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Rules for dual-carry of bows, muzzleloaders could change

While carrying firearms generally is prohibited while bowhunting, archery deer hunters long have been permitted to carry muzzleloaders to hunt deer during times when the archery and muzzleloader deer seasons overlap.

A new proposal would allow archery deer hunters to carry muzzleloaders afield when an archery deer season overlaps with a muzzleloader bear season, as well.

Pennsylvania in 2019 implemented an October muzzleloader bear season, which overlapped with both the archery deer season and the October muzzleloader season for antlerless deer.

Presently, there are only two exceptions to that rule prohibiting archery deer hunters from possessing firearms while hunting. Persons who are licensed to carry firearms may carry their permitted firearms for protection while bowhunting. And archery deer hunters may carry muzzleloaders to hunt deer when an archery deer season overlaps with a muzzleloader deer season.

That meant archery deer hunters couldn’t carry muzzleloaders to hunt or harvest bears in 2019, but that rule could be changing.

Last weekend, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners preliminarily approved a measure that would expand the dual-carry exceptions, allowing archery deer hunters to carry muzzleloaders when an archery deer season overlaps with a muzzleloader bear season. The rule also would apply to the archery bear season in overlaps with a muzzleloader deer or bear season.

The measure will be brought back to the April meeting for final adoption.

A muzzleloader bear season that overlaps with the October muzzleloader deer season and archery deer season is proposed as part of the preliminary list of 2020-21 hunting seasons, which also is up for final adoption at the April meeting.

When the carrying of both muzzleloaders and archery equipment is permitted, hunters must possess valid licenses and tags to use either and are required to follow the fluorescent-orange requirements for the muzzleloader season.

DEER-TAGGING

REQUIREMENTS COULD CHANGE

Hunters with multiple deer tags might soon be free of the restriction to tag the first deer they harvest before attempting to harvest a second.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners voted preliminarily Jan. 25 to approve a measure that would make effective statewide the tagging requirements that currently apply in the state’s Special Regulations Areas, where hunters possessing multiple tags may attempt to fill them without first tagging a harvested deer.

The commissioners said lifting the restriction would benefit deer hunters with multiple tags by no longer forcing them to pass up harvest opportunities. The commissioners said they are not aware of any problems associated with the lifting of the tagging restriction in the state’s Special Regulations Areas.

The measure will be brought back to the April meeting for a final vote.

HUNTERS MIGHT GET MORE DMAP PERMITS PER PROPERTY

While there aren’t any limits on the total number of Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permits a hunter may obtain, hunters long have been limited to purchasing just two DMAP permits for each individual DMAP property.

That limit soon could be changing.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a measure that would allow hunters to purchase up to four DMAP permits per DMAP property, except on certain properties where the Game Commission opts to retain the two-permit limit.

DMAP is a program that allows public and private landowners to better achieve their individual deer-management goals. DMAP permits are valid only on the properties for which they are issued. And a hunter can harvest one antlerless deer with each DMAP permit he or she obtains.

Commissioners said the two-permit limit might unreasonably limit landowners from effectively using the program to their benefit.

The measure will be brought back to the April meeting for a final vote.

MENTORED PROGRAMS COULD BECOME SIMPLER, MORE UNIFORM

Initially open only to youth under 12, Pennsylvania’s mentored hunting program has expanded incrementally in recent years to offer opportunities to unlicensed hunters of all ages.

Because the program is a tool to recruit new hunters, it only made sense to open it to everybody.

But phasing-in program eligibility for hunters of different ages has brought about a mix of different rules that can be confusing to follow – and actually might undermine the goal of hunter recruitment.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners started the process of simplifying the program and making it more uniform for hunters of all ages.

The board voted preliminarily to approve a measure that would makes a few important changes.

First, mentored hunters of all ages would be eligible to hunt the same species. This would expand opportunities in each age class and eliminate confusion about which species different-aged hunters may hunt.

Secondly, while mentored hunters under the age of 7 would continue to be issued permits that do not contain deer or turkey harvest tags – meaning the deer and turkey tags they use would continue to be provided through transfer from their adult mentors – mentored hunters of all other ages would be issued their own tags.

And finally, mentored hunters ages 7 and older could apply for their own antlerless deer licenses and Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permits, as well as migratory bird licenses and pheasant permits.

If the changes are given final approval, all mentored hunters could hunt the following species: rabbit, hare, ruffed grouse, mourning doves, bobwhite quails, pheasants, crows, squirrels, porcupines, woodchucks, coyotes, deer and wild turkeys.

Safety requirements that prohibit mentored hunters under 17 from carrying a firearm while moving, limit mentors to accompanying one youngster at a time, and require the mentor and mentored hunter under 17 to possess no more than one sporting arm between them, will remain unchanged.

The measure will be brought back to the April meeting for a final vote.

E-BIKES COULD

BE PERMITTED ON GAME LANDS

State game lands users soon could be able to ride Class 1 and Class 2 electric bicycles in the same manner they can ride traditional bicycles now.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a measure that would allow Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes on game lands.

A Class 1 e-bike is defined as a two-wheeled bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of 750 watts (1 horsepower) or less that provides assistance only when the rider is actively pedaling, and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches the speed of 20 mph.

A Class 2 e-bike is defined as bicycle equipped with fully operable pedals and a throttle-actuated 750-watt motor that ceases to provide assistance when the e-bike reaches 20 mph. The bike can operate without pedaling.

The measure will be brought back to the April meeting for a final vote.

If adopted, the measure would allow Class 1 and Class 2 e-bike riders to ride anywhere on game lands while actively engaged in hunting, trapping or fishing. E-bikes would be permitted on any roads normally open to public travel or posted designated routes.

From the last Saturday in September until the third Saturday in January, and from the second Saturday of April and through the last Saturday of May, e-bike use that’s unrelated to hunting, trapping or fishing would be prohibited, except on Sundays.

At present, disabled persons are permitted to use e-bikes as mobility devices on game lands. Commissioners said allowing e-bikes to be used responsibly by all hunters and trappers would greatly improve access and enhance their experiences afield, without causing significant damage to existing road and trail systems, wildlife or the peace and tranquility of wilderness areas.

AGENCY TO EXAMINE LONGER DEER ARCHERY, RACCOON SEASONS

In response to requests from hunters, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners directed agency wildlife-management staff to examine the potential biological impacts of extending the archery deer season to the start of the statewide general bear season, and opening the raccoon hunting season earlier in October.

There was extensive public testimony at today’s meeting in support of creating a longer archery season that would allow bowhunters to hunt deeper into the whitetail rut, and at least one suggestion that raccoon season should run longer in light of reduced hunting participation over the years.

Game Commission staff will report back to the board at a future meeting.

CUT-OFF DATE FOR DOVE FIELD MANIPULATION COULD BE NIXED

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners preliminarily agreed to eliminate the Sept. 15 cut-off date for manipulating crops in managed dove fields.

The cut-off date was used originally to minimize baiting conflicts for hunters pursuing species other than doves, particularly waterfowl, which remain unlawful to hunt in areas where agricultural crops or other feed has been manipulated for dove hunting.

However, the agency has observed that the Sept. 15 cut-off can result in lost hunting opportunities when poor weather or other factors delay planting or the proper drying of crops.

Removing the Sept. 15 cut-off is intended to remedy lost hunting opportunities and wasted investments in managed dove fields.

The proposal will require final adoption at the April board meeting.

PENNDOT-REGISTERED MOBILITY DEVICES CONSIDERED

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners voted preliminarily to approve a measure that would allow ATVs that already are eligible to be used on state game lands by disabled persons to be permitted if they are registered with either the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) or the state Department of Transportation (PennDOT).

Existing regulation requires eligible ATVs used on game lands to be registered with DCNR. But since ATVs can’t be dual-registered, those registered with PennDOT can’t lawfully be used on game lands, even if they otherwise are eligible.

The change would benefit those ATV users who already have registered their ATVs for use as mobility devices with PennDOT.

The measure will be brought back to the April meeting for a final vote.

GUIDING PERMIT REGUALTORY CHANGES PROPOSED

The Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to changes to its guiding permit regulations. The regulatory package aims to restructure the application requirements for commercial guiding permits, create a noncommercial elk guiding permit, establish new guide permit fee structures for these permits, create recordkeeping and reporting requirements for commercial guides, and address other minor regulatory housekeeping.

The noncommercial elk guiding activity will be defined as any guiding activity by a person to an elk hunter for no fee or economic gain.

The proposed changes require most applicants for elk guiding permits have no documented prior record of game or wildlife violations for the past 10 years.

The fees for guiding for bobcats and coyote would be $25 for residents and $50 for nonresidents. Additionally, each bobcat or coyote applicant and sub-permittee would need a valid hunting or furtaking license and have to carry it while guiding.

The fee for a resident and nonresident commercial elk guiding permit would be $500 – up from $25. The permit allows for up to four sub-permittes at no extra cost. Sub-permitees in excess of four would each pay $50.

The noncommercial elk guiding permit is free and allows for up to four sub-permitees. Sub-permitees in excess of four would each pay $25 fee.

Additionally, commercial guides would be required to maintain legible, accurate and complete field records of all commercial guiding activities. A form for this information would be provided by the Game Commission. These reporting forms would be submitted to the agency annually.

MINING AGREEMENT TO ADD 1,620 ACRES TO GAME LANDS

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners approved a 25-year agreement with a stone-mining company that will add about 1,620 acres to state game lands and annually bring in revenue for the agency.

The agreement will enable New Enterprise Stone & Lime Co. Inc., of New Enterprise, to expand its existing operation on State Game Lands 79 in Jackson Township, Cambria County, by another 233 acres.

Under the agreement, New Enterprise will convey to the Game Commission a 1,370-acre property in Broad Top Township, Bedford County, near State Game Lands 73 and 261; a 144-acre property adjoining State Game Lands 131 in Warriors Mark Township, Huntingdon County; and a 144-acre tract adjoining State Game Lands 113 in Granville and Oliver townships, Mifflin County.

New Enterprise, as it did under its previous agreement, also will pay royalties to the Game Commission with the rate adjusted annually to reflect cost-of-living increases.

MORE THAN 530 ACRES ADDED TO GAME LANDS

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners approved a host of land acquisitions that will add more than 530 acres to state game lands. including the purchase of 0.34 acres surrounded by State Game Lands 282 in Pine Grove Township, Warren County, from Karen A. Beardsley for a lump-sum option price of $1,100 to be paid from the Game Fund.

BOARD REORGANIZES FOR 2020

At its first quarterly meeting of 2020, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners reorganized and appointed officers for the new year.

Charles E. Fox, of Troy, who represents District 5 in northcentral Pennsylvania, will serve as president; Stanley I. Knick Jr., of Dupont, who represents District 7 in northeastern Pennsylvania, will serve as vice president; and Michael F. Mitrick, of York, who represents District 6 in southcentral Pennsylvania, will serve as secretary.

APRIL MEETING DATES ANNOUNCED

The next quarterly meeting of the Board of Game Commissioners is scheduled for Monday, April 6, and Tuesday, April 7, at the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters.

While the Game Commission has adopted a new meeting format whereby meetings will be held on Friday and Saturday, the schedule would have placed the next meeting on the weekend of the trout season opener in southeastern Pennsylvania. As a result, the next meeting will follow the Monday and Tuesday format, with the third quarterly meeting of 2020 scheduled on a Friday and Saturday.

www.pgc.pa.gov

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