HARRISBURG, PA – The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners met Wednesday in Harrisburg. Aside from setting the seasons and bag limits for the 2018-19 license year, the following actions were taken.
SOME SENIOR PHEASANT HUNTERS EXEMPTED FROM PERMIT
Any Pennsylvania hunter who held a senior lifetime hunting or combination license prior to May 13, 2017 will not need to purchase a pheasant permit to hunt pheasants in the 2018-19 license year.
The pheasant permit was created last year as a way to help offset the costs of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s pheasant propagation program. In its first year, the $26.90 permit was required for all adult and senior pheasant hunters, including senior lifetime license buyers.
The requirement for a permit officially became regulation on May 13, 2017.
And the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today voted to allow hunters who held senior lifetime hunting or combination licenses prior to May 13, 2017 to hunt pheasant without obtaining a permit.
Adult pheasant hunters still will need to purchase the permit; junior pheasant hunters will need a free permit in 2018-19.
The pheasant permit was one of several initiatives by the Game Commission to make the pheasant propagation program more cost-effective. The agency in recent years closed two of its four pheasant farms, and began purchasing day-old chicks from private propagators rather than carrying over breeding pheasants and raising chicks from eggs.
Through these measures the annual costs of the program have been reduced from about $4.7 million to about $2.3 million. Additionally, the pheasant permit in its first year generated more than $1.1 million to help offset those costs.
Commissioners said the reduced overall costs of the program have made it easier to grandfather-in those pheasant hunters who held senior lifetime licenses at the time the permit became official.
Nearly 43,000 hunters purchased a pheasant permit, and about 4,300 of them were senior lifetime license buyers.
GAME COMMISSION BOARD PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR SUNDAY HUNTING
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today reaffirmed its support of legislative action that would allow for expanded Sunday hunting opportunities.
The resolution adopted by the board is in response to a direct request from the nonprofit group Hunters United for Sunday Hunting, a representative of which testified to the board on Monday.
The resolution is at least the third the Board of Game Commissioners has adopted over the years in support of expanded Sunday hunting. The board’s support has remained consistent through the regular turnover of commissioners due to terms expiring and replacements being appointed.
The resolution adopted today is as follows:
“WHEREAS, The Commonwealth has experienced consistent declines in hunting participation by both resident and non-resident hunters over the past several decades, with both the number of licenses sold and revenues generated experiencing steady declines; and
“WHEREAS, Youth participation is vital to maintaining the long-standing tradition of hunting in the Commonwealth; and
“WHEREAS, Sunday hunting can be an effective means of recruiting new hunters and retaining current hunters by increasing the value of the hunting license through offering additional opportunities to spend time in the field; and
“WHEREAS, The Commission recognizes that it can effectively double the number of hunting days for youths during the school year by offering Sunday hunting; and
“WHEREAS, Many residents of this Commonwealth seek hunting opportunities and hunting leases in neighboring states that offer Sunday hunting; and
“WHEREAS, The Commission recognizes that Sunday hunting will help keep Pennsylvania hunters in Pennsylvania; and
“WHEREAS, The Commonwealth has a long-standing tradition of hunting camps and clubs; and
“WHEREAS, Sunday hunting can effectively double the number of hunting days for camp owners and club members; and
“WHEREAS, Sunday hunting has the potential to generate a substantial increase in nonresident license sales and the accompanying revenue for the Pennsylvania Game Commission; and
“WHEREAS, hunting license sales and their associated federal matching funds are the primary revenue source for the Pennsylvania Game Commission in carrying out its mission, including maintaining 1.5 million acres of state game lands and acquisition of additional public lands, research and management of wildlife and providing information and education to the public; and
“WHEREASs, Sunday hunting has the potential to provide substantial economic benefits to rural areas and businesses by increasing money spent by hunters on lodging, food, gas and other incidental items; and
“WHEREAS, Sunday hunting could effectively generate $629 million in additional spending and create 5,300 new jobs, resulting in $18 million in additional sales and income tax; and
“WHEREAS, The mission of the Pennsylvania Game Commission is to manage wildlife and its habitat for current and future generations; and
“WHEREAS, Sunday hunting, which is currently permitted to control a growing population of coyotes, will provide the biologists of the Pennsylvania Game Commission a new tool to manage wildlife populations; and
“WHEREAS, The 47 states that currently permit Sunday hunting, have not experienced any discernable impact on the health or vibrancy of game populations; and
“WHEREAS, The Board of Commissioners recognizes that the authority to permit Sunday hunting lies entirely with the General Assembly of Pennsylvania; and
“WHEREAS, If the General Assembly repeals the restrictions on Sunday hunting, thus giving the authority to regulate Sunday hunting to the Board of Commissioners, the Board recognizes the many stakeholder groups that any actions on Sunday hunting will affect and will endeavor to engage these stakeholders before passing any new regulations in regard to Sunday hunting.
“NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the Board of Commissioners of the Pennsylvania Game Commission does hereby urge the General Assembly of Pennsylvania to repeal the prohibition on Sunday hunting in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
“Given under the hand and seal of the Board of Commissioners of the Pennsylvania Game Commission on this 24th day of April, 2018.”
JUNIOR HUNTERS NEED FREE PERMIT TO HUNT PHEASANTS
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today adopted a measure that requires junior hunters to obtain a free pheasant permit to hunt pheasants in Pennsylvania.
Previously, junior hunters did not need a permit, which is required for adult and some senior hunters who pursue pheasants.
Issuance of a free permit to junior hunters will help the Game Commission quantify the number of youth 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 measure adopted by the board also removes the requirement to obtain a permit for individuals hunting and taking privately acquired propagated pheasants on private lands. The exemption does not apply to private lands designated by agreement as cooperative access lands, and all pheasants hunted taken or possessed through this exemption need to be appropriately banded, tagged, marked or receipted.
SEMIAUTOMATIC SHOTGUNS OK’D FOR DEER, BEAR AND ELK HUNTING
Semiautomatic centerfire shotguns that propel single-projectile ammunition will be lawful sporting arms in most of Pennsylvania’s firearms deer, bear and elk seasons in 2018-19.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave unanimous approval to regulatory changes that 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.
With today’s vote, such authorization is extended to the remainder of the Commonwealth, as well as to the state’s elk hunters.
SOMERSET WILD PHEASANT RECOVERY AREA DISSOLVED
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today voted to dissolve the Somerset Wild Pheasant Recovery Area (WPRA), 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.
Because WPRAs generally are closed to pheasant hunting, and the release of propagated pheasants is prohibited within WPRAs, dissolving the Somerset WPRA benefits pheasant hunters.
With the Somerset WPRA dissolved, the area will be reopened to either-sex pheasant hunting and will be eligible for game-farm pheasant releases.
BAITING PERMIT NO LONGER REQUIRED IN SOUTHEASTERN COUNTIES
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today eliminated the need for landowners in the Southeast Special Regulations Area to secure a baiting permit before setting up a bait site to hunt deer on private property.
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 is limited to 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.
Previously, private landowners in the Southeast Special Regulations Area needed to secure a permit before they or others could follow these guidelines to hunt deer through the use of bait. While there’s no longer a requirement to obtain a permit, landowners and the persons they permit to hunt still need to ensure bait sites comply with regulations.
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.
ARCHERY RANGE REGULATIONS OK’D
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a package of usage regulations for Game Commission archery ranges.
None requires archery range users to acquire a range permit.
Under the proposal, ranges are open from dawn to dusk daily, shooting needs to occur from established firing lines, and shooters are limited to six shots when sharing the range.
In addition, broadheads are permitted only when a broadhead-shooting station is provided, and range users cannot possess an intoxicating beverage, or be intoxicated.
WILDLANDS CONSERVANCY HELPS GAME LANDS GROW BY 428 ACRES
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today approved the purchase of 428 acres in East Penn Township, Carbon County, adjoining State Game Lands 217 to the west and National Park Service property to the south, from Wildlands Conservancy Inc., of Emmaus, for $400 an acre.
The parcel will be paid from third-party commitments for compensation of habitat and recreational losses occurring in previously approved projects on state game lands.
The tract is located on the Blue Mountain’s north slope, and is forested with oak, poplar, maple and pine along the ridge, and transitions into a savanna-like field of greenbrier and fern interspersed with trees at lower elevations.
The property’s acquisition resolves a long-standing boundary dispute with the tract’s previous owners.
The new property can be accessed by Blue Mountain Road from the west and Sunset Road from the east.
The Game Commission has a long history of working with conservancies, noted Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans.
“It’s hard to imagine how much more limited public lands would be in Pennsylvania without the assistance of Pennsylvania’s land conservancies,” Burhans said. “They’ve made an enormous difference for the Game Commission, other state agencies and, of course, wildlife and Pennsylvanians.”
BOARD APPROVES ENERGY AGREEMENT
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners approved a five-year, non-surface-use agreement with Greylock Production LLC, to develop natural gas under 724 acres of State Game Lands 223 in Whiteley Township, Greene County.
The energy-development agreement is expected to result in an approximate $2.15 million bonus payment to the agency’s Game Fund, or into an interest-bearing escrow account to be used for the future purchase of wildlife habitat.
Oil and gas development under the agreement will be regulated by the Commonwealth’s oil and gas regulations and the agency’s Standard Non-Surface Use Oil and Gas Cooperative Agreement.