Adult hunters will have to buy a permit to chase pheasants in Pennsylvania starting this fall.
The decision over whether to require senior lifetime license holders to buy a permit to hunt stocked pheasants is made.
Or is it?
It appears to suddenly be up in the air.
This spring, Pennsylvania Game Commissioners created a pheasant permit. To sell for $25, it is required of all adult hunters – juniors are exempted — who chase stocked birds starting this coming fall.
That includes senior lifetime license holders.
Those are sportsmen and women who, at 65, bought a license allowing them to hunt for as long as they remain alive. Some wondered if they might be exempt.
But commissioners said no, citing numbers and precedence.
According to Rich Palmer, deputy executive director for field operations for the commission, there are about 114,000 lifetime license holders.
And that’s too many to exempt, said commissioner Tim Layton of Somerset County.
“So we’re thinking that if even 30,000 of those are pheasant hunters, and we take them off the table, we’re not doing anything to support the pheasant program,” he said. “And quite honestly, without a license increase, we need to do everything that we can so that we can continue the services we provide for the hunting public.”
Only state lawmakers can increase hunting license fees. They haven’t since 1999.
The commission made budget cuts to account for that, including closing two of its four pheasant farms. That’s reduced the numbers of birds stocked from 200,000-plus last year to – perhaps – 170,000 this year.
Stamp sales are meant to help pay for a portion of them.
In years past, the commission said, its pheasant program cost $4.7 million. Stamps sales are expected to raise about $1 million of that.
It’s only fair that lifetime license holders contribute, as they’re often the ones with the time and wherewithal to hunt the birds, said commissioner Jim Daley of Butler County.
“They actually make a heck of an impact,” he said.
There’s precedence for lifetime license holders to have to buy permits, too, Palmer added.
“If you look at the permits we’ve added along the way, from early on the fisher, bobcat, the otter, all those things are permits. And none of those things were grandfathered in for the senior lifetime license holder,” Palmer said.
But state Rep. Bryan Cutler, a Lancaster County Republican, is looking to override that decision.
He’s circulating for co-sponsors a bill that would exempt anyone who purchased a senior license prior to July 1, 2017, from having to buy the pheasant permit.
His idea has yet to be formally introduced or given a bill number.