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Pennsylvania Game Commission

Pennsylvania Game Commission

SEMIAUTOMATIC SHOTGUNS CONSIDERED

Semiautomatic centerfire shotguns that propel single-projectile ammunition soon could be approved for Pennsylvania hunters participating in most firearms deer, bear and elk seasons.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners on Wednesday gave unanimous preliminary approval to regulatory changes that would permit the use of semiautomatic centerfire shotguns that propel single-projectile ammunition while hunting deer, bears or elk. For elk, the shotgun would need to be 12-gauge or larger.

The Game Commission historically has permitted the use of semiautomatic shotguns for deer and bear seasons within its special regulations areas near Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The preliminarily approved proposal would extend this authorization to the remainder of the state, as well as permit semiautomatic shotguns using single-projectile ammunition for elk hunting.

The proposal will be given final consideration at the board’s next quarterly meeting, which has not been scheduled.

BOARD TABLES FALL-RESTRAINT REQUIREMENT

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners tabled a proposal to require people who install, use or occupy tree stands or other elevated hunting positions on state game lands to wear fall-restraint devices.

After the meeting, commissioners said they support the use of fall-restraint devices by all hunters who use tree stands, and an amended proposal that would require fall restraints when using tree stands on game lands could be brought back for consideration at a future meeting.

But the wording of the tabled proposal needs to be amended so it applies only to game lands, the commissioners said.

The tabled proposal called for mandatory use of a full-body safety harness and tether system capable of supporting the user’s body weight during a fall. The harness and tether system would be used from the time that person leaves the ground until he or she returns to the ground. Failure to comply would result in a $100 to $200 fine.

Commissioners said they would work with staff to educate the public about the dangers of hunting from a tree stand without a fall-restraint system, and explore how any regulation would be enforced.

PHEASANT AREA COULD BE DISSOLVED

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners voted preliminarily to dissolve the Somerset Wild Pheasant Recovery Area, one of the state’s four WPRAs.

The Somerset WPRA was created by the Game Commission in 2009. Like other WPRAs, it was selected because its habitat gave pheasants the greatest chance to establish wild populations.

The Somerset WPRA received 964 trapped-and-transferred wild pheasants over three years, but surveys showed that the Somerset WPRA’s population failed to take hold.

Habitat conditions, weather severity or a combination of these factors, impeded the chances of achieving a sustainable pheasant population on the WPRA.

A final vote on the proposal will be taken at the commissioner’s next quarterly meeting.

If the WPRA is dissolved, it will be reopened to either-sex pheasant hunting and will be eligible for game-farm pheasant releases.

BAITING PERMIT ON THE WAY OUT

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners preliminarily approved eliminating the need for a baiting permit when using bait to hunt deer on private property in the Southeast Special Regulations Area.

While the use of bait while hunting is prohibited broadly in Pennsylvania, it is allowed conditionally on private property within the Southeast Special Regulations Area, where traditional hunting and deer-control methods have proven ineffective and a large deer herd frequently leads to property damage.

However, bait used within the Southeast Special Regulations Area must be shelled corn or protein-pellet supplements; bait accumulation must not exceed five gallons at any time; bait only can be used from two weeks before the opening of the first deer season to the close of the last deer season; automatic mechanical feeders must be used; and the feeder must distribute bait during hunting hours, no more than three times a day.

Under the preliminarily approved proposal, landowners and the people they permit to hunt would not need a permit to operate a bait site within the Southeast Special Regulations Area, but they would need to ensure bait sites comply with regulations.

This proposal will be brought back to the board’s next quarterly meeting for a final vote.

The board first voted to create deer-attractant permits in the Southeast Special Regulations Area in 2014; it first approved the use of bait when deer hunting in southeastern Pennsylvania in 2006.

GAME-LANDS ACCESS ENHANCED

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today adopted a host of improvements that enhance public access to state game lands by people with mobility challenges.

The package was developed through an extensive review by Game Commission staff of public access to game lands, a process that included opportunities for public comment and a series of meetings at which the public could learn about game-lands access and offer input.

Central to the initiative is creation of a Disabled Person Access Permit, which allows mobility-challenged game-lands users to use ATVs, golf carts and other mobility devices on designated routes on game lands.

This permit will be free, and separate from the existing permit that allows disabled people to hunt from motorized vehicles and ATVs. A wider variety of applicants might qualify for the new permit.

The new permit is for operation of mobility devices on designated routes on game lands. Mobility devices must meet specific requirements to ensure the protection of game lands, while accommodating mobility-challenged hunters and trappers. Permit holders cannot possess loaded sporting arms while in or on a mobility device without obtaining an additional permit.

All ATVs or snowmobiles used as mobility devices need to be registered with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and display a valid registration plate or decal. All mobility devices permitted by the Game Commission are required to display a sticker issued by the commission. And all mobility devices must stick closely to designated routes.

With the permit, a hunter using a mobility device could traverse a maximum of 100 yards perpendicular to the designated route.

The measure establishes that hunters in wheelchairs are free to traverse anywhere on the game lands where pedestrian foot travel is authorized. Hunters using wheelchairs to locate and flush game, however, could only possess loaded sporting arms on or in wheelchairs if they possess the permit that allows them to hunt from vehicles.

Otherwise, manual or electric wheelchair users on game lands don’t need a Disabled Person Access Permit.

JUNIOR HUNTERS FREE PHEASANT PERMIT

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners preliminarily approved a measure that would require junior hunters to obtain a free pheasant permit to hunt pheasants in Pennsylvania.

Currently, no permit is needed for junior hunters.

Issuance of the free permit will help the Game Commission quantify the number of youths participating in pheasant hunting annually, data that might entitle the agency to additional funding for its pheasant program through federal hunter recruitment funding initiatives.

The proposal also would remove the requirement to obtain a permit for people hunting and taking privately acquired propagated pheasants on private lands. The proposed exemption would not apply to private lands designated by agreement as cooperative access lands, and all pheasants taken or possessed through this exemption would need to be appropriately banded, tagged, marked or receipted.

The preliminarily approved proposal will be brought back to the commissioners’ next quarterly meeting for a final vote.

ARCHERY REGULATIONS OK’D

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval a package of usage regulations for Game Commission archery ranges.

None would require archery range users to acquire a range permit.

Under the proposal, ranges would be open from dawn to dusk daily, shooting would need to occur from established firing lines, and shooters would be limited to six shots when sharing the range.

In addition, broadheads would be permitted only when a broadhead-shooting station is provided, and range users could not possess an intoxicating beverage or be intoxicated.

The preliminarily approved proposal will be brought back to the board’s next quarterly meeting for a final vote.

BOARD REORGANIZES

At its first quarterly meeting of 2018, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners reorganized, selecting officers to serve the board this year.

Timothy Layton was appointed the board’s president, James Daley took over as the board’s vice president, and Stanley Knick Jr. became the board’s secretary.

The board did not select its meeting dates for the coming year, but the dates of the next working group meeting and quarterly meeting will be selected and announced soon.

Also at Wednesday’s commissioners meeting, the board:

  • Adopted a proposal to provide falconry examinations at regional offices throughout the permit year.
  • Game preliminary approval to tables for general hunting hours and migratory bird hunting hours. Hunting hours for mourning doves would be changed to one-half hour before sunrise until sunset for all season segments.
  • Gave preliminary approval to a proposal that would allow hunting mourning doves in areas where grain or other feed has been distributed or scattered solely as a result of manipulation of an agricultural crop or other feed where grown.

The Sentinel

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