Crossbow and Muzzleloader Use Expanded

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The Board of Game Commissioners today gave final approval to a regulatory change to allow hunters to use crossbows during the elk and bear seasons and the statewide firearms deer season (Dec. 2-14), including the Special Regulations Areas counties (Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia). This provision will be in effect for hunters to take advantage of during the 2002-2003 seasons.

Under the new regulation, use of crossbows still is prohibited during the early and post-Christmas archery seasons; the October antlerless deer season; the October muzzleloader season; and the post-Christmas flintlock season. In addition, the Board prohibited the use of crossbows in the Special Regulation Areas counties during the late firearms deer season (Dec. 26-Jan. 11).

The new regulations also require crossbows to have a draw weight of not less than 125 pounds, and not more than 200 pounds; and that all crossbow bolts to be tipped with a broadhead of cutting-edge design.

In 1991, the state General Assembly and Governor first approved legislation that made crossbows available to certain hunters with qualifying medical disabilities; and, in 1993, those medical limitations were broadened. In 2000, the law was changed again to remove the crossbow from the list of prohibited hunting devices and the Board was given discretion on when hunters may use a crossbow. About 28,000 Pennsylvanians have crossbow permits based on disabilities.

Today the Board also gave final approval to a regulatory change that will allow hunters participating in the October muzzleloader antlerless deer season to use "any long gun muzzleloading firearm." The change aims to provide hunters more options and opportunities in the early muzzleloader season, and allows hunters to use muzzleloading long guns with percussion, inline or flintlock ignition systems.

Under the new regulations, hunters also will be permitted to use scopes and other lawful sighting devices during the October muzzleloader season.

This provision also will be in effect for hunters to take advantage of during the 2002-2003 seasons. The traditional flintlock season (Dec. 26-Jan. 11) retains the requirement that hunters use only primitive muzzleloading long guns with flintlock ignition systems, and primitive sighting devices.

The special October antlerless deer seasons serve as management tools to reduce antlerless deer numbers in the herd prior to the peak of the whitetail breeding season. The number of hunters participating in these hunts does appear to be growing.