Pennsylvania General Hunting Laws & Regulations

Regulations on Baiting for Hunting in Different Zones

Conditional Baiting in the Southeast Special Regulations Area

In the Southeast Special Regulations Area, baiting is permitted under certain conditions exclusively on private property. This specific region has its own set of guidelines regarding baiting, which can be thoroughly reviewed in the Special Regulations Areas section of the hunting digest.

Baiting Restrictions in Other Areas of the State

Outside the Southeast Special Regulations Area, strict regulations are in place against baiting. It is illegal to hunt in or around any location where any form of bait has been used to attract game or wildlife. This includes a wide range of materials such as artificial or natural baits, food, hay, grain, fruit, nuts, salt, chemicals, minerals, and their residues. It’s important to note that these restrictions apply regardless of the bait's type or quantity, and they extend to areas where baiting has occurred within the past 30 days.

Hunter Responsibility and Inspection of Hunting Areas

Hunters bear the responsibility of ensuring that their chosen hunting area is free of bait. They are advised to conduct a physical inspection of the area and engage in discussions with landowners, guides, and caretakers to confirm the absence of baiting activities.

Exceptions to Baiting Restrictions

The regulations make exceptions for hunting near areas where standard farming or habitat management practices are underway. For instance, it's legal to hunt near food plots on game lands. Additionally, the manipulation of crops specifically for dove hunting is permitted under these regulations.

Specific Provisions for Coyote Hunting

An exception to the baiting rules is made for coyote hunting. Hunters and trappers targeting coyotes are allowed to use natural or manmade nonliving baits to attract them.

Hunting Regulations on Cultivated Lands

Permission Requirements for Hunting in Cultivated Fields

Hunting in fields of unharvested buckwheat, corn, sorghum, or soybeans is strictly prohibited without explicit permission from the landowner or the person responsible for the land's care. This rule emphasizes respect for private property and the rights of landowners.

Motor Vehicle Operations on Private Property

Operating any motor vehicle on private property without the landowner's consent is illegal. This rule aims to protect the privacy and property rights of landowners, ensuring that their land is not used without authorization.

Prohibitions on Obstructing Access

There are clear regulations against obstructing access to cultivated fields, mailboxes, or private driveways. This includes blocking lanes or pathways that are essential for the normal operations of a property.

Gate and Fence Protocols

When accessing lands with gates and fences, hunters must ensure they do not leave gates open or cause any damage to these structures. This measure is crucial to maintain the integrity of the property and to prevent any unintended access by wildlife or trespassers.

Property Damage and Livestock Harassment

It is unlawful to cause any damage to both real and personal property. This includes any form of vandalism or destruction that negatively impacts the property's value or use. Additionally, harassing or causing injury to livestock is strictly prohibited, reflecting the need to protect agricultural interests and animal welfare.

Use of Decoys

Prohibition of Food-Simulating Decoys

The use of decoys that mimic food sources, like artificial corn intended to attract turkeys or waterfowl, is categorized as artificial bait and is strictly illegal. This regulation is enforced to ensure fair chase principles in hunting and to avoid giving hunters an undue advantage over wildlife.

Ban on Living Decoys

For all forms of hunting and trapping, the employment of living decoys is expressly forbidden. This rule upholds ethical hunting practices and animal welfare standards, preventing the use of live animals to lure game.

Permitted Use of Electronic Decoys

In contrast to food-simulating and living decoys, electronic decoys are allowed under specific circumstances. They can be legally used for hunting crows, waterfowl, and doves. This allowance provides hunters with a degree of flexibility in using modern hunting aids, while still maintaining the balance of fair chase.

Legal Restrictions on Disturbing Game or Wildlife

Prohibition on Driving or Disturbing Wildlife

The law strictly prohibits any actions that drive or disturb game or wildlife, except when an individual is engaged in lawful hunting or trapping activities. This regulation is designed to protect wildlife from unnecessary stress and disruption, ensuring their well-being and conservation.

Ban on Removing Wildlife from Dens or Refuges

Additionally, it is illegal to dig out, capture, or remove any wild bird or animal from its den or place of refuge. This rule is critical for safeguarding the natural habitats and sanctuaries of wildlife, allowing them to thrive in their natural environments without human interference.

Prohibition of Drugs and Alcohol

Strict Ban on Hunting Under the Influence

Hunting while under the influence of controlled substances or alcohol is illegal. This rule is enforced to ensure the safety of both the hunter and others, as well as the welfare of wildlife. The use of drugs or alcohol can impair judgment, coordination, and reaction times, increasing the risk of accidents and unethical hunting practices.

Hunters are required to be in a clear state of mind while engaging in hunting activities. Adherence to this regulation is crucial for maintaining a safe and responsible hunting environment.

Use of Electronic Devices

General Ban with Specific Exceptions

While hunting with electronic contrivances or devices is generally unlawful, there are specific exceptions that cater to modern hunting practices and safety measures.

Permitted Electronic Aids

  1. Electronic Callers: Legal for hunting bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, crows, and snow geese during the conservation season.
  2. Lighted Sights: Lighted pins on bow sights and scopes with lighted reticles are allowed, provided they do not cast a beam. Devices projecting light beams onto targets are illegal.
  3. Illuminating Devices for Projectiles: Electronic devices affixed at the end of a bolt or arrow for tracking purposes are permitted.
  4. Communication Devices: Two-way radios and cellphones can be used for communication but not to alert or direct hunters to live game or wildlife.
  5. Sound-Amplification Devices: Those incorporated into hearing-protection gear for hunting purposes are allowed.
  6. Electronic Impulse Firearms: Manually operated firearms using electronic impulses to detonate primers or charges are legal, unless specifically banned.
  7. Rangefinders: Electronic rangefinders, including handheld and scope-integrated devices, are authorized. Devices emitting visible beams or signals are prohibited, except for furbearer hunters using night-vision or infrared optics.
  8. Dog Locating Devices: Electronic devices for locating dogs during training and hunting are permissible.
  9. Scent and Lure Dispensers: Electronically heated scent or lure dispensers and ozone gas distributors for scent control are allowed.

Field Possession Limits in Hunting

Opening Day Restrictions

  1. Daily Limit on Opening Day: On the first day of any hunting season, hunters are not allowed to possess more than the daily bag limit for any given species. This rule is strictly enforced to ensure sustainable wildlife management and to prevent overharvesting.

Post-Opening Day Regulations

  1. Three-Day Possession Limit: From the second day of the hunting season onwards, the possession limit for hunters increases but is capped at the equivalent of three days' worth of legal bag limits. This regulation helps in controlling the number of game animals that a hunter can legally hold at any given time, promoting responsible hunting practices.

Definition of Field Possession Limit

  • Field Possession Limit: This term refers to the maximum number of legally taken wildlife, per species, that an individual can legally possess or transport from the location of capture to their permanent residence. The Field Possession Limit is a critical tool for wildlife management and conservation, ensuring that hunters do not exceed sustainable harvest limits.

Firearms Regulations: Handguns

License to Carry Firearms Permit

  • Requirement for Concealed Carry and Loaded Handguns in Vehicles: To lawfully carry a concealed handgun or have a loaded handgun in a motor vehicle, a License to Carry Firearms permit is mandatory.
  • Issuing Authorities: This permit is issued by the county sheriff or, in Philadelphia, by the Chief of Police.

Scope and Limitations

  • Game & Wildlife Code Activities: When engaged in activities regulated by the Game & Wildlife Code, this permit only authorizes the holder to carry handguns that fall within the specific classification allowed by the permit.
  • Sportsman’s Firearms Permit: Issued by county treasurers, this permit has distinct limitations compared to the License to Carry Firearms permit.

Restrictions Under Sportsman’s Firearms Permit

  • Prohibitions: A holder of the Sportsman’s Firearms Permit is not permitted to carry a concealed handgun or a loaded handgun in a motor vehicle.
  • Activity-Specific Restrictions: The permit does not allow the carrying of a handgun during certain activities like bowhunting or spotlighting.

Loaded Firearms in Vehicles

Definition of a Loaded Firearm

A firearm is deemed loaded if it contains live ammunition in the chamber or in an attached magazine.

Prohibitions Involving Motor Vehicles

  1. Loaded Firearms in Motor Vehicles: It is illegal to possess a loaded firearm in, on, or against any motor vehicle, whether moving or stationary. This includes any attachments to the vehicle.
  2. Loaded Firearms in Powered Watercraft: It is also unlawful to have a loaded firearm in watercraft under power. Shooting from a powered watercraft is prohibited until the motor is shut off, and the craft has come to a complete stop.

Exceptions and Specific Restrictions

  • License to Carry Firearms Permit Holders: While holders of this permit are exempt from some restrictions, most sporting firearms are not covered by the permit.
  • Muzzleloading Firearms: A muzzleloading firearm is considered loaded and prohibited in any mechanically powered conveyance if it has a live charge and a primer, flash powder, or battery properly positioned, making it capable of discharge.
  • Crossbows: Any cocked crossbow with a bolt fixed onto the string or positioned in the firing mechanism is not allowed in, on, or against any vehicle propelled by mechanical power.

Safe Transportation Practices

Before transporting a loaded muzzleloader or crossbow in a vehicle, it should be safely discharged to comply with safety regulations and to ensure the safety of all individuals.

Firearms Regulations: Magazine Capacity

Shotgun Capacity for Hunting

  • Capacity Limit: When using manual or autoloading shotguns for hunting small game, furbearers, turkeys, waterfowl, or crows, the total capacity (including both the chamber and magazine) must not exceed three shells.
  • Plug Requirements: A one-piece filler, or plug, is required to limit the shotgun's capacity. This plug must be installed in such a way that it cannot be removed without disassembling the gun or magazine.

Semiautomatic Rifle Capacity

  • No Capacity Restriction for Small Game and Furbearers: There is no restriction on the magazine capacity for semiautomatic rifles when used to hunt small game and furbearers.

Firearms and Devices Regulations for Hunting

Automatic Firearms Ban

  • Prohibition on Hunting with Automatic Firearms: The use of automatic firearms for hunting purposes is strictly illegal.

Regulations for Specific Firearms and Game

  • Semiautomatic (Autoloading) Rifles and Air-/Gas-Operated Rifles: These firearms, along with manually operated handguns, are permitted for hunting small game and furbearers. Details and specific regulations are outlined in the relevant sections of the hunting code.
  • Restrictions on Semiautomatic Rifles for Certain Game: Semiautomatic rifles are not allowed for hunting deer, bear, or elk.
  • Prohibition on Semiautomatic Handguns for Hunting: The use of semiautomatic handguns in hunting is prohibited.
  • Semiautomatic Centerfire Shotguns: These shotguns, when loaded with single-projectile ammunition, are permissible for hunting deer, bears, and elk.
  • Turkey Hunting Gear Restrictions: Only shotguns and archery equipment are authorized for turkey hunting.

Reporting Requirements for Hunting-Related Injuries

Mandatory Reporting of Incidents

  • 72-Hour Reporting Window: If involved in an incident where someone is injured by a firearm or archery equipment, whether as a victim or the person causing injury (including self-inflicted injuries), it is mandatory to report the incident to the Game Commission within 72 hours.

Procedure for Reporting

  • Obtaining and Submitting Forms: The necessary forms for reporting can be obtained from a game warden. These forms must be completed in duplicate and returned either directly to the warden or mailed to the Game Commission’s headquarters in Harrisburg.

Legal Obligations and Prohibitions

  • Unlawfulness of Non-Submission: Failing to submit an injury report is illegal.
  • Prohibition Against Fleeing or Neglect: It is also unlawful to flee the scene of an incident or to fail in providing immediate and full assistance to an injured person.

Hunting and Trapping License Requirements

Mandatory Licensing

  • Requirement for Licenses: It is illegal to engage in hunting or trapping wildlife without obtaining the necessary hunting or furtaker licenses.

Proper License and Tag Possession

  • Relevance and Compliance: Hunters must ensure they possess the correct and applicable licenses and tags for the specific seasons and species they plan to hunt or trap.
  • Prohibition on Carrying Another's License: It is unlawful to carry the license of another person while hunting or in transit to or from hunting activities.

Restrictions on License Types

  • Invalid Licenses and Harvest Tags: The possession of expired, fulfilled, revoked, suspended, or otherwise invalid licenses or harvest tags while hunting or trapping is prohibited.

Identification and Verification

  • Requirement for Additional Identification: Hunters are required to have additional identification cards or papers in their possession, which must be presented to a game warden or landowner upon request for identification purposes.

Littering Regulations for Hunting and Trapping

Prohibition on Leaving Garbage

  • Strict Ban on Littering: Individuals engaged in hunting or trapping activities are prohibited from leaving or depositing any garbage in the field, except in a designated receptacle specifically intended for garbage disposal.

Regulations on Lures and Scents in Hunting

Legal Use of Non-Food-Source Lures and Scents

  • Deer Hunting: Non-food-source lures and cover scents are legal for hunting deer. These include synthetic or non-edible attractants.

Restrictions in CWD Areas

  • Prohibition of Cervid Urine-Based Attractants: In Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Disease Management Areas (DMAs) and Established Areas (EAs), the use of cervid urine-based attractants is strictly prohibited to prevent the spread of the disease.

Prohibition of Food-Based Scents and Lures

  • Illegal Food-Based Attractants: Scents and lures containing any form of natural or artificial food substances, including but not limited to corn, apple, and acorns, are not legal for hunting.

Permissible Devices for Scents and Lures

  • Legal Devices: The use of drip devices, electronically heated scent or lure dispensers with legal scents and lures, and electronic devices that distribute ozone gas for scent-control purposes are allowed.

Bear Hunting Specifics

  • Ban on Scents and Lures for Bears: The use of any scents or lures while hunting bears is strictly prohibited.

Regulations for Mistakenly Killed Wildlife

Immediate Actions for Accidental Kills

  • Field-Dressing Edible Game: In the event of an accidental or mistaken killing of any wildlife, the individual must immediately field-dress any edible game.
  • Delivery to Game Warden: The carcass (excluding entrails) must be delivered to a game warden in the county where the incident occurred.

Specifics for Deer Mistake Kills

  • Immediate Reporting for Deer: If a deer is killed by mistake (including wrong gender or not meeting antler restrictions), the individual must, within 24 hours, surrender the entire carcass, minus entrails, to a game warden in the county of the incident.
  • Written Statement: A written, sworn statement detailing the circumstances of the accidental kill must be provided.

Tagging Requirements

  • Immediate Tagging: Each person who mistakenly kills a deer must immediately tag the animal's ear with the appropriate tag before moving the carcass.
  • Tag Usage: The tag used should be the one intended for the species the hunter is legally licensed to hunt.
  • Special Case for Turkey: A beardless turkey killed by mistake during the spring season must be tagged with a spring gobbler tag. If the correct tag is not available, use the tag that allowed legal hunting.
  • Procedure If No Tag is Available: In case no suitable tag is available, use any available tag that permitted legal hunting.

Restitution and Penalties

  • Restitution Fee: A restitution fee of $25 is required for each mistakenly killed deer.
  • Possibility of a New Tag: The hunter may receive a new tag to hunt another deer.
  • Penalties for Non-Compliance: Failure to report and deliver a deer killed by accident or mistake can result in a fine up to $1,500 and license revocation.

Contact Information for Reporting

  • Game Commission Centralized Dispatch Center: For information on where to deliver a deer killed by accident or to report someone who failed to comply with these regulations, contact the Game Commission Centralized Dispatch Center.

Regulations on Wildlife Recovery and Trespassing

Obligation to Retrieve Wildlife

  • Mandatory Effort to Retrieve: Hunters are legally bound to make a reasonable effort to retrieve any game or wildlife they have killed or injured. This rule underscores the ethical responsibility of hunters to ensure that game taken is not wasted.

Restrictions on Entering Private Property

  • No Trespassing Without Permission: Attempting to recover wildlife does not entitle hunters to enter private property without the landowner's permission. A hunting license does not grant the right to trespass.
  • Legal Implications of Trespassing: Game wardens have the authority to issue citations for trespassing on private property to hunters, independent of any game-law violations.

Use of Purple Paint as a No-Trespassing Sign

  • Purple Paint Law: A new law permits the use of purple paint on trees or posts as a legal method of indicating no-trespassing on private property. This law applies in all Pennsylvania counties except Allegheny and Philadelphia.
  • Significance of Purple Paint: Purple paint marks are recognized as a clear indication that entry onto the private property is prohibited without explicit permission.

Regulations on Road-Killed Deer and Possessing Wildlife

Possession of Live Wildlife

  • General Prohibition: It is illegal to possess live wildlife, with the exception of foxes under a specific permit.

Rules for Road-Killed Animals

  • Restrictions on Possession: Generally, animals or parts of animals killed on highways may not be possessed. However, there are specific conditions under which Pennsylvania residents can possess deer or turkeys killed by motor vehicles.
  • Permit for Road-Killed Deer/Turkeys: Residents may possess these animals for personal consumption if they obtain a permit number from the Game Commission within 24 hours of collection. Contact should be made with the Centralized Dispatch Center.
  • Requirement to Keep Head and Hide: Individuals should retain the head and hide of the roadkill for at least 48 hours, unless instructed otherwise by a local game warden.

Limitations on Distribution and Use

  • Prohibition on Giving Away Roadkill: It is illegal to give another person the whole or edible parts of a deer killed on a highway.
  • Restrictions on Keeping Parts: Keeping parts like antlers from road-killed deer or the beard or spurs from a road-killed turkey is unlawful.
  • Selling Inedible Parts: Selling inedible parts from legally taken game or wildlife, including taxidermy mounts, is illegal unless the parts are disposed of by the original owner within 90 days post-season.
  • Using Roadkill for Bait: It is illegal to use a road-killed deer as bait for coyotes.

Regulations for Furbearers

  • Furtaker License Holders: Holders of a valid furtaker license may possess a furbearer killed on a highway, except for bobcats, fishers, or river otters.
  • Reporting and Fees During Closed Season: If a furbearer is taken possession of during the closed season, the individual must report this within 24 hours to the Centralized Dispatch Center and may be subject to a fee.

Handling Injured Wildlife and Wounded Game

Prohibition on Euthanizing Injured Wildlife

  • Illegal to Kill Injured Wildlife: It is against the law to kill or euthanize any injured wildlife, regardless of the circumstances. This applies to animals injured on roadways or those initially wounded during legal hunting.

Protocol for Tracking Wounded Game

  • Notification Requirement: Hunters who need to track wounded game outside of legal hunting hours or on days when the season is closed must inform the Central Dispatch Center.
  • Coordination with Game Wardens: Upon notification, the Dispatch Center will contact the relevant game warden to assist or take appropriate action.

Reporting Sick or Injured Wildlife

  • Contacting Dispatch Center: Any wildlife found to be sick or injured should be reported to the Dispatch Center as soon as possible. The contact number is 1-833-PGC-WILD.

Regulations for Road Hunting

Restrictions on Hunting from Vehicles

  • Hunting from Vehicles Prohibited: It is illegal to hunt from a vehicle or assist another person in hunting from a vehicle.

Restrictions on Shooting Near Roads

  • Shooting on Public Roads or Right-of-Way: It is unlawful to discharge firearms at wildlife while on a public road or within the right-of-way that is open to public travel.

  • Shooting Across Roads: Shooting across a road is prohibited, unless the trajectory is high enough to ensure the safety of road users.

  • Minimum Distance from Road: It is illegal to exit a vehicle and shoot at wildlife until the shooter is at least 25 yards away from the traveled portion of the roadway.

Exception for Health Concerns

  • Allowance for Health-Related Concerns: Individuals who may not qualify for a Disabled Person’s Permit but have health concerns or issues are allowed to sit in or near a legally "parked" vehicle and observe wildlife. This provision is in place to accommodate individuals with specific health needs.

Safety Zones in Hunting

Proximity to Occupied Residences and Buildings

  • Safety Zone Distance: It is illegal to hunt for, shoot at, trap, take, chase, or disturb wildlife within 150 yards of any occupied residence, camp, industrial or commercial building, farmhouse, farm building, school, or playground without obtaining permission from the occupants.

  • No Shooting into Safety Zones: Even if you are outside of a safety zone, it is unlawful to shoot into it.

  • Driving Game: Driving game within a safety zone without permission, even without a firearm or bow, is prohibited.

  • Hunting Restrictions: Hunting on hospital and institutional grounds, as well as in cemeteries, is also not allowed.

Safety Zones for Archery Hunters

  • Archery Safety Zone: The safety zone for archery hunters statewide, including those using crossbows, is 50 yards.

  • Special Cases: Around playgrounds, schools, nursery schools, or day-care centers, the safety zone remains 150 yards.

  • Muzzleloader Season: Archery hunters carrying muzzleloaders during any muzzleloader season must adhere to the 150-yard safety zone regulation.

Spotlighting Wildlife Regulations

Unlawful Activities

  1. Spotlighting Wildlife with Killing Devices: It is illegal to spotlight wildlife while in possession of a firearm, bow and arrow, or any other device capable of killing wildlife. Individuals with a License to Carry Firearms permit are exempt, but only regarding the carrying of authorized firearms as per the permit. Most sporting arms are not authorized for spotlighting.

  2. Spotlighting During Firearms Deer Season: It is prohibited to spotlight wildlife during the regular firearms deer season, including the days separating the season, as well as during any late extended firearms deer seasons in the Special Regulations Area counties.

  3. Casting Light on Buildings, Farm Animals, or Photoelectric Cells: It is unlawful to cast an artificial light upon any building, farm animal, or photoelectric cell.

Recreational Spotlighting Hours

  • Permissible Hours: Recreational spotlighting is lawful between sunrise and 11 p.m., except as previously noted in the unlawful activities section.

  • Definition of Spotlighting: Spotlighting includes handheld lights, accessory spotlights on vehicles, and vehicle headlights when intentionally used to locate or view wildlife.

Exceptions for Furbearer Hunters

  • Handheld Lights: A person hunting raccoons, skunks, opossums, bobcats, weasels, foxes, and coyotes on foot may use a handheld light, including a gun-mounted light.

Tracking Dogs for Game Recovery

Hunting Big Game with Dogs

  • Big Game Hunting Restrictions: Dogs are not permitted to hunt big game, with the exception of turkeys during the fall season. Big game includes white-tailed deer, bear, and elk.

Use of Leashed Tracking Dogs

  • Tracking Leashed Dogs: Leashed tracking dogs can be used to track a white-tailed deer, bear, or elk for the purpose of recovering an animal that has been legally killed or wounded during any open season for deer, bear, or elk.

  • No Permit Required: There is no permit required to use leashed tracking dogs for game recovery.

  • Tagging by Hunter: The tracker cannot dispatch game that was wounded and will be tagged by a hunter. This ensures that only legally wounded animals are tracked and recovered.

  • Licensing Requirements: The tracker must be properly licensed for the specific type of animal being tracked.

  • Safety Measures: The tracker must abide by hunting hours and wear the required amount of fluorescent orange clothing as per the season's regulations.

  • Compliance with Game Laws: All laws pertaining to the taking of game apply when using tracking dogs for recovery.

Use on State Game Lands and Private Property

  • State Game Lands: Trackers cannot charge for their services on state game lands.

  • Private Property: Permission is needed before entering private property when using tracking dogs for game recovery. It is essential to respect landowner rights and obtain the necessary permissions.

Additional Regulations and Restrictions

Landowner Regulations

  • Landowner Regulations: Many landowners, including federal, state, and local governments, may open areas for hunting and trapping but apply more restrictive regulations than those outlined by the state. It is the responsibility of hunters and trappers to be aware of and adhere to the specific rules and regulations of the lands they intend to hunt or trap on.

  • Example: For example, the Erie National Wildlife Refuge prohibits the use or possession of toxic shot for shotgun hunting for all species, except turkeys and deer. Hunters and trappers should be informed about such unique regulations.

Dog Training Regulations

  • No Closed Season for Dog Training: There is no closed season for training dogs, except on state game lands, where all dog-training activities are closed from the Monday prior to the start of youth pheasant season until the opening day of the statewide pheasant season. However, dog training on state forest land and county-owned properties may further be regulated by the agency overseeing the properties.

  • License Not Required: A hunting or furtaker license is not required for dog training.

  • Sunday Training on Private Land: Dogs may not be trained on private land on Sundays without the landowner's permission.

  • Restrictions on Carrying Firearms: A person may not carry a rifle, shotgun, or bow and arrows while training dogs, except for those who possess a dog training permit or while hunting chukars or pigeons that are released and shot on State Game Lands for dog training.

Responsible Dog Training

  • Prohibition of Injuring or Killing Wildlife: Dogs are not permitted to injure or kill wildlife during training. Hunters must be aware of and avoid areas, especially wetlands, where birds are nesting. In woodcock habitat management areas, dogs are prohibited for any reason from April 1 to July 15.

  • Respect for Dog Owners: Hunters are urged to respect dog owners and their sport. Dogs can be attracted by electronic calling devices and turkey calls. It is essential to be sure of your target. While the law requires dogs to be under the control of their owner or handler at all times, they may not always be within sight.

  • Shooting Dogs: It is unlawful for dogs to chase or pursue big game. However, the Game Commission recommends that dogs not be shot unless they are actually in the act of attacking a big-game animal, and there is no other option. If you witness a dog or dogs chasing any deer, bear, elk, or turkey, please contact the Game Commission to report the violation.

  • Penalties for Dog Chasing: There are appropriate penalties in the Game and Wildlife Code to deter owners from permitting their dogs to chase big game. Shooting a dog that is not attacking a big-game animal could lead to prosecution under the Crimes Code as a misdemeanor offense, with penalties of up to $5,000 and two years of imprisonment, as well as civil liability for the restitution of the dog. Any person who destroys a dog (licensed or unlicensed) attacking a big-game animal must report the incident to the dog's owner or a game warden within 48 hours, as required by law.

Use of Electronic Devices

  • Electronic Devices: Electronic devices, including e-collars, radio-telemetry dog-tracking systems, and beeper collars, may be used for locating dogs while training or hunting.

Purple Paint Law


A recent change to the state Crimes Code in Pennsylvania has introduced the "purple paint law," offering landowners an alternative means to post their properties as private and indicate that trespassing is not permitted. This law is applicable across the state, with the exception of Philadelphia and Allegheny counties.

Purple Paint Markings

Landowners who choose to use purple paint to post their properties should use vertical purple lines that meet specific criteria:

  • Each purple mark must be at least 8 inches long and 1 inch wide.
  • The bottom of the mark should be positioned no less than 3 feet and no more than 5 feet from the ground.
  • The purple markings must be spaced not more than 100 feet apart.

These purple markings are intended to define the boundary of adjoining private properties and serve as a clear indication of no trespassing.

Retrieving Hunting Dogs

Under the new law, unarmed individuals are authorized to enter private property solely for the purpose of retrieving a hunting dog.

Penalties for Trespassing

In Pennsylvania, failing to obey purple painted marks, as well as signs or verbal commands indicating no entry, is classified as defiant trespass. Defiant trespass carries penalties that include:

  • Up to one year in jail.
  • Fines of up to $2,500.

If trespassing occurs while hunting, additional game-law violations may apply, resulting in additional penalties.

Game Commission Authority

A legislative act has granted the Game Commission the authority to investigate trespassing complaints and enforce trespassing violations as a primary offense, even in cases where game-law violations are not alleged. The Game Commission is committed to enforcing these regulations to protect private property rights and maintain responsible hunting practices.

Regulations on Public and Private Lands

National Park Service Lands and Appalachian Trail

It's important to note that on National Park Service (NPS) lands acquired for the protection of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, hunting, discharging firearms, and the use of off-road vehicles, including ATVs, are strictly prohibited. However, individuals are allowed to possess firearms on national park or refuge lands if they are legally permitted to carry a firearm in the state and municipality where they are located.

Sections of the Appalachian Trail that run through State Game Lands are not subject to the above-listed regulations.

Special Use Permit for State Game Lands

State Game Lands have specific regulations in place, and it's worth mentioning that any group consisting of 10 or more people using these lands, including trails, is required to obtain a Special Use Permit.

Small Open Fires

Small open fires for cooking or warming purposes are permitted by persons holding valid hunting, furtaker, or fishing licenses and through-hikers within the Appalachian Trail corridor. However, this exception to the prohibition on fires applies only when the small fires are located in areas where adequate precautions are taken to prevent the spread of fire. Additionally, the index rating used by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources must not be High, Very High, or Extreme for that specific area.

Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area (DEWA)

The Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area (DEWA), which is a unit of the NPS, has its own set of regulations:

  • Trapping, hunting over bait, hunting in standing unharvested crops, Sunday hunting, and spotlighting are all prohibited.
  • Only portable tree stands are allowed, and they must be removed each day.
  • A Pennsylvania hunting license is required to hunt in the Pennsylvania portion of the park, while a New Jersey license is required to hunt in the New Jersey portion.
  • Most areas of the DEWA are open to hunting, but it's advisable to check the Compendium of Regulations for any closures on the NPS website.

Public and Private Lands

When hunting or engaging in outdoor activities on public and private lands, it is crucial to familiarize oneself with the specific regulations and rules governing those areas to ensure compliance with local and state laws. This helps maintain safety and preserve the natural environment.

State Game Lands (SGL) Shooting Ranges

The Pennsylvania Game Commission offers public shooting ranges across the state to provide hunters and shooting enthusiasts with a safe and enjoyable environment for firearm practice. Here are some key details about these shooting ranges:

  • Availability: You can find information about which state game lands have shooting ranges on the Game Commission's website at The online list also indicates any ranges that may be temporarily closed for repairs.

  • Range Users: Game lands shooting ranges are open for use by individuals who hold hunting or furtaker licenses, as well as those with valid shooting range permits.

  • Permit Validity: Range permits are now valid for 365 days from the date of purchase and are not tied to a license year. You can purchase permits online at or through any license-issuing agent.

  • Guest Policy: Each licensed hunter or range permit holder using a shooting range is allowed to have one guest join them.

  • Archery Ranges: Range permits are not required when using archery ranges located on state game lands. Archery ranges are open from dawn to dusk.

  • Hours of Operation:

    • Rifle and handgun ranges are open from 8 a.m. until sunset, Monday through Saturday.
    • On Sundays, they are open from noon until sunset, unless otherwise posted.
    • During the Sundays immediately preceding or within regular deer and bear firearms seasons, the hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to sunset.
  • Rules and Regulations: It is essential to adhere to the shooting range rules and regulations to ensure safety and responsible firearm use. A complete list of these rules can be found online.

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The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.