Elizabeth Ann Keenan, age 72, of Gloucester City
COMMENTARY: Bishop Sullivan's message, "The unique fingerprints of the unborn"


English: Hunting camp on Schoodic Lake, Maine;...English: Hunting camp on Schoodic Lake, Maine; from a c. 1905 postcard published by the Hugh C. Leighton Company, Portland, Maine. (Bangor & Aroostook Railroad series) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


All could continue to hunt deer and turkey, but only those 7 and older would be issued harvest tags.


There still is no minimum age to participate in Pennsylvania’s Mentored Youth Hunting Program.

And there is no minimum age for Mentored Youth to hunt deer and turkey.

However, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a measure that would require any antlered deer or turkey harvested by a Mentored Youth hunter younger than 7 to be taken with valid harvest tags provided by his or her adult mentor.

Antlered deer and spring harvest tags would be issued only as part of the Mentored Youth Hunting Permits issued to Mentored Youth ages 7 through 11. 

The transfer of an adult mentor’s tag to a Mentored Youth hunter is not new to the Mentored Youth Hunting Program. Under existing regulations, any harvests of antlerless deer or fall turkeys by Mentored Youth hunters must be taken with valid harvest tags provided by an adult mentor. 

The proposal moved forward by the commissioners is an extension of those rules.

In voting to preliminarily approve the measure, the commissioners noted their continuing concerns over purported harvests by extremely young Mentored Youth that, in actuality, are unlawful harvests by their adult mentors.

The proposal addresses that concern, while continuing to give parents the opportunity to introduce their children to hunting at ages they consider appropriate. 

The Mentored Youth Hunting Program was established in 2009 to give children 11 and younger the opportunity to experience hunting in a tightly controlled setting.

At present, Mentored Youth may only hunt deer, turkeys, squirrels, woodchucks and coyotes. And the Mentored Youth and adult mentor, together, may only possess one sporting arm between them while hunting. The adult mentor also must carry the sporting arm at all times while moving.

All Mentored Youth hunters must obtain a $2.70 permit that is valid during the license year in which they hunt. If the proposal that passed preliminarily gains final approval, deer and spring turkey harvest tags would continue to be issued for Mentored Youth ages 7 and older.



Traditional, instructor-led courses to remain unaltered.


New hunters and trappers soon will be able to become certified to purchase their first licenses without ever having to leave their homes.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a measure that allows for the development and implementation of a new Hunter-Trapper Education course to be offered wholly online. 

The approval will not impact traditional, instructor-led Hunter-Trapper Education courses, which will continue unaltered.

As it is now, nearly 1,000 traditional Hunter-Trapper Education courses are taught each year in Pennsylvania by a dedicated team of volunteer instructors. Nearly a decade ago, the Game Commission also implemented an independent-study course, the majority of which can be completed online. Those enrolled in the independent-study course, however, must arrange to take the test in person after finishing their online study.

With the fully online course, students will be able to start and finish the test at home. 

There will be a cost associated with the online course, which will be routed to the company that makes the course available online.

A legislative mandate requires Hunter-Trapper Education courses be offered free of charge, and all traditional courses would continue to be offered free of charge.

The measure approved by the Board of Commissioners allows for an online-course fee to be established, but the fee will go to the private entity that administers the course.

Hunter-Trapper Education is a requirement for first-time buyers of hunting or furtaker licenses in Pennsylvania. Those who pass the course must then buy a license to hunt or trap.

While many no doubt will continue to prefer the traditional Hunter-Trapper Education courses, the online course figures to be more convenient for some, and will remove a barrier for students who might not be able to take a traditional class.



The proposal also would apply to other public access property under Game Commission’s management.


Tree stands and portable hunting blinds left on game lands and other public-access hunting properties under the Game Commission’s management would need to be marked to identify the owner, under a proposal that’s been preliminarily approved by the Board of Game Commissioners.

Under existing regulation, tree stands and portable blinds may be set up and left on state game lands and other Game Commission-managed property, but stands and blinds must be removed no later than two weeks after the close of the final deer-hunting season within that Wildlife Management Unit.

However, many stands statewide are left out beyond that deadline each year and on some public access tracts, they seem to be becoming permanent fixtures, the commissioners said.

The proposal would make the owners of such stands and blinds identifiable. 

The tagging requirements would be similar to those that apply to trappers. Stands and blinds placed on game lands and other Game Commission managed hunting property would need to be conspicuously marked with a durable and legible identification tag that includes the owner’s first and last name and legal home address, or in the alternative, bears a number issued by the Game Commission to the stand or blind owner.

The measure will be brought back to the April meeting for a final vote.

In casting its preliminary vote, the board pointed out that it continues to support the temporary placement of tree stands and hunting blinds on state game lands and other Hunter Access properties.

In addition to deer seasons, the overnight placement of portable hunting blinds is permitted on game lands during the spring turkey season within each Wildlife Management Unit.



Commissioners give preliminary approval to a proposal that would extend WMU 5D north and west.


The Pennsylvania Board of Game commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a proposal that would expand Wildlife Management unit 5D north and west into what now is Wildlife Management Unit 5C.

In voting on the measure, the board said the new boundary line better divides the more-developed urban areas surrounding Philadelphia and the less-developed areas farther from the city. 

The commissioners noted the proposed boundary change is in keeping with the philosophy of the Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) system, which groups land areas that are similar regarding their land use and population to better manage wildlife at a local level. Revisions have been made to WMU boundaries previously as they have been deemed necessary by the board.

Under the proposed change, WMU 5D would become larger. Its new boundary would run west from the New Jersey state line near New Hope, along U.S. Route 202, the west to state Route 413, north to state Route 113, south to U.S. Route 30, west to state Route 82, and east to the Delaware state line, near Yorklyn.

The boundary of WMU 5C would change to at the Maryland line, running north along the Octoraro Creek to Route 372, east to state Route 10, north to Interstate 76, west to U.S. Route 222, north

to state Route 61 west of Reading, north to Interstate 78 near Hamburg, east to Route 143, north

to Route 309, south to state Route 873 northwest of Allentown, north to Route 248, east

to state Route 946, east to state Route 512 and continuing on state Route 611 near Mount Bethel, north to

Portland Toll Bridge and east to the New Jersey state line south to U.S. Route 202 near New Hope, west to state Route 413, north to state Route 113, south to U.S. Route 30, west to state Route 82, and east to the Delaware state line, near Yorklyn.

The boundary change will be up for final adoption at the commissioners’ April meeting and would become effective for the 2015-16 hunting and trapping seasons, if approved.



Proceeds from sales of the plate will go to conservation initiatives.


The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today established a fee for the new Pennsylvania Hunting Heritage license plate and gave final approval to a plan to direct proceeds from sales to conservation initiatives.

The new license plate was created by legislation that became effective in July.

Purchasing the new plate will cost  $56. Of that amount, $25 will go to the Game Commission.

Thirty-three percent of the Game Commission’s share will be allocated to nonprofit organizations that coordinate the processing and distribution of donated wild game to Pennsylvania residents through a network of food banks in the Commonwealth. The remaining 67 percent of the proceeds will be allocated to nonprofit sportsmen’s clubs and organizations to conduct activities that promote sport hunting, youth hunter education or the conservation and enhancement of game species in this Commonwealth.

The state Department of Transportation will get $25 from the sale of each plate, and $6 will go to the state Department of Corrections. 

The Hunting Heritage license plate could be available as early as February or March, and the Game Commission will issue a news release when it is known when motorists can begin to purchase them.



List of six lock designs could be identified as approved locks.


The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a measure that would clarify the types of locks that can be used as part of cable restraints.

Based on the proposal, six locks would be identified as “approved locks.” They are: the Reichart 180-degree Reverse Bend Washer; the Kaatz “Relax-a-Lock”; the Penny Lock; the MicroLock; the BMI Slide Free Lock; and the Berkshire 90-degree bend washer. 

The existing regulation regarding lawful cable restraints requires that a “relaxing lock” be used. 

The commissioners said the term “relaxing lock” has caused confusion for trappers and enforcement personnel due to varying interpretations of lock designs that comply with the regulation.

The revised regulation would allow all lock designs approved by the Game Commission’s executive director. Game Commission staff said all six lock designs proposed to be identified as “approved locks” have performed at acceptable levels in terms of efficiency, selectivity, and animal welfare criteria, based on findings of the national trap-testing program administered by the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

The proposal will be brought back to the April meeting for final approval.



The migratory species is different than the endangered species that nests in Pennsylvania.


Pennsylvania’s falconers could get the opportunity this year to enter a drawing for a chance to capture a migrating Arctic peregrine falcon.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a measure that will allow falconers to apply for any capture permits authorized in Pennsylvania by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for several years has allowed falconers to attempt to capture Arctic peregrines as they migrate, and many states issue permits for capture.

The Arctic peregrine (Falco peregrinus tundrius), is not a threatened or endangered species, and shouldn’t be confused with the more-familiar Falco peregrinus anatum, which nests in Pennsylvania, and also holds a place on the state’s endangered-species list.

The number of Arctic peregrines, also known as passage peregrines, that could taken in any given year would be determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Game Commission would establish a special permit for the taking of passage peregrines, and qualified falconers could apply for the permit, which would be awarded by lottery.

To qualify for a permit, the applicant would need to be a Pennsylvania resident and hold a current and valid master-class falconry permit, as well as a Pennsylvania hunting license. Individuals could submit only one application per year, and applications must be submitted between May 1 and July 31. The drawing would take place prior to Aug. 15 each year. And if an applicant is selected, he or she would be ineligible to apply in either of the next two years.

Upon successful capture, the permitee would be required to notify the Game Commission’s Special Permits Division within 24 hours and arrange for an inspection within three days. 



Permit to be issued by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a measure allowing the use of raptors in nuisance-wildlife control, a practice for which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issues permits.

All other regulations pertaining to nuisance-wildlife-control operators would apply to those receiving a permit to use a raptor.

The use of raptors in nuisance wildlife control has existed in other states for many years. 



Measure would extend use to municipal property.


The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a measure that would expand an existing permit that authorizes permitted baiting for deer as a method of control in the southeastern Pennsylvania special regulations area. 

For the purpose of enhancing the harvest rate in an area of the state where deer populations are high, existing regulations provide an opportunity to private landowners within the southeast special regulations area to apply for a permit that allows hunting sites to be baited at consistent intervals through the use of electronic feeders.

The change approved preliminarily by the Board of Commissioners would a permit to be issued for use on municipal or township property, as well.

The measure will come back to the board in April for a final vote.   



Studying DMAP on public lands, exploring rabbit hunting by Mentored Youth among items mentioned.


Toward the end of its meeting today, the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners discussed a number of initiatives that will be further explored in coming months. 

Commissioner Timothy Layton, of Windber, said a committee formed by the board to examine how the Deer Management Assistance Program is used on public lands met recently with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and Game Commission staff, and another meeting is scheduled for next month. 

Layton noted the board is not looking to make any changes to the DMAP program that would affect private landowners, but it’s interested in learning more about how DMAP is used on public lands, where hunters often report they’d like to see more deer.

Commissioner Brian Hoover, of Glenolden, talked about the possibility of a permit that would be required for secondary users of state game lands who don’t already have a hunting or furtaker license. 

A proposal that would have created such a permit had been removed from the January meeting agenda to allow for more public comment on the issue, and to give the Game Commission an opportunity to invite to the table groups that would be impacted by such a proposal.

Hoover directed staff to set up a meeting with those groups, and said the board will continue to work on a user-permit proposal and to educate the public about state game lands and their primary purpose.

Commissioner James J. Delaney, of Wilkes-Barre, thanked state Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Luzerne County, for his work to transfer to the Game Commission the authority to sell antlerless licenses.

Mullery is the author of House Bill 231, which he introduced Monday in the state House of Representatives. The transfer of authority to sell antlerless licenses must be approved through legislation.

The legislation addresses an issue that occurred last year in Luzerne County, which is governed by home rule and does not have an elected treasurer. Antlerless licenses were allocated at a slower pace in Luzerne County and many of the hunters who sent their applications there didn’t get licenses, while those who sent to other counties during the same timeframe got them.

Delaney has said the state’s sportsmen deserve reasonable assurances they’re being treated fairly, given that antlerless licenses are sold on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Commissioners David Putnam, of Centre Hall, directed staff to explore the possibility of adding cottontail rabbits to the slate of species that can be hunted by Mentored Youth.