Fall turkey hunters might soon no longer have to wear or post orange in Pennsylvania.
Photo: Howard Communications
This is proving the exception so far.
In January, Pennsylvania Game Commissioners preliminarily changed the opening day of the statewide firearms deer season, expanded bear hunting seasons, shortened fall turkey seasons and more.
All generated talk, some of it loud.
But not this.
Commissioners at their last meeting also preliminarily reduced how much fluorescent orange hunters have to wear, and when.
And the response from hunters?
“Crickets,” said commissioner Brian Hoover of Chester County of the silence.
Commissioners have talked about changing the rules for more than a year. Word was out that they were going to do something last month.
Still, they said they received no hunter feedback. Agency staff likewise heard nothing from sportsmen.
Under the proposal adopted — which must get final approval at the board’s April 8-9 meeting to go into effect on July 1 – there are two real changes.
First, archers, whether chasing deer or bear, would not have to wear orange at all, even when moving in or out of the woods. They would not need to post orange around their stand either.
Second, fall turkey hunters wouldn’t have to wear fluorescent orange material either, while moving or when set up.
Commissioner Scott Foradora of Clearfield County said the commission would “highly recommend” that both archers and turkey hunters wear orange while moving, especially at those times when their seasons overlap with others involving firearms.
But the board doesn’t want to require it.
Or, at least, most of the board doesn’t.
The rules changes didn’t pass unanimously. The vote was 7-1, with commissioner Jim Daley of Butler County registering an emphatic “no.”
A long-time hunter education instructor, Daley objected most vociferously to the elimination of orange requirements for fall turkey hunting.
Up until now, fall turkey hunters wore 250 square inches of orange while moving, and placed an orange band around a nearby tree when stationary.
Daley wanted at least some, if not all, of those requirements to remain.
“Why is turkey hunting different? Well, turkey’s different because I sit there and I make turkey sounds with a turkey call. So in many ways I’m imitating the game animal that I’m trying to pursue. The other thing is, while I’m imitating that game animal I may be working a box call so now I’ve added movement to that,” he said.
“That’s what adds danger. That’s why turkey is different.”
He shared the story of 24-year-old widow he met. Her husband was shot in the eye at 24 feet by a 60-year-old hunter. The younger hunter died, and his wife, the cousin he was hunting with, the older hunter who shot him and a 13-year-old accompanying him are all dealing with the consequences,
“Had (the victim) had an orange hat on, that would not have happened,” Daley said.
The majority of the board, though, disagreed.
In explaining their vote, they cited the fact there are fewer hunters in the woods chasing turkeys, and they’re usually using shotguns as opposed to rifles. It’s hard to hunt turkeys while wearing orange, they added, as the birds see color.
Their prime motivation, though, was simplification.
By the commission’s own admission, its rules regarding the wearing of orange are among the most complex anywhere. Even with the changes, the state would still be “one of the most restrictive” in the nation.”
Eleven states require no orange. Ten require it only when hunting big game, and 20 more only when hunting big game with a firearm.
The other nine, including Pennsylvania, “have a mixture of instances in which it is required.”
The commission wants to make things easier for everyone to understand, said commissioner Charlie Fox of Bradford County, who started the whole effort to address the orange rules.
This puts more of an onus on the hunter, he said.
“It’s personal responsibility,” Fox said.
The new rules wouldn’t totally eliminate the need to wear orange.
Hunters in deer, bear, elk firearms seasons, small game season, and those hunting coyotes during daylight hours within open deer, bear or elk firearms seasons, would still need 250 square inches of orange material on the head, chest and back combined, visible from 360 degrees, at all times. Woodchuck hunters would still need an orange hat.
Hunters pursuing deer, bear or elk from an enclosed blind would still be required to post a minimum amount of orange nearby, too.
All of those rules exist now.
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