Despite some vocal opposition online, most hunters in Pennsylvania prefer a new start to the state’s firearms season on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
The main reasons cited by hunters interviewed on the subject included work duties on Mondays and Saturdays, better work with children’s school schedules.
By comparison, only 27 percent of hunters surveyed by Responsive Management on behalf of the Pennsylvania Games Commission said they oppose Saturday’s opening. Most of those hunters hunt from mountain camps.
These and other statistics were included in the recently published report “The Attitude of Pennsylvania Deer Hunters to Season Opening Day”.
The study was conducted by Responsive Management at the request of the Pennsylvania Games Commission.
“Sponsive Management is an internationally recognized research company that specializes in dealing with natural resources and outdoor recreation,” the company’s website said.
Last hunting season was the third in Saturday’s firearms hunting season.
When they first approved the transition from the long-standing traditional opening Monday after Thanksgiving, the Council of Commissioners said they plan to study the move in a couple of years to see if hunters will like it or not.
This study includes the first random survey of hunters on the subject.
“One fact that has never been questioned is that Pennsylvania hunters are fond of deer hunting,” said Game Commission Executive Director Brian Burhans.
“And over the last three years we have heard from many hunters who have expressed good moments on both sides of this (opening day) issue.
“Therefore, it was necessary to conduct an independent scientific survey to find out where the hunters are after three years of community work.
“Without accurate data, it would be impossible to know to what extent hunters can support or resist change. With the help of this poll, this question was answered. “
Over the past three years, many online surveys have been conducted to “Add Your Comments”.
LNP twice asked readers for their opinion in this regard. In both of our polls, comments overwhelmingly preferred early Monday.
But, like other online surveys, ours required hunters to find a survey, choose to participate, and then send comments via email.
Responsible management conducted a traditional scientific survey after the start of the last season of deer. They randomly called hunters aged 18 and older to ask questions, and came up with 2009 completed questionnaires.
Hunters had to hunt deer during the 2017 and / or 2018 seasons – before switching to the subbotnik – and then also during the 2019, 2020 and / or 2021 seasons, which all included the subbotnik.
Responsible management has reached hunters who hunt in each of Pennsylvania’s 23 wildlife management units. The largest percentage of respondents – 9.5 percent – said they hunt in WMU 2G. A total of 8.2 percent said they were hunting in WMU 5B, which covers most of Lancaster County.
Among the hunters surveyed, only 1 percent said they had never hunted on the opening day.
Most deer hunters – 55 percent – hunt near their homes on the opening day, compared to 44 percent of those who travel.
Of all hunters, 21 percent hunt in a hunting camp on the opening day.
The amount of time that deer hunters spend in the field during the armed season is declining.
The average amount of time was five days. Half of the hunters said their time of deer hunting over the past five years remained the same, while 35 percent said it had declined, compared with only 15 percent who said it had increased.
Some attitudes to the change of opening day from Monday to Saturday:
- The biggest opposition among hunters 55 and older.
- Those who hunt from the camp have higher opposition than those who do not hunt.
- The most common reason opponents called was “tradition.”
- Those whose children hunt have higher support than those who do not.
- Among the six regions of the state, support is the lowest in the North Central region.
- Most hunters – 62 per cent – said the subbotnik did not affect their hunt, while 25 per cent said it had a positive effect and 11 per cent had a negative one.
- Among those who said their hunting time had increased over the past five years, 13 percent said it was due to the addition of a community work day and the following Sunday.
Many hunters who love the subbotnik are also big fans of including the next day’s hunting calendar – Sunday.
In Pennsylvania, hunting on Sundays is prohibited by state law, except for coyotes, foxes and crows.
However, a new state law has allowed hunting of more popular game, including deer, on three specific Sundays over the past two years. And in both of these years, Sunday after Saturday’s opening was one of those special days.
Among those hunters who went in the last season of firearms, 60 percent said they hunted on the Sunday after Saturday’s opening, compared with 40 percent who said they did not hunt that day.
This is an increase in turnout compared to 47 per cent who said they hunted on Sunday 2020, compared to 47 per cent who said they did not hunt.
The Council of Game Commissioners each year is tasked with setting hunting season dates and bag limits for the next hunting year.
They usually propose this plan in January and then meet for final approval in April.
Some hunters, who opposed the opening of Saturday’s deer season, hoped the commissioners would consider switching to Monday in 2022-23 hunting.
Given the results of the report on the attitude of hunters to the opening day, such a move seems unlikely.
However, it is currently not possible to make this transition given the lack of a quorum for a board of eight members.
There are three vacancies in the commission. There must be six members at the board meeting to conduct official affairs.
Board members are appointed by the state legislature and then approved by the governor. Representatives of the Game Commission do not know when any of the three vacancies can be filled. At least one must be filled in before commissioners can vote on seasons and bag limits.
State law stipulates that if the board cannot set seasons and bag limits for a given hunting year due to lack of quorum, then the seasons and bag limits for the previous year are automatically carried over.