Put your Woodmaster back in the safe and forget about that AR-10. Pennsylvania has decided not to allow hunters to take big game with semi-automatic firearms, an about-face from earlier talks. Small game hunters can use semi-autos; however, turkey hunters can not.
A new law took effect last November allowing the state to regulate semi-automatic firearms for both small and big game. Prior to that Pennsylvania was the only state that did not have at least one hunting season that allowed for semi-autos. In January the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners voted unanimously to give preliminary approval to big game seasons, leading many to believe the measure was as good as done.
Over the intervening weeks, however, the board changed it mind. After adding a last-minute amendment to the measure, the commissioners voted Tuesday to not allow semi-autos for big game, citing public opposition as the cause.
The board released the following in its final meeting notes:
Between the Board of Commissioners’ preliminary vote and the vote today, Game Commission staff conducted a scientific survey from a random sample of 4,000 of the state’s hunters, more than 2,000 of whom responded. The findings of that survey were presented to the commissioners at the board’s meeting on Monday . . .
For big game, while 28 percent of survey respondents expressed support or strong support for semi-automatic rifles, 64 percent of respondents said they opposed or strongly opposed semi-automatic rifles for big game hunting, with 52 percent saying they were strongly opposed.
The decision affects the state’s deer, black bear, and elk hunters, as well as its turkey hunters. Small game and fur-bearing animals may be taken with semi-automatic rifles and shotguns beginning in 2017, allowing the once-banned Ruger 10/22, Remington 11-87, and the like to be used.
The commissioners followed up their vote by saying that if support for semi-auto big game hunting increased, they would revisit the issue later.
“We listened to our hunters,” President Commissioner Brian H. Hoover said.