Hunters who head into Pennsylvania’s woods this fall might be able to take a few extra tools with them.
Well, this is going places unexpected.
Pennsylvania Game Commissioners – asked a few months ago to consider allowing a few new electronic devices in the woods for hunters – are prepared to do just that.
When commissioners meet on June 26, they’re expected to give preliminary approval to allowing three electronic devices for hunting. They are electronic decoys for waterfowl, a heated scent dispenser and electronic ozone gas scent controllers.
The decoy idea came up at a recent work group meeting of the board. Commission president Brian Hoover raised the possibility of legalizing battery-powered spinning wing decoys.
“They’re being used in every state around Pennsylvania,” Hoover said.
Randy Shoup, director of the bureau of wildlife protection for the commission, agreed. Pennsylvania, he said, is historically “a very restrictive state” when it comes to electronics. it’s indeed one of only perhaps two where the decoy is illegal.
Research he’s done indicates they don’t hurt waterfowl numbers, though.
“So if the board wanted to move forward with that, I don’t think, from a law enforcement perspective, there would be any issues with that,” Shoup said.
The board intends to move forward.
Another change is likely coming, too.
Jonathan Kalasinski of Heated Hunts in Clarks Summit is maker of a battery-operated scent dispenser. He asked commissioners in April to make it legal.
Commissioners are prepared to preliminarily approve that, too.
Initially, Shoup said staff opposed that idea. They feared that vaporized deer urine could spread the prions behind chronic wasting disease.
Wayne Laroche, bureau of wildlife management director, said studies show inhaled prions can be 10 times more infectious than those ingested orally.
So allowing a device that spreads prions through the air is a risk, he added.
“All it would take is one new case that would come by that method and out costs would be great,” Laroche said.
Maybe, maybe not, Hoover said. The real point, he noted, is that scent dispensers are legal now, so long as they’re powered by candles or the sun. There are even aerosol scent dispensers on the market. They’re legal too, he added.
To prohibit a product like Heated Hunts – only because it works off a battery – doesn’t make sense, he said.
Commissioner Tim Layton of Somerset County agreed.
“Some of these rules just seem antiquated. The difference between a candle and a battery makes no sense to me,” he said.
Two other devices that people had requested be legalized aren’t being addressed at this time. One was night vision devices for nighttime predator hunting; the other electronic turkey calls.
Hoover, though, seems open to the night vision.
He asked what the opposition to allowing it is now.
“I don’t think we’ve ever done a complete evaluation,” said Rich Palmer, deputy executive director of field operations for the agency. “But off the top of my head I can’t think of any.”
Some states allow their use but in conjunction with tougher penalties for lawbreakers. Maine, Shoup said, allows hunters to use night vision for nighttime predator hunting.
But that’s it, he said. Use it for anything else and the penalties are severe.
“If you use a night vision device to poach deer at night in Maine, you get three days in jail and a $2,000 fine,” Shoup said.
It would take legislative action to bring those kinds of penalties online here, said Tom Grohol, deputy executive director for administration for the commission. But there may be some interest in that.
Hoover suggested the commission pursue the idea.