Outdoors: Deer, small game hunting seasons continue
For those of you who struck out on getting a buck or doe over the past archery, muzzleloader and rifle deer seasons, you get another chance when the season reopens for archery and flintlock muzzleloader statewide on the traditional post Christmas seasons. Those seasons run Dec. 26-Jan. 12. If you hunt in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, that season runs from Dec. 26-Jan. 26, 2019.
The extended firearms season also kicks off Dec. 26 and runs until Jan. 26, 2019, but only for antlerless deer and in Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.
But that’s not all.
If you’re a small game hunter, squirrel, rabbit and pheasant season reopens Dec. 26 and continues until Feb. 28, 2019.
Snowshoe hare season also opens but to a much shorter season because of their limited numbers. Their season runs Dec. 26-Jan. 1, 2019.
The snowshoe is a neat looking rabbit in it’s coat is grey-brown similar to a cottontail rabbit over the summer months, but turns white when winters lessen daylight occurs.
Snowshoes also differ in that their ears are longer and feet are larger and its four toes and soles are covered with coarse hair that grows long in winter, hence making its feet “snowshoes” that support the hare in deep snow while adding extra traction on ice crusts.
Chuck Fergas, of the PGC, says snowshoes, also known as Varying Hares, can, when threatened, burst from a sitting position and race up to 30 miles per hour over ground or snow. They can leap 10 feet in one bound, dodge and swim if forced into water. And like cottontails, snowshoes circle when chased making a large circle as they’re reluctant to leave their home range. And its home range can be from 5-30 acres.
For sportsmen hunting them, especially without a good hunting dog, Fergus goes on to say that during the day, snowshoes stay in a “form,” a small, natural depression in leaf litter or ground or one made by its body resting there. A “form,” he explains, is often on a slight rise that provides drainage to keep it dry and see its surroundings in case of danger and can be under overhanging branches, in a clump of shrubs, tall weeds or at the base of a tree or stump. As they don’t build nests, they’ll take shelter from hard rain or snow in a hollow log.
Since their life spans can be between 8-10 years, only an estimated 30-percent live one year, with 15-percent living to age two. Aside from hunters, snowshoes fall to disease, parasites, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, weasels and some hawks and owls.
Their population numbers are on the decline, hence the short season. Other factors are less food as they compete with deer for the same food sources and loss of habitat, the latter also contributing to other small game species.
Hunters should concentrate on hunting big woods counties as hares prefer deciduous forests with conifers and escape cover such as rhododendron and mountain laurel. Snowshoes live in swamps where cedar, spruce or tamarack grow. The PGC says dense stands of aspen or poplar, interspersed with pines may also support hares. Ridgetops mountains, high swamps and plateaus harbor most snowshoes.
With their small population numbers and tough hunting conditions, it’s understandable why the harvest limit on them is one per day.