The Pennsylvania Game Commission announced last week that it has shelved a proposal that would restrict non-hunters from using state game lands during hunting seasons in fall and spring. According to the Game Commission, the proposal would have have restricted hiking to only Sundays while hunters were in the field, as well as required non-hunters to acquire a free permit before using state lands. In a press release, Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners President Robert Schlemmer reported that “the board received hundreds of public comments about the proposal and wants to allow more time to properly consult with hunters, conservation partners and elected officials about it.”

Critics of the new rules, including hiking and conservation organizations, said there was little public notice of the proposed changes and that it would be unfair to hikers. The state already restricts activities such as snowmobiling, horse riding, and bicycling in state game lands, which are only allowed on Sundays. Mark Zakutansky, Mid-Atlantic Policy Manager for the Appalachian Mountain Club, said that restricting hikers from state lands for roughly a third of the year—130 days—was unjustified.

“Fall foliage is such a draw,” Zakutansky told the Associated Press. “Hikers have always been respectful in wearing orange and staying on trails—it seems a little knee-jerk.”

Spokespeople for the Game Commission said that state game land was mostly purchased through hunting permit sales and taxes on equipment for the express purpose of maintaining a space where hunters could harvest game. Hiking and other recreational activities on state game land are considered “secondary uses” by the Game Commission. Some hunters say that it can be frustrating and even dangerous when hikers unknowingly walk into hunting areas, and that allowing other recreational uses for game land can only lead to conflict. Some have highlighted that there are many more state parks, forests, and lands where hunting is prohibited, but hiking and other outdoor activities are not.

The Game Commission stated that it has not scrapped the idea of a ban on hiking altogether, and that restrictions may still be needed to protect game lands.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Image courtesy Pennsylvania Game Commission.

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3 thoughts on “Pennsylvania Shelves Controversial Plan to Restrict Hiking in State Game Lands

  1. As an avid hunter, I’m against this plan. Public lands should be open to everyone. Hunters can adapt easily and actually use hikers to their advantage.

    1. Gary respectively my brother i think your wrong on this concept. We must maintain what little we have left. Or else our new generations of hunters will be no more. Its starting already.

  2. Last season I was grouse hunting and took a couple of shots at a grouse towards the forest from an old logging road in a fairly remote and sparsely populated area. I was using a 12 gauge shotgun with a turkey choke since I had been hunting for turkeys earlier. I fired off a couple of rounds but only winged the bird as it was walking around on the ground about 30 yards away. It started flopping around. Then suddenly, much to my surprise and horror, a person on a mountain bike went pedalling by just about 5 or six feet above where the bird was. There was an embankment there and the bird was below the top of it.
    I was shocked. I have been a bird hunter for 45 years and nothing like that ever happened to me before. The mountain biker did not slow down or look back(who can blame him) and I felt really awful. I quickly put my gun away and went to retrieve the bird. I discovered then that unbeknownst to me, I had been hunting right beside a major wilderness trail. I had never hunted in that area before so I was unfamiliar with the surroundings, assuming I was out in the wilderness, far from civilization. As fate would have it, I fired off those rounds at that bird when probably the only mountain biker for many miles happened to go by.
    When I went home, I checked all the local news sources to see if any mountain biker had reported being shot at. I was prepared to turn myself in and told my friends what had happened. But not a word. Thank goodness for him and me.
    So the lessons I learned here is make doubly sure you know exactly where you are hunting at all times and that you are never too old to learn.

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