PGC meeting results
NIGHT-VISION OPTICS PRELIMINARILY APPROVED FOR FURBEARER HUNTING
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a regulatory change that would allow handheld and sporting-arm mounted night-vision and infrared optics to be used while hunting furbearers.
The change will not become effective unless the board casts a second vote at another meeting to adopt it. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 25 and 26.
The preliminarily approved change would permit night-vision and infrared optics only when hunting furbearers. There are hunting seasons for the following furbearers: raccoons, foxes, coyotes, opossums, striped skunks, weasels, bobcats and porcupines.
Today’s vote follows the recent passage and signing into law of state House Bill 1188, which permits the Game Commission to regulate night-vision and infrared optics. Previously, the hunting use of these devices was prohibited by state law.
The board took swift action to begin the process of regulating these devices in response to comments the agency has received since the bill’s passage.
“In the days since HB 1188 became law, the Board of Commissioners has been flooded with comments asking us to move forward with adopting regulations permitting the use of night vision equipment,” said Board President Charlie Fox. “We are confident that the use of this equipment will provide predator hunters an additional tool in their toolbox, one that will allow them to be efficient and safe when hunting predators.”
The regulations voted on by the Board were drafted by the Bureau of Wildlife Protection which reviewed data from other states that permit the use of night vision equipment and determined there was no safety concerns regarding their use for hunting furbearers in Pennsylvania.
E-BIKES REMAIN UNLAWFUL ON GAME LANDS
A proposal to allow state game lands users to ride Class 1 and Class 2 electric bicycles in the same manner they can ride traditional bicycles now today was voted down by the board.
The commissioners gave preliminary approval to the measure in January, but tabled it in April. Today, the measure was rejected by a 5-3 vote, with Commissioners Stanley Knick, Brian Hoover and Timothy Layton voting in favor of permitting e-bikes on game lands.
While it remains unlawful to operate e-bikes on game lands, the 2020-21 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which is issued to hunters and furtakers at the time they buy their licenses, erroneously states on Page 16 that Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes are permitted on game lands. This is incorrect. All e-bikes continue to be prohibited everywhere on game lands, including on roads normally open to public travel. E-bikes cannot be used on game lands while hunting or trapping. The prohibition on their use will continue to be enforced.
Prior to a vote on the measure, Commissioner Michael Mitrick questioned the need for e-bikes. Mitrick said that game lands primarily serve to provide wildlife habitat and places to hunt, trap and otherwise interact with wildlife, and permitting even limited recreational riding could compromise that purpose.
Commissioners Charles Fox, Scott Foradora, Dennis Fredericks and Kristen Schnepp-Giger joined with Mitrick in voting to keep e-bike use on game lands unlawful.
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 a 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.
ALL GAME-LAND USERS NEED ORANGE FROM NOV. 15 TO DEC. 15
During the height of the fall hunting seasons – from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15 – nonhunters using state game lands long have been required to wear fluorescent orange, except on Sundays.
But now that expanded Sunday hunting has been approved, additional hunting will occur on three Sundays within that timeframe.
And the Board of Game Commissioners today adopted amended regulations that require hikers and other nonhunters to wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent-orange clothing on the head, chest and back combined, visible from 360 degrees, when visiting state game lands at any time during that period.
Those using shooting ranges are exempted from the requirement.
PROPOSED DEER AND BEAR CALIBER REQUIREMENTS VOTED DOWN
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today unanimously voted down a proposal that would have established 24-caliber as the minimum caliber for hunting deer and bear with centerfire rifles.
Commissioner Dennis Fredericks, who had asked for the proposal to be drafted, said the board received many comments from hunters opposed to prohibiting smaller-caliber centerfire rifles such as the .223 and .22-250 for big-game hunting, and that continuing to permit use of these could benefit the recruitment of young hunters, as well as the retention of aging hunters.
Fredericks said the Game Commission always considers wildlife’s needs in setting hunting regulations, and it will work with ammunition manufacturers and experts to establish guidelines for hunters using smaller calibers for big game, and work to inform the public about them.
FOX ASKS FOR REVIEW OF ANTLERLESS DEER LICENSE APPLICATION PROCESS
Near the close of today’s meeting, Commissioner Charles Fox, the board’s president, asked Game Commission staff to explore the potential for issuing antlerless deer licenses directly through the commission.
While the mail-in antlerless application process is mandated by state law, and changing it would require legislation, Fox asked staff to proactively explore the possible alternatives for application and award of licenses should the law permit changes. Commissioner Fox noted that the commission has heard from hunters who would support revising the current system in favor of a more customer friendly process for applying for an antlerless license.
My rifle is a black rifle