House Committee Chairmen Get Commitment to Revisit Change to Start of Rifle Deer Season

HARRISBURG, April 30 - Following their decision to change the first day of rifle deer season to the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s (PGCs) Board of Commissioners has agreed with a House Game and Fisheries Committee request to revisit the move next year. The announcement comes following a meeting in which Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-York), majority chairman of the committee, and Rep. Bill Kortz (D-Allegheny), the committee’s minority chairman, conveyed to the board the tremendous volume of complaints they and their House colleagues have received from hunters.

“Without a doubt, this change to the first day of deer season is one of the most impactful votes by the board in years,” said Gillespie. “There were serious questions as to whether the board listened closely enough to the hunting public before voting. We want the board to know numerous members of the hunting community have expressed to members of the House of Representatives the feeling that their voice was ignored in the process.”

“There are so many ramifications that this change in the starting date brings to deer hunting all around the state,” Kortz added. “For hunters who have used the weekend after Thanksgiving to travel to camps or destinations to hunt, this change will be very disruptive. I’m concerned we will see camps closing and businesses that usually have big retail days over this weekend hurt by this change. I stressed these points in a letter I sent to the board before the vote and to Governor Tom Wolf after the vote.”

The first day of rifle deer season has traditionally been the first Monday after Thanksgiving. On April 9, the board voted 5-3 to change that date, moving the starting date to the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. The decision has ignited controversy within the hunting public, with many license buyers and sportsmen organizations in opposition to the move, concerned over the impact of this change to the state’s hunting traditions.

Public comment gathered by the PGC in the three months prior to the vote was overwhelmingly opposed to the change. Conversely, board members characterize the input they received after canvasing hunters in their regions as mostly positive.

Prior to revisiting their decision, the board of commissioners has pledged to collect data from license sales, hunter input, camp owners’ experiences, and retailers.

“I’m glad we could get this commitment from the board,” Kortz said. “For the deer hunter, camp member or retailor who doesn’t like the new starting date, it’s good to know this decision will be reconsidered before next season. By then, we should know whether or not this year’s decision was a mistake.”

“The commissioners agree a change this big will expose some unknown factors that weren’t considered,” Gillespie added. “The board has committed to study the data with a fresh perspective and exhaustive investigation to determine if this change is really in the best interest of hunters and the PGC.”