Game Commission reversing itself on several key issues

This week, I am compelled to begin with a minor correction regarding my column last week. In announcing the 14th annual Wild Game Feast at the Altoona Alliance Church, I mistakenly listed the date of the event as March 17 instead of March 16.

I heard about that error as soon as I got to church Sunday morning and later that afternoon when I received an email from Pastor Tim McGarvey who also caught the typo but thanked me for helping to promote the event. I responded with my apology for making such a rookie mistake, and he replied telling me not to worry because the correct date is printed on the tickets and most folks know the dinner is on Saturday evening rather than Sunday evening.

But I really had to smile when he advised me that they do have church on Sunday evening, so if anyone did show up by mistake, they would be most welcome to stay for the service. Amen, Pastor Tim.

Last week, I also provided an overview of some proposed changes that were presented at the recent meeting of the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners. Most of those changes involved the timing and length of certain hunting seasons, including moving the opening day of the regular deer season from the traditional Monday after Thanksgiving to the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The commissioners also announced they would once again entertain a proposal to allow semiautomatic rifles for big game. If voted upon and given preliminary approval in April, the measure could be considered for final adoption in July and put in place for the 2019-20 license year. That was welcome news to all of us who would like to see Pennsylvania finally enter the twenty-first century an allow hunters to use modern sporting rifles.

Just a few days later, however, Commissioner Brian Hoover rescinded his directive to Game Commission staff to develop a proposal that would allow semiautomatic centerfire rifles as lawful sporting arms in big-game seasons. He cited receiving input from the public and key members of the General Assembly, and noting the board already is considering several significant proposed changes, as the reason for this reversal.

“While many states allow the use of semiautomatic rifles for hunting big game, and evidence suggests these firearms actually can be safer than their manually operated counterparts, it’s clear we haven’t yet arrived at the time when the majority of Pennsylvania hunters favor they be approved for big-game use,” Hoover said. “As opinions change, we will consider future changes to provide for the needs of our hunters.”

There are two kinds of stupid, and this is both of them. Once again, the commissioners show they are little more than political hacks and puppets by bowing to the ignorant and selfish droning of a vocal few to deny hunters of a worthwhile and progressive opportunity. Tradition is a wonderful thing, and no one appreciates and embraces the legacy of our outdoor sports more than me.

But I also appreciate and embrace what is new, and as we watch the continual decline in hunter numbers, it is beyond obvious that tradition alone is not enough to retain and recruit enough hunters to ensure the future of sport hunting.

Last Tuesday, the Game Commission also reversed itself on another action as the result of lack of public support. As part of a pilot program to reduce the spread of chronic wasting disease, the Game Commission planned to reduce the deer population in a 100-square-mile area in Bedford and Blair counties.

These so-called targeted-removal operations were to be conducted with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services by using sharpshooters to kill deer attracted to baited areas. Much of the targeted removal needed to occur on private land with landowner permission. Few permissions were obtained; therefore, the plan was scrapped, at least for this year.

“While the lack of access to private land is unfortunate, it could well demonstrate there is work to do when it comes to educating the public about CWD, and we will be ramping up our efforts to bring the facts about this disease and its potential impacts on Pennsylvania to light,” said Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management Director Matthew Schnupp.

Did these folks really think a significant number of landowners would agree to open their property for slaughtering most of the deer there? Seems they are just as out of touch with the public in general as they are with the hunters in particular. CWD is a dreadful problem that wildlife managers have been dealing with for more than 50 years since the disease was first discovered in Colorado in 1967. And after all that time with wild deer now infected in more than 25 states and Canadian provinces, there are still more questions than answers about this insidious disease, including any meaningful ways to prevent or even reduce the spread of CWD. Will ramping up public education on CWD have any real impact on the disease?

Trainees sought

The State Civil Service Commission is accepting applications until Feb. 19 for Waterways Conservation Officer Trainees. The class of up to 20 trainees is expected to report for training in the summer of 2019 and graduate in the summer of 2020.

Trainees will undergo an extensive 52-week paid training program encompassing all aspects of conservation law enforcement.

Applicants must be a Pennsylvania resident at least 21 years of age, a high school graduate or GED, with a valid driver’s license and pass a criminal history background check. Applications will only be accepted online. To view the announcement and apply, please visit the SCSC website at www.employment.pa.gov. For more information on the position, visit the recruitment page on www.fishandboat.com.

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