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Board preliminarily approves use within all rifle seasons.
Semiautomatic rifles soon could be approved for Pennsylvania hunters participating in most seasons in which manual rifles can be used.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave unanimous preliminary approval to regulatory changes that would permit the use of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns while hunting big game, small game and furbearers. A five-round magazine would be required for all semiautomatic hunting rifles, with the total ammunition capacity limited to six rounds, based on the preliminarily approved measure.
The measure also preliminarily approves the use of air rifles for small-game and furbearers.
The proposal will be brought back to the March meeting for a final vote.
Pennsylvania historically has prohibited the use of semiautomatic rifles, but a new law took effect in November, enabling the Game Commission to regulate semiautomatic rifles and air guns. The new law does not authorize the Game Commission to regulate the use of semiautomatic handguns.
Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that currently has no hunting seasons during which semiautomatic rifles can be used.
Since the law took effect, the Game Commission has received hundreds of comments about the potential to approve semiautomatic rifles for hunting. Commissioner James Daley said most who offered comment took no opposition to the idea of permitting semiautomatic rifles for small game and furbearers. For big game, the comments were about half in favor and half opposed to semiautomatic rifles, Daley said.
But most of those who opposed cited concerns over compromised safety as their primary reason for opposition, he said.
Prior to a vote, Game Commission staff did a thorough review of hunter safety in states that allow semiautomatic rifles, including neighboring states and states that most resemble Pennsylvania in terms of hunter density. The review uncovered no evidence the use of semiautomatic rifles has led to a decline in hunter safety in any state where they’re permitted for hunting.
The board’s next quarterly meeting is scheduled to be held March 27 and 28 at the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters.
Commissioners said they welcome any and all public comments regarding the proposed changes, and that those comments will aid the board in making its decision. Comments are accepted by mail, by email to [email protected] or can be made firsthand by those who register to speak at the start of the board’s March 28 meeting.
Semiautomatic rifles in .22 caliber or less that propel single-projectile ammunition and semiautomatic shotguns 10 gauge or smaller propelling ammunition not larger than No. 4 lead – also No. 2 steel or No. 4-composition or alloy – would be legal firearms arms for small-game seasons under a regulation preliminarily approved by the Board of Game Commissioners.
Semiautomatic firearms that propel single-projectile ammunition also would be legal sporting arms for woodchucks and furbearers. There is no caliber restriction for woodchucks or furbearers.
For big game, semiautomatic centerfire rifles and shotguns would be legal sporting arms.
Full-metal-jacket ammunition would continue to be prohibited for deer, bear and elk hunting.-
All semiautomatic firearms would be limited to six rounds’ ammunition capacity – magazines can hold no more than five rounds.
Semiautomatics would be legal in seasons in which modern firearms can be used to take deer, black bears, elk and fall turkeys.
Air-guns would be legal for small game in calibers from .177 to .22 that propel single-projectile pellets or bullets, under the regulatory changes preliminarily approved by the Board of Game Commissioners.
For woodchucks and furbearers, air-guns must be at least .22 caliber and propel a single-projectile pellet or bullet. BB ammunition is not authorized for small game, furbearers or woodchucks.
Proposal would help sustain pheasant propagation and release.
Hunting pheasants in Pennsylvania soon might require purchasing a pheasant permit in addition to a general hunting license.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today preliminarily approved creating a pheasant permit that would be required for all hunters who pursue or harvest pheasants.
The permit would cost $25 for adults, based on the proposal. It would not cost junior hunters anything to continue to hunt pheasants.
The proposed pheasant permit is expected to come up for a final vote at the board’s March meeting.-
While Pennsylvania once was home to a robust wild pheasant population, in recent decades, pheasant hunting has relied entirely upon the stocking of farm-raised birds.
The Game Commission annually has raised and released about 200,000 pheasants for release on state game lands and other properties where public hunting is permitted. While the program has been popular with hunters, it has been costing the agency about $4.7 million a year. And without a permit, there’s no funding mechanism in place to help sustain it.
Meanwhile, fees for general hunting and furtaker licenses haven’t been adjusted for inflation since 1998, leaving the Game Commission in recent years to make difficult financial decisions, including budget reductions to the pheasant program.
In December, the agency announced it would close two of its four pheasant farms – a move that is expected to reduce annual program costs by about $1.7 million. Additionally, Game Commission staff project a pheasant permit will generate about $1.5 million a year in new revenue.
By making the program more self-sufficient, creation of a pheasant permit helps to ensure the future of pheasant hunting in Pennsylvania, the commissioners said.
Executive Director R. Matthew Hough retiring; Deputy Executive Director Bryan Burhans to take helm.
After more than three years as executive director of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and nearly 35 years with the agency, R. Matthew Hough today announced he will retire March 24.
Following his announcement, and the commissioners expressing their appreciation to Hough on a job well done, Commissioner Robert W. Schlemmer made a motion to appoint Game Commission Deputy Executive Director Bryan Burhans as Hough’s permanent replacement, beginning March 25.
The motion was approved unanimously.
Hough in making his announcement recalled proclaiming to a sixth-grade classmate he’d pursue a career in wildlife conservation, and said working for the Game Commission has been a dream come true.
“I’ve been blessed,” he said.
Commissioners thanked Hough for guiding the Game Commission through challenging times, and for the stability that resulted.
“You stepped up into the position, you filled the position perfectly, we could not have asked for a better executive director,” President Commissioner Brian Hoover said.
“You’ve said that you feel blessed,” Commissioner Charlie Fox told Hough. “I think we all feel blessed having you.”
Burhans said the Pennsylvania Game Commission remains a leader in wildlife conservation nationwide, and he’s honored for the opportunity to serve the agency, its employees, the Board of Commissioners and – importantly – wildlife, hunters and trappers.
“Director Hough’s leadership has set the agency on a steady course that only can lead to success,” Burhans said.
Burhans came to the Game Commission in 2014 as the agency’s deputy director of administration. He was commissioned as deputy wildlife conservation officer in 2015, and in addition to his responsibilities in the executive office, presently serves in the field in Lebanon County.
Burhans served as president and CEO of The American Chestnut Foundation headquartered in Asheville, N.C. He also served on the executive staff at the National Wild Turkey Federation for more than 12 years, worked as a wildlife biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and as a biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Hough began his career with the Game Commission in 1981, as a Wildlife Conservation Officer trainee in the 18th Class of the Ross Leffler School of Conservation. Upon graduation in 1982, he was assigned to serve as a Wildlife Conservation Officer in southwestern Westmoreland County. In 1986, Hough received a lateral transfer to his home area of northern Washington County.
In 1992, Hough was promoted to the Game Commission’s Southwest Region Office where he served for periods as Federal Aid Supervisor, Information and Education Supervisor, and Law Enforcement Supervisor prior to becoming Regional Director in 2003. In 2010, he became Deputy Executive Director of Field Operations at the agency’s Harrisburg headquarters
Growing population and geographical distribution warrant change.
The osprey, which in recent decades has seen an increasing population and distribution in Pennsylvania, has been removed from the state’s list of threatened species.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today in gave final approval to a measure that reclassifies the osprey’s status in Pennsylvania, defining it as a protected species rather than a threatened species.
The board also adopted heightened penalties for those who unlawfully kill ospreys. Similar penalties were adopted when the bald eagle was removed from the state’s list of threatened species in 2014.
The osprey’s status change is called for by the Game Commission’s osprey management plan, which sets goals of at least 50 total nesting pairs with a steady or increasing population, including at least 10 nesting pairs in each of four watersheds over consecutive comprehensive surveys.
Those objectives all were achieved in the 2016 nesting season.
As a protected species, ospreys continue to be protected under state statutes and the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The Board of Commissioners also finally approved a heightened, $2,500 replacement cost to be paid by anyone convicted of killing an osprey, a penalty that serves to provide the species additional protection. Additionally, Pennsylvania Game Commission staff will continue to monitor osprey nests to ensure that this species does not regress toward endangerment.
Board believes Deer Management Assistance Program can be an effective alternative.
In the past two years, the Game Commission allocated Disease Management Area 2 permits to increase the antlerless deer harvest and help slow the spread of chronic wasting disease within the only area of the state where the disease has been detected among free-ranging deer.
But the Board of Game Commissioners said another method is likely to be used in 2017-18.
The Deer Management Assistance Program, commonly known as DMAP, could be used in areas surrounding locations where deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD).
The board said DMAP is a simpler mechanism through which hunters can reduce deer populations around known disease hotspots. The use of DMAP might better channel hunting pressure to problematic areas.
DMA 2 now encompasses more than 2,400 square miles in Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Clearfield, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon and Somerset counties.
DMA 2 permits have been valid in any open deer season to take antlerless deer in any part of DMA 2, regardless its proximity to a site associated with a CWD-positive deer.
DMAP permits, on the other hand, would be used only on specific properties for which they’re issued. More details about the possible change and where permits will be made available will be announced closer to the time of permits going on sale.
The Board of Commissioners today also voted preliminarily on a measure that will make political subdivisions and government agencies eligible to participate in DMAP.
In the past, political subdivisions, such as municipalities, often relied on hired sharpshooters to control deer numbers. The proposed change would allow more flexibility for political subdivisions to encourage the use of hunting to address deer-density issues.
Amendment package includes expanded Sunday hours at Game Commission ranges.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a package of regulatory changes regarding the use of Game Commission-owned public shooting ranges.
One change would allow shooting ranges on state game lands to be open longer – from 8 a.m. to sunset – on Sundays within the firearms deer and bear seasons.
As it is now, shooting ranges on game lands regularly are open from 8 a.m. to sunset Monday through Saturday, but regular Sunday hours are noon to sunset. On the Sundays immediately preceding the firearms deer and firearms bear seasons, however, ranges are open from 8 a.m. to sunset.
Commissioners said the proposed expansion of Sunday hours, while minor, would create a convenience for hunters who might find themselves pressed for time to adjust sights or scopes on firearms at the height of the hunting season.
Other amendments would prohibit range users from intentionally shooting at or damaging the frames and stands on which target backboards are mounted, or using a firearms in negligent disregard for the safety of others.
An amendment clarifying automatic firearms cannot be used Game Commission ranges also was passed as part of the package, and another amendment clarifies that Game Commission shooting ranges, regardless of length or size, are designated by default as rifle ranges, and may be designated as handgun-only ranges if posted as such by the commission.
The amendments will be brought back to the March meeting for a final vote.
Commissioners want to ensure training activities aren’t flushing ringnecks released for hunters.
Training dogs on small game could be prohibited on state game lands for about three weeks in the fall, based on a proposal that serves to keep pheasants nearer their release sites.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a measure that would close small-game dog training on game lands from the Monday prior to the start of the youth pheasant season until the opening day of the statewide pheasant season.
The measure is expected to be brought back to the March meeting for a final vote.
In casting its vote, the board noted that pheasant-hunting opportunities in Pennsylvania are directly linked to and limited by the existence and availability of pheasants stocked by the Game Commission, and that dog-training activities that occur after pheasants are released consistently cause birds to scatter and disperse far away from their designated release sites.
By prohibiting dog training during this period, the board hopes more pheasants will await hunters on game lands.
The proposal does not limit dog training on any other public or private lands or waters not designated as state game lands.
Board says move makes sense given a permanent need to deal with the deer disease.
Chronic wasting disease is a permanent threat to Pennsylvania’s deer.
And for several years now, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has addressed that threat through actions intended to keep the disease out of areas where it hasn’t been detected, and to suppress it in areas where it’s known to exist.
Those measures all have been enacted by executive order of the Game Commission.
But the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today preliminarily approved placing them into regulation. The move would provide more permanent status and structure to the requirements and restrictions that have been addressed by executive order.
It would not impact the Game Commission’s ability to act quickly in response to new cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) because additional executive actions still could be taken.
Among the restrictions that soon could be covered by regulation is the prohibition on importing into Pennsylvania any high-risk parts from deer, elk, moose or other cervids harvested within states or Canadian provinces where CWD is present.
In areas like Ohio, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia, where the ban applies only to counties where CWD has been detected, the ban would continue to apply only to those counties.
Restrictions that apply within Disease Management Areas (DMA) – such as the prohibition on removing from a DMA the high-risk parts of deer harvested within the DMA, and the prohibition on feeding deer within a DMA.
For a complete list of the preliminarily approved regulations, please see the meeting agenda on the commissioners page at Game Commission.
Boundary between WMUs 2C and 2E adjusted; final vote awaits.
The boundary between Wildlife Management Units 2C and 2E would change for the 2017-18 hunting and trapping seasons, based on a measure preliminarily approved today by the Board of Game Commissioners.
The proposed change would establish U.S. Route 22 as the boundary between WMUs 2E and 2C. Previously, the boundary had followed U.S. Route 22, as well and U.S. Routes 422 and 219.
The change would make for an easier to follow boundary that would expand WMU 2E southward into WMU 2C.-
Based on the proposal, WMU 2C would be defined as – from the West Virginia/PA state line, US Rt. 119 north to Toll Road Rt. 66 near New Stanton. Toll Road Rt. 66 north to US Rt. 22 near Delmont. US Rt. 22 east to I-99 near Hollidaysburg. I-99 south to US Rt. 220 near Bedford. US Rt. 220 south to the Maryland/PA state line
WMU 2E would be defined as – from near DuBois, I-80 east to PA Rt. 53 near Kylertown. PA Rt. 53 south to US Rt. 22 near Cresson. US Rt. 22 west to US Rt. 119 near Blairsville. US Rt. 119 north to US Rt. 219 near DuBois. US Rt. 219 north to I-80 near DuBois.
The proposed change to the WMU boundaries will require final approval at the March meeting to take effect for the 2017-18 seasons.
Preliminarily approved measure also establishes authority to hold youth pheasant hunt in WPRA.
The Central Susquehanna Wild Pheasant Recovery Area could soon become smaller.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a boundary change that would reduce the size of the WPRA.
The measure also would enable the Game Commission’s executive director to authorize permit-based, youth-only pheasant hunting opportunities in the Central Susquehanna WPRA. Such a hunt could occur as early as 2017-18.
And the measure would shorten in all WPRAs the period within which dog-training and small-game hunting are restricted.
Pennsylvania has four Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas in which wild pheasants trapped in other states have been released in an effort to restore wild ring-necked pheasants to the state. It’s unlawful to hunt pheasants in any WPRA, and it’s been unlawful to train dogs or hunt small game other than woodchucks, crows and waterfowl within a WPRA from the first Sunday of February through July 31.
The restrictions on dog training and small-game hunting would not begin until March 1 if the measure voted on by commissioners receives final approval.
The proposed reduction in the size of the Central Susquehanna WPRA is in response to how wild pheasants have taken hold there. Huntable populations have been established in some portions of the WPRA, while other portions contain few or no pheasants.
By adjusting the WPRA boundary to center on areas with more wild pheasants, and removing from the WPRA acreage where wild pheasants haven’t taken hold, those removed acres can be reopened to pheasant hunting and otherwise-restricted small-game hunting.
The boundary would be defined as follows if the changes are given final approval: Portions of WMU 4E in Northumberland, Montour and Columbia counties, bounded and described as follows: Beginning in the Southwestern extent of the WPRA at the intersection of Interstate 80 and Interstate 180, proceed north on Interstate 80 for approximately 7.2 miles to the intersection of Hughes Road The boundary follows Hughes Road east for .2 miles to Susquehanna Trail. Follow Susquehanna Trail south for .2 miles to Schmidt Road Follow Schmidt Road for 1.6 miles to Miller Road Follow Miller Road east for 1.1 miles to intersection of Hockey Hill Road Go right on Hockey Hill Road then left onto Pugmore Lane. Follow Pugmore Lane for .7 miles to Harrison Road The boundary follows Harrison Road south for .7 miles to Showers Road. Follow Showers Road for 1.2 miles east to intersection of Gearhart Road. Turn right on Gearhart Road and go south for .6 miles to the intersection of Hickory Road. The boundary follows Hickory Road east for .6 miles then left onto Mingle Road for .9 miles until rejoining Hickory Road for another .8 miles to the intersection of Muncy Exchange Road. The boundary follows Muncy Exchange Road south for 1.4 miles to bridge over the West Branch of Chillisquaque Creek near the intersection of State Highway 44. The boundary follows the West Branch of Chillisquaque Creek south for approximately 2.1 miles to the bridge on Arrowhead Road. The boundary follows Arrowhead Road west for .8 miles to the intersection of State Highway 54. Follow State Highway 54 south for 2.6 miles to the intersection of State Highway 254. Follow State Highway 254 east for 5.9 miles to the intersection of State Highway 44. Follow State Highway 44 south for 1.1 miles to the intersection of State Highway 642. Follow State Highway 642 southwest for 2.3 miles to the intersection of Billhime Road. Turn right onto Billhime Road and go 1.1 miles to the intersection of East Diehl Road. Turn right on East Diehl Road then left onto Cameltown Hill Road. Follow Cameltown Hill Road for 1 mile to the intersection of Blee Hill Road. The boundary follows Blee Hill Road northwestward for .6 miles to the intersection of Hillside Drive. Turn left onto Hillside Drive and follow west for 3.2 miles until State Highway 54. Cross State Highway 54 onto Steckermill Road and go .4 miles to the intersection of Keefer Mill Road. Turn right onto Keefer Mill Road and follow north for .8 miles to the intersection Mexico Road. Turn right on Mexico Road for .1 miles and then turn left onto Keefer Mill Road for .6 miles to the intersection of State Highway 254. The boundary follows State Highway 254 west for 5.5 miles to the intersection of Interstate 80. Follow Interstate 80 west for 3.4 miles to the intersection Interstate 180 and the point of origin. -
The changes will be brought back to the March meeting for a final vote.
Proposed changes seek to improve quality of popular controlled hunt.
The controlled deer hunt at Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area could be changing its format in an effort to improve the quality of the hunt for those applicants who are selected by lottery to take part.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved a host of regulatory changes that clear the way for a potential format change for what in recent years has been a one-day hunt.
Likely because of its reputation for producing abundant deer sightings for the 90 applicants selected, the Pymatuning controlled deer hunt has been popular among hunters, drawing about 1,000 applicants each year.
But the one-day hunt has produced a lower-than-desired harvest, and there’s been significant negative impact on existing habitat.
In order to improve the harvest and hunting experience of applicants drawn, Pymatuning staff has proposed assigning hunters drawn for a permit to individual zones, with the permits being valid over a span of several days to several weeks within existing deer seasons.--
While the details on this controlled hunt are still being worked out, the idea is to spread the same number of hunters across a few weeks, rather than a few days, of the regularly established fall deer seasons.
The regulatory changes that support the concept will be brought back to the March meeting for final approval.
Proposed regulation would require that only licensed drivers operate vehicles on game lands.
Wildlife Conservation Officers and deputies routinely encounter unlicensed drivers operating motor vehicles on roads, in parking areas and elsewhere on game lands.
But since only police have the authority to enforce the state’s Vehicle Code, the violations only can be enforced when the appropriate police agency is available to take the case.
In instances when police can’t respond, the violations go unaddressed.
But the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a regulation that will allow officers to stop unlicensed drivers from unlawfully driving on game lands.
The proposed regulation states that vehicles requiring registration under the Vehicle Code can be operated on game lands only by licensed drivers.
The measure will be brought back to the March meeting for a final vote by the board.
Commissioner James Daley takes over as board secretary.
At their first quarterly meeting of 2017, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners reorganized, selecting officers to serve the board this year.
Commissioner Brian Hoover stayed on as the board’s president, Commissioner Timothy Layton remained the board’s vice president, and Commissioner James Daley took over as the board’s secretary.
The board also selected its meeting dates for the coming year.
The board will meet next at its working group meeting to be held Feb. 27 at the Harrisburg headquarters.
The board’s next quarterly meeting is scheduled to be held March 27 and 28, and the board plans to meet again on June 26 and 27 and on Sept. 25 and 26.
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