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On Dec. 13, 2022, Republican state Rep. Brian Smith, District 66, introduced a memorandum to move the opening day of Pennsylvania’s rifle deer season back to its traditional 60-plus year day of the Monday after Thanksgiving. This upcoming bill has already been receiving growing bipartisan support.

On March 8, Democratic Sen. Lisa Boscola, District 18, of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, announced she is also introducing a sister bill in the Senate to accomplish the same.

These legislators and others have recognized through considerable constituent contacts from hunters and businesses, the new Saturday deer opener is a “big picture” mistake. There are significant negative hunting and economic consequences from the change.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission moved the deer opener two days earlier to the Saturday, only one day after Thanksgiving in 2019. That weekend after Thanksgiving was a profitable and important retail sales weekend to rural commonwealth small businesses. That weekend contains Black Friday, and the Pennsylvania initiative of “Small Business Saturday” plus the Sunday.

A large portion of our hunters — 840,000 statewide — previously used that weekend to travel, do final preparations which brought about patronization to small, rural businesses. For many of these businesses, it was their most profitable weekend of the year.

Hunting license sales over the four years of the Saturday opener change have not resulted in any significant increases as was anticipated by The Pennsylvania Game Commission. General sales in 2018 were at 846,226; today they are at 837,233. In fact, since the anomaly, hunting license upward spike in 2020 from COVID-19, general license sales have dropped a stunning 42,432 licenses.

Additionally, many small-town nonprofits such as volunteer fire departments, churches and the like utilized the mass influx of hunters into their communities that weekend to conduct fundraising events. Some rural counties within the state have more hunting and seasonal camps than permanent residences. Hunter dollars are very important in these proximities.

All this and having only one day after Thanksgiving, the most traveled family holiday of the year has caused a rush and took away important social time from families and hunters. What anecdotally may seem beneficial starting an event on a Saturday rather than a Monday, in this case with all the circumstances and a national holiday involved, the move to this particular Saturday has proven to be a mistake.

It turns out the original Monday rifle deer opening day was indeed well thought out by our forefathers.

Randy Santucci

McKees Rocks