Antlerless deer license legislation movement stops Game Commission vote on license limits
Pennsylvania doe hunters might have a new way to purchase licenses in the future.
For four decades, antlerless deer licenses in the first three rounds of sales could only be purchased by mailing checks to a county treasurer and having the treasurer mail the license back to the hunter.
State Sen. Dan Laughlin, of Erie County, R-49th Dist., and chair of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, sponsored Senate Bill 431 that would allow antlerless deer licenses to be sold over the counter and online through every agent of the Pennsylvania Automated Licensing System including county treasurers and sports shops.
"You can buy almost anything online except a doe license in Pennsylvania," Laughlin said.
Are you ready?:Deer hunters should shop for ammo now
He said he believes it’s time to make the process more convenient for hunters than mailing an application that requires return postage.
The bill was approved in the state Senate by a 45-5 vote and it was voted favorably by the House Game and Fisheries Committee. It is now before the House of Representatives for consideration.
“It’s long overdue and I’m in full support it,” state Rep. Keith Gillespie, of York County, R-47th Dist., and chair of the House Game and Fisheries Committee, said Monday in a telephone interview.
“It’s come up several other times and this time I think we got the traction and all the stars are lining up to get this signed into the law," he said.
He said the full House will consider the bill toward the end of October. “At the end of the day, it’s not going taking away their (the county treasurers) ability to sell antlerless licenses, it’s just going to be a change to the process,” he said about opening the sales to all retailers that provide hunting licenses.
“There’s always been stories of envelopes getting lost or ending up in a dead file because they didn’t have the correct postage,” he said of the current system using pink envelopes.
“It will be bringing things into the modern element,” he said.
What's he score?:Not all deer antlers are the same; here's how they are scored
Because of the pending change, the Game Commission on Saturday tabled a measure that would have removed the limit on the number of antlerless licenses a hunter could purchase.
Hunters now may apply through the mail for up to three licenses at different intervals between July and September. Starting on the second Monday of September each year, hunters can purchase remaining antlerless licenses over the counter at a county treasurer and possess up to six at any one time.
The commission in 2021 eliminated the personal limit of three antlerless licenses for hunters outside of WMUs 2B, 5C, and 5D when antlerless licenses remained in a given WMU. The commission also set a statewide purchase restriction that effectively limited the ability to apply for a seventh or subsequent antlerless deer license when licenses remained available in that WMU until the hunter used one or more of the six previously issued antlerless deer licenses and reported their kills.
The change was intended to focus the issuance of additional doe licenses to hunters who were actually harvesting deer. The commission reports that hunting opportunities outside of WMUs 2B, 5C, and 5D did effectively increase as intended. However, the agency also discovered that hunting opportunities for people within WMUs 2B, 5C, and 5D was subjected to an unanticipated reduction. The PGC staff believes the reduction happened because hunters could not effectively access their local or preferred county treasurer's office to purchase additional antlerless licenses over the counter outside of normal business hours, such as on weekends.
Stay informed, stay safe:Pennsylvania Hunting: Here's your 2022-23 guide to frequently asked questions
The commission believes Laughlin’s bill, if finalized as law, would resolve many of the issues that the board was trying to address on Saturday.
Commissioners opted to table a vote to see if the legislation advances before making any changes.
Proposed ban on urine-based attractants stalls
Another proposal before the Game Commission board didn’t receive enough votes to proceed. The board was asked by the agency’s staff to ban the use of urine-based deer attractants and other cervid excretions.
The proposal was aimed at reducing the chances of Chronic Wasting Disease being introduced to parts of Pennsylvania through products where the deer aren’t being tested for the disease. The use or field possession of urine-based deer attractants is already prohibited within CWD Disease Management Areas.
Hunters used the attractants while deer hunting during the rut.
The commission reports the board was split 4-4 on whether to move the proposal toward final adoption.
Commissioners Michael Mitrick, Dennis Fredericks, Scott Foradora and Todd Pride voted to preliminarily approve the statewide ban. Commissioners Kristen Schnepp-Giger, Allen Di Marco, Stanley Knick Jr. and Haley Sankey voted against preliminary approval. Commissioner Robert Schwalm was not in attendance.
The proposal could be reintroduced at a future meeting.
CWD is fatal to deer, elk and other cervids. CWD can be transmitted directly from animal to animal, or indirectly when deer or elk contact prions in soil or other contaminated environments.
The board did take action on a new type of muzzleloading rifle technology. The board approved muzzeloaders for hunting that allow the gun powder in cartridge form to be added from the breech starting in the 2023-24 hunting season. The bullet or ball will still need to be loaded from the muzzle.
The commissioners have said the prohibition on cartridge use in muzzleloaders originally was intended to restrict modern firearms that accept cartridges containing both projectile and powder. Amending the law to allow muzzleloaders that accept captured powder charges preserves that original intent.
Preview 2022:Pennsylvania hunters have more pheasants to pursue
The commission believes hunters using captured powder charges in appropriate firearms have the option to unload their muzzleloader by removing the cartridge instead of firing it like in traditional muzzleloaders.
Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at email@example.com and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on your website's homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.