or other large animal. A recent report shows Pennsylvania led the country in animal-collision insurance claims in the fiscal year 2021-22.

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania drivers, according to the report, have a 1-in-58 chance of a vehicular accident involving a big game animal — one of the highest rates nationwide.

Drivers can reduce their chances of collisions with deer by staying alert and better understanding deer behavior. Just paying attention while driving on stretches marked with “Deer Crossing” signs can make a difference.

Deer often travel in groups and walk single file. So even if one deer successfully crosses the road in front of a driver, it doesn’t mean the threat is over — another could be right behind it.

A driver who hits a deer with a vehicle is not required to report the accident to the Game Commission. If the deer dies, only Pennsylvania residents may claim the carcass. To do so, they can call the Game Commission at — 1-833-PGC-HUNT or 1-833-PGC-WILD — and an agency dispatcher will collect the information needed to provide a free permit number, which the caller should write down.

A resident must call within 24 hours of taking possession of the deer. A passing Pennsylvania motorist also may claim the deer, if the person whose vehicle hit it doesn’t want it.

If a deer is struck by a vehicle, but not killed, drivers are urged to maintain their distance because some deer might recover and move on. However, if a deer does not move on, or poses a public safety risk, drivers are encouraged to report the incident to the Game Commission or another law-enforcement agency. If the deer must be put down, the Game Commission will direct the proper person to do so.

To report a dead deer for removal from state roads, motorists can call the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation at 1-800-FIX-ROAD.

AAA: Luzerne County among top

10 in PA for deer-related crashes

As the days get shorter and weather gets cooler, the breeding season for deer begins.

This time of year marks the distinct period when deer-vehicle collisions are most frequent. Male white-tailed deer will begin a nearly month-long quest for suitable mates, stopping for very little, including motorists.

Pennsylvania consistently ranks as one of the top states in the country for deer-related crashes each year.

Animal-vehicle collisions can be costly and dangerous — and deer are involved in more collisions than any other animal. The United States Department of Transportation estimates there are 1-2 million collisions between vehicles and large animals such as deer every year, resulting in 200 human deaths, tens of thousands of injuries, and more than $8 billion in vehicle damages.

The Average cost of an animal strike claim in Pennsylvania in 2021 was $4,338, according to AAA Insurance.

“Across Pennsylvania, deer have become much more noticeable along roadways and residential streets, leading to an increase in deer strikes,” says Jana L. Tidwell, manager of Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “With that in mind, AAA is urging motorists to drive defensively and remain alert behind the wheel, especially at dawn and dusk, when deer are most active.”

In Luzerne County. PennDOT recorded 173 dear strikes in 2021.

Are You Covered?

While any animal on the road can be dangerous, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, there are more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in 150 human deaths and tens of thousands of injuries. Crashes involving deer can pose great risk to drivers, but even a crash in which no one is injured can be costly.

Collision coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with an object (e.g., a telephone pole, a guardrail, a mailbox), or as a result of flipping over.

Comprehensive coverage is for damage to your car covered by disasters “other than collisions,” contacts (in this case, contact/collision with animals) and are paid for under the comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy.

“Deer and other animals can be unpredictable and might dash out in front of your vehicle. But there are actions you can take to help prevent a crash or reduce the damage from an animal collision,” noted Dean. “First and foremost, drivers and passengers should always wear a seat belt and take steps to avoid distractions behind the wheel.”

Mullery: House passes antlerless

deer hunting license legislation

A bill allowing hunters to apply for doe licenses online is on its way to Gov. Tom Wolf’s desk after passage in the PA House this week, state Rep. Gerald Mullery announced.

“After 10 years of advocating for this legislation, today’s passage is an enormous win for sportsmen and women across the commonwealth,” said Mullery, D-Newport Township. “This bill will improve access to antlerless deer licenses by allowing for simple online and point-of-sale application and replaces the antiquated mail-in system.”

According to Mullery, antlerless licenses are currently sold exclusively through mail-in applications to county treasurers and require every applicant to manage an antiquated paper application, pink envelope, check and time-specific mailing.

“This update is long overdue and brings the entire process into the 21st century,” Mullery noted.

The bill had the full support of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The commission noted, “Passage of this bill will greatly improve the customer service we provide.”

Additionally, sportsmen groups representing tens of thousands of outdoorsmen and women across Pennsylvania offered their full support for the legislation.

Elk season begins

Oct. 31, ends Nov. 5

Tens of thousands of Pennsylvania hunters dream of their chance to hunt elk, right here in the Keystone State.

But if you’re not among the lucky recipients of an elk license, a chance awarded by lottery in August, it’s easy enough to forget about the season by the time it arrives. After all, it’s prime time in Penn’s Woods, with hunters likely shorter on time than opportunities.

But the general elk season is nearly here, beginning Monday, Oct. 31 and ending Saturday, Nov. 5.

While Pennsylvania now has three separate seasons for elk — a two-week archery season in September, the general season and a late season that begins around the first of the year — the general season remains the biggest in terms of participation, with more than half of available elk licenses being allocated to the general season.

This year, 101 of the 178 Pennsylvania elk licenses are valid for the general season. Of those, 31 hunters will be hunting antlered elk, or bulls, and 70 will be hunting antlerless elk, or cows.

Elk licenses for the general season have been allocated in 12 Elk Hunt Zones, geographic elk-management units dispersed throughout the north-central Pennsylvania elk range. Maps of the zones can be found on the elk page at www.pgc.pa.gov.

Many other hunting seasons, including archery deer and bear, and most small game and turkey seasons, occur simultaneous to the general elk season.

Hunters participating in the general elk season, in which firearms are permitted, must wear, at all times, 250 square inches of daylight fluorescent orange material on the head, chest, and back combined, visible 360 degrees.

A successful hunter must attach the tag that comes with a license to the ear of an elk immediately after harvest and before the carcass is moved. In addition, within 24 hours, each hunter who harvests an elk must take it, along with his or her hunting license and elk license, to the Game Commission check station, where the elk are weighed and samples are collected to test for Chronic Wasting Disease, brucellosis and tuberculosis. The elk check station is located at the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day of the season.

Following completion of the general elk season, 48 hunters will participate in late season that runs from Dec. 31 through Jan. 7, 2023. Fifteen of those hunters have licenses for antlered elk, 33 for antlerless.

Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans thanked all who participated in Pennsylvania’s annual elk-license drawing — this year more than 56,000 people — and wished good luck to those hunters who were drawn for 2022-23 elk licenses.

“Pennsylvania’s world-class elk provide an incredible, one-of-a-kind — and often once-in-a-lifetime — opportunity like none other in Penn’s Woods,” Burhans said. “It’s no wonder why hunters mark their calendars to be sure they submit their applications before the July 31 deadline each year. For those who will be setting out next week on unforgettable Pennsylvania elk hunts, good luck. It’s an experience you’ll always treasure.”

Fall turkey season

kicked off Oct. 29

Pennsylvania’s fall turkey season, an annual opportunity to pursue the state’s only big-game bird among the changing colors of the autumn woods, kicked off Saturday, Oct. 29, in 19 of Pennsylvania’s 23 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs.)

As a reminder, no single-projectile firearms may be used in the fall turkey seasons. Hunters may use shotguns and archery gear only.

While fall turkey hunters no longer are required to wear fluorescent orange, the Game Commission highly recommends the use of orange, especially while moving.

During the fall season, any turkey — male or female — can be harvested. Female turkeys make up about 60% of the fall harvest.

When turkey populations are below-goal, the fall season length is reduced there to allow more female turkeys to survive to their spring nesting season.

Turkey populations were measured below the management goal. Therefore, in 2021, season length in 15 of the 21 WMUs was shortened, or closed, and the use of single-projectile rifles and handguns was eliminated.

The 2021 statewide fall harvest (6,800 turkeys) was 20% lower than 2020. Statewide fall hunter participation (81,500 hunters) was 19% less than 2020.

But things are looking up.

Turkey reproduction in 2021 and 2022 was above average across many WMUs.

“This typically results in larger fall flocks,” said Game Commission wild turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena.

And there’s plenty of spots where hunters can put themselves in good position to take a bird.

“Expect to find turkey brood flocks concentrated on available food sources, such as areas with acorn production or agricultural areas,” Casalena said.

Casalena also encourages hunters to cover a lot of ground to find available food sources. When abundant food is found, determining turkey movement patterns around that food will improve hunter success.

Hunters during fall turkey season share the woods with hunters participating in many other hunting seasons. But fall turkey hunting has proven remarkably safe. 2021 marked the fifth year since 2012 with no hunting related shooting incidents while fall turkey hunting. The other years with no incidents were 2012, 2016, 2018, and 2019.

Harvests and reporting

Everyone who purchases a hunting license receives one fall turkey tag

Successful fall turkey hunters must tag their birds according to instructions provided on the printed harvest tags supplied with their licenses, then report harvests.

Mentored hunters under the age of 7 may receive, by transfer, a fall turkey tag supplied by their mentor.

The turkey must be tagged immediately after harvest and before the turkey is moved, and the tag must be securely attached to a leg until the bird is prepared for consumption or mounting.

Within 10 days of harvest, turkey hunters must report harvests to the Game Commission, either by going online to the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.pa.gov, calling toll-free or mailing in a prepaid postcard.

Hunters reporting their turkey harvests over the telephone can call 1-800-838-4431 and follow the prompts. Hunters will need to have their license and their copy of the harvest tag in front of them when they make the call. Hunters should record the supplied confirmation number for the turkey reported.