PGC strengthens public requirement in permits

HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners at its meeting in July gave preliminary approval to a measure that will strengthen the public hunting component for deer-control permits the Game Commission issues for deer problems on private and public properties, often within suburban and urban areas.

The goal of this permit revision is to improve the use and prominence of public hunting without unduly restricting the effectiveness of a deer-control permit.

Permit criteria always had stipulated that lawful hunting be allowed on public lands seeking deer-control permits, unless waived by the agency’s executive director. Often applicants established organized control hunts, while others have organized or invited hunting clubs to help reduce deer numbers. Still others invited only local government employees hunt on the permitted properties.

Public hunting now will be further defined under revised permitting regulations as hunting available to the general public, but “shall not include hunting opportunity that is afforded to an individual, or class of individuals, solely by virtue of their public employment.”

Through these amendments, the agency intends to strengthen its permitting to engage public hunting to alleviate excessive deer populations. In the process, this opens the door for more opportunities in places with sizeable deer problems.

Also at the meeting, the board gave preliminary approval to expand its guide permit program to cover all commercial guiding activities on state game lands and all commercial and noncommercial elk guiding.

The expansion is intended to provide greater legitimacy to guide permit holders by establishing minimum standards for a required knowledge-base to be a guide. An examination measuring an applicant’s knowledge of basic biology and identification of applicable game and wildlife; safe and ethical use of firearms, traps and other devices; federal and state laws pertaining to hunting and trapping; basic land navigation; and basic first aid and CPR skills, will be part of the application process.

Commercial guiding will be considered any guiding activity provided by any person to another person for a fee, remuneration, or other economic gain, including bartered goods or services. There will be an exemption for leashed-tracking dog services to recover elk, black bear and white-tailed deer.

Eligible categories for guide permits are big game, small game and furbearers.

Application for guiding permits would made through the Game Commission’s Special Permit Enforcement Division. Applicants must possess a hunting or furtaking license and have no record of Game and Wildlife Code violations or license revocation for at least 10 years.

The guide application and testing fee is $50. The commercial guide permit fee will be $100 for each applicable category for which certification is required, noncommercial elk guide permits, $25, renewed annually.

All guides shall maintain field records for all guiding activities, which must be reported annually.

In other action, the board:

¯ Gave preliminary approval to list the Hungarian partridge, currently a game bird without sustainable wild populations anywhere in Pennsylvania, as a wild bird to allow the release of lawfully acquired Hungarian partridges for dog-training or hunting.

¯ Clarified through a notational vote that the antlerless deer license allocation for Wildlife Management Area 2E is 27,000, not 23,000. It was incorrectly read as 23,000 at the Board’s April 24, 2018 meeting.

¯ Gave final approval to allow mourning dove hunting in managed dove fields, areas where grain or other agricultural or natural food has been scattered where it’s grown. Food or grain not naturally grown on the site cannot be added to managed fields. Grain can be manipulated in managed fields until Sept. 15.