Category Archives: Hunting

PA Game Commission Preliminarily Approves The Use Of Semiautomatic Rifles and Shotguns While Hunting Big Game, Small Game and Furbearers

After the public hearings that occurred from January 29th through today, January 31, 2017, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced:

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave unanimous preliminary approval to regulatory changes that would permit the use of semiautomatic rifles and shotguns while hunting big game, small game and furbearers. A five-round magazine would be required for all semiautomatic hunting rifles, with the total ammunition capacity limited to six rounds, based on the preliminarily approved measure.

The measure also preliminarily approves the use of air rifles for small-game and furbearers.

Consistent with Firearm Owners Against Crime’s comments and evidentiary submissions to the PA Game Commissioners, the Board stated that

most of those who opposed cited concerns over compromised safety as their primary reason for opposition … [however after] a thorough review of hunter safety in states that allow semiautomatic rifles, including neighboring states and states that most resemble Pennsylvania in terms of hunter density…[t]he review uncovered no evidence the use of semiautomatic rifles has led to a decline in hunter safety in any state where they’re permitted for hunting.

Furthermore, the Board also reviewed the follow regulatory additions/changes:

Semiautomatic rifles in .22 caliber or less that propel single-projectile ammunition and semiautomatic shotguns 10 gauge or smaller propelling ammunition not larger than No. 4 lead – also No. 2 steel or No. 4 composition or alloy – would be legal firearms arms for small-game seasons under a regulation preliminarily approved by the Board of Game Commissioners.

Semiautomatic firearms that propel single-projectile ammunition also would be legal sporting arms for woodchucks and furbearers. There is no caliber restriction for woodchucks or furbearers.

For big game, semiautomatic centerfire rifles and shotguns would be legal sporting arms.

Full-metal-jacket ammunition would continue to be prohibited for deer, bear and elk hunting.

All semiautomatic firearms would be limited to six rounds’ ammunition capacity – magazines can hold no more than five rounds.

Semiautomatics would be legal in seasons in which modern firearms can be used to take deer, black bears, elk and fall turkeys.

Air-guns would be legal for small game in calibers from .177 to .22 that propel single-projectile pellets or bullets, under the regulatory changes preliminarily approved by the Board of Game Commissioners.

For woodchucks and furbearers, air-guns must be at least .22 caliber and propel a single-projectile pellet or bullet. BB ammunition is not authorized for small game, furbearers or woodchucks.

These proposals will be brought up again at the March meeting for a final vote.

 

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Governor Signs Bill Allowing Disabled Individuals to Hunt from Motorized Wheelchairs

Yesterday, Governor Wolf signed HB 698 into law. The text of HB 698 can be found here. HB 698 modified both Section 2308 and 2923 of the Game Law.

wheelchairhunting

HB 698 provides an exception to the general ban on hunting from a vehicle or conveyance of any kind other than that propelled by manpower. Section 2308 previously read:

§ 2308. Unlawful devices and methods.

(a) General rule.–Except as otherwise provided in this title, it is unlawful for any person to hunt or aid, abet, assist or conspire to hunt any game or wildlife through the use of:

(7) A vehicle or conveyance of any kind or its attachment propelled by other than manpower. Nothing in this subsection shall pertain to any of the following:

(i) A motorboat or sailboat if the motor has been completely shut off or sail furled, and the progress thereof has ceased.

HB 698 added the following exception:

(ii) A motorized wheelchair if the person has been issued a permit to hunt under section 2923(a.1) (relating to disabled person permits).

Section 2923 was modified to add the following language:

§ 2923. Disabled person permits.

(a.1) Use of motorized wheelchair.–

(1) Unless further restricted by commission regulation, a lifetime permit to hunt from a motorized wheelchair outside of a vehicle may be issued to a person with permanent disabilities who qualified for a hunting license under Chapter 27 or who possesses a junior resident license under section 2705(2) and who has a permanent or irreversible physical disability and is unable to ambulate and requires a wheelchair<-., WALKER, ONE LEG BRACE OR EXTERNAL PROSTHESIS ABOVE THE KNEE, TWO LEG BRACES OR EXTERNAL PROSTHESES BELOW THE KNEES, TWO CRUTCHES OR TWO CANES FOR MOBILITY.

(2)Permittees shall carry the permit upon their person while hunting. Any person named on this permit may hunt while using a motorized wheelchair and may use the motorized wheelchair to flush or locate game. The firearm may be loaded while the motorized wheelchair is in motion.

Just a note for any readers that may qualify for such a permit, this does not take effect for 60 days. The passage of this bill is excellent news for those who are confined to a wheelchair and will hopefully allow those individuals the ability to enjoy hunting in Pennsylvania’s lush lands.

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Rifle Season and Why You Should Never Speak to the Game Commission

Rifle season for hunters in PA opened on Monday and the violations are already being racked up. Individuals have been contacting our office for representation regarding a number of different violations. Most of which could have been avoided had they not spoken to the Game Commission Officer.

game officer

I previously blogged that you have a 5th Amendment Right not to speak to the Game Commission. Most of the time the hunter puts themselves in a situation where they will be cited by speaking to the Game Commission Officer. I have yet to encounter a client who talked their way out of a citation rather than into one. While the common thought is that an individual would just be subjected to just a fine, that could not be more wrong. A number of these individuals find themselves at risk of having their hunting license revoked the following year. Depending on the violation this can result in an individual losing their hunting privilege for several years.

What are some of the more common hunting violations? Hunting without a license, hunting over bait, and harvesting more than the allocated amount. Additionally, if an individual has not taken the Hunter Safety Education Course in PA and was not issued a hunting license previously from another state, they cannot lawfully obtain a hunting license in PA.

What should you do if you are cited with a hunting violation? Contact an attorney immediately. Our office has experience handling hunting violations and can help you. Pleading guilty to a hunting violation may result in more than just having to a pay a fine. The potential loss of hunting privileges, LTCF revocations and a CLEO refusing to sign NFA forms may all be within the realm of possible fallouts. Additionally, if your hunting license is revoked in PA, that may mean you lose your ability to hunt in other states as Pennsylvania is a signatory to the Interstate Wildlife Violators Compact.

 

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Hunting with Silencers in PA is Legal!

A number of individuals have inquired with our office whether it is legal to hunt with a silencer in PA. As silencers have become more popular, affordable and increasingly marketed to the hunting community, they are being utilized in the field by more people than ever. In Pennsylvania, it is legal to hunt while using a silencer.

silencer

In 2009, Chief Counsel Joshua Prince wrote to the Game Commission requesting confirmation that there are no prohibitions on hunting with silencers in PA. The Game Commission replied that it was legal to do so and suggested that individuals have a copy of their “license” for their silencer. A copy of that letter can be found here.

While the Game Commission itself spoke of a license, it is likely they meant a copy of your approved form from ATF. While researching the topic a bit further I stumbled across another letter that was issued by the Game Commission in January of this year.

Hunting with Silencer 2015

It seems in the years following Joshua’s original request, the Game Commission has taken to training their officers on the use and possession of silencers.

If you are a Pennsylvania resident and want to obtain a silencer but are unsure where to start, give us a call! We can help you form a Gun Trust to purchase your silencers. For more information on Gun Trusts you can read this blog article by Joshua Prince.

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PA Hunter Safety Course Available Online

Pennsylvania law requires that first time hunters take and pass an approved Hunter Safety Course prior to purchasing their first hunting license. Unfortunately for individuals who are unaware of this requirement, there is nothing in the system that would prevent a clerk from selling them a license. As such, individuals are at risk for purchasing a hunting license that they technically should not be in possession of.

The Game Commission and its officers can see if an individual has taken and passed the approved course. If the individual has not and is caught hunting, they could potentially face a number of citations that they might not otherwise.

 

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Good news for those of you who have not yet taken a Hunter Safety Course. There is no need to find a course at a remote location as it can be taken online in the comfort of your own home! The Official Pennsylvania Hunter Safety Education Course allows you to take the Hunter Safety Course at your own leisure and only charges you when you pass the test!

If you or someone you know has NOT yet taken a Hunter Safety Education Course and plan on hunting, use the link above. You’ll be ready to hit the woods in no time!

 

Have you been charged with a hunting violation? Be sure to contact our office before you do anything at 610-845-3803.

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Using a Tree Stand on State Game Lands?

Earlier this year the PA Game Commission passed a new regulation relating to tree stands on State Game Lands requiring that owners of the stands now conspicuously mark their stand with their CID number, owner’s first and last name and their home address or a number issued by the Game Commission for this purpose.

tree-stand-safety

The regulation makes it unlawful to:

Construct, place, maintain, occupy, use, leave or abandon any structures or other tangible property, except that portable hunting blinds or stands may be used subject to the following restrictions:

(i) Use may not cause damage to trees.

(ii) Except as provided in subparagraph (iii), overnight placement of portable hunting blinds or stands may not occur sooner than 2 weeks prior to the opening of the first deer season nor later than 2 weeks after the close of the last deer season within each wildlife management unit.

(iii) Overnight placement of portable hunting blinds is additionally permitted during the spring turkey season within each wildlife management unit.

(iv) Portable hunting blinds or stands placed under subparagraph (ii) or (iii) must be conspicuously marked with a durable identification tag that legibly sets forth in the owner’s first name, last name and legal home address in English or must bear a number issued by the Commission for this purpose. 

The Commission did not define what a “durable identification tag” is which may be problematic in the event your tag is somehow damaged or missing. I suggest taking a photo of whatever method you use, so that if it becomes an issue in the future you can prove that it was marked. Some ideas of what may qualify are: engraving a metal tag and attaching it via wire to the stand or using a plastic tag with your information recorded using a paint pen.

If you are interested in obtaining a number issued by the Game Commission for the purpose of marking your stand, you can visit the Game Commission’s Tree Stand Identification Number page.

Good luck out there this season and remember, if you’re approached by the Game Commission you do not lose your Fifth Amendment rights. Never speak to the Game Commission or Law Enforcement without first consulting with an attorney.

 

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Hunting Violation? Think Twice Before Pleading Guilty…

Hunting license revocation season is upon us. I’ve been contacted by a number of individuals in the last several weeks regarding letters they’ve received from the Pennsylvania Game Commission stating that their hunting licenses have been revoked for the two years or more.

revocation

As I’ve stated in the past and continue to maintain, when you are cited for a hunting violation, DO NOT plead guilty immediately. Seek out the advice of legal counsel. Many individuals are under the impression that by simply pleading guilty they will only be responsible for the fine that is attached. Often times, the officer issuing the citation even leads the person to believe that.

Unfortunately, more often than not, an individual will plead guilty, pay the fine and then receive a revocation letter in the mail. These letters are usually sent several months later and by then it is too late to attempt to reopen the guilty plea. As a result, the only option is to request a hearing in front of the Game Commission.

These hearings are conducted in front of a Game Commission Hearing Officer. The Game Commission’s case is presented by the Game Commission Officer. The individual is allowed to cross examine the officer and then present evidence and testimony of their own. The problem for the individual is they’ve already plead guilty to the citation, so there is no disputing they are guilty. The hearing only allows for the individual to present a case as to mitigating or extenuating circumstances for which the Game Commission may take into consideration in reviewing its decision to revoke.

The hearing officer makes a recommendation to the Game Commission itself and the Game Commission issues a final determination. The Game Commission is under no obligation to accept the hearing officer’s recommendation.

pa_game_commission_fall

What does this mean for you? Several things. First, remember your constitutional right to remain silent. As I previously blogged, the Wildlife Conservation Officers are now able to utilize recording devices in the field. Second, do not make statements without legal counsel present. That includes appearing at a Game Commission office to answer questions in circumstances where you did nothing wrong! Third, if you receive a citation, contact a lawyer immediately. There is an opportunity to fight the citation at the Magisterial District Court level and deal with the issue quickly. Fourth, if you have received a letter stating your license was revoked, contact a lawyer to represent you at the hearing you are entitled to at the Game Commission.

Have you been cited for a hunting violation or know someone who has? Be sure to share this article with your friends and family who hunt. The more informed the hunter is, the less likely they are to have their rights violated. You can share by using the buttons below!

Had a negative experience with the Game Commission? Be sure to leave a comment below!

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