HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Gaming Council commissioners today gave final approval to a measure that simplifies regulations and provides the Gaming Commission with another tool to respond to below-target turkey populations during the regular quarterly meeting in July.
In years past, reducing the length of the fall turkey season was the primary method of increasing turkey populations. But last year, the Game Commission eliminated the use of centerfire and rimfire rifles during the fall turkey season, noting that relatively few hunters used rifles, but rifles were responsible for about a third of the fall turkey crop. This provides an additional means of protecting turkey populations without reducing the length of the season.
The measure the council passed today eliminates the use of other single-shot firearms – muzzle-loading rifles and handguns and bullet pistols – during the fall turkey season. It is expected to go into effect in about six weeks after its publication in the Pennsylvania Bulletin.
Eliminating the use of muzzleloading rifles and handguns and slug guns during the fall turkey season would appear to impact less than 1% of hunters. The change simplifies the regulations. Once it goes into effect, only shotguns and archery equipment will be allowed for fall turkey hunting.
“The length of the fall turkey season in a given Wildlife Management Unit often varies from year to year due to adjustments to meet turkey population goals,” said Commissioner Michael Mitrick, who represents District 6 in south-central Pennsylvania. “But with this change, one thing is constant: regardless of the season or where you hunt turkeys, only shotguns and archery equipment are allowed. It can’t be much simpler.
Lands where hunting rights have been leased and fees have been charged for hunting will be eligible to register for the Deer Management Assistance Program, commonly referred to as DMAP.
Leased hunting lands are no longer excluded from the program.
This means that in 2023, leased land will be eligible for the program, allowing public and private landowners to better meet their own deer management goals for properties. The application period for owners runs from April 1 to July 1 each year.
DMAP-listed lands are assigned a number of antlerless deer permits that can be purchased by hunters. Landowners can make permits available directly from licensing agents, or they can choose to issue vouchers which are then exchanged for permits. Either way, DMAP permits cost $10.97 each. Hunters may obtain no more than four permits each for properties where coupons are issued, and no more than two permits each for other properties. Each DMAP license can be used to hunt and harvest antlerless deer during any established season.
Modification of the muzzle loader
Legal definitions currently prohibit hunters from using muzzle-loading weapons that accept breech-loaded captured powder charges.
That could change, based on a measure Pennsylvania Gaming Council commissioners previously approved at the meeting.
As their name suggests, muzzleloading firearms are usually loaded through the muzzle. And current law prohibits any muzzleloader that accepts cartridge ammunition, most of which contains both powder and projectiles. Some modern muzzleloaders accept loads similar to cartridges, but only contain powder. Captured powder charges are breech loaded while projectiles are muzzle loaded. These muzzleloaders are currently banned due to the ban on using cartridges in muzzleloaders.
The commissioners said the ban on the use of cartridges in muzzleloaders was originally intended to restrict modern firearms that accept cartridges containing both projectiles and powder. Changing the law to allow muzzleloaders that accept captured powder charges would preserve this original intent.
Hunters using powder charges captured in suitable firearms might also find convenience in being able to more easily discharge their magazine through the muzzle without firing it.
The measure will be brought back to the September meeting for a final vote and, if approved then, could come into effect from 2023.
Elimination of road casualties
Licensed professionals hired by those wishing to address wildlife nuisance issues now have the authority to pick up and dispose of roadkill deer.
Pennsylvania Board of Game commissioners today passed a measure that allows nuisance wildlife control operators, who are already regulated by the Game Commission, to offer pickup of roadkill deer from roads and private properties.
Previously, the responsibility for picking up and removing deer carcasses from roads was shared between the state Department of Transportation and the Gaming Commission, which sometimes hires contractors to collect and dispose of deer.
Each year, the Game Commission receives thousands of calls from the public regarding deer carcasses along roadsides and on private property. The agency often instructs its custodians to properly pick up and dispose of these carcasses according to their schedules and duties, which in some cases does not meet residents’ expectations.
Nuisance wildlife control operators will provide the public with an additional resource for the removal of roadkill deer.
In other acts,
• took the next step in considering the reintroduction of American marten (Martes americana) by asking the Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Management to develop a reintroduction and management plan. A native furbearer, the marten was once commonly found in parts of Pennsylvania, but disappeared from the Commonwealth in the early 1900s due to deforestation and unregulated harvesting.
A large majority of the public supports the reintroduction of marten, and it would likely be successful based on the assessment. The reasons for the reintroduction span ecological, political, social and cultural aspects and it is a fitting next step in the Game Commission’s history of species restoration within the Commonwealth.
• Final approval of a measure creating a bobwhite quail salvage area around Letterkenny Army Depot in Greene Township, Franklin County.
The recovery area’s goal is to help quail — a native species considered extirpated from Pennsylvania since perhaps the 1990s — and a host of other grassland-dependent species, some of which are also in dire straits.
Field sparrows, eastern towhees, yellow-breasted cats, dickcissels, meadow meadowlarks, cottontail rabbits, American woodcock, and various pollinators all use portions of the same habitat type old as quail. And most need help. Many of these species of songbirds are, at least, “species most needed for conservation” here, while others are downright threatened or endangered at the state level.
In total, the wild bobwhite quail recovery area will cover 177.65 square miles.
• Those who hold wildlife capture and transport licenses will have to begin reporting monthly to the Game Commission, based on a measure passed today by the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners.
The reporting requirement will help ensure that wildlife capture and transport license holders do not exceed their license limits.
• Preliminary approval of new regulations that would govern shooting ranges on hunting grounds.
Currently, there are only a few ranges designated specifically as shotgun ranges, but with their growing popularity, more are planned. The board-approved regulations set out the types of firearms, ammunition and targets that can be used on ranges and would help keep ranges safe.
• Asked staff to further explore a handful of new initiatives.
Commissioner Dennis Fredericks, who represents District 2 in southwestern Pennsylvania, asked staff to develop regulatory language that would eliminate the purchase limit for antlerless deer permits. Fredericks said removing the antlerless license purchase limit would have little effect in most areas, but would suit some hunters better.
And Commissioner Michael Mitrick, who represents District 6 in south-central Pennsylvania, asked Game Commission staff to develop regulatory language for a possible ban on the use of urine-based attractants. for deer. Staff presented information to the Board on the risk of attractants in the spread of chronic wasting disease, which is always fatal to deer and elk.
The Board of Game commissioners are scheduled to meet Sept. 23-24 at the Game Commission headquarters in Harrisburg.