Sunday, November 22, 2015

Handgun Hunting Of Deer Not All That Simple

Pennsylvania hunters need special licensing
to hunt with a handgun.
The allure includes easier portability, maneuverability in brush, having both hands free when moving, increased challenge and the excitement of pursuing deer with a novel sporting arm.
The disadvantages of hunting with a handgun include long-distance accuracy issues associated with the barrel length and the limited availability of effective non-speciality calibers.
But handgun hunters face an additional challenge that is not encountered by hunters using other legal sporting arms.
In addition to state Game Commission hunting licenses and permits, handgun hunters are required by the state Uniform Firearm Act, Title 18, to be in possession of a valid Concealed Carry permit or a Sportsman’s Firearm Permit.
The tags are not interchangeable. Pennsylvania is an open-carry state — it’s legal to appear in public with a gun that is visible. Carrying a firearm that is hidden from view requires a Concealed Carry permit issued by the county sheriff’s office. The Concealed Carry permit allows the user to carry the pistol hidden from view in most public situations, including hunting or transporting the firearm to or from hunting, target shooting or gunsmith locations.
The Sportsman’s Firearm Permit is a more restrictive subset of Concealed Carry. It authorizes a hunter to carry the gun while transporting it to and from hunting, target shooting or gunsmith locations. But it cannot be used in other Concealed Carry situations where the gun is hidden from public view.
“The main thing is transport in vehicles,” said Tom Fazi, spokesman for the state Game Commission. “From our perspective there is no provision in Game Law concerning this. As long as it’s a lawful device and not carried concealed, we don’t ask for a Sportsman’s Permit. It’s not our permit. We have no authority to request it.”
The Game Commission, however, regulates the type of firearm that may be used for hunting. Semi-automatics are unlawful — hunting handguns must be centerfire revolvers or single shot. To shoot at a state gamelands firing range, the Game Commission requires a valid hunting license or Public Shooting Range Permit. State and federal governments weigh in during the purchase of the handgun, which requires an FBI background check.
“In my experience you don’t see a lot of guys using handguns hunting,” Fazi said. “Those who do tend to be very knowledgeable about it. You see more guys in bear season who carry a rifle but maybe have a backup handgun on them, and they’d need the correct permit even if the handgun isn’t their primary sporting arm.”
Keith Savage, manager of Braverman Arms in Wilkinsburg, said that although the open carrying of a handgun while hunting without a permit is legal, he advises his customers to get a Sportsman’s Firearm Permit.
“Transporting the gun is the primary issue, but the way the law is written it isn’t entirely clear,” he said. “Due to the political climate, I’d recommend erring on the side of caution and getting at least the Sportsman’s permit if not Concealed Carry.”
Handguns used for hunting do not figure prominently in the debate over gun control. Shira Goodman of CeaseFire PA said the organization, “has not taken a position on the issue.” A spokesman for the National Rifle Association asked that his name not be used in this story and said the NRA “is not taking an official position at this time.’
Most pistols are made for self-defense or target shooting, and most of those are not efficient sporting arms. The .44 magnum is the most commonly used handgun for hunting. Savage said he wouldn’t go lower than .357 caliber. Hunting handguns normally have a barrel 6½ to 7½ inches long, and are milled to accept telescopic sights. Handgun hunters often use a bandolier-style holster that rides on the chest.
There are no special strategies or tactics associated with handgun hunting, said Savage.
“If you know what you’re doing, you’re going to able to shoot unbelievable distances even with a 7½-inch barrel,” he said. “Out to about 200 yards, handguns are as accurate as rifles, but it’s easier to be more accurate with a rifle farther out.”

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