Pa. Game Commission lauds change in law for antlerless license sales

WILKES-BARRE — The way hunters apply for Pennsylvania antlerless deer licenses is about to change for the first time in decades.

Senate Bill 431, which would allow hunters to buy antlerless licenses through the HuntFishPA automated licensing service, was signed into law this week.

When it takes effect with the 2023-24 license year, antlerless licenses will be available for purchase online or in person at any license issuing agent.

The Game Commission, hunting organizations including the National Deer Association, Pennsylvania Chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen and Conservationists and others, and everyday hunters supported the bill, championing it as the final step to fully modernizing license sales.

Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said, “We thank Pennsylvania’s legislators for tackling this issue and look forward to implementing a system that provides great customer service to our hunters. Our mission here at the Game Commission is two-fold, to manage and protect habitat and their habitats, but also to promote hunting and trapping for current and future generations. Modernizing how we sell antlerless licenses helps us achieve both.”

Until now, hunters applied for antlerless licenses via mail, sending those familiar pink envelopes to county treasurers, the only entity permitted to sell them. They had to do so according to a set schedule, with various deadlines based on state residency and rounds of sales, using a self-addressed stamped envelope and paper checks, something foreign to some hunters.

There were, in short, a lot of variables in play, and that occasionally led to problems with hunters getting licenses or not.

Given all that, the pink envelope system was seen by many as a barrier to hunting participation, especially when it comes to recruiting new hunters. Allowing for an antlerless license sales through HuntFishPA will address those issues.

Prior to the start of the next license year, the Game Commission will notify hunters on the process for applying for an antlerless license under the new system.

DCNR to modernize reservation

system for state forest camps

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and State Forester Ellen Shultzabarger this week announced that state forest camps have moved to a more user friendly, modern registration system as of Nov. 3.

“We are looking to improve the state forest camping experience by moving to a more modern self-registration process like what we use for state park camping reservations,” Dunn said. “This will allow for a more convenient experience that provides real-time availability information to prospective campers looking to plan an outdoor excursion in our beautiful natural spaces.”

Camping reservations in state forests are currently made by visiting to a state forest district office and requesting a permit from district forest staff. The number of camping permits issued has doubled in the past five years, creating a need for electronic records and reporting to help district forest staff effectively manage campsite conditions, perform necessary maintenance, and provide site alerts about site specific conditions that may arise, including road closures, flooding and other emergencies.

All designated roadside campsites, camping areas, and equestrian camping areas will be available through the reservation system. Non-designated motorized camping will no longer be permitted.

Those looking to make reservations will be able to view campsite information, location, and photos online and reserve a campsite.

Designated campsites will be made available through the: Pennsylvania State Park and State Forest Reservation System, ReserveAmerica Call Center 7 am to 5 pm, Monday to Saturday (888-PA-PARKS (888-727-2757), and ReserveAmerica Camping App, and forest district office in which you wish to camp.

Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance to noon the day of arrival, depending on the availability of the camps.

There will be nightly fees of $10 for Pennsylvania residents and $15 for non-residents, with a $6.50 transaction fee to cover costs of operating the systems. The new system will allow of credit cards for camping and other permits, such as fuelwood and ATVs. There will continue to be no fee for trailside, backpack camping and water trail camping.

Revenue generated from the fees will be directed towards maintenance, improvement, and conservation of sites and associated recreation opportunities. Fees may be waited for volunteers during work projects.

For more information about state forests visit DCNR’s website.

PFBC: Cold weather life jacket

requirement is now in effect

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) reminds boaters, anglers, and hunters that the annual cold weather life jacket requirement is in effect.

From Nov. 1 through April 30, boaters are required to wear a US Coast Guard approved life jacket while underway or at anchor on boats less than 16 feet in length or on any kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. The requirement applies to all Pennsylvania waters.

“The fall and winter seasons are filled with outdoor opportunities that can be enjoyed on the water, including fishing, waterfowl hunting, and scenic foliage tours,” said Ryan Walt, PFBC Boating and Watercraft Safety Manager. “Whatever activity you are involved in, boaters should be aware that water temperatures begin to drop rapidly at this time of year, and even on sunny days when air temperatures are comfortable and warm, the water is already cold enough to cause cold water shock, hypothermia, and put your life at risk. A life jacket can keep your head above water until help arrives.”

Sudden cold-water immersion, or cold-water shock, occurs when a person is unexpectedly plunged into cold water resulting in an involuntary gasp where water is often inhaled. This uncontrollable reaction causes panic, hyperventilation, inhalation of water, and inhibits the ability of a person to swim.

According to Pennsylvania boating accident reports, nearly 80% of all boating fatalities occurred because boaters were not wearing life jackets. Prior to this life jacket wear requirement being enacted in 2012, a disproportionate number of deaths occurred between November and April. Since then, the Commission has seen a significant drop in the percentage of boating incidents that result in fatalities during the cold weather months.

The PFBC also recommends that anglers participating in ice fishing this winter always wear a life jacket to provide lifesaving protection in the event of a fall through the ice.

To learn more, visit the Water Safety and Wear It Pennsylvania pages on the PFBC website.

Pa. DCNR and USDA Forest Service

sign agreement for shared stewardship

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources (DCNR) Bureau of Forestry and the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service this week signed an Agreement to Advance Shared Stewardship, strengthening their commitment to collaborative land management efforts throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

The signatories on the agreement were Ellen Shultzabarger, Pennsylvania State Forester and Director of the Bureau of Forestry and Randy Moore, Chief of the USDA Forest Service.

The agreement establishes a framework that advances the state and the Forest Service to work collaboratively on forest management, accomplishing goals, furthering common interests, and effectively responding to the increasing suite of challenges facing the communities, landscapes and natural resources in Pennsylvania.

“The opportunities and challenges, such as invasive species and pests and adapting to a changing climate, that our forests face are best met working together at a landscape level,” Shultzabarger said. “This agreement builds on the long history of collaboration between the Commonwealth and the USDA Forest Service. It’s symbolic that we sign it at desks used by Gifford Pinchot, as it helps strengthen and advance his legacy of forest conservation in Pennsylvania.”

“Shared Stewardship is a way of doing business that emphasizes a collaborative approach to land management. It puts a renewed emphasis on collaborating across jurisdictions to address challenges on shared landscapes,” Moore said. “This agreement will reinforce our partnership and make our working relationship even stronger. Together, we will use new science and planning tools to identify shared conservation priorities and develop cross boundary strategies that make impacts at a landscape scale.”

The federal, state, and private land managers in Pennsylvania face a range of urgent challenges, among them are invasive insect and disease outbreaks, non-native invasive plant invasion and increased risk of wildfire and floods. The new agreement sets the stage to meet these challenges with proactive measures across all lands including:

Improving and restoring forest health and resilience

Reducing the risk of wildfire through prevention, treatment, and suppression

Managing forests to improve overall health and resilience of native species and ecosystems

Supporting a diverse forests products industry and measured economic development strategies that keep working forests productive.

Protecting watersheds to ensure plentiful clean water supplies and helping with flood control

Continuing to provide sustainable, quality outdoor recreation opportunities