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Fall Firearms Deer Seasons Making A Difference; Muzzleloader Bear And Deer Seasons To Overlap In Urban WMUs; Pennsylvania Game Commission Offers Warm-Weather Venison Care Tips; Three Ways Available To Report A Harvest; Hunters Sharing the Harvest A Worthy

HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The state's early firearms antlerless deer seasons – early muzzleloader season, Oct. 13-20, and special firearms season for junior, senior, active duty military and certain disabled hunters, Oct. 18-20 – will soon be here, along with seasons for squirrels and grouse, so there will be plenty of hunting opportunities across the state, according to Carl G. Roe, Pennsylvania Game Commission executive director.

Roe noted that these early antlerless deer seasons provide hunters more ways to fit deer hunting into their busy schedules, and offer a more relaxing hunt to those who prefer warmer weather and fewer hunters in the woods.

"Although the October antlerless seasons increase hunting opportunities, their harvests still are controlled by antlerless deer license allocations, which are set to remove a pre-determined number of antlerless deer from a Wildlife Management Unit (WMU)," Roe said.

Hunters heading afield for the October firearms seasons likely will find that deer numbers vary by locality.

To participate in the early muzzleloader season (Oct. 13-20), hunters must have a general hunting license, muzzleloader stamp and a valid antlerless deer license or Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) antlerless deer permit. Hunters may use in-line, percussion and flintlock muzzleloaders during the early muzzleloader season. They also may use scopes, peep-sights and other lawful sighting devices on muzzleloaders during the October hunt.

To participate in the special firearms antlerless season (Oct. 18-20), hunters must have a general hunting license and a valid antlerless deer license, and qualify in one of the following license categories: resident junior or senior license holders; nonresident junior license holder; nonresident adult license holders age 65 or older; hold a disabled person permit to use a vehicle as a blind; be residents who are serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces; or qualify for license and fee exceptions under section 2706. Sporting arms permitted include: manually-operated center-fire rifles, handguns and shotguns; 44-caliber or larger muzzleloading long guns; 50-caliber or larger muzzleloading handguns; long, recurve or compound bows; and crossbows.

Based on a recent change in state law and Game Commission regulations, these two antlerless deer seasons now are open to participants of the Mentored Youth Hunting Program, which was created for those under the age of 12. Mentored youth must obtain a MYHP permit ($2.70) for the current year, and they may receive only one antlerless deer license by transfer during a license year. Adult mentors may transfer more than one antlerless deer license, but they must be to different mentored youth. The transfer is valid only if done in the WMU for which the antlerless deer license was issued. (NOTE: A proposed change in regulations to allow for the transfer of one DMAP antlerless deer permit to a mentored youth won't take effect until the 2013-14 seasons, as the proposal still requires final adoption by the Board.)

For antlered deer, the mentored youth must use the harvest tag that comes with the MYHP permit.

Hunters are advised that they may take only antlerless deer in the early muzzleloader and special firearms seasons, and that they may hunt only in the WMU or DMAP areas for which they have obtained antlerless deer licenses. An antlerless deer is defined as a deer without antlers, or a deer with spike antlers less than three inches in length.

Muzzleloader and special firearms season hunters are reminded that when multiple harvests of deer per day are permitted, only one deer at a time may be taken. Before attempting to take an additional deer, the first deer must be lawfully tagged. However, in Special Regulations Area counties of Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia, hunters may shoot multiple deer before tagging. Deer must be tagged immediately after they are harvested and before the carcass is moved. The tag must be attached to the ear and remain attached until the deer is processed for consumption or prepared for mounting.

Any hunter who by accident or mistake kills an illegal deer is required to deliver the carcass - entrails removed - within 24 hours of the kill to any Game Commission officer in the county where the deer was killed. A written statement also must be provided to the officer explaining when, where and how the accident or mistake occurred. The deer must be tagged with the appropriate deer harvest tag.

Hunters may purchase muzzleloader licenses at any time. The license entitles them to hunt in both the fall antlerless muzzleloader season and the traditional flintlock season. Regulations for the after-Christmas muzzleloader season remain unchanged: hunters may use only primitive type muzzleloading long guns 44-caliber or larger with flintlock ignition systems and primitive sighting devices. Fiber-optic inserts are permitted sighting devices.

Hunters in either October firearms season are required to wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange clothing on the head, chest and back combined at all times. Bowhunters afield during the overlap of the archery and October antlerless firearms seasons also must wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent orange while moving and display an orange alert band while on stand.

BEAR AND DEER SEASONS TO OVERLAP IN URBAN WMUS

Muzzleloader deer hunters and those participating in the three-day special firearms deer season in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D will be able to participate in overlapping bear hunting opportunities. This opportunity was approved by the Board of Game Commissioners as a means of achieving the agency's goal of reducing bear-human conflicts in these urbanized areas of southwestern and southeastern corners of the state.

Deer hunters who also possess a valid bear license will be able harvest a bear in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D from Oct. 13-20 during the muzzleloader season, or from Oct. 18-20 during the three special firearms deer season for junior, senior, active duty military and certain disabled hunters. Only 1 bear may be taken during the license year. Successful bear hunters must attach the bear harvest tag to the bear's ear and contact the appropriate region office within 24 hours for instructions to have the animals checked. Office telephone numbers are listed on page 5 of the 2012-13 Hunting and Trapping Digest.

"Pennsylvania's black bear population is larger and more widely distributed than ever, and bear-human incidents are becoming commonplace, especially in more developed areas," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "Continued expansion of residential development into areas occupied by black bears has resulted in more frequent sightings and encounters between people and bears.

"There are low bear densities in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D, which all have relatively high human population densities. As part of the Game Commission's bear management plan, the agency wants to continue to have a minimal number of bears in these areas, and hunters to have more opportunity to take bears there."

GAME COMMISSION OFFERS WARM-WEATHER VENISON CARE TIPS

Improperly field-dressing a deer and warm weather can impact the quality of venison warns Dr. Walter Cottrell, Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife veterinarian.

"The first step in making sure that the venison reaches the table in the best possible condition is sighting in and practicing with your sporting arm," Dr. Cottrell said. "Coupling that with knowledgeable shot placement ensures a clean kill and minimal damage to edible parts of the animal.

"After properly tagging their deer, hunters should wear latex or nitrile gloves to remove the entrails. Care should be taken to remove entrails without rupturing them, and hunters should drain excess blood remaining in the cavity. Do not wash out the deer with water or in a creek. Wipe down the cavity with a dry cloth or paper towels, being careful to remove all visible blood and hair."

Once entrails are removed, the deer should be taken from the field and cooled down as soon as possible. The cool-down process begins when you field-dress the deer. To hasten the cool-down process, skin the deer and hang the carcass in the shade, refrigerate it or place a bag of ice in the body cavity. Never place a deer carcass – with or without the hide on it – in direct sunlight.

For those who process the deer themselves, the first step – after tagging and field-dressing the deer – is to remove the hide, which comes off easier if the front legs are cut off at the elbows, and the rear legs are removed just below the knee joint, with a saw. Use a knife to cut the hide from where each leg was sawed off at the elbow, back to the body trunk. Cutting the rear legs just below the joint also makes it easier to hang a carcass on a gambrel or meat hooks. Hang the carcass by the large tendons on the back legs.

Next, the hide is pulled from the carcass, starting at the rear end and working downward toward the head. Peel it from the hind quarters first, then cut the tailbone and pull it down to the shoulders. Work the hide over the shoulders and pull it away from the legs. Finally, pull the hide down the neck as close to the base of the skull as possible, and then cut the head from the carcass with a clean saw. Remove all of the trachea or windpipe.

The remaining hide-free carcass should be wiped off immediately. If you use water to clean the cavity or carcass, dry the meat immediately. Wet or damp meat spoils more quickly and is more prone to nurture bacteria. Rinsing meat with water also can hasten the spread of bacteria. Inspect the carcass again for any blood and hair. It's also a good idea to remove large fatty deposits to improve the quality of your meat. It helps lessen that "game taste" some people dislike about venison. Please note, though, that fat is removed from the carcass with greater ease after it has cooled.

Following these steps will prepare your carcass for hanging in a meat processor's refrigerator, or quartering and placing it in your refrigerator. If the air temperature is above 50 degrees, hunters should get their carcass refrigerated as soon as possible.

"The bacterial load of a deer harvested in warm weather will multiply quickly, so it's important to dress the deer as soon as possible, transport it from the field and remove the hide, wipe it down with a clean, dry towel to remove blood and refrigerate the carcass," Dr. Cottrell said. "Cooling the carcass will help prevent bacterial growth."

Hunters who are interested in becoming more self-sufficient also can de-bone the carcass. The cuts are relatively simple and can be made while the deer is hanging or from a plastic sheet-covered table. An inexpensive plastic fluorescent light cover which can be purchased at any home supply store can be used for a cutting board. Deboning ensures the hunter can inspect and trim excess fat and damaged meat from his or her cuts of venison before freezing.

First, remove the shoulders with a filleting knife. This can be done without cutting a bone, by cutting behind the shoulder-blade. Next, remove the meat from the shoulder with a filleting knife.

Hindquarters can be removed from the carcass next by using a saw or by cutting from the underside with a knife. If you plan to have steaks or jerky made from them, don't make any further cuts.

Inside the body cavity, against the backbone, are the tenderloins, considered the best cut of meat on a deer. Use your hand, and a knife when necessary, to pull them free. Outside the cavity, along the backbone, are the loin muscles or back-straps, which also are outstanding cuts. Again, using a filleting knife and your fingers, slide the blade along the spine to separate each back-strap and then finish each piece by cutting in along the top of the ribs and under the muscle to the first cut you've made.

The remainder of the carcass can be de-boned with a filleting knife. Try to trim fat from meat where you can and wipe off blood whenever it is encountered. De-boning can be done relatively quickly, but remember, every ounce of meat you remove increases your trimmings for sausage, bologna, meat sticks or other products. De-boned meat can be taken to a meat processor immediately, or frozen and taken later. Hindquarters may be frozen for processing later as jerky or dried venison. Steaks should be cut fresh. A link to a video on deboning in the field can be seen on our website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), by putting your cursor over "Wildlife" in the menu bar at the top of the homepage, then putting your cursor over "Wildlife Diseases" in the drop-down menu listing, and then clicking on "Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)" in the next drop-down menu listing. To view the video link, scroll down to "What precautions should hunters take," and click on video link to the video.

"It's always a good idea to become self-sufficient as a hunter, because of the satisfaction you'll derive from processing a deer all by yourself and the extra care and quality control you'll provide," noted Cal DuBrock, Pennsylvania Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management director. "It also broadens your hunting experience and makes you more conscious of where you need to place the crosshairs when you shoot."

The Game Commission offers two free brochures on venison care and field-dressing deer. The first, "To Field Dress a Deer," offers step-by-step instructions – with illustrations – on how to field-dress a deer. The second, "Venison Needn't Be Pot Luck," offers field-dressing instructions and cooking tips.

To assist hunters in getting the most of their wild game harvests, the Game Commission offers a two-disk series, produced by Jerry Chiappetta and featuring Certified Master Chef Milos Cihelka. These DVDs - "Wild Game Field Care and Cooking" and "Upland Game Birds, Small Game & Waterfowl" - show step-by-step the best care for game animals from the field to the table. The videos are available from the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us). Put your cursor over "General Store," then click on "Visit the Outdoor Shop," choose "Pennsylvania Game Commission Outdoor Shop" in the lower left-hand corner, select "Merchandise," then choose "Videos" and then scroll down to the DVD video you are interested in and complete the order form. Both DVDs sells for $18.87 (plus tax and shipping and handling).

Finally, for recipes that will make venison tastier, consider buying the Game Commission's "Pennsylvania Game Cookbook" for $4.71 plus tax and a $1.25 for shipping and handling. The book and aforementioned free brochures are available by writing: Pennsylvania Game Commission, Dept. MS, 2001 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797.

THREE WAYS AVAILABLE TO REPORT A HARVEST

Those participating in the upcoming October antlerless deer seasons will be able to file their harvest reports through the Pennsylvania Game Commission's online system, the toll-free Interactive Voice Response (IVR) harvest reporting system telephone number, which is 1-855-PAHUNT1 (1-855-724-8681), or via postage-paid postcard.

To report a deer harvest online, go to the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on "Report Your Harvest" above the "Quick Clicks" box in the right-hand column, check "Harvest Reporting," scroll down and click on the "Start Here" button at the bottom of the page, choose the method of validating license information, and click on the checkbox for the harvest tag being reported. A series of options will appear for a hunter to report a harvest. After filling in the harvest information, click on the "Continue" button to review the report and then hit the "Submit" button to complete the report. Failing to hit the "Submit" button will result in a harvest report not being completed.

"Hunters who use the toll-free number to submit a harvest report will receive a confirmation number, which they should write down and keep as proof of reporting. Those who report online should print or save a copy of their harvest report submission as proof of reporting."

Roe noted that hunters should have their Customer Identification Number (hunting license number) and field harvest tag information with them when they call, and that multiple harvests can be reported in a single call. He also stressed callers should speak clearly and distinctly when reporting harvests, especially when providing the Wildlife Management Unit number and letter.

"Hunters may report one or more harvests in a single session," Roe said. "Responses to all harvest questions are required."

Roe noted that hunters still have the option to file harvest report postcards, which are included as tear-out sheets in the current digest.

"We certainly are encouraging hunters to use the online reporting system, which will ensure that their harvest is recorded," Roe said. "Either way, the more important point is that all hunters who harvest a deer report it to the agency."

HUNTERS SHARING THE HARVEST A WORTHY CAUSE

Hunters who are successful in the upcoming deer hunting seasons are encouraged by the Pennsylvania Game Commission to consider participating in the state's Hunters Sharing the Harvest (HSH) program, which channels donations of venison to local food banks, soup kitchens and needy families. Pennsylvania's HSH program is recognized as one of the most successful among similar programs in about 40 states.

"Using a network of local volunteer area coordinators and cooperating meat processors to process and distribute venison donated by hunters, HSH has really helped to make a difference for countless needy families and individuals in our state," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "Pennsylvanians who participate in this extremely beneficial program should be proud of the role they play. HSH truly does make a tremendous difference."

Started in 1991, HSH has developed into a refined support service for organizations that assist the Commonwealth's needy. Each year, Hunters Sharing the Harvest helps to deliver almost 200,000 meals to food banks, churches and social services feeding programs for meals provided to needy Pennsylvanians.

"This program is all about the generosity of hunters and their desire to help make a difference," Roe said. "It's a program that many hunters have become committed to and enjoy supporting. After all, what is more gratifying than providing needed food to families?"

As part of the program, hunters are encouraged to take a deer to a participating meat processor and identify how much of their deer meat - from an entire deer to several pounds - that is to be donated to HSH. If the hunter is donating an entire deer, they are asked to make a $15 tax-deductible co-pay, and HSH will cover the remaining processing fees. However, a hunter can cover the entire costs of the processing, which is tax deductible as well.

HSH established a statewide toll-free telephone number – 866-474-2141 - which also can answer hunters' questions about where participating meat processors can be found or other general inquiries about the program.

To learn more about the program and obtain a list of participating meat processors and county coordinators, visit the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on "Hunters Sharing the Harvest" in the "Quick Clicks" box in the right-hand column of the homepage, or go to the HSH website (www.sharedeer.org).

Note to Editors: If you would like to receive Game Commission news releases via e-mail, please send a note with your name, address, telephone number and the name of the organization you represent to: PGCNews@pa.gov

SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission