Pennsylvania Senate to consider bill to update anterless deer hunting license sales

Brian Whipkey
Erie Times-News

A bill that would allow hunters to purchase doe licenses at any licensing agent has been moved out of committee for the full senate to consider.

The Senate Game & Fisheries Committee approved Monday a measure to modernize the sales of antlerless deer licenses, according to Committee Chairman Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-49). Senate Bill 431, introduced by Laughlin, provides for the sale of antlerless deer hunting licenses through the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Pennsylvania Automated Licensing System.

Two bills are being considered in Pennsylvania to eliminate the need for pink envelopes to apply for antlerless deer licenses through county treasurers. The change would allow hunters to purchase doe licenses wherever general hunting licenses are sold.

For about four decades, hunters have had to apply for doe licenses through the mail with special pink envelopes and include return postage.

If the measure is approved, hunters would be able to buy a doe license in real time at any vendor, including sport shops and county treasurer offices. In a telephone interview on Thursday, Laughlin said this bill is long overdue.

"Some people like doing what they always did," he said about past efforts to change the process. "You can buy almost anything online except a doe license in Pennsylvania."

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“This bill takes advantage of current technology to make the system more convenient for Pennsylvania’s hunters,”  Laughlin said in a statement announcing the committee's approval. “Currently, hunters apply for antlerless deer licenses by sending an application to a county treasurer or similar applications in a timely manner. Because of recent updates to the Automated Licensing System, hunters can have access to a more convenient and efficient way of applying for and receiving hunting licenses.”

He believes the change will save sportsmen about $1 million a year in postage of mailing applications with return postage to county treasurers' offices. In addition he said the Game Commission spends about $170,000 a year on printing the required pink envelopes.

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In an earlier Gannett interview about the bill, the County Treasurers Association of Pennsylvania feels the change is a not an easy switch that will create fair opportunities for hunters to get doe licenses.

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“We want the system to be fair and equitable to hunters,” said Jefferson County's James “Moon” VanSteenberg, who is the chair of the County Treasurers of Pennsylvania’s antlerless license committee.

He said an online first-come, first-serve system to getting anterless licenses isn’t fair to those who don’t have internet access or who are unable to use a computer, he said. He mentioned senior hunters, Amish and those who live in rural areas don’t have computer access as well as other sportsmen.

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He said the county treasurers also have the local ability to resolve licensing problems that appear in the system. 

The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

Brian Whipkey is the Pennsylvania Outdoors columnist for Gannett. Contact him at bwhipkey@gannett.com.