Game Commission moving target toward semi-automatic weapons

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners took a step toward implementing semi-automatic rifles and gave preliminary approval to hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits for the 2017-18 license year on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the Game Commission 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.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that currently has no hunting seasons during which semi-automatic rifles can be used. 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. The board’s next quarterly meeting is scheduled to be held March 27 and 28 at the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters.

The approval made on Tuesday also issued several new modifications. Modifications proposed for the 2017-18 seasons include: moving the statewide archery bear season to the next-to-the-last week of the archery deer season, changing the firearms deer season in Wildlife Management Units 5A and 5B to bucks-only hunting from the opening day through the first Friday, opening a conservative mid-week fall turkey season in Wildlife Management Area 5B, and reducing the season length in WMUs 4A, 4B and 4E; eliminating the post-Christmas segment of the ruffed-grouse season to improve adult survival due to recent population declines; restoring an extended black-bear season in WMU 3A, opening the Central Susquehanna Wild Pheasant Recovery Area to a youth-only pheasant-hunting season, opening WMU 5A to put-and-take bobwhite quail hunting, given the lack of wild quail in the area and the low likelihood of quail reintroduction being initiated there soon.

The public may offer comments on all proposed 2017-18 seasons and bag limits, as well as other board actions, between now and the board’s next meeting, March 27 and 28, at which time the board is scheduled to finalize seasons and bag limits for 2017-18.

Also, the board will receive at its March meeting staff recommendations for antlerless deer license allocations for each of the 23 WMUs.

Deer harvest estimates for the 2016-17 seasons are expected to be available in mid-March.