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Outdoors notebook: Semiautomatics make headway

Everybody Adventures
| Saturday, April 28, 2018, 6:18 p.m.
Semiautomatic rifles are not yet legal for hunting big game in Pennsylvania.
Semiautomatic rifles are not yet legal for hunting big game in Pennsylvania.

Semiautomatic rifles remain illegal to use for hunting big game in Pennsylvania.

But for how much longer?

Pennsylvania Game Commissioners took what appears to be a first step toward eliminating that ban at their most recent board meeting.

Commissioners unanimously approved a measure allowing hunters to use semiautomatic shotguns for deer, bear and elk statewide. The rule goes into effect this fall.

There are some rules.

Hunters can only use single projectiles, like slugs, and not buckshot. And when it comes to elk, only shotguns 12 gauge or larger qualify.

But semiauto shotguns are now a part of the big-game hunting scene.

That shouldn't concern anyone, said commission president Tim Layton of Somerset County. Hunters have been using semiautos to hunt deer in the southeast region of the state — home to more people than any other — without incident for 30 years, he said.

Hunters have been using semiautos statewide for turkeys and waterfowl for a long time, too, executive director Bryan Burhans said.

Now, it's a question of where things go from here, and when.

Commissioners approved the use of semiautomatic rifles statewide for small game and predators last year at this time. They initially intended to allow them for big game, too.

But there was some pushback from hunters. It seemed age-based, with older hunters most strongly opposed to semiauto rifles and younger hunters in favor, said commissioner Jim Daley of Butler County.

Allowing semiautomatic shotguns might be a first step — a "progression" — that eases concerns to the point that rifles can follow, said commissioner Brian Hoover of Chester County.

"This is a simple way of adding semiautomatics into the mix that people can get used to. I think we're trying to ease into this without stirring the pot," Hoover said.

There is no timetable for adding semiautomatic rifles, though, he said.

Chronic wasting disease

Hunters concerned about chronic wasting disease can — and should — share their feelings with federal officials.

Some big money is on the line.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is revising its standards for CWD management on deer farms. It's seeking public comment.

The National Deer Alliance — together with the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, Archery Trade Association, Quality Deer Management Association, National Wildlife Federation, and Wildlife Management Institute — is trying to generate it.

The groups created a link where hunters can go to comment.

It's imperative hunters act, said Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO of the Deer Alliance.

"Deer hunting is the single most popular form of hunting in the United States, with 9.2 million Americans participating each year, contributing more than $20 billion in economic activity, state and local taxes, and wildlife restoration trust fund excise taxes," Pinizzotto wrote in an email to members.

"Deer hunters play an essential role in the 'user pays, public benefits' framework of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Reductions in deer hunting and the number of deer hunters have reverberating impacts that extend far beyond deer and deer hunting directly, including state fish and wildlife agency budgets and their broader fish and wildlife management work, and rural economic health."

The Boone and Crockett Club is weighing in, too.

The "oldest hunter-conservationist organization in North America," it recently released a position statement on wasting disease. It basically outlines the threat CWD poses and calls on federal, state and other agencies to do all that's possible to contain it.

"We're well past the wake-up call," club president Ben B. Hollingsworth Jr. said.

Youth council

High school students interested in conservation, and willing to speak up for it, are being sought to join Gov. Tom Wolf's "Youth Council for Hunting, Fishing, and Conservation."

The main goals of the council are to advise Wolf and state legislators about "issues of concern to the outdoor sportsmen and sportswomen of the Commonwealth, motivate the youth of Pennsylvania to participate more in outdoor recreation (not limited to hunting and fishing), and become actively engaged in the conservation of our natural resources and the preservation of our hunting and fishing heritage."

The council meets four times annually, at various locations around the state. All are on weekends.

Members hold a business meeting one day and do something fun outdoors — trap shooting, fishing, touring the elk range and more — the other. There are often guest speakers, too.

High schoolers ages 14 to 18 can apply. They can serve until the fall of the year they graduate.

Students — and up to one parent — are reimbursed for mileage and provided hotel rooms for meetings more than 50 miles from home.

For an application or more information, contact coordinator Tim Brandt at 717-512-6895 or

Study recommendations

The report is in.

Now, what to do about it?

Graduate students from Penn State performed a business analysis of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission. It looked at ways the commission earns and spends money.

Students recommended some ways the commission might tweak things to become better at balancing expenses with revenues.

A work group made up of a handful of commission board members is studying the plan. Its goal: make recommendations on which strategies, if any, to implement.

"Its purpose is to go through the Penn State business analysis with a fine-tooth comb and come back to the commission with recommendations, realizing that all recommendations would have to garner the perusal of the commissioners," said board president Rocco Ali of Armstrong County, who put the working group together.

Answers are expected by the commission's July meeting, Ali said.

Grizzly bears

It's been more than 40 years since anyone legally hunted grizzly bears in the lower 48 states.

That may be about to change.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is proposing a cull of 24 bears this fall. That would be the first hunting since 1975.

Hunting would be managed by zones, with limits on how many bears and of what sex could be taken in each. When those quotas are reached, hunting would stop.

The cost?

Wyoming residents would pay a $5 application fee; nonresidents $15. If drawn by lottery, residents would need a license costing $600. Non-residents would pay $6,000.

A final decision on whether to go through with the hunt is expected in late May.

Invasive carp

Fisheries biologists in a number of states are trying to keep invasive Asian carp from spreading.

Sound might be the answer.

Researchers in Kentucky plan to experiment with a riverbed bubbler and sound system to keep carp out of the Mississippi River basin.

Sound has been used to direct fish movements before. In Europe, it's been a tactic for steering salmon into main river channels.

In Kentucky, a "Bio-Acoustic Fish Fence" will create a curtain of bubbles accompanied by a powerful sound signal. The resulting underwater "wall of sound" is intended to turn carp away.

Fish Guidance Systems LTD of the United Kingdom invented and will install the fence.


L.L. Bean apparently is facing tough times.

The long-time fly fishing tackle manufacturer and retailer saw 500 employees leave the company earlier this year via a voluntary early retirement package. Another 100 are going this month.

Those still on board aren't getting bonuses. That's the first time for that 2008.

Flat sales reportedly are to blame for the cutback in staffing.

The company still employs about 6,000 people. It opened six new stores in 2017 and plans to open five more this year.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-216-0193 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

Article by Bob Frye, Everybody Adventures,

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