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Hunting big game with semiautomatic rifles will wait

Semiautomatic centerfire rifles will not become lawful for hunting big game in the 2019-20 seasons.

After receiving input from the public and key members of the General Assembly, and noting the board already is considering several significant proposed changes, Pennsylvania Game Commissioner Brian Hoover rescinded his direction to staff to develop language through which semiautomatic centerfire rifles could be included as lawful sporting arms in big-game seasons.

No proposal will be drawn up, and no vote will be taken.

Semiautomatic rifles that meet specific criteria have been permitted for hunting small game and furbearers for the past two years, and semiautomatic shotguns, which long have been permitted for deer hunting within the state’s Special Regulations Areas, were approved for use statewide for the 2018-19 seasons. With these opportunities now available, there was reason to believe opinions on using semiautomatic rifles for big-game hunting in Pennsylvania might have changed, but it quickly was clear they have not, said Hoover.

“While many states allow the use of semiautomatic rifles for hunting big game, and evidence suggests these firearms actually can be safer than their manually operated counterparts, it’s clear we haven’t yet arrived at the time when the majority of Pennsylvania hunters favor they be approved for big-game use,” Hoover said. “As opinions change, we will consider future changes to provide for the needs of our hunters.”

FLUORESCENT ORANGE REQUIREMENTS COULD BE SIMPLIFIED

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners have given preliminary approval to a measure that would simplify requirements to wear fluorescent orange material while hunting.

There would be no changes to the requirements that apply in many seasons. And the use of orange will continue to be highly recommended for all seasons, whether required or not.

The measure will be brought back to the April meeting for a final vote, and any changes would be put in place for the 2019-20 license year to begin July 1.

The proposal would eliminate the requirement to wear fluorescent orange at any time while archery hunting for deer or bear. This would eliminate all overlap periods when archery hunters are required to wear varying amounts of fluorescent orange while moving or post orange material while in a fixed position. The proposal also would eliminate the requirement for fall turkey hunters to wear fluorescent orange material.

All other seasons would continue with their existing fluorescent orange requirements.

Hunters in deer, bear, elk firearms seasons, small game season, and those hunting coyotes during daylight hours within open deer, bear or elk firearms seasons, would continue with the requirement to wear, at all times, 250 square inches of daylight fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined, visible from 360 degrees. Woodchuck hunters would continue with the requirement to wear a solid fluorescent orange hat at all times. And hunters in seasons for crows, doves, waterfowl, post-Christmas flintlock deer, spring turkeys and furbearers (with the exception of coyotes as noted above) would continue without fluorescent orange requirements.

The requirement to post orange while deer, bear or elk hunting from an enclosed blind also would remain. Commissioners said the changes are intended to clear up the complexity of existing fluorescent orange requirements, which each year result in a significant number of violations detected by State Game Wardens.

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