Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Important Changes To Hunting Regulations and Deadlines Announced By PA Game Commission

Measure seeks to minimize disturbance of wildlife.
The recreational flying of drones rapidly has gained in popularity, and as it has, the number of cases where drones have caused concern for wildlife has increased as well.
During the snow-goose migration season at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area this year, for instance, Game Commission staff detected at least five instances where drones disturbed wildlife. In one case, a drone was flown into an off-limits propagation area that serves as a sanctuary for resting waterfowl, and another disturbance caused hundreds of waterfowl to suddenly flush. There also were reports of drones being flown close to bald-eagle nests, which causes an obvious risk to eagles and their eggs.
Clearly, this type of activity runs counter to the intended use of properties like Middle Creek and other tracts of state game lands owned by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
And today, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners cast a unanimous preliminary vote to enact a ban on the flying of unmanned aerial vehicles over lands or waters designated as state game lands.
The measure will be brought back to the July meeting, where commissioners will consider it for final approval.
In addition to protecting wildlife, the commissioners said the ban also would ensure drones aren’t used to interfere with lawful hunting and trapping on game lands.
The preliminarily approved measure provides for exceptions to be made through written permission by the executive director.
ANTLERLESS APPLICATION SCHEDULE CHANGESLength between resident and nonresident application periods shortens.
Hunters who are Pennsylvania residents traditionally have been able to apply for antlerless deer licenses a full two weeks before nonresidents.
But the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today voted to shorten the time between resident and nonresident application periods to one week, allowing nonresidents to apply the third Monday in July each year.
The measure is part of an ongoing effort by the Board of Commissioners to make the application process fairer to nonresident deer hunters, many of whom are native Pennsylvanians who have moved away, but return to hunt with family.
Antlerless deer licenses are valid only in the Wildlife Management Unit for which they’re issued. In many of the state’s 23 Wildlife Management Units, licenses typically are available at the time nonresidents first can apply. But in some WMUs – particularly a handful in northcentral Pennsylvania where many nonresidents have camps – antlerless licenses sell out quickly and before nonresidents have a chance to apply.
Commissioners said the change will give those nonresidents a better chance to obtain a license, while still giving preference to residents.
PORCUPINE COULD BE RECLASSIFIED AS A FURBEARERProvision could allow porcupines to be hunted or trapped, with proper licenses.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today preliminarily approved reclassifying the porcupine as a furbearer.
If given final approval, the measure could allow for porcupines to be trapped, as well as hunted. Commissioners said a porcupine trapping season would not be implemented in the 2016-17 license year, and would be implemented in future seasons only if porcupines are reclassified and staff recommends a trapping season.
Based on the proposal, license requirements for hunting and trapping of porcupines would mirror those for coyotes. Porcupines could be hunted by those possessing either a hunting or furtaker license, and could be trapped by furtakers, as well, during established seasons.
The measure will be brought back to the July meeting to be considered for final approval.

COMMISSIONERS EMPHASIZE DEER CONTROL THROUGH HUNTINGPreliminarily approved provision requires deer-control permit holders to consider hunters first.
Municipalities and other political subdivisions that request permits to manage deer populations soon might need to more strongly consider managing deer through hunting before gaining approval to use another method.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a series of amendments to the application process for special deer-control permits.
As part of the background information on deer populations and damage they’re required to submit, permit applicants would be asked to specifically define how licensed public hunting has been used in the problem area previously, and how it will be used during the period the permit would be valid.
Commissioners said the measure helps to ensure hunters will have an opportunity to manage deer on properties where high deer populations have created problems.
The amendments will be brought back to the July meeting for a final vote. 

DISABLED VETERANS’ HUNTS PRELIMINARILY APPROVEDOne shooting day at each Middle Creek, Pymatuning could be designated.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a measure that would allow the Game Commission’s executive director to designate one shooting day at each the Middle Creek and Pymatuning Wildlife Management Areas as open only to veterans with disabilities.
Participants would be selected by a random drawing, and only those who qualify for and possess a disabled veteran license could apply. Successful applicants who participate in the hunt would be permitted to bring along three guests, so long as they possess proper general or base hunting licenses.
The measure will be brought back to the July meeting, where it will be considered for final approval.
EXPIRED-LICENSE POSSESSION MADE ILLEGALIntentional or accidental, violations arise from tagging big game with expired tags.

When July rolls around, a new hunting license year will begin and those licenses carried over the previous 12 months no longer are valid.
But the Wildlife Conservation Officers working for the Pennsylvania Game Commission sometimes encounter hunters and trappers who still are in possession of expired licenses and tags from the previous year. And in some cases, those in possession of expired licenses and tags are carrying them with the intention to use them unlawfully to tag an animal taken in the current season.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners has addressed that problem, voting today to make it unlawful to possess any license or big-game tag from a previous license year while engaged in hunting or trapping activities. Licenses and tags that have been fulfilled, revoked or suspended also have been made unlawful to possess in the field.
Commissioners have noted the color of hunting licenses can’t be changed from year to year to make it easier for hunters to know which tags are valid. The PALS system through which hunting licenses are issued is operated jointly in Pennsylvania by the Game Commission and the state Fish and Boat Commission.
Because the license years for hunting and fishing licenses start and end at different times, hunting and fishing licenses for different licenses years are issued at the same time, meaning the color for each must remain consistent.
Commissioners reminded hunters it is unlawful to possess the licenses or tags of junior hunters and mentored youth.
RANGEFINDER USE CLARIFIED BY BOARDGame Commission long has considered use of rangefinders ethical and in compliance with the law.

Electronic rangefinders have been added to the list of electronic devices Pennsylvania hunters are permitted to use.
While many hunters have used rangefinders for years, and the Game Commission long has considered them lawful, rangefinders never formally were added to the narrow list of permitted electronic devices.
That changed today through a vote of the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners. Both hand-held rangefinders and those contained within a scope or archery sight formally have been permitted, but those that cast a beam of any sort continue to be unlawful to use.
The state’s Game and Wildlife Code carries a broad prohibition on the use of electronic devices during hunting and trapping, but over the years, several devices have been reviewed – and in some cases – added to a list of devices that are an exception to the broad rule and can be used lawfully.
In reviewing devices and considering whether their use should be considered lawful, the Game Commission considers if and the degree to which the device might negatively impact principles of resource conservation, equal opportunity, fair chase and public safety.
LAW-ENFORCEMENT AUTHORITY CLARIFIEDBoard adjusts regulation to reflect officers’ role in changing times.
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to minor changes to regulatory language that clarify the role officers play in enforcing criminal violations they encounter in the performance of their official duties.
Wildlife Conservation Officers are given authority under state law to enforce not only the state’s Game and Wildlife Code, but also the Crimes Code and a variety of other laws. The regulatory change removes a requirement for WCOs to attempt to transfer all general crime matters to local or state police. In almost all cases, state and local police decline to pick up cases from WCOs, and ask that the Game Commission prosecute the cases.
The primary responsibility of WCOs remains enforcement of the Game and Wildlife Code.

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