Possession of any firearm while archery hunting is prohibited unless the individual possesses a license to carry a concealed firearm. Archery hunters are permitted to carry a muzzleloading firearm only during overlaps of archery deer or bear season with a muzzleloader deer or bear season.
It is unlawful to 1) kill a bear in a den; 2) use a radio to locate a bear to which a radio transmitter has been attached 3) use scents or lures.
Blinds can be used for big game (see turkey section for specifics for blinds while turkey hunting), however, a minimum of 100 square inches of fluorescent orange material (orange alert band will suffice) must be displayed within 15 feet of the blind and visible in a 360-degree arc during the firearms deer, bear and elk seasons. This is in addition to wearing orange while in the blind.
It is unlawful to use dogs to hunt elk, bears, deer or spring turkey.
Drives are permitted for deer and bear hunting only. It is unlawful to drive elk or turkeys. Drive participants must be in possession of a valid hunting license and comply with all fluorescent orange requirements. Unlicensed individuals can accompany a licensed hunter but cannot actively participate in any hunting activity and are strongly encouraged to wear fluorescent orange.
It is unlawful to hunt deer, elk or bears in a party of more than 25 persons.
It is unlawful while hunting or preparing to hunt to 1) damage any tree on public or private property by constructing a tree stand or using a portable tree stand or device to climb a tree; 2) use or occupy a tree stand that, when constructed, damages a tree. This does not apply to landowners constructing stands on their own property, or persons who have received written permission from a landowner to build or use a tree stand; 3) tree stands and portable hunting blinds on state game lands can be placed out not more than two weeks before the first and must be removed no later than two weeks after the final deer season in that area. Placing a tree stand or hunting blind does not reserve the area for its owner; other hunters can hunt there. Tree stands and portable hunting blinds left on state game lands and other Hunter Access properties under the Game Commission’s management need to be conspicuously marked with a durable and legible identification tag that includes the owner’s first and last name and legal home address, or bears the CID number that appears on the owner’s hunting license or a number issued by the Game Commission to the stand or blind owner. Sportsman’s Equipment ID numbers are assigned to license buyers and found in their customer profiles at https://HuntFish.PA.gov.
During the open seasons for deer and bears, it is unlawful to shoot at any target other than legal game. Target shooting is lawful only when done: 1) on property owned by the shooter or by a guest of the property owner; 2) within 200 yards of a camp or headquarters where the shooter is either quartered or an invited guest; 3) at an established shooting range. The target must be protected by a natural or artificial barrier so that the bullet or arrow cannot travel more than 15 yards beyond it.
Any person who legally harvests any big-game animal and discovers the flesh is unfit for human consumption at the time of harvest shall, within 12 hours following the discovery, deliver the entire carcass, less entrails, but including the head and hide, to any Game Commission game warden who, being satisfied that the game was unfit for human consumption at the time of harvest, shall issue written authorization to the person to harvest a second animal or bird of the same species during the unexpired portion of the season for that species.
Deer, bear, elk and turkey under transport, including those taken outside of Pennsylvania, must have an appropriate tag completed and attached. Unmarked parts of a big-game carcass taken in Pennsylvania may be transported. Upon request of any Game Commission law-enforcement officer, the name and address of the person who killed the animal must be furnished, along with other information necessary to properly establish legal possession. Before moving a harvested deer outside of a CWD Disease Management Area (DMA) or the Established Area (EA) in Pennsylvania, or bringing in a harvested deer, elk or moose from outside of Pa., all high-risk parts must be removed. Also, high-risk parts cannot be placed on the landscape in DMAs or the EA, unless they are left at the kill site. Now, however, any hunter who harvests a deer out-of-state or within a DMA or EA can take it directly to a cooperating processor or taxidermist anywhere in the state. See the CWD section in this digest.
Each hunter who harvests a deer or turkey must report it to the Game Commission within 10 days (five days for persons required to make a homemade tag) by sending in a postage-paid report card from this digest, or reporting online or over the phone. Be sure to read report cards thoroughly before filling out. Use one report card per animal harvested. For second-license turkey and DMAP antlerless deer, where reporting is required regardless of harvest success, be sure to check the “no harvest” box if no game is harvested. Hunters also can report their big-game harvests online at HuntFish.PA.gov by following instructions given there. Hunters and trappers also can report their deer, turkey, bobcat, fisher and otter harvests over the telephone by calling 1-800-838-4431. Hunters will need to have their license and information from the tag used, including the tag number.
Within 24 hours, each person who harvests a bear or elk must take the animal, along with hunting license and bear or elk license, to a Game Commission check station for examination. Bear check stations are maintained at Game Commission offices and at other locations listed elsewhere in this digest. Those drawn for an elk license will be notified by letter the location and operating hours of the Elk Check Station.
BEARS must be tagged immediately after harvest and before the carcass is moved. The harvest tag must be attached to the ear and remain attached until the animal is processed for consumption or prepared for mounting.
DEER can be tagged any time before the carcass is moved. A prior regulation had required a hunter to tag any harvested deer before attempting to take another. That regulation has been rescinded. The harvest tag must be attached to the ear and remain attached until the animal is processed for consumption or prepared for mounting. When submitting a sample for CWD testing, the completed harvest tag should remain with the head being submitted for testing.
ELK must be tagged immediately after harvest and before the carcass is moved. The harvest tag must be attached to the ear and remain attached until the animal is processed for consumption or prepared for mounting.
TURKEYS must be tagged immediately after harvest and before the carcass is moved. Turkey tags must be attached to the bird’s leg.
Feral swine have no place in Pennsylvania. They damage wildlife habitats, will kill birds and young mammals, and transmit a host of dangerous diseases. Because feral swine have no natural predators, they can live anywhere, and reproduce rapidly, and are difficult to control in the best circumstances.
In some areas of the state, protection may be removed from feral swine by an executive order of the director; however, to increase the efficiency of eradication efforts, protection may be applied to townships or counties where eradication trapping operations actively are being conducted. If you think you may have encountered feral swine, refer to www.pgc.pa.gov, for specific details on townships or counties that may have restrictions on incidental shooting of feral swine.
Feral swine may be hunted during lawful daylight hunting hours, except Sundays, with a hunting or furtaker license. However, feral swine may be taken from the first day to the last day inclusive of any big-game season only by persons who have a valid tag and are lawfully engaged in hunting big game. Those hunting feral swine with a firearm are required at all times to wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined.
Firearm and archery equipment is restricted to lawful arms and ammunition identified in the Game & Wildlife Code Sec. 2308. Those killing feral swine, must contact the nearest Game Commission region office within 24 hours, so samples can be collected for disease testing.
Pennsylvania’s Big Game Scoring Program
Each year, deer, bear and elk that are among the largest ever to be harvested in Pennsylvania are added to the Pennsylvania Big Game Records book.
Now those hunters and trophy owners who have a listing in the record book also may purchase an Exclusive Member Big Game Records patch.
Patches are $9.43, plus $2.95 shipping, plus sales tax. Funds from the sale of these patches are used to support the state’s Big Game Scoring Program.
To order, call 1-888-888-3459 or visit www.HuntFish.PA.gov.
The 2023 records book becomes available in October, and costs $10, plus $2.95 shipping, plus 6 percent sales tax.
To enter a big game animal, or for more information about the Game Commission’s Big Game Scoring Program, contact Boone & Crockett Club certified scorer and coordinator of Pennsylvania’s program Bob D’Angelo at email@example.com or call the Game Commission Harrisburg Headquarters.