2019-02-09 / Front Page

PGC shoots down automatic rifle plan

It didn’t take long for the Pa. Game Commission to back off from two controversial plans that just weeks ago appeared to be well on their way to approval.

Long before a scheduled April 9 final vote, PGC dropped its proposal to allow big-game hunters to use semiautomatic centerfire rifles for the 2019-20 seasons. PGC also shelved a deer slaughter by hired “sharpshooters” to fight the chronic wasting disease (CWD) epidemic in two downstate counties.

A PGC spokesman said the semiautomatic rifle reversal was the result of “input from the public and key members of the General Assembly.”

With the legislature being asked to allow the game agency to increase hunting license fees, the comments from “key members” has to speak loudly,

Semiautomatic rifles that meet specific criteria can still be used for hunting small game and furbearers. Semiautomatic shotguns are still permitted for deer hunting.

A statement on the Game Commission’s policy reversal appears on page 2 of this edition.

Meanwhile, the sharpshooter platoon that was going to be deployed to reduce deer populations across a wide swath of Blair and Bedford counties has been called off.

PGC has teamed with the U.S. Bureau of Wildlife Services to study the impact of CWD. Researchers are capturing deer and placing radio collars on their necks to gather movement and survival data.

A plan that was initially approved at the commission’s January meeting called for systematically reducing deer populations in the two counties by “targeted removal” this winter into early spring.

On Tuesday, PGC announced that it had not received enough support from private landowners to move forward. Limited deer population reduction on state-owned land is still on course.

CWD is an always-fatal, incurable disease affecting deer and elk. More information is available on the website, pgc.pa.gov.

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