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A busy time for sporting issues

| Saturday, March 30, 2013, 11:48 p.m.

A study into merging the Game and Fish and Boat Commissions is getting another look.

And a number of bills that would impact sportsmen are making their way through the legislature at varying speeds.

Not all will become law.

“It's a big legislature,” as one insider said recently. It takes a lot of votes to get anything approved.

But there's sure a lot of debate going on.

The merger proposal, House Resolution 129, recently moved to the House where it awaits the vote needed to get the study rolling.

The legislature studied — and declined to act on — a complete merger of the two agencies twice previously. State Rep. Martin Causer of Potter County, who's behind the latest version, is hoping to have it done before year's end, even though it's going to cost taxpayers as much as $100,000.

Sportsmen have come out against a merger as well as another idea.

Sen. Tim Solbay of Washington County and Rep. Harry Readshaw of Allegheny County have pitched matching bills that would eliminate antler restrictions for hunters 65 and older. Instead, they would be allowed to shoot any buck with a spike at least 3 inches long.

That's drawn the ire of some sportsmen for three reasons:

• A lot of people — two-thirds of hunters, according to a survey — like antler restrictions.

• They fear allowing seniors, who represent close to 30 percent of all deer hunters, to shoot virtually any buck will undo the progress toward growing bigger bucks overall.

• They dislike the idea of lawmakers managing wildlife in place of the Game Commission.

Sportsmen are being asked to support another piece of legislation.

When Pennsylvania became the first state to adopt a mentored youth hunting program, lawmakers labeled it a “youth” program and limited it to children. The states that acted afterward did not.

That's put Pennsylvania behind the times.

Recently, though, the Senate approved Senate Bill 623, which would create an adult mentored hunting program.

It would allow one licensed hunter to take out another adult, without a license, on a trial basis.

The hope is that the second adult will enjoy the sport and become a member of the license-buying fraternity.

The Game Commission supports the idea, with thoughts of allowing hunters to pursue small game only. The National Rifle Association supports it, too, and has been lobbying for its passage.

There is a lot more being talked about, such as the bills that would reserve one elk hunting license each year for a person living within the elk range and allow licensed people to track wounded deer and bears with leashed dogs.

Clearly, hunters and anglers need to train their eyes on Harrisburg and pay attention to what's going on.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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