Happy holidays for second-season hunters
‘Tis the season once again (hunting season that is) so if Santa left a shotgun, rimfire rifle, flintlock, bow, or crossbow under your tree or stuffed your stocking full of ammo on Christmas morning, you’re in luck. That’s because tomorrow, Wednesday Dec. 26, (and for many days after) another holiday gift courtesy of the Pennsylvania Game Commission awaits you. The day after Christmas has become the traditional late season reopener for hunters in quest of an impressive potpourri of Keystone State game.
To a great extent these seasons represent a last chance for deer hunters. The statewide late archery and flintlock muzzleloader deer seasons run concurrently from Dec. 26 to Jan. 12. Also, the late antlerless deer season here in WMUs 5C and 5D (most of Chester County)along with the flintlock and archery seasons here stretch from Dec. 26 through Jan. 26.
Flintlock fans are most appreciative of the late season since it provides them with a chance to bag that elusive buck with this most primitive of sporting arms. The early muzzleloader season back in October limited them to antlerless deer only and also permitted modern in-line muzzle loading rifles to be used.
First, some advice for those proud new flintlock owners: Keep your powder dry. Don’t be a flash in the pan. And for goodness sake, don’t go off half-cocked. While all these expressions have become a generic part of our colloquial lexicon, they trace their origins to that most primitive of firearms, the old reliably unreliable flintlock rifle with all of its quirky little idiosyncrasies that make each shot an adventure in probability.
Regulations during the late flintlock season are very specific. Only single-barrel guns with a flintlock ignition system are permitted. The firearm must be an original or reproduction of a gun used prior to 1800, which is .44 caliber or larger (or .50 caliber or larger handgun) with iron, open “V” or notched sights. Telescopic sights are unlawful but peep sights are permitted. Flintlock muzzleloader hunters may use “any single projectile” and are not restricted to traditional patched round balls.
Hunters using archery or muzzleloader licenses and hunting with those special sporting arms are not required to wear fluorescent orange clothing while afield, but are encouraged to do so where the seasons overlap with late season firearms deer hunters. Special regulations area hunters must wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange clothing, unless they possess an archery or muzzleloader license and are hunting with a bow, flintlock or crossbow.
If your tastes run more to small game, you’re also in luck this holiday season if you want to break in that new rimfire rifle or shotgun. The late small game seasons include squirrel, Dec. 26 to Feb. 28; rabbit, Dec. 26 to Feb. 28; and snowshoe hare, Dec. 26-Jan. 1 In addition, male and female pheasant hunting is available from Dec. 26 to Feb. 28.
Dove season reopened Dec. 18 and runs thru Jan. 5. Crows may be hunted on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through April 14. Porcupines may be hunted through March 30 with a daily limit of three, season limit of 10.
Waterfowl hunters have numerous opportunities, some stretching clear into the month of April. Hunters can take Canada geese and white-fronted geese here in the Atlantic Population Zone through January 31 (the late season opened on Dec. 15) with a daily limit of three. Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers may be hunted here in the South Zone until Jan. 19 in a season that opened back on Nov. 20.
In the interest of full disclosure I’ll reveal that Santa left a Redneck Waterfowl blind under my tree on Christmas morning (with help from my wonderful wife) and I plan to set it up for some Canada goose hunting in the next few weeks -- at least on days when I’m not trying to fill my buck tag via flintlock, compound, or crossbow. Incidentally, based on my observations, plenty of deer survived our regular seasons.
Furbearer hunting seasons also continue through the winter months, including: no closed season on coyotes; red and gray foxes and raccoons until Feb. 16; raccoons, until Feb. 16; bobcats, for those with special permits, from Jan. 20 to Feb. 6 in WMUs 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4C, 4D and 4E; and skunks, opossums and weasels have no closed season. Furbearer trapping seasons include: beavers, Dec. 26-March 31; minks and muskrats, until Jan. 6; raccoons, skunks, opossums, foxes and weasels, until Feb. 17; and bobcats, for those with special permits in WMUs 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4C, 4D and 4E until Jan. 11. Beaver trapping season begins on Dec. 26, and runs rough March 31. Trapping for fishers for those with special permits began on Dec. 15 and ends on Dec. 26.
One last cautionary note to Chesco deer hunters over the next few weeks: don’t forget you’ll be sharing the deer woods with bowhunters dressed in camouflage, flintlockers decked out in buckskin, and shotgunners draped in fluorescent orange. As always, shoot straight, hunt safe, and always respect the landowners.
Second season hunters wielding flintlocks or archery gear will still be attempting to fill their bucktags, even on young bucks like this one.