Bill to change doe tag sales

Harrisburg — The way hunters buy doe licenses may yet change, if one state lawmaker has his way.

Another, meanwhile, is looking into the rules regarding how hunters report having killed a deer.

First, Rep. Gerald Mullery is sponsoring House Bill 231, which would allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission to sell doe licenses over the counter using its automated point-of-sale licensing system.

Right now, of course, hunters have to get doe licenses from county treasurers. That’s the way things have been for decades.

But last year, the Luzerne County treasurer’s office – citing a lack of manpower – was slow to process applications it received. The result was that some wildlife management units sold out of licenses before the office ever got involved.

That left thousands of hunters without the chance to hunt does, at least in their preferred units.

That’s not the first time that’s happened. A few years earlier, the Erie County treasurer’s office failed to act timely enough to prevent hunters in that region from being shut out, too.

Mullery – whose district is in Luzerne County – is looking to fix the system and prevent future mishaps.

“Unfortunately, counties do not always have the financial resources or staff to process license applications in a timely manner. In light of the Game Commission’s recent updates to the Pennsylvania Automated Licensing System, we now have the ability to ensure that hunters have a more convenient and efficient way of applying for and receiving hunting licenses. 

“With that said, the legislation that I will be introducing would transfer the antlerless deer license application process from counties to the commission through the Pennsylvania Automated Licensing System,”

Mullery wrote about his bill.

He introduced similar legislation last fall. It was then known as House Bill 2493. It didn’t get through the Legislature before lawmakers ended their session, however.

Pennsylvania Game Commissioner Jay Delaney, who represents Luzerne County and parts of the northeast, said he hopes it makes more progress this time. It’s a fairness issue, he said.

“This is so important to our sportsmen,” Delaney told fellow board members at their January meeting.

In the meantime, Sen. Richard Alloway is taking aim at deer reporting.

By law, hunters who kill a deer are required to report it to the commission within 10 days. Most do not.

Game Commission spokes­man Travis Lau said just 34 percent of buck hunters reported their harvest in 2013-14. That was the lowest buck reporting rate ever. Doe hunters did even worse. Only 30 percent of them reported their kill, Lau said. That tied for the lowest reporting rate ever.

Alloway said he constantly encourages hunters to do better, especially since so many of them complain so vocally about the accuracy of the commission’s deer harvest estimates.

“I’m always telling guys that if they want better numbers, they’ve got to report,” he said. “We need the sportsmen’s help on this.”

Now he wants to make it easier for them to get involved.

He’s authored Senate Bill 374, which would change the reporting period from 10 days to 24 hours.

That’s something some Game Commissioners have been calling for.

At the board’s January meeting, for example, state Rep. Bob Godshall testified, and one of the things he suggested was that the commission change its reporting system. Commissioner Dave Putnam, of Centre County, pointed out that it’s up to lawmakers to do that.

That came as news to Godshall, the long-time lawmaker who’s always been heavily involved in sportsmen’s issues, as he said “I had no knowledge” of the Legislature’s role.

Putnam said a 24-hour reporting requirement might be an improvement.

That’s where Alloway’s headed. His bill is not set in stone, he suggested. He’s open to tweaking it if there are ways to improve it.

He said he’s aware, for example, that it might be difficult if not impossible to report within 24 hours in parts of the state with spotty cellphone or Internet coverage.

But he at least wants to get a discussion going, he added.

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