Abbreviated History of Pennsylvania’s White-Tailed Deer Management

1721 - August 26 - Pennsylvania's first Game Law enacted by Sir William Keith (provincial governor). Deer may be hunted from July 1 to January 1. Fine for shooting out of season -- 20 shillings. Indians are exempt.

1749 - Deer may be hunted from August 1 to December 1. Out of season fine - 40 shillings.

1749 -  January 27 - Illegal to hunt deer on Sundays, except in "cases of necessity."

1760 - Deer may be hunted from August 1 to January 1.

1840 - Only Pennsylvania citizens may kill deer in Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties.

1845 - Illegal to chase or hunt "unwounded deer" with dogs at any time in Warren County. Fine - $25.

1848 - March 24 - Unlawful to hunt or pursue "any deer" with dogs in Butler, Carbon, Dauphin, Elk, Huntingdon, Luzerne, Mifflin, Monroe and Pike counties. Fine - $20.

1851 - August 1 - Deer hunting banned for five years in Cumberland and Franklin counties.

1856 - April 10 - Deer hunting banned for five years in Adams County.

1869 - New deer season set: September 1 to December 31.

1873 - All Sunday hunting banned.

1873 - Dogs first barred statewide from running deer and elk.

1878 - October 1 - Pike County banned deer hunting for three years.

1897 - Salt licks and hounds are forbidden statewide in deer hunting.

1905 - April 22 - Dogs chasing deer declared a "public nuisance;" may be shot by anyone.

1905 – Deer season bag limit reduced from two to one deer.

1905 - Buckshot banned for deer hunting.

1906 - Deer first stocked (50 from Michigan). A total 1,192 were purchased and released by the agency from 1906 to 1925.

1907 - The first Pennsylvania buck law was passed; under it does were given absolute protection.

1909 – Bucks are declared legal with “horns visible above the hair.”

1913 - Bucks are legal with antlers at least two inches above the hair.

1917 - Deer camp limit established; removed in 1950.

1921 – Bucks declared legal with antlers four inches above the top of the skull.

1923 - Landowners given right to kill deer for damage to crops.

1923 - Game Commission given authority to establish antlerless deer season. (First season -- December 19-21 in Washington and Quincy townships, Franklin County; 100 licenses allotted at $5 each; 8 legal and 1 illegal deer taken.)

1923 - Act of Legislature made it illegal to kill bucks unless they had two or more points to one antler, but act provided that a deer with an antler six or more inches long (measured from top of skull) without points would be considered legal.

1923 - Deer-proof fence law enacted.

1925 - Farmers permitted to keep deer for food when killed while causing crop damage.

1925 - Game Commission first given discretionary power to fix seasons and bag limits.

1925 - Cost of antlerless deer permit reduced from $5 to $2.

1925 - Deer law amended to declare a buck illegal unless it had two or more points to one antler.

1927 - 185 antlerless deer killed by special agents of Game Commission in Cumberland and Lycoming counties to reduce crop damage problems.

1927 – Antlerless deer are killed for being overabundant in Cumberland and Lycoming counties by special agents of the Game Commission.

1928 - First statewide season on antlerless deer; closed in 16 counties.(Deer must weigh at least 50 pounds, dressed).

1931 - First open season on both buck and doe deer, with only spike bucks protected. Kill -- 24,796 bucks, 70,255 antlerless deer -- total 95,051.

1938 - First statewide season for only antlerless deer (buck season was closed) -- 171,662 harvested.

1939 - Cost of antlerless deer permits reduced from $2 to $1.

1942 - Hunters urged to donate deer skins, and their sale was sanctioned, to make vests for members of armed forces.

1949 - Procedure for abrogation of antlerless deer seasons liberalized.

1951 - Special 12- day open season authorized for hunting deer with bows and arrows exclusively, under a special $2 archery license.

1951 - Abrogation procedure for antlerless deer seasons eliminated.

1951 - Special antlerless deer season authorization given Commission, under a county quota system (with no abrogation permitted), with antlerless deer hunting licenses costing $1.10 each for county desired; 60 percent of licenses issued by county treasurers and 40 percent by the Department of Revenue, Harrisburg.

1952 -- Special antlerless deer season law amended before 1951 Legislature adjourned, by increasing the license fee from $1.10 to $1.15 and by providing that such antlerless deer hunting licenses shall be issued solely by the county treasurers in counties where antlerless deer may be hunted.

1953 - Bucks declared legal only with 2 or more points to one antler or spike 3 inches or longer.

1956 - The sum of $1 from the sale of every antlerless deer license required to be used solely for cutting or otherwise removing over-shadowing tree growth, to produce underbrush sprouts and saplings for deer food and cover on game land.

1957 - Hunting of deer of both sexes with bow and arrow during the archery season authorized -- the requirement of an antlerless deer license during archery season eliminated.

1959 - The white-tailed deer named official state animal.

1959 – Archery season expanded to 24 days of hunting.

1961 - An experimental deer check station was established at Franklin to gather sex and age data from harvested deer. Others were set up in following years. There were three from 1962-66; four from 1967-70; six in 1971-76; seven from 1977-79 and six in 1980.

1961 - No group hunting deer together shall consist of more than 25 persons.

1964 - Buckshot required for deer hunting in area designated by Game Commission in southeastern Pennsylvania.

1964 - Extended (or late or winter) archery deer season started in certain sections of the state; expanded to statewide season starting in 1967.

1964 – A “Special Regulations Area” is created by the Game Commission in parts of counties bordering Philadelphia to reduce the mushrooming deer herd there. Rifles are prohibited in new hunting area, but hunters are provided more days to hunt antlerless deer.

1964 – Trophy deer records program established in Pennsylvania by Game Commission, using Boone and Crockett Club scoring system.  Bear skulls were added to measuring program in 1969.

1965 – Concurrent antlered and antlerless firearms season in parts of Berks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties.

1966 - Triple Trophy Award created by Game Commission for hunter who harvests antlered white-tailed deer, black bear and wild turkey in single hunting license year.

1966 - Antlerless deer season may be extended in case inclement weather prevents desired or adequate harvest.

1967 - Antlerless deer licenses may be issued to resident hunters in the armed forces or recently discharged after county's allocation of these licenses has been exhausted.

1967 – Chronic Wasting Disease first identified in Colorado.

1967 - First statewide extended (or late or winter) archery deer season.

1968 - Antlerless deer season may be extended in case of inadequate harvest.

1972 - Game Commission studies concluded winter deer feeding is of little value.

1972 - Agency mandated that 50 percent of a county's antlerless deer license allocation is reserved for residents of that county during the first month of sales.  The action was cancelled by legislation later in the year.

1972 - The agency's "Triple Trophy Award" was terminated. It was available to hunters who took a bear, deer and turkey in one season. The award was first offered in 1966.

1972 - County treasurers use drawings for the first time to determine who would receive antlerless deer licenses.

1973 - Game Law amendment made it illegal to remove a kill tag from a harvested deer, or to have a deer tag in your possession while afield after you've killed a deer.

1973 - Game Law amendment required hunters to mail in a deer harvest card within five days of taking the animal.

1974 - Penalties increased for the illegal taking of elk, bear, deer and turkeys. Elk and bear fines increased from $200 to $400; deer, from $100 to $200; and turkeys, from $25 to $50.

1974 - Antlerless deer license fee increased from $2.35 to $3.35.

1974 - Muzzleloader deer license created; the fee is $3.25.

1974 - First muzzleloader deer season; 65 deer, including four bucks, were taken. The season was held for three days on 37 state game lands.

1975 - First muzzleloader deer split season. It was held December 26 and 27 and January 1-3. Hunters took 174 deer.

1976 - Muzzleloader deer season expanded from a five-day split season to a 20-day season running from Dec. 27 to Jan. 15. The season was confined to 39 state game lands and two Susquehanna River islands. The reported harvest was 340 deer.

1976 - Archery and muzzleloader licenses are printed as stamps to be affixed to hunting license.

1977 - New deer winter feeding policy established stressing population control, with winter feeding only under the most extreme conditions.

1977 - Antlerless deer season was held on a Friday and Saturday following buck season, instead of the traditional Monday and Tuesday.

1977 - Muzzleloader deer season expanded to 60 state game lands; the reported harvest is 866 deer.

1979 - Issuing agents sell muzzleloader deer licenses for the first time.  They were previously sold by only county treasurers and agency offices.

1979 - Muzzleloader deer season held statewide for the first time; the reported harvest is a record 2,459 deer.

1980 - September 1 -- Deer, bear and woodchuck hunters required by law to wear at least 100 square inches of fluorescent orange material on head, or on chest and back combined.

1980 - Resident motorists may pick up road-killed deer after they obtain permit from a game protector or deputy.

1980 - Fine raised for dogs that chase deer and elk from $25 to $100.

1981 - Motorists permitted to pick up road-killed deer as long as they report their actions to the agency within 24 hours.

1981 - Deer check stations discontinued; replaced by deer camp and venison processor survey teams. Hunters also asked to mail deer jaw bones to agency.

1982 - Tyvek deer ear tag used for the first time in the state.

1984 - Hunters must choose either a muzzleloader stamp or antlerless deer license. They may not purchase both.

1984 - Agency used the "universal" license, made of silver-colored mylar material, for the first time. The Tyvek deer ear tag was discontinued.

1986 - Calculated statewide and county deer harvest statistics are released to the public for the first time. The statewide calculated harvest is 300,014 deer (150,359 bucks and 149,655 antlerless deer).

1987 - Hunters required to wear either an orange hat or a vest while hunting bear or deer.

1987 - Bonus deer program adopted for Southeastern Special Regulations Area counties giving hunters with appropriate licenses the chance to take two deer in one license year. At least one of the two deer must be antlerless.

1988 - Bonus deer program implemented statewide giving hunters with appropriate licenses the chance to take two deer in one license year. One of the two deer must be antlerless.

1990 - Hunters may buy two bonus licenses, which will permit them to harvest of up to three deer. Two of the three deer must be antlerless.

1990 - Antlerless deer season extended for hunts on deer-damaged farms enrolled in a special program offered by the agency.

1990 - Antlerless deer licenses allocated for Philadelphia County for first time.

1990 - The agency discontinued releasing reported deer harvest statistics to the public, opting to use only calculated statistics. In addition, first-day deer kill estimates are used.

1991 - Southeast Special Regulations Area enlarged to include all of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.

1991 - First split antlerless deer season held in Special Regulations Areas; the seasons were held from Dec. 2 to Dec. 21 and Dec. 26 to Jan. 25.

1991 - Special Regulations county treasurers permitted to sell up to four bonus tags to interested hunters. With the appropriate licenses, hunters could take up to five deer, four being antlerless.

1991 - Six public meetings held throughout the state to collect public input on deer management.

1992 - Archery season expanded an additional week for antlered deer hunting only; four weeks either sex hunting; one antlered deer only.

1992 - Hunters with appropriate licenses permitted to take antlerless deer on enrolled deer-damaged farms during buck season in Bedford, Crawford, Indiana and Schuylkill counties.

1993 - Archery deer season expanded an additional two weeks; six weeks either-sex hunting.

1993 - All hunters, with the exception of those hunting with a muzzleloader stamp must purchase an antlerless license to harvest an antlerless deer. Each antlerless license comes with an ear tag and report card.

1993 - Application for antlerless licenses began in early August for the first time; traditionally it started in early October.

1993 - Hunters with appropriate licenses permitted to take antlerless deer on enrolled deer-damaged farms during buck season in 16 counties.

1994 - Regulations approved creating a special deer control permit to aid urban municipalities in controlling troublesome deer populations.

1994 - Hunters with appropriate licenses permitted to take antlerless deer on enrolled deer-damaged farms during buck season statewide.

1995 - Deer depredation permit program (Red Tag) implemented by Game Commission.

1997 – The name for “bonus” antlerless deer licenses was changed to “surplus” antlerless deer licenses.

1997 – Game Commission forms a Deer Management Outreach Committee to address misunderstandings about deer management.

1998 – Junior hunters allowed to hunt antlerless deer during the two Saturdays of the two-week buck season.

1998 – The Wildlife Management Institute develops a Deer Management Working Group for the Game Commission to increase dialogue and communication leading to the development of informed consent on deer management. A final report was submitted to the Board of Commissioners in January 2000.

1999 – Game Commission holds six open houses across the state to collect public input on the deer management program.

1999 – First three-day fall flintlock season for antlerless deer held.

1999 – Hunting license fees increased: resident adult license, from $12.50 to $20; resident senior, from $10.50 to $13; nonresident hunting, $80.50 to $101; resident antlerless, $5.50 to $6; non-resident antlerless, $6 to $26; resident bear, $10 to $16; nonresident bear, $25 to $36; resident muzzleloader, $5.50 to $11; non-resident muzzleloader, $5.50 to $21; resident archery, $5.50 to $16; and non-resident archery, $5.50 to $26.

1999 – Muzzleloader hunters no longer must surrender their antlerless deer license application when applying for a muzzleloader license.

1999 – Game Commission creates Deer Management Section.

2000 – A three-day antlerless deer season begins on the final day of buck season, a Saturday, in an effort to increase the antlerless deer harvest.

2000 – A concurrent two-week season for antlered and antlerless deer is established for junior and senior hunters with appropriate licenses.

2000 – Game Commission conducts scores of public meetings statewide through 2002 to inform and educate the public about managing deer and management challenges.

2001 – “Surplus” antlerless deer licenses are renamed “unsold” licenses.

2001 – First concurrent two-week antlered/antlerless deer season held.

2001 – First three-day special firearms antlerless deer season is held in October for juniors and seniors, disabled persons with a permit to use a vehicle and Pennsylvania residents serving on active duty in the U.S. Armed Services.

2001 – Deer hunters may use crossbows in Special Regulations Areas during the regular firearms deer season.

2003 – Antler restrictions are implemented for hunting seasons to allow more bucks to reach older age classes statewide. Much of the state follows a three points to one antler rule; 10 western counties have a four points to one antler rule. Antlered deer taken in Special Regulations Area counties must have a spike at least three inches long, or an antler with at least two points.

2002 – Regulatory change paves the way for any “long gun muzzleloading firearm” to be used in the October muzzleloader antlerless deer season.

2003 – Game Commission begins managing game and furbearers with 22 Wildlife Management Units instead of county-based or region-based units.

2003 – Game Commission develops “Population management plan for white-tailed deer in Pennsylvania (2003-2007)”

2003 – Pennsylvania Game Commission tests 2,003 deer for Chronic Wasting Disease; all samples are negative.

2003 – Pennsylvania develops a Chronic Wasting Disease Response Plan.

2003 – The Game Commission’s Deer Management Assistance Program is started to enable public and private landowners enrolled in the agency’s public access programs to address deer management goals on a more localized basis.

2004 – Scientific, peer-reviewed article describing Game Commission’s deer harvest estimates is published in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

2005 – Eliminated the need for the PGC to issue paper permits to individuals who claim a road-killed deer for its venison.  Individual residents claiming deer are verbally issued a permit number.

2006 – Agency uses a new deer population monitoring procedure to manage whitetails.

2006 – Game Commission begins using direct measures of deer health (reproduction), forest habitat health (regeneration), and deer-human conflicts (Citizen Advisory Committees) to guide deer management recommendations.

2006 – Game Commission develops Urban/Suburban Deer Management Plan.

2006 – Game Commission stops releasing county deer harvest numbers; provides only wildlife management unit deer kill totals.

2006 -- Hunters in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, beginning Dec. 26, were permitted to hunt for deer over bait on private property as a result of regulatory changes approved by the Game Commission.

2007 – August – Epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) surfaces in Pennsylvania, primarily in Greene and Washington counties. Other counties affected include Allegheny, Beaver, Cambria, Fayette, Indiana, Lawrence and Westmoreland.

2007 – July 3, Gov. Edward G. Rendell signed into law House Bill 881, which included a provision authorizing the Game Commission to permit other individuals to assist eligible landowners in the destruction of wildlife causing agricultural damage on their property. This provision took effect Sept. 1, 2007.

2007 – Game Commission forms a Deer Communications Working Group to address misunderstandings about deer management.









Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Ave, Harrisburg Pennsylvania 17110-9797