It seems that what was a controversial decision to move the start of the firearms deer hunting season up two days was the right call for the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the thousands of outdoor enthusiasts it oversees.

According to preliminary data from the Game Commission, through December 3,351 more licenses were sold for firearms deer season than the previous year. That total represents a 0.4 percent increase, the first year-to-year increase since 2013. In the last 36 years, hunting license sales have increased just 13 times.

The decision to shift the season to the Saturday after Thanksgiving — off the decades-old traditional Monday-after-Thanksgiving start — was not an easy choice for commissioners. The decision, coupled with the addition of three Sundays of hunting this year, changes years of long-held traditions. If we know anything it’s that change does not come easy to a lot of traditionalists.

The Saturday start gave hunters three Saturdays of rifle hunting. This year, one of three approved Sundays could give hunters eight consecutive days in the field before a break on the middle Sunday of the season. The three Sundays have not yet been finalized by commissioners.

The move seems to have, at least, temporarily given a boost to the sport, where fewer and fewer hunters were in the field annually.

In 2013, there were 953,072 hunting licenses sold in Pennsylvania. In 2018, the total had dropped to 855,496 — a 10 percent decrease in five years.  

“This idea seems to be backed up by increased license sales, which is extremely encouraging because, quite frankly, there hasn’t been a lot of positive news to report on that front in recent years,” said Board of Game Commissioners President Tim Layton. “It’s evidence that moving the opener to Saturday was the right decision to make.”

Perhaps just as encouraging as the license increase was who purchased the licenses. 

According to Game Commission data, young-adult hunters were among those behind the bigger increases in license sales. License sales to hunters ages 18 to 34 increased by 0.56 percent overall. And in the seven days leading up to the opening day, resident hunters 18 to 34 bought 20,242 licenses — a more than 7 percent increase. College-aged hunters ages 18 to 21 were responsible for even higher increases, buying 44,911 licenses — a 2.4 percent increase — with 5,311 of those licenses purchased in the seven days leading up to the season — an 18.4 percent increase compared to the previous year.

Those are all good things. Hunting is an important family tradition to a lot people in Pennsylvania and our Valley. To see some small hint of growth, particularly among young hunters, is a positive step forward.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher and top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

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