The ever-shortening days and the cooler temperatures are clear indicators that we have finally entered the fall season. With that come the various hunting opportunities within our state. Sure, many hunters daydream about hearing a bull elk bugle across a mountain meadow in the Rocky Mountains or pursuing big game in the great state of Alaska, but with the current rate of inflation and particularly the high price of gasoline, the small and big game hunting right here in Pennsylvania is more and more appealing! With the wide variety of game and the numerous seasons, there will be plenty of chances to spend quality time hunting at home and putting lots of meat in the freezer for the coming months.
The squirrel season has been in full swing statewide since September 9 and runs through November 24, with two additional seasons occurring over the winter months. With a daily limit of 6 and a possession limit of 18, squirrels provide an excellent opportunity for early fall hunting and the perfect scenario for mentoring youth or adults. While squirrel hunting is not as popular as it once was, it remains one of the best opportunities to spend time teaching a new hunter about all facets of hunting safety, ethics, and responsibilities, along with the importance of patience, staying alert, and learning from watching other forms of wildlife. As a bonus, one of the most memorable and quite delicious aspects of squirrel hunting is the making of “squirrel pot pie” in an old cast iron Dutch oven.
Throughout the month of October, the statewide seasons for ruffed grouse, rabbit, and pheasant will open. While each of these species of game has its own appeal, hunting any of them is so much more enjoyable when you have the opportunity to hunt with a well-trained dog. It is truly a thrill to watch a pointer lock up and go on point when it zeroes in on a pheasant or grouse. The sound of a beagle baying as it trails behind a cottontail rabbit is one you will always remember with a smile once you have heard it in the field!
Big game hunting begins this coming Saturday, September 30, in the form of archery deer hunting. The season continues until November 17, with an added day of Sunday archery deer hunting on Sunday, November 12. The muzzleloader antlerless-only season runs from October 14 to October 21, and a Junior-Senior special firearms antlerless-only season is held from October 19-21. The regular firearms season begins on November 25 and goes until December 9, with a day of Sunday hunting on Sunday, November 26. Finally, the flintlock antlered and antlerless season occurs from December 26 to January 15.
Fall turkey hunters can pursue both hens and gobblers beginning October 31 and ending on various dates, depending on the WMU. In order to increase your chances for fall turkeys, follow the food sources. Recently cut corn fields or freshly producing oak trees, especially white oaks, are excellent locations, along with areas of wild grape vines, as well as water sources, such as brooks, streams, and ponds, are a good bet as well.
Finally, the fall hunting seasons include ample opportunities to hunt black bear throughout the state. The regular statewide firearms season is a four-day season from Saturday, November 18 to Tuesday, November 21 — this includes another Sunday hunting opportunity for this year’s hunters — Sunday, November 19. Statewide, there is also a season to pursue black bear with archery equipment, and it runs from October 14 to November 4. Concurrently, a muzzleloader bear season is held statewide from October 14 to 21, and this year, during the special Junior and Senior special antlerless deer firearms season of October 19-21, a black bear is also legal game.
The additional seasons for some species and the Sunday hunting opportunities will add to your chances for success this fall. Whether you prefer hunting upland small game or one of the big game species, this fall should be a banner harvest. Take advantage of all of these opportunities to “bring home the bacon” — or, in this case, the wild game meats! You not only have the chance to get outside and enjoy some quality time in the outdoors but there can be no healthier dinner fare than that provided by any of the wild game we hunt right here in Pennsylvania.