Haluska testifies before game panel

State Rep. Gary Haluska, D-Patton, spoke to the Pennsylvania Game Commission on Tuesday, saying it was the first time in his 12 years in the House that he had offered testimony to the board.

Haluska praised the commissioners for increasing opportunities for crossbow hunters and asked them to consider making the devices legal for the archery bear season that won tentative approval earlier. He also said that he had introduced legislation – H.B. 2256 – to create a “beginner’s hunting license” with no age limit that would allow those below the now-minimum age of 12 to hunt turkeys and small game.

“People in Cambria County support antler restrictions,” said Haluska, who is a member of the House Game and Fisheries Committee. “But as far as antlerless season, most of the comments I hear is that an antlerless season of two weeks is really too much. If there is a concurrent season, they would like to see it reduced to three days.”

Animal-rights group on hand for vote

Heidi Prescott, a senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, an animal-rights group, was on hand Tuesday for the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s tentative approval of the atlatl-and-dart combination for deer hunting. Agency staff had recommended it be turned down.

“The staff of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, as well as its executive director, had the sense to recommend against this prehistoric device,” Prescott said. “But, unfortunately, the commissioners decided to stay in the stone age.”

Prescott didn’t testify to the commissioners, but said she would return for the April meeting, where the atlatl is to receive final approval.

“We’ll certainly be back to testify,” she said. “If the commissioners don’t have the sense to oppose it, I’m sure the Legislature will.”

Furtakers now allowed to pick up road kills

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has given final approval to allowing licensed furtakers to take furbearers killed on Pennsylvania highways throughout the year, with the exception of river otters, bobcats and fishers.

All highway-killed furbearers can be picked up by licensed furtakers. But, if the season is not open for the species taken, it must be reported to the game commission within 24 hours after the individual takes possession. The rule, similar to that which permits state residents to pick up road-killed deer, is intended to reduce the waste of wildlife.

Crossbows approved for all turkey seasons

The Pennsylvania Game Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday to allow hunters to use crossbows in all turkey seasons.

Crossbows can now be used to hunt bear, elk and deer during any statewide firearms deer season, and they will be legal in this spring gobbler season, which opens on April 29.

Later in the meeting, Commissioner Steve Mohr asked that the staff prepare regulations to be considered at the April meeting that would allow crossbows to be used in all seasons except archery deer.

Commissioners seek comment on reptiles

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is seeking public comment on a package of new regulations on management of reptiles and amphibians first passed at last year’s April meeting.

At last week’s commission meeting, a number of changes were made to the regulations in response to past input, and the commissioners want more comments before a final vote.

Among the provisions at this point are minimums of 38 inches in length and 21 or more subcaudal scales for timber rattlesnakes to be harvested; a ban on snake-sacking contests using native species, regardless of their origin; a $25 resident and $50 non-resident fee for a venomous snake permit; and the creation of a provision permit that would allow someone to catch and possess one timber rattlesnake during an organized hunt without tagging the snake.

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