2009-10-10 / Outdoors

Spotlighting for deer? Know the laws for a safe, fun time

Autumn is a popular time for spotlighting deer, both by those who enjoy seeing wildlife and by hunters who are scouting for upcoming seasons.

Ed and Leslie Easton, owners of Potter County Outfitters in Coudersport, stock two models of spotlights and they have seen a steady demand for each.

“We go through them pretty fast,” Leslie observed.

Jerry Feaser, a spokesman for the Pa. Game Commission, points out that spotlighting is prohibited after 11 pm and the use of spotlights on any building is also illegal. The law also prohibits spotlights that would excite, frighten or harass livestock, poultry or other farm animals.

For the most part, it’s illegal to spotlight wildlife while in possession of a firearm (there are some exceptions for licensed handgun owners).

Spotlighting is not permitted during the two-week firearms deer season, Nov. 30 to Dec. 12 this year. It is allowed during archery and muzzleloader seasons.

It’s also illegal to shine a spotlight on photoelectric cell lights – those which have sensors that turn them on automatically at night.

“The problems come in when people are not being respectful of rural residents by shining lights on buildings or livestock,” Feaser said. “The other problem is when people use spotlights to aid in poaching.”

Illegal spotlighting is punishable by a fine of $75 to $200 plus court costs. If the spotlight is used in an attempt to take game illegally, other penalties apply.

Anyone who wants to report a potential violation should call the Game Commission’s regional office at 570-398-4744.

Feaser said that in areas where violations are frequent, the Game Commission may use a “sting” operation, such as using a deer decoy to aid in apprehension.

Spotlights can include handheld lights, accessory spotlights on vehicles and vehicle headlights when used intentionally to view or locate wildlife.

Individuals hunting raccoons, skunks, opossums, bobcats, weasels, foxes and coyotes on foot may use a hand-held light, including a gun mounted light, although furbearer hunters may not use a flashlight or spotlight that projects a laser beam.

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