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I can use a compass.

Read a map.

I get myself into and out of the hunting woods in the dark by recognizing the tops of trees.

Often I know which end is up.

But this week, I was victimized by the dumb box that occasionally makes and receives cellphone calls.

Google Maps on my snarkphone left me in the middle of nowhere. Lost.

Actually I wasn’t nowhere. I was somewhere. I had just been too focused or reliant to know where that was.

The application navigated me through the backroads of Snyder and Union counties to a date at Fox Gap Rod & Gun Club in Centre County.

But as the return trip started, navigation informed me that it “Can’t find the right way.” That was not correct. It couldn’t find any way, let alone the right way.

This is what happens when we pay little or no attention to the world we pass by. Otherwise, I’d remembered that large sycamore where I made the left turn, or the little store at the end of Forest Hill where I went left again.

But no. I’d robotically obeyed nav’s every command.

It was around the 20th mile eastward, I thought or hoped, that the landscape became unrecognizable and I went to my trusty lifeline. I called my wife at home and asked for directions to Route 15 south.

At that point, I was actually on course for Lewisburg and would have stumbled onto it eventually.

If navigation had taken me to Elk Creek by the traditional route up through Lewisburg, I believe I would have known the way back.

Lesson learned.

I’m putting a roadmap into my glove compartment. I just need to find out where I can get one of those in 2018.

Ducking pheasant permits

There is good news for senior hunters out for pheasants. In these days when costs are going up, if you’ve been holding a senior lifetime hunting or combo license since before May 13, 2017, you don’t need to buy a pheasant permit to hunt the birds in the 2018-19 license year.

The requirement for the $26.90 permit officially became regulation on May 13, 2017, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission has decided to make an exception for seniors.

Otherwise, adult pheasant hunters still will need to purchase the permit; junior pheasant hunters will need a free permit in 2018-19.

The commission hoped the pheasant permit would make propagation more cost-effective. It closed two of four pheasant farms, and started buying day-old chicks from private propagators rather than carrying over breeding pheasants and raising chicks from eggs.

The commission has also reaffirmed its support of Sunday hunting.

The board adopted the third resolution in support of expanded Sunday hunting, supporting legislative action that would remove the prohibition. The resolution is in response to a direct request from the nonprofit group Hunters United for Sunday Hunting.

Semis more legal

Semiautomatic centerfire shotguns that propel single-projectile ammunition will be legal sporting arms in most of Pennsylvania’s firearms deer, bear and elk seasons in 2018-19.

Regulation changes permit these sporting arms for deer, bear and elk hunting. For elk, the shotgun needs 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.

Authorization is extended to the remainder of the commonwealth, as well as to the state’s elk hunters.

It’s a date

Get out your hunting calendars.

Commissioners approved a slate of deer seasons for 2018-19, implementing a split, five-day antlered deer season (Nov. 26-Nov. 30) and seven-day concurrent season (Dec. 1-8) in 20 Wildlife Management Units. Hunters in WMU 4B and 5A, which include Cumberland County, hunted under these rules last year.

The commissioners also set the number of antlerless deer licenses to be allocated, as well as the number of elk licenses to be allocated for the coming license year.

The board voted to allocate 838,000 antlerless deer licenses statewide, which is up from the 804,000 licenses allocated for 2017-18.

WMU 5A will get an allocation of 23,000 antlerless permits, up from 22,000 for 2017-18. WMU 4B will get the same 26,000.

Hunting licenses for 2018-19 go on sale in mid-June and become effective July 1.

The board also voted to issue 125 elk licenses (26 antlered, 99 antlerless) for the 2018 hunt. The licenses again will be awarded by lottery, and the deadline to enter the drawing is July 31. Elk applications cost $10.90, and only one application may be submitted each license year.

Other seasons and bag limits for 2018-19 were approved.

Bowbenders will appreciate the extension of the statewide archery deer season from Sept. 29 to Nov. 12 to include the Veterans Day holiday. The late season will be Dec. 26-Jan. 12.

Other seasons of note:

Statewide black bear season will be Nov. 17-21.

Elk season for antlered or antlerless will be Nov. 5-10.

Fall turkey season in WMU 5A will be Nov. 1-3.

Fish & Boat stands by cuts

At its most recent meeting, the board of Pennsylvania Fish and Boat commissioners reaffirmed its decision from last fall to reduce spending by $2 million beginning in July if the General Assembly does not act on legislation to raise license fees.

“We have tried for the last four years to impress upon the General Assembly the need for a license fee increase, but legislation has stalled each time in the House of Representatives,” Board President Rocco Ali said. “We are now at a crisis point and must proceed with the plans to cut costs beginning in July.”

The current plan for achieving the $2 million reduction in operating expenses would involve closing two warmwater hatcheries and one trout hatchery. The plan would reduce the number of trout stocked in 2019 by 7.5 percent and would result in severe reductions to the commission’s cooperative nursery program.

“The price of a general fishing license was last raised in 2005,” Commission Executive Director John Arway said. “Since then, we have continued to provide the same level of services to our customers while seeking an increase from the General Assembly.”

Send your wild thoughts to bjsmall@comcast.net and follow him on Twitter @Arrows2010.

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