Nov. 14, 2018

By Rep. Curt Sonney (R-Erie)
Due to Pennsylvania’s vast forested areas and healthy wildlife population, we also have a very large contingent of hunters.

In order to enhance the hunting experience and encourage responsible hunting practices, we have enacted a few new laws.

First, hunters are now allowed to use leashed tracking dogs to track wounded deer, bear and elk to help ensure their recovery.

A new law recognizes it can sometimes be very difficult to track a wounded or harvested deer that may have traveled some distance, especially in areas of varied terrain or when weather conditions are poor. The use of properly trained and controlled tracking dogs can prove instrumental in recovering a mortally wounded animal, and greatly decreases the chances of leaving deceased game unrecovered.

However, it’s still unlawful for a person to make use of a dog to hunt or take big game, other than wild turkey during the fall season, or to permit a dog under a person’s ownership or control to pursue big game. They can be used for tracking wounded animals only.

Another new law expands the mistaken kill provisions in the Wildlife Game Code to include bear and elk and allow hunters who accidentally harvest the big-game animals to keep their licenses under certain conditions.

Previously, a hunter who harvested a deer or turkey of the wrong sex or accidently killed two could turn the animals over to a wildlife conservation officer. The hunter would receive a new tag, pay a small fine and keep their license. The same now applies to elk and bear, with the restitution fee for each big-game animal set at $100.

A hunter would only be able to keep his or her hunting license when all of the following conditions are met: the violation is the person’s first unlawful taking or possession of game or wildlife offense; the person follows the procedural requirements outlined in statute; the violation occurs during an open season within the applicable wildlife management unit for the species involved, or a closed season within the applicable wildlife management unit for the species involved, but only if there was an open season within an adjacent wildlife management unit for the same species; the person pleads guilty to the violation charged; the violation does not involve a threatened or endangered species; and there are no relevant aggravating circumstances present concerning the violation.

Hunters will also be forgiven for mistakenly hunting in the wrong place and harvesting an animal in the wrong hunting zone.

The goal of the law is to encourage reporting and reward honest hunters who turn themselves in to the Pennsylvania Game Commission and surrender the animal they mistakenly took.

And lastly, semiautomatic centerfire shotguns that propel single-projectile ammunition will be lawful sporting arms in most of Pennsylvania’s firearm seasons for deer, bear and elk this year. For elk, the shotgun needs to be 12-gauge or larger.

The Game Commission historically has permitted the use of semiautomatic shotguns for deer and bear seasons within its special regulation areas near Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Now the authorization is extended to the remainder of the Commonwealth, as well as to the state’s elk hunters.

I encourage all of our hunters to go to the Game Commission’s website at and double check the regulations regarding seasons, bag-limits and related regulations before heading to the woods.

Representative Curt Sonney
4th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Tricia Lehman