2017-02-18 / Outdoors

Wolf Tracks

Outdoor Columnist
Dave Wolf

Although the Pa. Game Commission worked its way through a crowded agenda to start the new year, two of the most interesting topics were missing.

PGC staffers won’t release the estimated deer-kill figures from the 2016 seasons until March and the agency won’t decide how many antlerless deer licenses to sell in each wildlife management unit (WMU) until its April meeting.

Doe licenses are the PGC’s primary deer management tool, so the license allotments always garner a great deal of attention.

Other lingering issues include the PGC’s plea to the state legislature for permission to increase hunting license fees, which have not risen since the Civil War or thereabouts -- well, actually 18 years, although a number of separate license fees have been approved over the years.

One of the more controversial actions the Game Commission did take, subject to a final vote, was approval of the use of certain semiautomatic weapons in all rifle seasons.

The measure specifies that a five-round magazine would be required for all semiautomatic hunting rifles, with the total ammunition capacity limited to six rounds. Also, air rifles would be permitted for small-game and furbearer hunting.

Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that currently has no hunting seasons during which semiautomatic rifles can be used.

Commission member James Daley said about half of the comments on the use of semiautomatic rifles for big-game hunting were in favor and half opposed. Most of those who were opposed cited safety concerns. But, he added, a review of states that allow semiautomatic rifles uncovered no evidence of higher accident rates.

Next Game Commission meeting is scheduled for March 27-28. In the meantime, public input is welcome by email at pgccomments@pa.gov.

As we move closer to the end of the year’s shortest month, outdoors enthusiasts begin to talk about spring and make plans for their summer adventures.

One option that is often overlooked is the healthy roster of state parks that are maintained by the Pa. Dept. of Conservation and Natural Resources.

An enhanced system which enables reservations to be made for a campsite, cabin or other facility from a mobile application has produced positive results.

For the most recent fiscal year, DCNR processed almost 210,000 reservations, about a 10 percent increase.

Another development of note this past year was the designation of an additional 12 state park beach areas as smoke-free, effectively making smoking restrictions on beaches a permanent feature at some of the most popular lakes.

Additionally, DCNR expanded the pet camping and cabin program with the addition of 84 pet camping sites and five cabins.

The newest partnership is housed at Kinzua Bridge State Park, where the Pennsylvania Wilds Center is operating a retail gift shop through a lease agreement. If you haven’t been to that park near Mt. Jewett in McKean County since the center was built, you should add it to your list of 2017 adventures.

(Dave Wolf may be reached by email at wolfang418@msn.com.)

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