Semiautomatic shotguns have been allowed for deer hunting in areas around Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and now hunters in the rest of the state will be able to use them as well.
During Tuesday’s quarterly meeting of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the board voted unanimously to allow the use of semiautomatic centerfire shotguns that propel single-projectile ammunition, or slugs, for deer, bear and elk seasons in 2018-19. The move comes a year after the PGC board attempted to make semiautomatic rifles legal to hunt deer and other big game, but decided against the move after hunter feedback and survey results revealed 64 percent of those surveyed were against the idea.
Semiautomatic rifles are now allowed for furbearers and small game species.
Tuesday’s vote to allow semiautomatic shotguns, however, could be a progression toward allowing semiautomatic rifles in the future, according to commissioner Brian Hoover.
“We do get a lot of requests for semi-auto weaponry,” Hoover said. “That’s what the new generation is using. We’re trying to ease into this (semiautomatic rifles).”
Hoover also pointed out the semiautomatic shotguns have been allowed in Special Regulations Areas — suburban portions of the southeast and southwest where deer numbers are high — for several years without incident.
While no minimum gauge requirement was specified for deer and bear hunting, a semiautomatic shotgun used for elk needs to be 12-gauge or larger.
During the March 2017 meeting when the board decided against allowing semiautomatic rifles for big game, commissioners hinted the idea would be re-visited.
“If it becomes appropriate to bring it back up, we’ll do that,” commissioner Tim Layton said at the March 2017 meeting. “Hunters want (semi-automatic rifles) for small game, coyotes and furbearers. Maybe when people get comfortable with them it might be a bridge to move it to big game.”
While Hoover said the allowance of semiautomatic shotguns was a “progression” toward permitting semiautomatic rifles for big game, he added there’s no timeframe to bring the matter up for another vote at a future meeting.
In other business, the board voted to increase the antlerless license allocation by 34,000 from last year, to 838,000 statewide. Allocations for Wildlife Management Units in the northeast region are (last year’s allocation in parenthesis): WMU 3B – 29,000 (30,000), WMU 3C – 38,000 (42,000), WMU 3D – 25,000 (25,000), WMU 4C – 30,000 (29,000) and WMU 4E – 32,000 (27,500).
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky