PGC approves mentored adult program, season and bag limits

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners approved the hunting and trapping seasons, and set the allocations for antlerless deer licenses and elk licenses for the 2014-15 license year at its spring quarterly meetings.

But that was routine among to the volume of issues acted upon by commissioners.

Commissioners approved a mentor-based program for first-time hunters 18 years old and older.

Since 2006, the Game Commission has offered its Mentored Youth Hunting Program.

The new Mentored Adult Hunting Program would follow a similar model, and aims to add to the ranks of hunters.

Adults obtaining a permit through the program would be able to take part in hunting activities without first needing to take the basic Hunter-Trapper Education course.

This would be a limited-term opportunity available to adults. Under the program, a mentored adult could purchase a permit for no more than three consecutive license years, at the end of which he or she would have to take a basic Hunter-Trapper Education course and purchase an adult hunting license.

There isn’t a cost difference between the mentored adult permit and the adult general hunting license for residents or nonresidents.

Mentored adults would be able to hunt only squirrels, ruffed grouse, rabbits, pheasants, bobwhite quail, hares, porcupines, woodchucks, crows, coyotes, antlerless deer and wild turkeys. Mentored adults would need to hunt within eyesight of their adult mentor, and at a proximity close enough for verbal instruction and guidance to be easily understood. The adult mentor would need to transfer a tag to the mentored adult for any big-game harvest.

Mentored adults cannot harvest antlered deer. Antlerless deer could be taken by using a proper, transferred antlerless license or Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permit. Antlerless licenses are valid within the wildlife-management unit for which they were issued. DMAP permits are valid on the specific properties for which they were issued.

The board also approved measures that permit use of a widely available size of body-gripping trap, as well as longer broadheads than previously were permitted.

With the changes, the maximum size for lawfully set body-gripping traps will be 10 inches tall by 12 inches wide. At present, no body-gripping traps larger than 10 inches by 10 inches can be set.

The change will take effect with the start of the 2014-15 hunting and trapping seasons.

Game Commission staff had called the change “nominal,” and said it won’t have a negative impact on wildlife.

Game Commission staff also reported that expanding the length of permitted broadheads from 3 to 3 1/4 inches will not have a negative effect on wildlife. The change will accommodate certain handmade and commercially available products.

And, specific approval was given to creating a permit that will allow private-property owners in the southeastern Pennsylvania special regulations area limited opportunities to use bait while deer hunting.

Baiting already is allowed in the special regulations area on properties enrolled in the agency’s Deer Depredation Program, commonly called the “Red Tag” program.

Through the use of permitted baiting, commissioners hope to achieve higher deer harvests in an area where there’s high potential for human-deer conflicts, and where hunting access is extremely limited.

Baiting will be limited to shelled corn and protein pellet supplements, not to exceed five gallons per site, and distributed through automatic mechanical feeders set to dispense bait up to three times a day during legal hunting hours.

There will be no cost for the permit, commissioners said. And a landowner or authorized land agent can apply for a permit.

The provisions are set to become effective in July.

Rich Palmer, who heads the Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Protection, said the permit applies only to deer hunting and that a general prohibition on baiting other wildlife remains in place in the special regulations area and elsewhere statewide, unless specifically excepted.

Commissioners also said in a statement they will not pursue an agreement with former executive director Carl Roe.

When Roe’s contract with the agency was terminated, the board initially offered to pay him a fee in exchange for his agreement not to file claims against the agency. The governor’s office objected to the terms of the deal.