The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners held their first meeting of the year virtually earlier today and heard comments from PGC staff biologists and specialists before considering each item on the agenda. Ultimately, the Commission voted to pass each of the enumerated agenda items, and while I will not cover them all here, there are a few notable items:
The Board voted to amend the Pa. Code to authorize and define the use of a digital eLicense system for hunting and furtaking licenses and some limited permits like range permits, mentored permits, etc. Notably, harvest tags will still only be issued in physical form, by mail if purchased online or at an agent location. Products eligible for the eLicense system when purchased at an agent location can also be provided digitally in addition to the physical print, when an email is provided.
Under the newly amended code it will be lawful to only possess a digital version of your license on a mobile device provided that it capable of immediate retrieval and clear display to ensure readability (including QR or bar codes). Failure to retrieve or produce the digital license under circumstances where necessary will constitute a license violation. Tips: Download a copy before going into the field so you aren’t relying on a spotty internet connection, carry some type of portable charger or power bank to make sure your battery doesn’t die, and keep a printed copy in your bag just in case.
Unlimited Antlerless Licenses Within WMU Allocation
The Board also voted to amend the code to allow for hunters to purchase an unlimited number of antlerless deer licenses beginning on the second Monday in September in any WMU where there remains an unsold supply of antlerless licenses. Some Commissioners did express concern for the confusion that the term “unlimited” has caused. Each WMU’s allocation will remain the same, but hunters will not be limited in the number of antlerless licenses they can purchase as long as there are remaining un-allocated licenses in the WMU. This creates a theoretically “unlimited” personal bag limit for any individual hunter, as long as there is a remaining allocation in any given WMU. Hunters will be limited to possessing no more than (4) unfilled antlerless licenses at any given time and will be required to exhaust one and report the harvest before purchasing a new license. This procedure was currently in place in a limited number of WMU’s but is being expanded to be effective statewide.
Small Game Sunday Hunting
In setting the season dates for the upcoming year the Board also voted to open the existing Sunday hunting opportunities to new small game and furbearer species including: Squirrel, Ruffed Grouse, Cotton Tail Rabbit, Ring-necked Pheasant, Bobwhite Quail, Woodchuck, Opossum, Striped Skunk, Weasel, Raccoon, and Porcupine. Importantly, theses species are not open to hunting on all Sundays, only on the specifically delineated Sundays that have been included into the big game seasons. This has no impact on certain other species which were already open to unlimited Sunday hunting within their applicable seasons and regulations, such as Coyote, Crow, and Fox.
Other adopted agenda items include: setting a statewide concurrent 14-day antlered and antlerless firearms deer season in order to simplify regulations and increase hunting opportunities. As well as reducing the length of fall turkey seasons in 14 WMUs and closing the season in 1 WMU and removing rifles from the list of permitted weapons for fall turkey season, in the interest of reversing an unsustainable decline in wild turkey populations. The Commission found that despite only 14% of fall turkey hunters using rifles, and the majority of them were doing so in the pursuit of other game, only shooting turkey opportunistically, rifles accounted for 33% of the statewide fall turkey harvest.
Contact us today if you have a legal issue or question connected to game law or regulation and want to discuss your rights or responsibilities.