19 June 2023- The check will not be in the mail, and neither will a paper application or a twice-stamped pink envelope.
Instead, hunters simply will buy their 2023-24 antlerless deer licenses wherever hunting licenses are sold.
The new process for obtaining antlerless licenses, made possible by a new law that took effect earlier this year, will get underway Monday, June 26 at 8 a.m., when antlerless deer licenses will be available alongside general hunting and furtaker licenses, and other licenses, permits and privileges.
Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permits, which in previous years were available on the first day of general license sales, this year will go on sale Monday, Aug. 14 at 8 a.m.
Hunters essentially have two options in buying their licenses, they can go to a license issuing agent – there are more than 650 of them statewide at sporting goods stores, gun shops, big-box retailers, Game Commission offices and county treasurer’s offices – or they can purchase licenses online.
In either case, antlerless deer licenses have been added to the list of what’s available. An online customer who wants a general license and antlerless license must click to select those options, plus any other available licenses and permits they want (archery, bear or muzzleloader licenses, for example) before checking out. In-person customers relay that information to the issuing agent, who checks the appropriate boxes and prints the licenses and tags. Licenses and tags purchased online are sent to customers by mail within 10 business days.
That’s not to say a hunter can purchase an antlerless deer license at any time they want. Antlerless licenses, each of which can be used to harvest one antlerless deer within the Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) for which it’s issued, are available in limited numbers. The number of licenses to be made available within each WMU is set annually by the Game Commission based on the deer-management goals there. Once the available number is gone, no more are sold.
But there are controls in place to help ensure as many hunters as possible are able to purchase their first and subsequent licenses.
Even in this new, modernized process, the sale of antlerless deer licenses will follow a set schedule and system of rounds similar to what was in place when licenses were obtained by mail. Hunters may purchase no more than one antlerless license per round in the first three rounds.
The first round kicks off on Monday, June 26 at 8 a.m., but only Pennsylvania residents may buy initially. Sales to nonresidents begin on Monday, July 10 at 8 a.m.
The second round, in which a resident or nonresident may pick up a second antlerless deer license, begins on Monday, July 24 at 8 a.m. The third round begins at 8 a.m. Monday, Aug. 14, the same day DMAP permits go on sale.
Then in the fourth round, to begin Monday, Aug. 28 at 8 a.m., hunters may purchase additional antlerless deer licenses for any WMU where licenses remain until reaching their personal limit of six active antlerless deer licenses.
License fees for the 2023-24 license year, which begins July 1, remain unchanged.
General hunting licenses and furtaker licenses each cost $20.97 for Pennsylvania residents and $101.97 for nonresidents.
Resident senior hunters and furtakers ages 65 and older can purchase one-year licenses for $13.97, or lifetime licenses for $51.97. For $101.97, resident seniors can purchase lifetime combination licenses that afford them hunting and furtaking privileges.
Like other hunters and trappers, seniors still need to purchase bear licenses to pursue bruins, and obtain permits to harvest bobcats, fishers or river otters. Hunters who acquired their senior lifetime licenses after May 13, 2017 are required to obtain an annual pheasant permit to hunt or harvest pheasants.
Antlerless deer licenses continue to cost $6.97 each for residents and $26.97 each for nonresidents.
A complete list of license fees is available at www.pgc.pa.gov.
Online customers pay additional shipping fees for licenses. While a digital license stored on a mobile device might be all a hunter needs to carry in some situations, big-game hunters must carry their paper big-game harvest tags while hunting, as these must be completed and properly affixed to harvested big game before it’s moved from the harvest site.
Harvested bobcats, fishers and otters must be similarly tagged.
Elk license applications
Many hunters are accustomed to buying their elk license applications at the time they obtain their general hunting license, and they can continue to do so when 2023-24 licenses go on sale June 26.
Elk license applications for 2023-24 went on sale earlier this year, prior to the start of 2023-24 general hunting license sales. Sales close about two weeks sooner, too, with applications accepted through midnight July 16.
The earlier deadline to apply is tied to an earlier license drawing, to be held July 29 at the Keystone Elk Country Alliance Elk Expo, which previously was held in August.
The additional time between the license drawing and elk seasons undoubtedly will be appreciated by the lucky hunters who are drawn for elk licenses and must make plans for their hunts.
In 2023-24, 144 elk licenses (65 antlered, 79 antlerless) have been allocated across three elk seasons. For the one-week general season to run Oct. 30-Nov. 4, 30 antlered and 42 antlerless tags have been allocated. In the archery season open only in select Elk Hunt Zones, to run from Sept. 16-30, 18 antlered and eight antlerless licenses are available. And there are 17 antlered and 29 antlerless licenses available for the Dec. 30-Jan. 6 late season.
Hunters can apply to hunt in any of those seasons, two of them or all three. Each application costs $11.97. Applicants are entered into a lottery, and licenses are awarded by drawing. Those who aren’t chosen receive a bonus point that gives them an additional lottery chance in coming years. Bonus points continue to build up until a hunter is drawn, so the more applications a hunter has submitted over the years, the more chances they have in the next lottery.
If drawn, hunters must obtain an elk license, as well as a general hunting license. Elk licenses cost $25 for residents and $250 for nonresidents.
How soon must I buy?
With more antlerless licenses available this year in most WMUs, and hunters limited to buying one license at a time, it’s not as if anyone needs to buy their license at 8 a.m. sharp June 26 to get one.
But the question of how soon antlerless licenses in a given WMU might sell out is unknown. Because this is a new process, sales patterns might change. And licenses surely will sell at a faster rate because transactions will be completed by issuing agents statewide, as well as online customers, as opposed to the much smaller number of individuals who previously processed applications.
At the same time, the more people there are getting licenses at once, the slower the licensing system will operate. System testing prior to the start of sales has established thresholds for how much traffic the system can handle and has led to procedures that will help prevent the system from experiencing significant delays.
But when sales volumes are high, customers will experience longer waits. In particular, when sales volumes reach a certain level, online customers will be routed to a virtual waiting room, then brought into the sales site on a first-come, first-serve basis.
All of this means hunters will have to decide what is the best time for them to get a license.
Through the previous mail-in process, antlerless deer licenses for most WMUs usually were available through the first round. But in the handful of WMUs where licenses typically sell out earliest, that’s not always been the case.
So hunters must size up their own situations. If seeking an antlerless license in one of the more competitive WMUs, they might decide it best to buy sooner, even if it means a longer wait. If buying a license for a WMU where plenty are available, waiting to buy might be preferred as a better option.
By next year, there will be a clearer picture of sales patterns under the new process, which figures to create a lot of convenience in the long run.