Not only are the 2021-22 Pennsylvania hunting licenses sporting a brand-new look, but they’ll also give big-game hunters a new phrase to indicate success: “I’ve notched my tag.”
Since upgrading to the enhanced Hunt-Fish-PA licensing system, the glossy yellow licenses to which Pennsylvania hunters and anglers have grown accustomed in recent years are now things of the past.
This year’s licenses are bright neon green, but otherwise share nearly identical features to previous versions, except one subtle change — there’s no place to write in the date of harvest.
Instead, successful hunters will be required to cut the month and day of harvest on the harvest tag using a numerical grid system that runs the perimeter of the back of the tag itself.
This procedure puts Pennsylvania in line with numerous other states, (including Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, to name a few), that also require hunters to “notch” their tags after harvest.
Pennsylvania hunters are still required to hand-write harvest information on their tags, such as wildlife management unit, county, township and time of harvest, but will require a knife to cut out the date on the back of the tag.
The notching process is intended to reduce the amount of necessary pen-work, while simultaneously making it more difficult for outlaws to abuse the system.
“For me, personally, I’m a pretty happy-go-lucky hunter when I’m filling out a tag, so not much is going to frustrate me – even if my pen isn’t working right,” said commission Communications Director Travis Lau.
“But you’ve probably been there, too, maybe on a cold or wet day, where your pen doesn’t want to cooperate. Now there’s one less thing to fill out.”
Another consideration in this decision is that it helps to ensure fair opportunity for all law-abiding hunters, Lau added. “A notched tag shows its age quickly, and if a tag is used and notched, it’s extremely difficult thereafter for a lawbreaker to pass it off as valid,” he said.
Initial feedback in a Pennsylvania-specific outdoors Facebook group with more than 40,000 members provided mixed reviews on the new tagging requirement.
Most praised the measure as a simple way to deter unlawful individuals from trying to take advantage of the system by altering or reusing tags, while others expressed displeasure for still needing to carry a pen, seeing the written portion as being redundant or something that could be filled out after removing the carcass from the field.
One person quipped that “band-aid sales will skyrocket” and another critiqued the longstanding requirement to place a harvest tag in the ear, stating, “Now let’s get the tagging requirements changed to ‘securely fastened to the body of the game animal’ vs. the silly ear-only restriction.”
Generally, though, most took no issue with the process, understanding that other states have already been doing this for several years.
Lau added that notching wouldn’t seem to impose any major inconvenience either.
“Since Pennsylvania requires all deer to be tagged in the ear (there is some new language in the deer section of this year’s digest explaining this requirement and why bucks aren’t permitted to be tagged on the antler), you’ll most likely be using a knife during the tagging process anyway, and in most cases, immediately after when field-dressing.”
He acknowledged some hunters may elect to remove entrails later, while skinning or butchering, when there is no immediate concern for spoilage, but most will be prepared.
“Big-game hunters carry knives,” Lau said. “Anyone without one is unprepared for the success they could see on any day, and at any moment, spent hunting big game in Pennsylvania. I can’t wait to notch my first tag!”