Tag Archives: Deer

Governor Wolf to Permit Hunting with Leashed Tracking Dogs

Yesterday, Governor Wolf brought Pennsylvania hunting into the 21st Century by permitting the use of leashed tracking dogs – which is permitted by 35 other states – by enacting SB 135.

SB 135 amends Section 2383 of the Pennsylvania Game Code by permitting an individual to:

Make use of a leashed tracking dog to track a white-tailed deer, bear or elk in an attempt to recover an animal which has been legally killed or wounded during any open season for white-tailed deer, bear or elk.

Please join us in thanking Governor Wolf for allowing law-abiding hunters to use dogs to track a wounded or harvested animal that may have traveled some distance, especially in areas of varied terrain or during poor weather conditions.

If you or someone you know has been charged with a game violation, contact Firearms Industry Consulting Group today to discuss YOUR rights and legal options.

 


Firearms Industry Consulting Group® (FICG®) is a registered trademark and division of Civil Rights Defense Firm, P.C., with rights and permissions granted to Prince Law Offices, P.C. to use in this article.

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The Constitutional Right Against Self Incrimination Applies Even to the PA Game Commission

By Tom Beveridge

Jack Coble of Perry County believes in his constitutional rights.   In fact, he spent thousands of dollars to fight a citation he received from a Pennsylvania Game Commission officer – and he won!

On November 7, 2012, a Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officer Steven Shaffer entered Mr. Coble’s farm to investigate a tip about “jacklighting” deer on his property.   Jacklighting is an illegal method of spotlighting and shooting deer at night.   Mr. Coble was home recuperating from serious hand injury when he was questioned by the deputy.   He denied any knowledge of such activities, but left his home to drive around his 120 acre farm followed by the deputy.   When they arrived at the barn, the deputy and Mr. Coble came upon his daughter and another man with the carcass of a deer.

As reported by the Associated Press, Deputy Shaffer testified that Mr. Coble became “irate” at this point and ordered him off of his land.   Apparently, the deputy did not leave as requested, but testified that, when things “calmed down, he [Mr. Coble] admitted to being present when the deer was shot.”   Thereafter, Deputy Shaffer apparently cited Mr. Coble with a summary charge of the fourth degree (the fine totaling $150) under section 2126(a)(6) of Title 34 of the Game and Wildlife Code.   This section states that it is unlawful for any person acting under the provisions for “destruction for agricultural protection” – an assumption apparently made by the deputy – to “refuse to answer, without evasion, upon request of any representative of the [PA Game] commission, any pertinent question pertaining to the killing or wounding of any game or wildlife killed or wounded, or the disposition of the entire carcass or any part thereof.”  Deputy Shaffer believed Mr. Coble was “being evasive” and, therefore, cited him under this section.

Mr. Coble hired Donald Zagurskie, Esquire, to defend him against this charge.   Attorney Zagurskie successfully argued that it is a violation of Mr. Coble’s Fifth Amendment right against self incrimination to cite him for not answering or evasively answering questions of the deputy.   In fact, this section of the Game Code effectively forced Mr. Coble to answer the deputy’s questions or be punished at the discretion of the officer.

In what this attorney calls a very commendable act, the Perry County Prosecutor handling the matter agreed with Attorney Zagurskie’s argument stating that it certainly had merit and did not contest Mr. Coble’s appeal.   Although the Prosecutor, believed to be Daniel Stern, Esquire, notified the Game Commission and Attorney General’s office of his decision not to contest the appeal, neither office initiated any actions to intervene in the matter or pursue the matter further.

So, what does this mean for Pennsylvania sportsmen?  While this section of the Game Code is very narrowly applied, it means that you should not be intimidated by Fish or Game Wardens who tell you that you must answer their questions or face a penalty.   It means that you have a Constitutional right against self incrimination and a right to consult an attorney.   I strongly suggest that anyone who is questioned by any such officers be very respectful to their authority, but never be intimidated or forced to answer questions.  Simply advise the officer that you wish to consult with your attorney before answering any further questions – regardless of the circumstances!   You should feel free to contact our office at any time – day or night – and use our emergency number to obtain legal advice, and, if necessary, legal representation to protect your rights.  Call us anytime, toll free, at 888-313-0416.  Not only are we devoted to protecting your Second Amendment rights, but ALL of YOUR Constitutional Rights!

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Big Game Hunting Rosters Requirement for PA Hunters – Gone Like Our Paper Licenses? Maybe….

By Tom Beveridge.     On November 27, 2013, Governor Corbett signed Senate Bill 763 into law which amends Section 2324 of Title 34 (commonly referred to as the Game and Wildlife Code) effectively eliminating the mandatory requirement of maintaining a “roster” of the individuals who are hunting deer, bear, elk or turkey “together or in unison or in any other manner cooperating with others”.   However, rosters are still required during this hunting season as the new law does not take effect until January 26, 2014.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has required hunting camps use rosters during deer and bear seasons for years.  (See, 2013-2014 Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest, “Big Game Regulations”, p. 31).  As presently enforced, the PGC requires any permanent camp which cooperates to drive deer or bear to maintain a roster in duplicate where five or more individuals hunt together.   One copy of the roster must be carried by the drive leader (who must be properly identified thereon) and the other copy posted at the camp for 30 days following the end of the season.     The roster must contain the year of the hunt; name, address, township and county of the camp; name of each member and his or her hunting license number.    Additionally, this roster requires each hunter’s date of arrival at camp and departure therefrom, firearm caliber, and game harvested, if any.   Assuming a deer or bear is taken, the roster must also contain the date harvested, sex and weight of the animal, and, if applicable, the number of antler points. 58 Pa. Code Sec. 141.42.   Failure to properly maintain a roster is a summary offense of the seventh degree punishable by imposition of a $50.00 fine PER PERSON, plus court costs.  34 Pa. C.S. Sec. 925(b)(11); 58 Pa. Code Sec. 141.42(f).

Maintaining a roster can be cumbersome where different hunting camps commonly cooperate to drive large areas of hunting land.  While the law allows only 25 individuals to hunt deer, bear or elk “together” (58 Pa. Code Sec. 141.42(e)), hunting camps which work together are required to maintain their own individual rosters, as well as a separate roster for the cooperative group drive or hunt.   As many hunters come and go from camps during the seasons, such a requirement can become overly burdensome and take up quite a bit of wall space!  In fact, because the law requires posting of the season’s rosters to be “open to inspection at any time” by a PGC Officer, most hunting camps simply tack rosters to the camp door or porch wall.   Of course, it doesn’t take long for our Pennsylvania weather to wreak havoc on them – potentially opening the camp members to fines.

Under the new law, the PGC can still establish limitations to groups or parties hunting together for big game.   However, the antiquated roster requirement has been removed from the law starting next year.    I am sure we will see some new requirements similar to the old rosters for next season.    At least for this season, keep your rosters up-to-date and available for inspection.   Good luck and safe hunting!!

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To Dispatch or Not To Dispatch?

By Ian K. Friedman, Esq.

Deer in Southeastern Pennsylvania are a pretty common sight regardless of where you live in the area, whether it is the more rural Newtown area of Bucks County or Ardmore in the Main Line suburbs. However, while deer are known for being hit by cars, they generally don’t try and crash through the windows of a Toyota and Armen Chevrolet of Ardmore car dealer and get stuck underneath one, as a buck did earlier last week on October 23rd, 2013.

As reported by the Main Line Times, a deer, which no one is certain where it appeared from, began first trying to ram itself through the window of a Toyota dealership and then succeeded in ramming itself through the glass window at the Armen car dealership. The deer at this point managed to pin itself underneath the undercarriage of a Chevy Malibu from which it was unable to free itself. Lower Merion Animal Control Warden,  Ed Boegly, who is a sworn officer, dispatched the animal using a single shot from an unknown type of firearm.

According to Tom Walsh, the Public Information Officer for Lower Merion, the current theory by some of the officers is that the deer saw another buck, but that otherwise everyone was mystified by its random and aggressive appearance.

Now the above example is fairly uncommon, and the action taken by the Lower Merion Animal Control Warden was quite lawful, but what happens if you find yourself coming upon a critically wounded deer that has been struck by either your car or another’s car on the side of the road? You may be surprised to learn that your options in this situation are extremely limited.

In Pennsylvania, as the Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest (put out by the Pennsylvania Game Commission) notes each year in the General Hunting Regulations, “It is not legal to kill ‘put out of its misery’ any injured wildlife.” In fact, except for a limited number of exceptions, it is illegal under § 2307. Unlawful taking or possession of game or wildlife of the Pennsylvania code, which states the following:

It is unlawful for any person to aid, abet, attempt or conspire to hunt for or take or possess, use, transport or conceal any game or wildlife unlawfully taken or not properly marked or any part thereof, or to hunt for, trap, take, kill, transport, conceal, possess or use any game or wildlife contrary to the provisions of this title.

This means that if you are not legally authorized to take an animal, you may not do so. It should be noted that someone who is legally hunting IS required by law to make all efforts to retrieve a wounded animal (though it does not allow them to trespass on private land). However, in this hypothetical situation, unless a BMW or Audi has been added to the acceptable means of taking deer in Pennsylvania (along with new methods of road hunting), you are not governed by this rule.

The problem is that many Pennsylvanians (whether Sportsmen and Sportswomen or not) do not like the idea of leaving a critically wounded animal to suffer by the roadway; it strikes most people as being both cruel and unwarranted. The question is what can they do in this situation?

The first thing that one should always do is call the regional Office of the Game Commission for the part of the state in which you are currently. The problem is that Pennsylvania is an extremely large state, and the number of Wildlife Conservation Officers who can be dispatched are limited both by numbers and geography. A second option (if a Wildlife Conservation Officer cannot be sent out soon or at all) is to contact the local Police Department or State Police. They are legally allowed to dispatch the animal, but they may choose to defer to the Game Commission and decline to take action. This leads us to ask, who else can legally dispatch the animal? According to § 2307 (d)(1):

Authorized individuals who euthanize critically injured game or wildlife, which shall be permitted when it is reasonable to believe that the chance of survival of the injured game or wildlife is minimal or the injured game or wildlife poses a threat to human safety (emphasis mine).

Now who are these authorized officials? According to § 2307 (f)(1-5), the people allowed to euthanize the animal are: Persons with crimes and offenses enforcement powers (general sworn officers), currently employed Waterways or Wildlife Conservation Officers or a Deputy Waterways or Deputy Wildlife Conservation Officers, Currently employed State Park or State Forest Rangers, and finally “a veterinarian licensed to practice in the United States. Violation of § 2307 for a deer is a summary offense of the second degree, which can lead to imprisonment of up to 90 days and fines.

It is also important to remember that if an unauthorized person was to use a firearm to dispatch a deer that could person face far more serious charges, such as a violation of a potential Ban on the Discharge of Firearms by a Municipality. He or she could also face a litany of additional game violations for using an unauthorized firearm (in the case of a semi-automatic handgun or rifle) to take a game species. If someone was to use an edged weapon (that was not illegal to own or have on one’s person in the area), that person would still face § 2307 charges and possibly others, but he or she would not face firearm discharge issues.

The idea of not being able to euthanize a critically injured game species that will die, but not without suffering long and agonizing pain, is extremely controversial among Pennsylvanians who hunt, are members of law enforcement, and people who are neither, but simply do not wish to see a dying animal suffer needlessly.  Some will choose to violate that the law due to Officers not being available or due their own sense of ethics.

However, until § 2307 is amended to allow for additional authorized persons under its exceptions, those who chose to dispatch an animal will still need to worry about prosecution, despite their honest and best intentions in the matter.

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