The orange debate begins again

Posted on: March 20, 2017 | Bob Frye | Comments

is there a way to simplify orange regulations for hunters in Pennsylvania? That’s the question.
Bob Frye/Everybody Adventures

It takes time to get ready, really ready, for hunting season.

There are rifles to sight in and bows to tune. There are maps to study, stands to erect, blinds to build, dogs to train. There are knives to sharpen, calls to practice with, decoys to clean and scouting trips to be taken.

And that’s just the start.

In Pennsylvania, at least, there are some pretty complex florescent orange rules to be learned, too.
That’s no small task.

“There are 11 different pages in the hunting digest that discuss the issue of florescent orange,” said Charlie Fox, a Pennsylvania Game Commissioner from Bradford County.

That’s too many, he said.

He believes the numbers prove it. Of all the citations written by wildlife conservation officers in a year’s time, those pertaining to not having the right orange on at the right time rank near the top, he said.

He’d like to do something about it.

Fox has asked commission staff to look at the orange issue and see if there aren’t ways to make the rules clearer for the sake of hunters.

“No one would be interested in doing away with orange or anything like that,” Fox said. “The idea is to look for some way to simplify the process.”

That would benefit not only resident hunters, but those who travel into Pennsylvania from other states, he said.

It would also benefit the commission’s own officers, said commissioner Tim Layton of Windber in Somerset County. He said he’s heard from several who say they, too, have to regularly check the digest to be sure what’s legal and what isn’t.

“There’s got to be a way we can get somebody on staff to figure out how to simplify the regulations,” Layton said.

“It’s just ridiculous that you have to check your calendar daily, literally, to find out what orange requirements you have when you go to hunt. There’s got to be something we can do.”

The issue is one the commission has tried to tackle several times before over the years. Andy Hueser, the commission’s hunter education specialist, thinks there might be opportunities to make changes this time around.

“Looking at the way other states handle things, I think there’s a case to be made for simplifying things, sure,” Hueser said.

That likely won’t be as easy as just copying another state’s rules, though. States are all over the map when it comes to orange, Hueser said.

Thirty-nine require hunters to wear orange during at least some seasons. Some require it at all times, others only during big game seasons.

Two states – Pennsylvania being one, Rhode Island the other – have rules that can’t easily be categorized, Hueser said.
It’s “really not possible” to comparable accident statistics from state to state either, he added. There are just too many variables, from the type of weapons allowed at certain times to how accident statistics are collected.

Game Commissioner Jim Daley of Butler County, a longtime hunter education instructor, believes orange saves lives here, though.

“The proof is there that it does work. It’s not foolproof, but it does work,” Daley said.

Now, it’s just a matter of how much of it hunters must wear and when.

Hueser is expected to present a report to commissioners on orange regulations soon, perhaps even at the board’s next meeting on March 27-28.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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