By Tom Beveridge. Pennsylvania predator hunters may soon be able to use semiautomatic rifles to hunt fox, coyotes and woodchucks. On May 1, 2014, House Bill 2230 was introduced by Representative Gregory Lucas (R-Crawford and Erie Counties) and referred to the Committee on Game and Fisheries. The Bill – co-sponsored by sixteen other Representatives – would amend Section 2308 of Title 34 (Game and Wildlife Code) to allow hunting of fox, coyote and woodchucks with a semiautomatic rifle of a .223 caliber or less and a cartridge capacity of not more than six (6) rounds. If and when approved, the Bill will be effective sixty (60) days thereafter. The text of the Bill can be found here: http://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/billInfo/billInfo.cfm?sYear=2013&sInd=0&body=H&type=B&bn=2230.
As an avid predator hunter, I have long awaited the day when we can finally use semiautomatic rifles in pursuit of coyotes. Most of us have seen hunting shows such as Furtakers and Predator Nation where the hosts and hunters pursue western dogs with AR-15s or other semiautomatic rifles. I see no reason why Pennsylvania hunters should not enjoy the same opportunities.
However, I believe there are some concerns which should also be considered. For instance, many of us have experienced the rush of a bobcat racing into our calls while hunting coyotes. When in season, why not allow the use of semiautomatic rifles to take that cat as well? Also, I have had more than one raccoon waddle into a distress call. I see no reason not to expand the option to permit hunting these animals with semiautomatic rifles.
Finally, while we are on the subject, I suggest adding an exception to Section 141.67 of Title 58 which regulates the hunting of furbearers with shot no larger than #4, to allow larger shot size for the sole purpose of hunting coyotes. For those of you who have unloaded a 3″, 12 gauge magnum shell of #4 shot at a coyote running at 40 yards only to watch him disappear into the night, can you imagine if we could actually use the larger, Hevi-Shot “Dead Coyote!” load instead? There might be one less deer-killer stalking about Penn’s Woods.
All in all, I commend Representative Lucas and his colleagues for opening the door to new hunting options and opportunities in the Commonwealth. I urge all Pennsylvania sportsmen and women to support this Bill.