Lehigh Valley

Pa. Game Commission approves semi-automatic rifles for some hunting

SLATINGTON, Pa. - Pennsylvania's hundreds of thousands of hunters are in for a change. They can now add semi-automatic rifles to their arsenals, but there are limits.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has approved hunting with semi-automatic rifles for small game and furbearers. This includes coyotes, foxes and raccoons.

"I'm actually for it, I've owned them all my life," said long-time hunter Chris Borger, of Walnutport.

At AF Boyer Hardware and Guns in Slatington, hunters can find plenty of semi-automatic rifles they can now hunt with.

Owner Alan Boyer's African big game trophies decorate his store. However, he is glad the game commission made big game in Pennsylvania, such as deer, bear, elk and turkey, still off limits for semi-automatics.

"Because you have to be very particular with your one shot and have a clean and ethical kill. Semi-automatic you can pull the trigger and keep firing," Boyer explained.

The new law limits small game to 22 caliber or under, but it doesn't limit magazine size. Boyer said that can pose a safety problem for homes near hunting fields.

Horseng Farm, a 23-acre stable in Lowhill Township, borders state game lands.

Owner Heather McCarty said she hears gunfire all the time during hunting season. Her fear now is stray bullets.

"You don't have to stop to reload each time for a semi-automatic," she said.

The game commission said it doesn't feel the new regulation will pose a safety threat.

Initially, the game commission approved using semi-automatic rifles for big game as well. However, that rule was amended a survey of more than 2,000 hunters revealed 70% opposed semi-automatic for big game.

The new regulation goes into effect in July.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Commission also gave final approval Tuesday to hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits for the 2017-18 license year.

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