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Game Commission Looks to Bring in More Youth Hunters with Saturday Start to Deer Rifle Season

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 @ 07:04 AM

Posted by Chris Rossetti

hunting-164717_1280-2HARRISBURG, Pa. – For the first time in more than 50 years, Pennsylvania’s firearms deer season will open on a day other than the Monday after Thanksgiving.

In voting Tuesday to adopt seasons and bag limits for the 2019-20 license year, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners established a firearms deer season to begin Saturday, Nov. 30.

The complete 2019-20 seasons and bag limits appears in the news release published Tuesday.

Moving the opening day to Saturday will create an expanded, 13-day season that includes three Saturdays.

In recent months, the Game Commission received and reviewed a plethora of public comment on the issue, and hunters’ opinions clearly were split. Many of those supporting the move to a Saturday opener said they are unable to hunt on a Monday opener because they are unable to take off work or school to do so. Many of those who supported sticking with a Monday opener cited logistical concerns with traveling to their hunting camps during the Thanksgiving weekend.

The commissioners also were split on the issue.

Commissioner James Daley, who represents the Game Commission’s District 1, made an amendment to retain the opening day as the Monday after Thanksgiving, Dec. 2. And Commissioners Tim Layton, District 4, and Michael Mitrick, District 6, voted with Daley in support of the Monday opener.

The rest of the board voted for the Saturday opener, with the 5-3 tally carrying the vote. And the final list of 2019-20 seasons and bag limits that included a Saturday opener was approved by 7-1 margin, with Daley voting against.

Commissioner Brian Hoover, who represents District 8, and who voted for the Saturday opener, said that the level of support or opposition to move varied from one part of the state to the next. Hoover said, in his region, there was little opposition to the move, and Commissioner Stanley Knick Jr., said the same of Region 7.

Hoover said he also feels a Saturday opener in which more hunters can participate is good for hunter recruitment, which is a big part of why it was proposed in the first place.

“We need to look to the future concerning our hunters and bringing in more youth,” Hoover said.

The commissioners said the Game Commission in the coming year will track the response to a Saturday opener through license sales, deer harvest and comments about the change.

COMMISSIONERS MAKE STATEMENT ON CWD MANAGEMENT

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners reaffirmed the agency’s commitment to battling Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania.

The disease, which always is fatal to the deer and elk it affects, has been found in Pennsylvania in captive and free-ranging deer, but the disease has not been detected in most Pennsylvania counties.

On the board’s behalf, Tim Layton, the president of the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners, into the meeting minutes the following statement:

“The Game Commission is 100-percent committed to putting into place measures to manage CWD. We have heard from the hunters and legislators in the Blair and Bedford counties over their opposition to our efforts to control CWD in that region. We took a step back to re-evaluate a better path forward.

“We continue to work with local hunters, communities and legislators to evaluate new strategies to manage CWD.

“Later this month, Game Commission scientists are meeting with numerous colleagues from CWD-affected states to evaluate new strategies to help us manage CWD. We will be working with hunters, communities, and legislators to get their feedback on these new measures when they are developed.

“The Game Commission will not succeed in the battle against CWD alone. If we are going to be successful, we will need the support of hunters, communities and the Legislature. Future generations of deer hunters are depending on us all.”

GAME COMMISSION MIGHT DISSOLVE HEGINS-GRATZ VALLEY WPRA

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners voted preliminarily to dissolve the Hegins-Gratz Valley Wild Pheasant Recovery Area (WPRA), as well as adjust the boundaries on the state’s two remaining WPRAs, following a final report by Game Commission staff about the WPRA project.

A final vote is scheduled to be taken July 23 as part of the commissioners’ next quarterly meeting.

The Hegins-Gratz Valley WPRA, which lies within Wildlife Management Unit 4E in Schuylkill and Dauphin counties, was established by the Game Commission in 2010. In 2011, 300 wild pheasants that had been trapped in the western United States were released there in hopes they would take hold and grow into a huntable population.

With few wild pheasants remaining in this WPRA, however, Game Commission staff has conceded this goal will not be achieved.

The Game Commission’s ring-necked pheasant management plan calls for dissolving unsuccessful WPRAs so those areas can be reopened to pheasant releases and pheasant hunting. Pheasant releases are prohibited within WPRAs and permit-based youth-only pheasant hunts are permitted only if authorized by executive order of the Game Commission.

Meanwhile, the commissioners also voted preliminarily to adjust the boundaries of the Central Susquehanna and Franklin County WPRAs, reducing the size of each WPRA to better represent existing populations of wild pheasants.

The March 1 through July 31 prohibition on dog-training within WPRAs also would be lifted if the measure is met with final approval, due to the low likelihood of negative impacts from dog training on currently established pheasant populations.

The proposed boundary changes to the Central Susquehanna and Franklin County WPRAs are as follows:

Central Susquehanna WPRA – Portions of WMU 4E in Northumberland, Montour and Columbia counties, bounded and described as follows: Beginning in the southwestern extent of the WPRA at the intersection of Interstate 80 and Interstate 180, proceed north on Interstate 180 for approximately 7.2 miles to the intersection of Hughes Road. The boundary follows Hughes Road east for 0.2 mile to Susquehanna Trail. Follow Susquehanna Trail south for 0.2 mile to Schmidt Road. Follow Schmidt Road for 1.6 miles to Miller Road. Follow Miller Road east for 1.1 miles to intersection of Hockey Hill Road. Go right on Hockey Hill Road then left onto Pugmore Lane. Follow Pugmore Lane for 0.7 mile to Harrison Road. The boundary follows Harrison Road south for 0.7 mile to Showers Road. Follow Showers Road for 1.2 miles east to intersection of Gearhart Road. Turn right on Gearhart Road and go south for 0.6 mile to the intersection of Hickory Road. The boundary follows Hickory Road east for 0.6 mile then left onto Mingle Road for 0.9 mile until rejoining Hickory Road for another 0.8 mile to the intersection of Muncy Exchange Road. The boundary follows Muncy Exchange Road south for 1.4 miles to bridge over the West Branch of Chillisquaque Creek near the intersection of State Highway 44. The boundary follows the West Branch of Chillisquaque Creek south for approximately 2.1 miles to the bridge on Arrowhead Road. The boundary follows Arrowhead Road west for 0.8 mile to the intersection of State Highway 54. Follow State Highway 54 south for 2.6 miles to the intersection of State Highway 254. Follow State Highway 254 west for 6.6 miles to the intersection of Interstate 80. Follow Interstate 80 west for 3.4 miles to the intersection of Interstate 180 and the point of origin.

Franklin County WPRA – That portion of WMUs 4A and 5A in Franklin County bounded and described as follows: Beginning at the town of Mercersburg at the intersection of PA Rt. 16 (N. Main St.) and Johnstons Ln., proceed 1.9 miles west on Johnstons Ln. At the intersection of Johnstons Ln. and Charlestown Rd., proceed 0.7 miles due west following the Montgomery/Peters Township lines to the top of Cove Mountain. Proceed south along the Montgomery/Warren Township lines following the spine of Cove Mountain 7.9 miles to its intersection with cleared gas line utility right-of-way. Proceed 4.3 miles northeast along utility right-of-way to its intersection with Blairs Valley Rd. Proceed 1 mile south on Blairs Valley Rd. to the intersection with Hunter Rd. Proceed 2.5 miles east on Hunter Rd. to the intersection with Rt. 75 (Fort Loudon Rd.). Proceed across Rt. 75 onto Garnes Rd. and follow 2.6 miles northeast to the intersection with Rt. 416 (Mercersburg Rd.). Proceed 2.4 miles north on Rt. 416 to the intersection with Rt. 16 (Buchanan Trail West). Proceed 2.7 miles northwest on Rt. 16 through the town of Mercersburg to the intersection with Johnstons Ln. at point of origin.

PROPOSAL WOULD MORE CLEARLY DEFINE SNARE LOCKS

Trappers using snares might soon have more direct guidance on the types of locks that can be used on the devices.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners preliminarily approved a measure that would require snares used to capture beaver and others to be equipped with approved locks, which already are required for cable restraints used to capture foxes and coyotes.

As it is now, the law requires a snare be equipped with “a mechanical sliding metal release lock.”

The change, which was recommended by the Pennsylvania Trapper’s Association, is intended to expand the number and types of locks available to trappers using snares, and create consistency in the legal lock requirements for cable restraints and snares.

The change also allows for use of cage or box traps for taking furbearers.

The approved cable-restraint locks that would also apply to snares are: the Reichart 180-Degree Reverse Bend Washer; Kaatz Relax-a-Lock; Berkshire 90-Degree Bend Washer; Micro Lock; BMI Slide Free Lock; and Penny Lock.

The list of approved locks is based on research conducted during the development of the Best Management Practices for Trapping in the United States.

The preliminarily approved measure will be brought back to the July meeting for final consideration.

6.5 MM CREEDMOOR COULD BECOME LEGAL ROUND FOR ELK

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a measure that would permit the state’s elk hunters to use the 6.5 mm Creedmoor round and related .26 caliber firearms.

Existing regulations require elk hunters to use firearms that are .27 caliber or more, with bullets of at least 130 grains. But after a review, the Game Commission has determined that increasingly popular firearms in the .26 caliber range provide adequate and commonly accepted kinetic energies to efficiently and ethically harvest elk.

The change would allow use of .26 caliber firearms with bullets of 120 grains or more for elk hunting.

The measure will be brought back to the July meeting for a final vote.

DEER CONTROL PERMITS FACE STRONGER PUBLIC HUNTING REQUIREMENTS

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a measure that would require applicants to provide proof of public hunting in seeking permits to conduct culls to manage deer in urbanized areas.

Political subdivisions, homeowners associations and nonprofit land-holding organizations are eligible to apply for permits, and these groups are required to use public hunting as a management tool to be considered for a permit.

The preliminarily adopted change would require them to report hunting activities on their properties in detail, verifying that hunters indeed had the first chance at helping to address deer problems.

Applicants would need to provide the name and CID numbers of all hunters on the property, as well as harvest information.

The measure will be brought back to the July meeting for a final vote.

PURCHASES TO ADD MORE THAN 100 ACRES TO STATE GAME LANDS

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today the purchase of three tracts that, combined, will add nearly 110 acres to state game lands.

The largest of the tracts, a 62.4-acre parcel adjoining State Game Lands 176 in Halfmoon and Ferguson townships, Centre County, is being offered by Norman R. Sunday Jr. and Linda S. Carter for a $400,000 lump sum. The property is located off Remington Lane, which is accessed from West Gatesburg Road.

Meanwhile, the Clearwater Conservancy of Central Pennsylvania has offered, and the board approved purchasing, an 18.7-acre tract adjoining State Game Lands 176 in Halfmoon Township for a $60,000 lump sum. Access to the tract would be from the existing game lands.

The purchase of both properties would be paid with escrowed funds from a prior land exchange with Pennsylvania State University on State Game Lands 176, and both purchases would require the review and approval of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The board also approved the purchase from Natural Lands Trust Inc. of 28 acres adjoining State Game Lands 43 in West Nantmeal Township, Chester County.

The board in January voted to accept this property through donation, but matching federal funds would have been needed for the transaction to take place, and they couldn’t be secured in a timely manner. Instead, the Game Commission offered to close the funding gap by purchasing the property for a $25,000 lump sum to be paid from the Game Fund.

The property, which lies within an Important Bird Area, would provide essential access to State Game Lands 43 from the south.

ENERGY AGREEMENTS OK’D

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners approved three five-year, non-surface use agreements to develop natural gas beneath three state game lands tracts.

Chief Exploration and Development LLC, of Dallas, Texas, would develop natural-gas reserves beneath 1,500 acres on State Game Lands 36 in Franklin and Overton townships in Bradford County. The agreement would result in bonus payments of about $3,525,000.

EQT Production, of Canonsburg, Pa., would develop natural-gas reserves beneath 240 acres on State Game Lands 245 in East Finely and Donegal townships, Washington County. The agreement would result in a one-time bonus payment of about $960,000.

And Greylock Production LLC would develop natural-gas reserves beneath about 106 acres of State Game Lands 223 in Whitely Township, Greene County. The agreement would result in a one-time bonus payment of about $425,480.

All bonus payments will be added to the agency’s Game Fund, or into an interest-bearing escrow account to be used for the future purchase of wildlife habitat.

Oil and gas development under the agreement will be regulated by the Commonwealth’s oil and gas regulations and the agency’s Standard Non-Surface Use Oil and Gas Cooperative Agreement.

In addition to these agreements, the board approved a coal-refuse reclamation agreement with Alverda Enterprises Inc., of Alverda, Pa., to mine and remove about 36,000 tons of potentially acid-forming coal refuse on approximately one acre of State Game Lands 276 in Indiana County. Under the terms of the five-year agreement, the Game Commission would receive a royalty rate of 30 cents per ton to be deposited into the Game Fund.

Mining will be regulated by the Commonwealth’s Mining Regulations and the Game Commission’s Standard Coal Refuse Reclamation Agreement.

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