Hunting in Pennsylvania: A Guide for Hunters
Pennsylvania is a state with rich hunting traditions and abundant wildlife. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, you can find a hunting opportunity that suits your interests and skills. From big game like deer and bear, to small game like rabbit and squirrel, to waterfowl and migratory birds, Pennsylvania offers a variety of hunting seasons and locations for you to enjoy.
In this article, we will give you an overview of hunting in Pennsylvania, including:
- The benefits of hunting in Pennsylvania
- The hunting regulations and requirements
- The hunting seasons and bag limits
- The hunting locations and resources
The Benefits of Hunting in Pennsylvania
Hunting is not only a recreational activity, but also a way of conserving wildlife and natural resources, supporting the local economy, and enhancing your physical and mental health.
Some of the benefits of hunting in Pennsylvania are:
- Hunting helps maintain healthy populations of deer and other game animals by controlling their numbers and preventing overpopulation, which can lead to habitat degradation, disease outbreaks, and human-wildlife conflicts.
- Hunting contributes to the conservation of state forests and parks by providing funding for land acquisition, habitat improvement, wildlife management, and public access. Hunters pay license fees, excise taxes on firearms and ammunition, and voluntary donations that support these efforts.
- Hunting generates economic benefits for the state and local communities by creating jobs, supporting businesses, and generating tax revenues. According to a 2016 report by the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, hunting in Pennsylvania supported over 15,000 jobs, generated over $986 million in wages and salaries, and contributed over $1.6 billion to the state’s gross domestic product.
- Hunting provides physical benefits for hunters by improving their fitness, endurance, strength, coordination, and balance. Hunting also exposes hunters to fresh air, sunlight, and nature, which can boost their immune system and mood.
- Hunting provides mental benefits for hunters by enhancing their concentration, problem-solving, decision-making, and self-reliance skills. Hunting also offers hunters a chance to relax, unwind, connect with others, and enjoy the challenge and satisfaction of pursuing their quarry.
The Hunting Regulations and Requirements
Hunting in Pennsylvania is regulated by the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), which is responsible for managing the state’s wildlife resources and enforcing the hunting laws. All hunters must follow the rules and regulations set by the PGC to ensure safe, ethical, and responsible hunting.
Some of the hunting regulations and requirements are:
- All hunters must have a current Pennsylvania hunting license from the PGC. The license must be carried at all times while hunting or transporting game. The license fees vary depending on the type of license (resident or nonresident), age group (adult or junior), and eligibility for discounts (senior citizen or disabled veteran). The license can be purchased online , at authorized issuing agents , or at PGC offices .
- All hunters must comply with the fluorescent orange requirements , which are designed to increase visibility and prevent accidents. Hunters must wear at least 250 square inches of solid fluorescent orange material on their head, chest, and back during certain seasons or when hunting certain species. Exceptions apply for archery deer hunters , turkey hunters , waterfowl hunters , furbearer hunters , groundhog hunters , crow hunters , dove hunters , woodcock hunters , snipe hunters , rail hunters , moorhen hunters , coyote hunters , fox hunters , raccoon hunters , opossum hunters , skunk hunters , weasel hunters , bobcat hunters , porcupine hunters , elk hunters , mentored youth hunters , mentored adult hunters , falconry permit holders , flintlock muzzleloader deer hunters , late season archery deer hunters , late season muzzleloader deer hunters .
- All hunters must follow the seasons and bag limits established by the PGC for each game species. The seasons vary depending on the species, location, weapon type, sex or age class of the animal, antler restrictions (for deer), permit requirements (for elk), disease management areas (for deer), special regulations areas (for deer), wildlife management units (WMUs) (for most species), etc. The bag limits specify how many animals of each species a hunter can harvest per day or per season. The seasons and bag limits are published annually in the Hunting & Trapping Digest .
- All hunters must report their harvests to the PGC within 10 days of taking an animal. This can be done online , by phone (1-855-724-8681), or by mailing a harvest report card to the PGC. Reporting your harvest is important for wildlife management and population estimates.
The Hunting Seasons and Bag Limits
Pennsylvania has a variety of hunting seasons for different game species, ranging from September to June. The seasons are divided into categories based on the type of firearm or hunting method used, such as:
- Archery: using a bow and arrow or a crossbow
- Muzzleloader: using a muzzleloading firearm that loads from the muzzle end
- Firearms: using a rifle, shotgun, handgun, or air gun
- Flintlock: using a flintlock muzzleloading firearm that ignites the powder with a flint
- Special firearms: using a shotgun or muzzleloader with specific restrictions on caliber, gauge, or ammunition
- Falconry: using trained raptors to hunt game birds and small game mammals
The bag limits are the maximum number of animals of each species that a hunter can harvest per day or per season. The bag limits vary depending on the species, location, weapon type, sex or age class of the animal, antler restrictions (for deer), permit requirements (for elk), disease management areas (for deer), special regulations areas (for deer), wildlife management units (WMUs) (for most species), etc.
- Firearms, archery, muzzleloader, special firearms
- Nov. 20; Nov. 29-Dec. 4; Dec. 13-18; Dec. 13-24 (statewide)
- One per license year
- Firearms, archery
- Sept. 11-25; Nov. 1-6 (statewide)
- One per license year with a valid elk license
- Archery, crossbow, air gun, muzzleloader, special firearms, firearms, flintlock
- Sept. 18-Nov. 6; Nov. 15-19; Dec. 27-Jan. 29 (statewide); Sept. 18-Nov. 27; Dec. 27-Jan. 29 (in WMUs: A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O,P,Q,R,S,T,U,V,W,X,Y,Z); Oct. 16-23 (statewide); Oct. 21-23 (statewide); Nov. 20; Nov. 29-Dec. 4; Dec. 13-18; Dec. 13-24 (statewide); Dec. 27-Jan.15 (in WMUs: A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O,P,Q,R,S,T,U,V,W,X,Y,Z); Jan.3-15 (in WMUs: A,B,C,D,E,F,G,H,I,J,K,L,M,N,O,P,Q,R,S,T,U,V,W,X,Y,Z)
- One antlered deer per license year; one antlerless deer with each required antlerless license or permit
- Firearms, archery, falconry
- Varies by WMU: Oct.30-Nov.6; Oct.30-Nov.13; Nov.1-5; Nov.25-27 (statewide); May7-May31; May14-May31 (for junior hunters, mentored youth hunters, senior hunters, disabled hunters, resident active duty U.S.military personnel) (statewide)
- One per license year
The hunting seasons and bag limits are published annually in the Hunting & Trapping Digest, which is available online , at license issuing agents , or at PGC offices . The digest also contains other useful information for hunters, such as:
- Hunting regulations and requirements
- Hunting maps and resources
- Hunting safety tips and ethics
- Hunting opportunities for youth, women, veterans, and disabled hunters
- Hunting programs and events
The Hunting Locations and Resources
Pennsylvania has over 30 million acres of land, of which about 12 million acres are open to public hunting. These include:
- State game lands: over 1.5 million acres of land owned and managed by the PGC for wildlife conservation and hunting. State game lands offer diverse habitats and terrain for various game species. Some state game lands also have public shooting ranges , designated routes for horses and bicycles , snowmobile trails , and access for hunters with disabilities .
- State forests: over 2.2 million acres of land managed by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) for multiple uses, including hunting. State forests provide opportunities for big game, small game, and waterfowl hunting. Some state forests also have chronic wasting disease (CWD) impacts , which affect deer hunting in certain areas.
- State parks: over 300,000 acres of land managed by the DCNR for outdoor recreation, including hunting. Most state parks are open to hunting during established seasons, except for some areas that are designated as safety zones or non-hunting areas. Some state parks also have CWD impacts , which affect deer hunting in certain areas.
- National forests: over 500,000 acres of land managed by the U.S. Forest Service for multiple uses, including hunting. The Allegheny National Forest covers four counties in northwestern Pennsylvania and offers hunting opportunities for deer, bear, turkey, grouse, squirrel, rabbit, and waterfowl.
- National parks: over 100,000 acres of land managed by the National Park Service for natural and cultural preservation, including hunting. The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area covers parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey along the Delaware River and offers hunting opportunities for deer, bear, turkey, small game, and waterfowl. The Gettysburg National Military Park allows deer hunting by special permit only to reduce the deer population and protect the historic landscape.
- Other public lands: over 6 million acres of land owned or managed by various federal, state, county, municipal, or private entities that allow public hunting with certain restrictions or permissions. These include wildlife management areas , army corps of engineers lands , fish and boat commission properties , county parks , municipal parks , nature preserves , conservation easements , cooperative farms , etc.
In addition to public lands, Pennsylvania also has many private lands that offer hunting opportunities for a fee or with permission from the landowner. These include:
- Hunting preserves: private lands that are licensed by the PGC to raise and release game animals for hunting purposes. Hunting preserves offer controlled environments and guaranteed hunts for various game species, such as deer , elk , boar , pheasant , quail , etc.
- Hunting clubs: private lands that are leased or owned by groups of hunters who share the costs and benefits of hunting on them. Hunting clubs offer exclusive access and camaraderie for their members who hunt various game species, such as deer , turkey , bear , grouse , etc.
- Hunting outfitters: private businesses that offer guided hunts, lodging, transportation, equipment, and other services for hunters. Hunting outfitters can help hunters find and harvest their desired game species, such as deer , elk , boar , pheasant , etc.
To find the best hunting locations and resources in Pennsylvania, you can use the following tools and sources:
- The Pennsylvania Hunting Map : an interactive map created by the PGC and the DCNR that allows hunters to research WMUs, state forests, state game lands, and other public hunting areas. The map also provides information on hunting regulations, seasons, bag limits, CWD impacts, shooting ranges, etc.
- The Hunting & Trapping Digest : an annual publication by the PGC that contains all the information hunters need to know about hunting in Pennsylvania, such as hunting regulations, seasons, bag limits, maps, resources, programs, events, etc.
- The State Game Lands PDF Maps : downloadable maps of each state game land that show the boundaries, roads, trails, parking areas, shooting ranges, and other features of interest to hunters.
- The Public Shooting Ranges : a list of public shooting ranges on state game lands that are open to hunters and shooters who have a valid hunting license or a range use permit. The list provides information on the location, hours, rules, and facilities of each range.
- The Hunters Sharing the Harvest : a statewide program that enables hunters to donate their harvested deer to local food banks and soup kitchens. The program helps feed hungry people and reduce deer populations in high-density areas. Hunters can donate all or part of their deer at participating processors for free or at a reduced cost.
- The Call of the Outdoors Podcast : a podcast by the PGC that covers various topics related to hunting and wildlife conservation in Pennsylvania. The podcast features interviews with experts, stories from hunters, tips and tricks, news and updates, and more.
Hunting in Pennsylvania is a rewarding and enjoyable activity that offers many benefits for hunters and wildlife alike. Whether you are a novice or a veteran, you can find a hunting opportunity that matches your preferences and abilities. By following the hunting regulations and requirements, respecting the hunting seasons and bag limits, and exploring the hunting locations and resources, you can have a safe, ethical, and successful hunting experience in Pennsylvania. Happy hunting!
(1) Hunting – Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources. https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/Recreation/WhatToDo/Hunting/Pages/default.aspx.
(2) Hunting – Pennsylvania Game Commission. https://www.pgc.pa.gov/HuntTrap/Hunting/Pages/default.aspx.
(3) Pennsylvania Hunting Seasons 2023-2024 [Updated Schedule!]. https://huntingseasons.org/pennsylvania-hunting-seasons/.