HARRISBURG, Pa. (Erie News Now) – Pennsylvania lawmakers and state game officials say a new law will make it easier to obtain antlerless deer licenses. With this year’s hunting season already underway, the legislation that was signed into law by Governor Wolf earlier this month won’t take effect until next season.
According to PA Game Commission officials, it will provide a much-needed update to the antlerless license application process.
“It’s certainly more modernized, and that’s something that that many of our hunters were asking for,” said Travis Lau, Communications Director for the PA Game Commission.
Lau says the new law provides options for hunters by making antlerless deer tags obtainable online and from all sellers authorized by the Game Commission, including retailers, gun shops, and others.
“For hunters, that means that they’ll be able to go down to the corner store, go to their local big box retailer, go to their local gun shop, go online,” said Lau, adding that is provides hunters with a choice as to where and how they purchase licenses.
Senate Bill 431, now Act 148 of 2022, expands license issuing agents beyond just county treasurers.
“I think it goes without saying that the mail in application process, which can be viewed as somewhat complicated, posed a barrier to at least some hunters. With the change that Senate Bill 431 brings about, and the added convenience and options for hunters to purchase rather than apply for an antlerless license, I think that those barriers are lessened and removed in some cases,” said Lau.
For decades, hunters have had to apply for antlerless deer licenses by mailing an application and a check to a county treasurer in a timely fashion. It’s an outdated, slow and costly process, according to State Senator Dan Laughlin (R-Erie), the sponsor of SB 431.
“This will automate it. You’ll be able to buy it online, you’ll be able to buy at point of sale,” said Laughlin. “Honestly, it’s just one more step in making it easier to purchase your licenses, and it’s easier for the Game Commission to control how many they’re selling for each management unit,” Laughlin added.
Laughlin believes the new options are more practical for the next generation of hunters and that they can save the Game Commission and hunters both time and money.
“They spend about a quarter million dollars a year just printing those pink envelopes. So, you know, that’s money that can be better used for either management or habitat restoration,” said Laughlin. “The sportsmen were spending about $1,000,000 on postage,” he added.
Lau says the role hunters play in managing deer populations is an essential one, that would otherwise have to be handled by the state, with taxpayer dollars. That’s why he and Laughlin say it’s important to reduce barriers for hunters and make necessary updates where needed.
“Part of the agency’s mission is to promote hunting and trapping and recruitment of new hunters and removing barriers for hunters. This is something that that we make a priority,” said Lau. “If we’re going to continue to manage our wildlife populations primarily through hunting, for game populations that really need managed, we need hunters to do it,” he added.