PENNSYLVANIA (WHTM) – A majority of Pennsylvania deer hunters support a Saturday-after-Thanksgiving start to the firearms deer season.

According to a study presented Friday to the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners, 60 percent of deer hunters supported the Saturday opener. Twenty-seven percent opposed a Saturday opener while 12 percent had no preference between the Saturday or Monday opener.

The top reasons cited by hunters who support a Saturday opener are that they have work obligations on Monday, that a Saturday opener provides increased hunting opportunities for themselves and others, and convenience with their child’s school schedule.

Conversely, opposition to the Saturday opener is higher among hunters 55 and older, and among those who hunted from a hunting camp on opening day, compared to those who did not.

The most common reasons stated by those who oppose the Saturday opener are that the Monday opener was consistent with tradition, and their set up and enjoyment of hunting camp was rushed with the earlier start date.

In 2019 the state moved its opening day of firearms deer season to begin the Saturday after Thanksgiving after it traditionally began the following Monday.

The Game Commission in 2021 contracted with Responsive Management, a Virginia-based survey research firm specializing in natural resource and outdoor recreation issues, to conduct a telephone survey of Pennsylvania deer hunters to better know their opinions about the opening day of deer season.

As a condition of taking the survey, hunters had to have hunted at least once during the firearms deer season in 2017 and 2018, when the opening day was the Monday after Thanksgiving, and at least once during the 2019, 2020 or 2021 firearms deer seasons, all of which opened on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. That ensured those surveyed had the opportunity to hunt both on Monday openers and Saturday openers at some point in the past five years, providing insight into how the change in the opening day might have impacted their hunting participation and attitudes.

In all, 2,009 resident Pennsylvania deer hunters 18 years old or older were surveyed, resulting in a minimum 95 percent level of confidence. The sampling error is, at most, plus or minus 2.18 percentage points.

“One fact that has never been in question is that Pennsylvania hunters are passionate about deer hunting. And over the past three years we have heard from numerous hunters expressing good points on both side of this issue, therefore it was necessary to conduct an independent, scientific survey to allow the board to know where hunters stand after three years of a Saturday opener,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “Without hard data, it would be impossible to know the degree to which hunters might support or oppose the change. With this survey, that question now has been answered.”

Commissioner Scott Foradora, who represents District 3 in northcentral Pennsylvania, said both studies provide yet more concrete evidence the Saturday opener is more convenient for the majority of hunters, and good for Pennsylvania deer hunting overall. That outcome is what the board was hoping to achieve in making the change three years ago, he said.

“The Saturday opener has allowed for broad participation by Pennsylvania hunters, especially working people and college students,” Foradora said. “And with the day of Sunday hunting that follows it, rifle hunters who work and have weekends off now can enjoy the season’s first two days without having to worry about taking vacation. Universities across the state hold classes, as well, on the Monday after Thanksgiving, so the Saturday opener and first Sunday gives increased opportunity to college students, too. And opportunity might be the most important factor in keeping hunters happy and coming back.”

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