Autumn hunting seasons kicked off on September 1, with the opening of dove season. It takes real skill to bag these small, fast-flying birds and they are a challenge for any hunter.
Although there are not many changes associated with this fall’s various hunting seasons, doves are an exception. At their April meeting, the Pennsylvania Game Commission adopted the regulatory changes made by the federal government, which affect hunting conditions and starting times for mourning dove hunting.
For starters, hunting hours will now run from one-half hour before sunrise until sunset throughout the entire dove season. In past years, hunting hours during the first part of the season did not begin until noon.
The second big change is allowing farmers, other landowners or hunters to manipulate agriculture fields to improve them for dove hunting. According to the Game Commission, “manipulation” is defined as “the alteration of agricultural crops or natural vegetation by activities such as mowing, shredding, discing, rolling, chopping, trampling, flattening, burning or herbicide treatments.”
However, the permitted “manipulation” does not include adding grain or other food to the area. Any manipulation solely for dove hunting must be done no later than September 15. Hunters should note that a “manipulated” dove field, as defined above, is off limits to the hunting of all other species until 30 days after the manipulated grain has been harvested and grain residue has been removed.
Migratory bird hunters, including those afield for doves, are required to purchase a Pennsylvania migratory game bird license in addition to their general license.
The early hunting season for resident Canada geese also began September 1 and runs through September 25. These dates apply to the entire state, with the exception of western Crawford County, where the season ends on September 15.
With a liberal daily bag limit of eight birds, the early season for resident Canada geese is used to help control populations that have become nuisances at parks, golf courses and other public places throughout the state. In a few areas of Pennsylvania, resident Canada geese cause considerable agricultural damage.
A number of state parks open additional areas to hunt during resident Canada goose season. Check with individual park offices to inquire about specific areas.
The six-week archery deer season begins September 29 and runs through November 12. New this year -- the last day will be Monday, November 12, Veterans Day, rather than the previous Saturday.
Disease Management Area 2 has been expanded to the east, but not northward. Rte 453 northwest of Tyrone is the closest that DMA 2 comes to Centre County.
Chronic wasting disease should be on the mind of any deer hunter venturing out of Centre County. Check if that area is in one of the three DMAs and be sure to follow the rules put in place to help contain the disease. Deer harvested in a DMA should not be brought back into Centre County for processing.
For duck hunting, Centre County is split between two hunting zones, with I-80 being the dividing line. In the north zone, which includes Centre County north of I-80, the season for ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers runs October 6 through November 17.
There is a much shorter season in the South Zone -- Oct 13-20. The daily limit for ducks in both zones is six.
However, 12 waterfowl species, including mallards, wood ducks and pintails, have varying individual limits within the six-duck overall limit. Consult the online Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest for complete details.
Duck hunters are required to have a federal duck stamp in addition to their Pennsylvania licenses.
Small Game, Woodcock & Snow Geese
The early season for squirrels, ruffed grouse and rabbits is set to begin October 13 and end November 24. Pheasant season begins October 20.
Junior, adult and some senior hunters will need a special pheasant permit. The permit is $26.90 for adults and some seniors. The permit is free for junior hunters. Any senior who purchased his/her senior lifetime license before May 13, 2017, does not need a permit to hunt pheasants.
Woodcock season will be held October 13 -November 24.
The so-called “Light Geese” season for snow and Ross geese will be held October 23 through February 23.
The fall hunting seasons for turkeys vary in length depending on the population status within each management unit. The two-part season will be held October 27 - November 10 and again November 22-24 in Wildlife Management Units 4D and 2G, which includes all of Centre County.
Statewide archery bear season runs October 29 - November 3. This is the second year for archery bear season to be held concurrently with a week of archery deer season. A record 493 bears were harvested during last year’s archery season.
Special Youth Seasons
Special fall seasons for mentored youth and/or junior hunters exist for Canada geese, ducks, mergansers, coots, gallinules, squirrels, pheasants, rabbits and deer. This includes a special October 6-13 junior pheasant hunt.
Approximately 15,000 pheasants will be stocked statewide for the junior hunt. This includes well over 100 birds that are released in Centre County’s State Game Lands 333 - off the Shiloh Road exit of I-99.
Other SGL 333 stocking areas are accessed from Grove Road and Barnes Lane. Check the online Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest for details pertaining to the youth hunts (www.pgc.pa.gov).
New disabled permit
A new free permit has been created to allow mobility-challenged game lands users to use ATVs, golf carts, and other mobility devices on designated routes on state game lands. For more information, contact the Northcentral Regional Office at 570-398-4744.
Mark Nale, who lives in the Bald Eagle Valley, is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association and can be reached at MarkAngler@aol.com