HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners met last Saturday in an online format that was open for the public to follow live. It’s the second commissioners meeting to be held only online in compliance with state guidelines to minimize the effects of COVID-19.

Among meeting highlights was the adoption of a new CWD Response Plan that will guide the Game Commission in battling chronic wasting disease, which always is fatal to the deer and elk it infects and annually has expanded into new areas of Pennsylvania.

Other meeting highlights appear below.

NIGHT-VISION OPTICS PRELIMINARILY APPROVED FOR FURBEARER HUNTING — The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today gave preliminary approval to a regulatory change that would allow handheld and sporting-arm mounted night-vision and infrared optics to be used while hunting furbearers.

The change will not become effective unless the board casts a second vote at another meeting to adopt it. The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 25 and 26.

The preliminarily approved change would permit night-vision and infrared optics only when hunting furbearers. There are hunting seasons for the following furbearers: raccoons, foxes, coyotes, opossums, striped skunks, weasels, bobcats and porcupines.

Today’s vote follows the recent passage and signing into law of state House Bill 1188, which permits the Game Commission to regulate night-vision and infrared optics. Previously, the hunting use of these devices was prohibited by state law.

The board took swift action to begin the process of regulating these devices in response to comments the agency has received since the bill’s passage.

“In the days since HB 1188 became law, the Board of Commissioners has been flooded with comments asking us to move forward with adopting regulations permitting the use of night vision equipment,” said Board President Charlie Fox. “We are confident that the use of this equipment will provide predator hunters an additional tool in their toolbox, one that will allow them to be efficient and safe when hunting predators.”

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The regulations voted on by the Board were drafted by the Bureau of Wildlife Protection which reviewed data from other states that permit the use of night vision equipment and determined there was no safety concerns regarding their use for hunting furbearers in Pennsylvania.

ALL GAME-LAND USERS NEED ORANGE FROM NOV. 15 TO DEC. 15 — During the height of the fall hunting seasons – from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15 – nonhunters using state game lands long have been required to wear fluorescent orange, except on Sundays.

But now that expanded Sunday hunting has been approved, additional hunting will occur on three Sundays within that timeframe.

And the Board of Game Commissioners today adopted amended regulations that require hikers and other nonhunters to wear at least 250 square inches of fluorescent-orange clothing on the head, chest and back combined, visible from 360 degrees, when visiting state game lands at any time during that period.

Those using shooting ranges are exempted from the requirement.

PROPOSED DEER AND BEAR CALIBER REQUIREMENTS VOTED DOWN — The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners today unanimously voted down a proposal that would have established 24-caliber as the minimum caliber for hunting deer and bear with centerfire rifles.

Commissioner Dennis Fredericks, who had asked for the proposal to be drafted, said the board received many comments from hunters opposed to prohibiting smaller-caliber centerfire rifles such as the .223 and .22-250 for big-game hunting, and that continuing to permit use of these could benefit the recruitment of young hunters, as well as the retention of aging hunters.

Fredericks said the Game Commission always considers wildlife’s needs in setting hunting regulations, and it will work with ammunition manufacturers and experts to establish guidelines for hunters using smaller calibers for big game, and work to inform the public about them.

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