Plenty of Excitement Remains for Pennsylvania Hunters

Photo courtesy PGC

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Christmas is coming and 2022 is winding down.

But Pennsylvania’s hunting license year isn’t yet halfway through, and there’s plenty of action to be experienced afield in the coming weeks and months.

The final deer seasons of 2022-23 kick off Dec. 26, running alongside many small game and furbearer seasons, making for plenty of options and opportunities.

Here’s a look.

Deer hunting

Three separate-but-simultaneous deer seasons get going after Christmas. Two of them – the late archery season and flintlock season – are held statewide, but run an additional two weeks in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C, and 5D. The other – the extended firearms antlerless deer season – is held only in WMUs 2B, 5C, and 5D.

There are slightly different requirements for these seasons.

First, late archery and flintlock hunters may harvest a buck, as well as antlerless deer, so long as they have valid tags for each. A buck harvest tag is included with a general license, so as long as a hunter hasn’t filled the tag in earlier seasons, it can be used to take a buck in the late archery or flintlock seasons.

A flintlock hunter also may use a buck tag to take an antlerless deer. In all other cases, a hunter needs a valid antlerless deer license or Deer Management Assistance Program permit for each antlerless deer they attempt to harvest. The exception applying to flintlock hunters applies only to flintlock hunters, and not those hunting deer in other seasons.

As for the extended firearms season, which is open only for the taking of antlerless deer, hunters need a valid antlerless license or DMAP permit for each deer they attempt to harvest.

While antlerless licenses for most WMUs long have been sold out, some licenses still remain in WMUs 2B and 4A. Likewise, DMAP permits – which are valid only on the properties for which they’re issued – remain available for some properties. Availability can be checked online at

In all cases, deer hunters need their paper harvest tags with them while hunting because a tag must be secured to the ear of a harvested deer before the deer is moved. Hunters who are buying tags they plan to use soon are better off buying them directly from an issuing agent as opposed to buying them online. Licenses purchased online are mailed to the hunter, which means waiting for harvest tags to arrive. And without a valid paper harvest tag, a hunter can’t lawfully hunt for deer.

There also are separate fluorescent orange requirements for the after-Christmas deer seasons. Statewide, archery and flintlock hunters are not required to wear fluorescent orange. Hunters participating in the extended firearms season must wear, at all times, 250 square inches of fluorescent orange on the head, chest and back combined, visible from 360 degrees.

Even when orange isn’t required, the Game Commission highly recommends the use of orange, especially while moving and on public properties.

The late archery and flintlock seasons run Dec. 26-Jan. 16 statewide and Dec. 26-Jan. 28 in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D. The extended firearms season runs Dec. 26-Jan.28.

Small game hunting

The small game seasons resumed following the firearms deer season. Hunting opportunities for squirrels, pheasants, and rabbits are among those available now and after Christmas.

Pheasants have become perhaps the most sought-after late-season small game species. About 23,400 pheasants were released last week (Dec. 14-16) and two more releases totaling 31,700 birds are planned for Dec. 28-29 and Jan. 4-5.

Pheasant hunters are advised to consult for further information on late-season pheasant releases because some of the sites stocked during the early season are not stocked during the late season.

In addition to a general license, pheasant hunters generally need a pheasant permit to hunt or harvest pheasants. The permit costs $26.97 and must be signed and carried while hunting pheasants. Junior hunters and mentored permit holders under 17 qualify for a free permit and must obtain it before hunting. Senior lifetime license holders who purchased their lifetime licenses prior to May 13, 2017, are exempted from needing a permit.

Small game hunters are reminded that hunting generally is closed on Saturday, Dec. 24. Seasons for pheasants, squirrels, rabbits and bobwhite quail (which hunters might encounter due to the private release of captive birds) resume on Dec. 26 and run through Feb. 27. Pennsylvania’s snowshoe hare season runs Dec. 26-31. The final segment of the ruffed grouse season closes on Dec. 23 and there is no after-Christmas season.

All small game hunters must wear, at all times, 250 square inches of fluorescent orange on the head, chest and back combined, visible from 360 degrees.

Meanwhile, many waterfowl seasons will run into January, and in some cases later.

Furbearer opportunities

Hunting and trapping for furbearers also peak in winter. These include opportunities for foxes, raccoons, beavers, minks, and muskrats.

A furtaker license generally is required to take furbearers by hunting or trapping. Coyotes are an exception to this requirement; they can be harvested by anyone with a hunting or furtaker license.

There also are a few furbearers – bobcats, fishers, and river otters – that licensed furtakers only may pursue if they first obtain a permit and harvest tag for that species. These permits only are sold prior to the season beginning, so bobcat and fisher permits no longer are available because seasons for those species are underway. River otter permits must be purchased before Feb. 11.

For a complete list of seasons and regulations, see the Hunting & Trapping Digest.

But any way you look at it, there’s a lot of hunting still to enjoy.

“While the fall hunting seasons pack incredible excitement and more opportunities than we might have available time, there are great times to be had afield once winter arrives, too,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “Whether it’s trying to tag that final deer this season, putting up some cackling roosters, waiting for ducks to drop into your decoy spread, tracking down a prime bobcat spot, or any of the many other opportunities available now and after Christmas, the adventure that awaits is its own reward.”