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Game Commission closes shooting ranges

The Pennsylvania Game Commission today announced it is closing all shooting ranges on state game lands, effective immediately, until further notice.

The closure includes rifle, shotgun, pistol, and archery ranges.

Given Gov. Tom Wolf’s March 19 updated guidance to help control the spread of COVID-19, the Game Commission will not have the staffing to service these ranges, which require routine maintenance. Additionally, many of these ranges can become very crowded and represent a potential risk to the spread of COVID-19.

To further mitigate the impact of COVID-19, the agency has closed its buildings to the public and postponed in-person Hunter-Trapper Education classes. However, hunters 11 years old and up now can take the online Hunter-Trapper Education class and all fees typically associated with the online course are waived through March 30.

The Game Commission maintains about 30 shooting ranges on game lands statewide. The ranges ordinarily can be used during regular hours by anyone with a valid hunting or furtaker license, or shooting-range permit.

While it’s not known when the ranges will reopen, the decision to reopen the ranges will be announced by a future news release.

Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans says, “We know the ranges are popular, and we know this announcement will cause disappointment among those who use these ranges, but our No. 1 priority, at this time, is public health and we are encouraging people to stay home and heed all state and federal safety precautions.”

Pennsylvania’s 1.6 million acres of state game lands still are open for public access, at this time. All seasons and bag limits still are in effect. The Game Commission’s state game wardens and dispatchers are considered essential employees and are still working and responding to wildlife emergencies and more. Calls can still be placed to the region offices; visit this page for a list of phone numbers at http://bit.ly/2IRr6q8.

For the latest information about COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, please visit the Department of Health’s website: www.health.pa.gov.

“We encourage everyone to continue to take precautionary measures during this time and to continue to be safe and responsible as we get through the next few weeks together,” Burhans said.

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