Elk NetworkPennsylvania Approves 2023 Hunting, Trapping Seasons

General | May 18, 2023

Below is a news release from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to the 2023-24 hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits.

Modifications adopted for the 2023-24 seasons include:

  • For black bear, Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 1B, 2C, 4A, 4B and 4D were removed from the extended firearms black bear season because of declining nuisance complaints in these units.
  • For elk, the archery season will be a week later than in 2022-23 to provide additional time between the license drawing and the beginning of the season.
  • For furbearers, WMUs 3B and 4E have been opened to river otter trapping because habitat and population data indicate these units can support sustainable otter harvest.
  • For small game, there has been a significant expansion of opportunity for put-and-take hunting of captive-reared bobwhite quail in most of Pennsylvania, achieved through an earlier season opening date, later season closing date and removal of the daily bag limit. Also, adjustments to crow season dates and addition of Thursdays as hunting days were approved to shift hunting opportunity from the peak breeding season to the fall and winter months.
  • For falconry, an expansion of falconry opportunities, to include the period of overlap with the regular firearms deer season and the authorization of falconers to take certain furbearers were approved.
  • No substantive changes were made to white-tailed deer or wild turkey seasons, although the 2024 youth and regular spring turkey seasons will open five days later than in 2023 due to normal calendar fluctuation and the wild turkey management plan guideline of opening the regular season the Saturday closest to May 1. The seasons and bag limits adopted by the board would continue with a Saturday opener to the firearms deer season. License data demonstrates a positive change following the implementation of the Saturday opener. In particular, data shows the move to a Saturday opener was followed by increased license sales by hunters ages 18 to 34 and female hunters. The board also approved a measure that makes all mentored hunters, including mentored adults, eligible to participate in the October special firearms season for antlerless deer and bears.

The Game Commission also announced 1,095,000 antlerless deer licenses will be allocated statewide for 2023-24, which is up from the 948,000 licenses allocated for 2022-23.

Allocations by Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) are as follows, with the allocation from the previous license year appearing in parentheses. Hunters should note that WMU 2H has been eliminated and its area placed within WMU 2G. The 2022-23 allocation for 2G combines 2G and 2H. WMU 1A – 46,000 (43,000); WMU 1B – 37,000 (34,000); WMU 2A – 46,000 (39,000); WMU 2B – 53,000 (49,000); WMU 2C – 88,000 (67,000); WMU 2D – 86,000 (74,000); WMU 2E – 52,000 (42,000); WMU 2F – 49,000 (37,000); WMU 2G – 35,000 (31,000); WMU 3A – 21,000 (19,000); WMU 3B – 32,000 (33,000); WMU 3C – 40,000 (37,000); WMU 3D – 41,000 (41,000); WMU 4A – 61,000 (50,000); WMU 4B – 46,000 (34,000); WMU 4C – 32,000 (31,000); WMU 4D – 77,000 (55,000); WMU 4E – 54,000 (42,000); WMU 5A – 40,000 (31,000); WMU 5B – 60,000 (60,000); WMU 5C – 70,000 (70,000); and WMU 5D – 29,000 (29,000).

Meanwhile, 144 elk licenses (65 antlered, 79 antlerless) were allocated across three 2023-24 elk seasons. For the one-week general season to run Oct. 30-Nov. 4, 30 antlered and 42 antlerless tags have been allocated. In the archery season open only in select Elk Hunt Zones, to run from Sept. 16-30, 18 antlered and 8 antlerless licenses are available. And there are 17 antlered and 29 antlerless licenses available for the Dec. 30-Jan. 6 late season.

As always, this year’s allocations are based on scientific data and tailored to meet population objectives within each WMU and Elk Hunt Zone. The Board of Commissioners, however, did not vote on the allocations, as it had in the past. Board of Commissioners President Kristen Schnepp-Giger explained with the following proclamation.

“Antlerless deer and elk license allocations must be set before the new license year begins. The April meeting of the Board of Commissioners traditionally serves as a turnstile in this process, as it’s the first time that allocations developed by staff are presented publicly and finalized.

This Board intends to reconsider its role in this process, and, given that the allocations are an anticipated part of the April meeting, wishes to clarify its position moving forward.

If board member opinions enter the decision-making process, and allocations change because of them, science no longer is guiding wildlife management.

To preserve the integrity of a process that relies on science-based management to achieve population objectives, this Board will be discontinuing the practice of annually approving the number of antlerless deer and elk licenses to be allocated. This will allow the appropriate experts within the agency to prepare and finalize allocations that are in accordance with the goals set forth in the agency’s deer and elk management plans.

There is no law or regulation that requires the Board to consider or approve allocations.

Because scientific management is a principle the Board believes in, it only makes sense to stand by the results of scientific work, including the development of license allocations.

This Board intends to stand by allocations developed by staff for the 2023-24 license year. We consider them final and intend – now and in the future – to allow the science-based allocations developed by staff to move forward without requiring a vote from the Board of Commissioners.”

Antlerless licenses for 2023-24 go on sale alongside general licenses at 8 a.m. on Monday, June 26. Further information on the new antlerless license sales process is provided in a news release containing other highlights from today’s meeting.

All elk licenses will be awarded by lottery, and hunters must apply separately for all seasons they wish to be eligible to hunt. Each application costs $11.97, meaning a hunter can enter all three drawings for $35.91. Individuals can be drawn for a maximum of one elk license per license year.

The deadline to apply is July 16.

(Photo credit: Pennsylvania Game Commission)