PGC April Meeting Notes: Final Approval Given for Digital Hunting Licenses, Concurrent Antlered/Antlerless Seasons, and More

Following the January 2021 Meeting of the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners, I wrote up this article summarizing some of the important topics they addressed that could impact sportsmen planning to go afield later this year. At that meeting, the Board gave preliminary approval to a number of topics, some common sense adaptations to technology, others, a little more controversial within the hunting community.

At their most recent meeting this weekend, the Board continued that trend and gave final approval to several of those measures.

Digital Licenses

In addition to the typical physical license, hunters and trappers will also have the option to receive access to an electronic version of their license through the new elicensing system called “HuntFishPA”. More importantly, they will be able to carry the electronic license afield in lieu of a physical copy. Harvest tags will still only be issued in physical form and there will be no digital alternative for those. If you’re anything like me, the new digital license will be a great alternative to going home, for those inconvenient times when I pull out the license and then manage to forget it on the kitchen counter. Make sure you keep your devices charged though, because “my phone died” won’t be a good excuse for being unable to present your hunting license to a Game Warden in the field.

Concurrent Antlered and Antlerless Deer Seasons Statewide

The Board also adopted a statewide (all Wildlife Management Units) concurrent season for antlered and antlerless deer during the 2021-22 license year for the firearms deer season. This move is intended to offer more opportunities for hunters to harvest antlerless deer and reduce confusion about which WMUs are open for antlerless hunting. This change is not intended or expected to change the overall antlerless harvest, which is still controlled by the license allocation.

No License Limit on Antlerless Hunters

Previously, antlerless deer hunters were limited to a maximum of three licenses statewide. This resulted in a surplus of unfilled antlerless licenses in some areas like WMUs 2A and 4A which still had over 16,000 unsold antlerless licenses in mid-November. In the future, there will be no individual limit, but hunters will only be permitted to hold a maximum of six unfilled antlerless licenses at a time and will need to harvest and report a deer before obtaining another.

This is an interesting change, because it will not change the number of allocated licenses and it is not expected to impact most hunters, but for those who are so inclined… you may very well be able to hunt and harvest multiple deer every day of the season if you’re willing to hunt the units where unallocated licenses are still available.

Prohibiting Manually Operated Centerfire and Rimfire Firearms for Fall Turkey

One of the Board’s more controversial moves was to prohibit the use of manually operated centerfire and rimfire firearms for the fall turkey season. The Board had already shortened the season length in an attempt to prevent more significant measures and is attempting to address falling turkey populations, which are under target levels in 15 of the 23 WMUs. Rifles are reportedly used by only 14% of fall turkey hunters, but they are responsible for 33% of the harvest. The Board believes that prohibiting rifles would impact a smaller group of fall hunters than further reducing the season length while having a greater impact on the overall harvest, possibly reducing the statewide harvest by as much as 20%.

Other actions included the clarification of Elk regulations, consideration of straight-walled cartridges for special regulation areas, changes to the DMAP application deadline, and more. You can find the PGC press release following the meeting here and the final approved seasons and bag limits for 2021-22 here.

Contact us today if you want to speak to an attorney regarding how these changes might impact you or if have a legal issue or question connected to game law or regulation and want to discuss your rights or responsibilities.

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