Opening day of PA deer season under a microscope

Posted on: April 2, 2018 | Bob Frye | Comments

Opening day of deer season is a tradition.

Opening day of Pennsylvania’s deer season has fallen on the Monday after Thanksgiving for decades.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures

The Monday after Thanksgiving is always the Pennsylvania deer season opening day.

This year’s opener is tentatively set for Monday, Nov. 26. Pennsylvania Game Commissioners will likely give that final approval at their April 23-24 meeting in Harrisburg.

Tradition, right?

Yes, but not one that’s been around forever.

“If you ask the average hunter, they probably think that’s how it’s always been,” said Travis Lau, communications coordinator for the Game Commission. “But that’s not the case.”

That Monday has been opening day since 1963.

For many years before that, Lau said, opening day was always Dec. 1, regardless of which day of the week that was. It might be a Monday, but also a Friday, Saturday or any day in between.

The only exception was when Dec. 1 was a Sunday. In that case, Lau said, the season started on Dec. 2.

“Most openers after 1940 were on Mondays, but not always the Monday after Thanksgiving. Even as late as 1962, when the season opened on Monday, Dec. 3, it was more than a week after Thanksgiving on Nov. 22,” Lau said.

So opening day was changed … why?

To standardize things, perhaps? To make things easier for hunters?

If so, then consider this déjà vu.

State lawmakers are asking about – and in one case pushing for – changing opening day of the statewide Pennsylvania deer to the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

State Rep. Harry Readshaw, an Allegheny County Democrat, announced on March 27 that he intends to introduce a bill that would make that Saturday the opener.

“The request for legislation was brought to my attention by one of my constituents who has been disappointed because his children have to return to their homes before deer season begins in Pennsylvania,” Readshaw said in a memo to fellow lawmakers seeking co-sponsors.

His bill would not otherwise change the season. It would continue another 12 days, ending on a Saturday, as is the case now.

How that — an extra day of hunting, and a weekend one at that, which would figure to get lots of hunting pressure — might impact harvests is a question.

So some other lawmakers are hoping the Game Commission will handle that issue by adopting a Saturday opener on their own. it could then address season lengths with that first day in mind, they believe.

Speaking at a recent meeting of the Senate game and fisheries committee, Sen. Richard Alloway, an Adams County Republican, said that “after having lots of conversations” with sportsmen and others, such a change is necessary.

“Working men and women, it’s hard for them to get off through the week to go hunting. Just the pressures, the realities of life,” Alloway said.

“I think it’s a conversation the board should have with itself and the staff and its customers, about what can we do.”

Sen. Dan Laughlin, an Erie County Republican, favors a Saturday opener, too, especially if it’s paired with the legalization of Sunday hunting.

He believes it hunters – especially those traveling from out of state – had the weekend after Thanksgiving to hunt deer, license sales would surely go up.

“This needs to get done. And it needs to get done sooner rather than later,” Laughlin said.

The Game Commission board “has not developed a position on this issue,” Lau said.

But it figures to be discussed further. Readhsaw’s bill, if nothing else, will go in front of the House game and fisheries committee after it’s formally introduced.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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