Every year when hunting licenses go on sale, there is some new rule or regulation that brings up questions and even controversy. This year is no exception, but I never thought the antlerless permit regulation would cause such confusion.

It seemed simple enough: a licensed hunter can have no more than six antlerless permits in his or her possession at one time. This in itself is not the problem. For all of you who have complained that six permits are ridiculous, that is not the true number.

Here is how it works.

When the antlerless permits go on sale, a hunter can apply for and receive the three permits allowed by the mail-in process. When the over-the-counter sale of unused permits becomes available, a hunter can purchase up to three more permits if they are available in the desired Wildlife Management Unit. If that hunter only receives two permits because of availability, they may apply for another WMU where permits are available until they have a total of six permits at one time.

This is where the confusion starts. Most hunters I have spoken with are under the impression a hunter is then done for the year. This is not the case.

When the first season starts, which would be archery, if that hunter is successful, upon tagging and reporting their kill, they can apply for another permit if they are available in a WMU. As long as they have no more than six unused permits at one time in their possession, they are legal.

If a hunter is able to kill 50 antlerless deer, they can still apply for another permit as long as they are available in a WMU and they have no more than six unused permits in their possession at one time.

The biggest fear of most hunters I have heard from is that this will deplete the deer herd beyond its ability to recover. Of course, some hunters consider a healthy population to be 50 deer per acre. Let’s face it, you can’t see a deer every time you enter the woods and expect them to survive and be healthy.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission only allocates so many permits per WMU. This is not a number it chooses by lottery. There is only so much food in an area. If the population exceeds the available food, it creates a lot of problems.

Along with keeping herds in check, the Game Commission has to estimate how many deer are reported for every deer harvested. It has a formula for every deer reported, it estimates there are more than that harvested. Why a hunter would not report their harvest, I’ll never know.

In other WMUs, the Game Commission has to consider keeping CWD under control. Overpopulation in these areas is worse than having more deer harvested for that license year. The herd can recover quicker from a slight overharvest than from an increase in CWD infections.

The Game Commission has a tough and thankless job that I think they do well. As far as the number of permits a hunter can possess, unless they are feeding the whole community, why they would want more than six permits is beyond me.

Added to that, they have a formula for how many permits are needed to harvest a deer and they only allot that number for each WMU. It seems to me, they are pretty close with their estimate because I think the deer herd is doing quite well.

If you want to convince yourself, take a ride through your hunting area a few nights in a row. I’m not suggesting going spotlighting, just travel through your area and see how many deer are in the fields feeding.

DAVE LEWONCZYK is a freelancer outdoors writer. Contact him at