Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pennsylvania hunters had one of their safest years on record in 2016

HARRISBURG, PA The number of hunting related shooting incidents statewide was the
second-lowest ever, and for only the second time on record, a year passed without a single fatality related to gun handling while hunting or trapping in Pennsylvania, according to a newly released report from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
There were 25 hunting-related shooting incidents statewide during 2016. Only 2015 had a lower number of incidents with 23.
And the only other year without a hunting-related fatality in Pennsylvania was 2012.
The trend of increasingly safer hunting is something of which Pennsylvania’s hunters – and the Game Commission’s team of volunteer instructors – can be proud, said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans.
Decades ago, hundreds of incidents occurred annually, year after year in Pennsylvania.
“There’s always work to do when it comes to improving hunter safety, because even one incident is too many,’ Burhans said. “But the fact remains that hunting is safer than it’s ever been, and in Pennsylvania, the credit for that can be shared by the legions of hunters who make a habit out of making good decisions and the dedicated instructors who have trained them so well.”
Pennsylvania has compiled data on hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSIs) since 1915. HRSIs in Pennsylvania have declined nearly 80 percent since hunter-education training began in 1959. Prior to 2013, there never had been fewer than 33 incidents reported in a year, and 2016 marks the fourth straight year in which fewer than 30 incidents were reported.
In 2016, nine of the 25 incidents with an identified offender resulted from individuals with 10 or fewer years of hunting experience.
One incident involved a youth participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program, though it’s important to note the youth and his mentor were in violation of the rules of the program when the incident occurred. The Mentored Youth Hunting Program, which enables hunters under the age of 12 to harvest certain wildlife species if they are accompanied by a licensed adult, continues to be safe.
About 31,274 Mentored Youth Permits were issued during this timeframe.
In its annual reports on HRSIs, the Game Commission establishes an incident rate by computing the number of accidents per 100,000 participants. The 2.73 incident rate reported for 2016 is higher than the 2015 rate of 2.46.
The leading causes of hunting-related shooting incidents in 2016 were a victim being in the line of fire, which accounted for 44 percent of the total, followed by unintentional discharge, which accounted for 20 percent of the total. Incidents where the victim was shot in mistake for game remain at record-low levels.
The use of fluorescent orange in many seasons and ongoing hunter-education efforts are essential to the upward trend in hunter safety, the report states.
In 2016, 35,452 students received their Basic Hunter-Trapper Education certification in Pennsylvania.
Those student graduates, their volunteer hunter-education instructors and the hunting public at large all can be proud of the role they have played in making hunting the safest it’s ever been, Burhans said.
Game Commissioner Jim Daley, of Cranberry Township, a longtime hunter-education instructor who was recognized in 2009 as Pennsylvania’s Instructor of the Year, said the dedicated corps of 2,237 volunteer instructors plays a key role in improving hunter safety.
He thanked those instructors, and the state’s hunters for continuing to play it safe.
“Before hunter-education training first was launched, hunting related shooting incidents occurred far too frequently, and to see that number reduced to less than 30 in 2016 with no fatalities in Pennsylvania is quite an accomplishment,” Daley said. “A lot of hard work, and many, many volunteer hours are behind this achievement, and I’m proud to be part of the group working to make hunting in Pennsylvania even safer. With 50-plus years of hunter education in Pennsylvania, a hunter-safety culture is now becoming firmly ingrained in our hunters and mentors”

Saturday, June 17, 2017


Pennsylvania hunters and trappers soon will be lining up to purchase their 2017-18 licenses, and they need to be aware of some important changes implemented since this time last year.
Hunting licenses for 2017-18 go on sale June 19. The licenses become valid July 1 and, after that date, all who hunt, trap or who want to apply for an antlerless deer license must have an up-to-date 2017-18 license to do so.

One noticeable change for 2017-18 license buyers is that the full regulations digest typically given out when licenses are purchased is not being provided for free this year.

Instead, all license buyers will receive a complimentary “pocket-guide” that contains general hunting regulations, hunting hours, fluorescent orange requirements, a map of the Wildlife Management Units, and season dates and bag limits.

License buyers who wish to view the full digest can do so online at, or they can opt to purchase a printed digest for $6. Digests will be sold over-the-counter at Game Commission Region Offices and Harrisburg Headquarters. When purchased elsewhere, the digests will be mailed directly to license buyers.

By no longer giving free digests to all license buyers, the Game Commission will save significantly on the cost of printing and mailing hundreds of thousands of digests.

Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans explained this decision is being motivated by the agency’s financial situation, which already has caused the Game Commission to eliminate programs and reduce personnel.
“These kinds of reductions in services are necessary as the Game Commission approaches nearly two decades without an increase in the cost of a general hunting or furtaker license,” Burhans said.

Unlike most state agencies, the Game Commission doesn’t get a share of tax money from the state’s general fund. Instead, funding comes primarily from the sale of licenses, the fees for which are set by the General Assembly.
A challenging fiscal climate also is behind another significant change in 2017-18 – the requirement for all adult and senior pheasant hunters to purchase a permit.

In recent decades, pheasant hunting in Pennsylvania has been possible only through the release of farm-raised pheasants, and the Game Commission’s pheasant propagation program annually has raised and released about 200,000 pheasants or more for hunting statewide. While the program is a popular one, it doesn’t come cheap, costing about $4.7 million annually in recent years.

Steps have been taken to curtail the cost of the program. The Game Commission last year closed two of its four pheasant farms, and the statewide pheasant allocation for 2017-18 has been reduced to 170,000.
By creating a pheasant permit, the Game Commission has established a mechanism to help fund the pheasant program – giving hunters a chance to help sustain the program rather than see it vanish.

Pheasant permits are required for all adult and senior hunters, including senior lifetime license buyers, who pursue or harvest pheasants. Junior hunters do not need a pheasant permit to hunt or harvest pheasants. Each pheasant permit costs $26.90, and the permit is required in addition to a general hunting license.

General hunting licenses and furtaker licenses each continue to cost $20.90 for Pennsylvania residents and $101.90 for nonresidents.

Resident senior hunters and furtakers, ages 65 and older, can purchase one-year licenses for $13.90, or lifetime licenses for $51.90. For $101.90, resident seniors can purchase lifetime combination licenses that afford them hunting and furtaking privileges. Like other hunters and trappers, seniors still need to purchase archery licenses before participating in the archery deer season, bear licenses to pursue bruins, and permits to harvest pheasants, bobcats, fishers or river otters.

A complete list of licensing requirements can be found at
Burhans thanked hunters and trappers for their enduring support of Pennsylvania wildlife through their annual license purchases.

“At any price, the opportunity to spend days afield in Penn’s Woods, carrying on our hunting and trapping heritage, is invaluable,” Burhans said. “Our pheasant hunters are a great example of that. When we first proposed creation of a pheasant permit, many of them stepped up to say they’d gladly pay $50 or a $100 for their permits that would keep the propagation program going and sustain the opportunity to hunt pheasants in Pennsylvania.

“For more than a century, hunters and trappers have funded the conservation of all the Commonwealth’s wildlife, for all Pennsylvanians, and we owe them a debt of gratitude,” Burhans said. “Their contribution not only has produced some of the best deer, bear and turkey hunting in the nation, it’s helped to create and maintain healthy habitat and preserve a diversity of wildlife that can be enjoyed by all statewide.”