PITTSBURGH (News Radio 1020 KDKA) – Today is the first day of firearm deer hunting season in Pennsylvania, with more than 500,000 hunters expected to be taking part.

Wildlife Conservation Officer Gary Fujak tells the “KDKA Morning News” hunting started this morning at 6:52, but they have to be “able to see deer clearly.”

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“Hunters still need to wait so they can make sure they are shooting at legal game,” Fujak said. “And they need to make sure they can see the points on the rack.”

Game Commission officials are reminding hunters that they must wear fluorescent orange. Also, deer must be tagged before being moved, and the harvest must be reported within 10 days.

At least one hunter admitted to KDKA’s John Shumway that he always puts out corn where he’s going to hunt a week or so before opening day.

Fujak says that’s a violation because you can’t “entice the deer.”

Within a few hours of daylight Monday, good fortunes came to some hunters.

“I seen about six deer, about 9 this morning shot the first one, one shot and I got it, lucky,” said Ron Mixter Jr.

For the Mixters it’s about quality family time as much as hunting. Ron Mixter Sr. got his with a bow a few weeks ago,

“Got an eight point and a doe, so I went out with my son today to sit with my son,” Ron Mixter Sr. said.

Dave Elluinger said compared to other years, the animals appear to have been living well.

“The deer are healthy, they are big, the racks are nice size racks but the deer are healthy, they are nice size deer,”  Elluinger said.

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Last Week, Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill into law that expands the list of firearms permitted for hunting in Pennsylvania to include semi-automatic rifles and handguns.

The new law takes effect next year, but the Game Commission is still working on rules, including which species, calibers and magazine restrictions.

For hunters with some extra venison this season, donations are being accepted through the Hunters Sharing the Harvest charity.

In its 25-year existence, more the 1 million pounds of meat have been donated.

Opening day is always a busy time for Shuba’s Processng in Chartiers Township. The owner says about ten percent of the hunters donate their venison to the needy.

“They bring their deer in,” says owner Steve Shuba. “The only thing they have to do is fill out a form, and they’re done. Doesn’t cost them a penny, and it goes to a good cause. Just take it to the Food Bank, and they distribute it.”

In this case, that’s the Greater Washington County Food Bank. Food Bank spokeswoman Heidi Hoffman says the new West Brownsville location is closer to those who need it most.

“We are much closer to the Mon Valley, where the majority of the food pantries are located. It actually gives us much greater accessibility to those pantries. We are able to get there quicker and more often.”

The Food Bank’s Peggy Grimes says freezer shelves , once filled with Thanksgiving turkeys will soon be re-stocked with venison.

“Last year alone we got 48 hundred pounds through Hunters Share the Harvest.”

Share the Harvest is a program that hits close to home in Washington County.

For more information about the program and to locate a processor in your area, visit their website here.

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