Baiting is allowed conditionally on private property in the Southeast Special Regulations Area. See the Special Regulations Areas page within this digest. Elsewhere in the state, it is unlawful to hunt in or around any area where artificial or natural bait, food, hay, grain, fruit, nuts, salt, chemicals or minerals, including their residues – regardless the type or quantity – are used, or have been used within the past 30 days, as an enticement to lure game or wildlife. Hunters are responsible for ensuring an area has not been baited before hunting. They should physically inspect the area and question landowners, guides and caretakers. This section does not pertain to hunting near areas where accepted farming or habitatmanagement practices are taking place (example: hunting near food plots on game lands is legal). The manipulation of crops for dove hunting is permitted. Any natural or manmade nonliving bait can be used to attract coyotes for hunting or trapping.
It is unlawful to 1) hunt in unharvested buckwheat, corn, sorghum or soybean fields without permission from the owner or caretaker; 2) operate a motor vehicle on any private property without the landowner’s permission; 3) block lanes to cultivated fields, mailboxes or private property; 4) leave gates open or damage fences; 5) damage real or personal property; or 6) harass or injure livestock.
Decoys simulating food – such as artificial corn to attract turkeys or waterfowl – are considered artificial bait and are illegal. The use of living decoys is prohibited for all hunting and trapping. Electronic decoys can be used for hunting crows, waterfowl and doves.
It is unlawful for any person to drive or disturb game or wildlife except while engaged in lawful hunting or trapping. It is unlawful to dig out or take any wild bird or animal from its den or place of refuge.
It is unlawful to hunt wildlife while under the influence of controlled substances or alcohol.
It is unlawful to hunt with any electronic contrivance or device, but the following exceptions apply: 1) Electronic callers to hunt bobcats, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, crows and snow geese in the conservation season, can be used. 2) Lighted pins on bow sights and scopes with lighted reticles may be used as long as they don’t cast a beam. Any device used as a sight or scope on any firearm, bow or crossbow that projects a light beam of any kind onto the target is unlawful. 3) Electronic illuminating devices that are affixed at the aft end of a bolt or arrow and used solely for the purpose of locating or tracking bolt or arrow flight can be used. 4) Portable, two-way radios and cellphones may be used for general communications with another hunter, but may not be used to direct or alert another hunter of the presence or location of live game or wildlife. Alerting hunters to live game not only is a violation of the Game & Wildlife Code, but violates the concept of fair chase. The use of portable radios does not satisfy the legal requirement of accompanying a junior hunter. The accompanying adult must be close enough to give verbal instructions without the aid of an electronic device. 5) Electronic sound-amplification devices that are incorporated into hearing-protection devices and completely contained in or on the hunter’s ear may be used when hunting. 6) Any manually operated firearm that uses an electronic impulse to detonate the primer or main powder charge of the ammunition, unless such firearms are specifically prohibited, can be used. 7) Electronic rangefinders, including handheld devices and those contained within a scope or archery sight can be used. This authorization may not be construed to permit a device that emits any light beam, infrared beam, ultraviolet light beam, radio beam, thermal beam, ultrasonic beam, particle beam or other beam that is visible outside of the device or on the target, with the exception of furbearer hunters who now can use handheld and sporting-arm mounted night-vision and infrared (thermal) optics for hunting coyotes, foxes, bobcats, raccoons, striped skunks, opossums and weasels. 8) Electronic devices used for locating dogs while training and hunting are permitted. 9) Electronically heated scent or lure dispensers, and electronic devices that distribute ozone gas for scent-control purposes may be used.
It is unlawful on the opening day of a hunting season to 1) possess more than the daily limit; 2) after the second day, possess more game than may be legally taken in three days. A Field Possession Limit is the maximum number of legally taken wildlife, per species, that a person may legally possess or transport between the place of taking and the person’s permanent place of residence.
A License to Carry Firearms permit is required to carry a handgun concealed, or have it loaded in a motor vehicle. License to Carry Firearms permits are issued by county sheriff or the Philadelphia Chief of Police. While engaged in activities regulated by the Game & Wildlife Code, a License to Carry Firearms permit only entitles the holder to carry handguns that fall within this classification. Sportsman’s Firearms Permits are issued by county treasurers. A person holding a Sportsman’s Firearms Permit may not carry a concealed handgun or a loaded handgun in a motor vehicle and may not carry a handgun while bowhunting or spotlighting.
A firearm is considered loaded when there is live ammunition in the chamber or attached magazine. It is unlawful to 1) have a loaded firearm in, on or against any motor vehicle (or any attachments to the vehicle), regardless of whether the vehicle is moving or stationary; and 2) have a loaded firearm in watercraft under power, or shoot from a powered watercraft until the motor has been shut off and the craft has come to a complete stop. Holders of License to Carry Firearms permits are exempt, but most sporting firearms are not authorized by the permit. It is prohibited to have any muzzleloading firearm that has a live charge of ammunition in its firing chamber and a primer, flash powder or a battery, whichever is applicable, properly positioned in the firing mechanism of the firearm, rendering it capable of discharge, in, on or against any conveyance propelled by mechanical power. Any crossbow that has been cocked and has a bolt affixed onto the string or positioned into the firing mechanism is prohibited in, on or against any conveyance propelled by mechanical power. A loaded muzzleloader or crossbow should be safely discharged before being transported in a vehicle.
Manual or autoloading shotguns to hunt small game, furbearers, turkeys, waterfowl or crows must be limited to a 3-shell capacity in the chamber and magazine combined. A plug must be a one-piece filler installed so it cannot be removed without disassembling the gun or magazine. There is no restriction on magazine capacity for semiautomatic rifles used to hunt small game and furbearers.
It is unlawful to hunt with automatic firearms. Semiautomatic (autoloading) rifles, air- or gas-operated rifles and manually operated handguns may be used for hunting small game and furbearers (Details in those sections). Semiautomatic rifles may not be used for hunting deer, bear or elk. Hunting with semiautomatic handguns is prohibited. Semiautomatic centerfire shotguns that propel singleprojectile ammunition can be used while hunting deer, bears and elk. Only shotguns and archery gear can be used for turkey hunting.
If you are involved in an incident where someone has been injured by a firearm or archery equipment, either as a victim or the person causing injury (including self-inflicted injuries), you must report the incident to the Game Commission within 72 hours. Obtain the proper forms from a game warden, complete in duplicate and return them to the warden, or mail to the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters. Failure to submit a report is unlawful, as is fleeing, or failing to render immediate and full assistance to an injured person.
It is unlawful to hunt or trap wildlife without first obtaining the required hunting or furtaker licenses. All hunters should be sure they have the proper and applicable licenses and tags in their possession for the seasons and species they intend to hunt or trap before heading afield. It’s unlawful to carry the license of another person while hunting, or in transit to or from hunting. The possession of expired, fulfilled, revoked, suspended or invalid licenses or harvest tags while hunting or trapping also is unlawful. Hunters also are required to have in their possession additional cards or papers that must be shown to a game warden or landowner upon request to confirm identification.
It is unlawful while hunting or trapping to leave or deposit any garbage, except in a receptacle for that purpose.
Non-food-source lures and cover scents are legal for deer, however, cervid urine-based attractants are not permitted in CWD Disease Management Areas (DMAs) and Established Areas (EAs). Scents and lures that contain any form of natural or artificial food stuff, including, but not limited to, corn, apple and acorns are not legal. Use of drip devices is legal, as well as electronically heated scent or lure dispensers, with legal scents and lures, and electronic devices that distribute ozone gas for scent-control purposes. The use of scents or lures while hunting bears is prohibited.
Any person who kills any wildlife while hunting or trapping by accident or mistake shall immediately field-dress any edible game and deliver the carcass to a game warden in the county where it was killed. Any person who by accident or mistake kills any deer (an antlerless deer in mistake for an antlered deer, an antlered deer in mistake for an antlerless deer, or an antlered deer that does not meet antler restrictions) shall immediately, but no later than 24 hours after the kill, deliver and surrender the entire carcass, less entrails, to any game warden in the county in which it is killed and make a written, sworn statement explaining when, where and how the mistake occurred. Each licensed person who kills any deer shall immediately, and before moving the carcass, fully complete the proper tag in compliance with printed instructions and attach only the tag to the deer’s ear. Use the tag you would have used for the animal you are legally licensed to take. A beardless turkey killed by mistake during the spring turkey season must be tagged with a spring gobbler tag. In the event a tag is not available to meet the above requirements, use the tag in possession that allowed you to hunt legally. The deer will be turned in to the game warden, restitution of $25 for each mistake deer shall be paid, and the hunter may be issued another tag to pursue another deer. Failure to report and deliver a deer killed by accident or mistake is punishable with a fine up to $1,500 and license revocation. For information on where to deliver a deer killed by accident or mistake, or information about anyone who has failed to report a deer killed by accident or mistake, contact the Game Commission Centralized Dispatch Center.
It is unlawful for a hunter to refuse or neglect to make a reasonable effort to retrieve any killed or injured game or wildlife. Hunters attempting to recover wildlife are not permitted to enter private property without permission. A hunting license does not give you the right to trespass on private property. In fact, a game warden can issue a hunter a citation for trespassing on private property, even if game-law violations aren’t alleged. A new law allows the use of purple paint on trees or posts as a lawful posting method on private property in all but Allegheny and Philadelphia counties.
It is unlawful at any time to possess live wildlife, except foxes for which a permit has been issued. In most cases, animals or parts of animals killed on highways may not be possessed. Pennsylvania residents may possess deer or turkeys killed by motor vehicles, for personal consumption only, if they secure a permit number from the Game Commission within 24 hours after picking up the deer or turkey. Call the Centralized Dispatch Center. An individual should keep the head and hide of a roadkill for at least 48 hours, unless directed differently by the local game warden. It is unlawful to give to another person the whole or edible parts of a deer killed on a highway. It is unlawful to keep, for example, antlers from road-killed deer or the beard or spurs from a road-killed turkey. It is unlawful to sell inedible parts from game or wildlife that was lawfully taken (including taxidermy mounts), unless such parts are disposed of by the original owner within 90 days after the close of the season in which the game or wildlife was taken. It is unlawful to take a road-killed deer to be used to bait coyotes. Holders of a valid furtaker license may possess a furbearer killed on a highway, except for bobcats, fishers or river otters. Persons taking possession of any furbearer killed on a highway during the closed season for taking that furbearer shall within 24 hours contact the Centralized Dispatch Center to report said possession. A fee will be charged to possess a road-killed furbearer picked up during the closed season.
It is not legal to kill or “put out of its misery” any injured wildlife. This includes wildlife injured on roadways or initially wounded during legal hunting hours and seasons. Hunters who track wounded game or wildlife after legal hunting hours, or closed season days, must notify the Central Dispatch Center. The Dispatch Center will contact the appropriate game warden. Any other wildlife found to be sick or injured should be reported to the Dispatch Center (1-833-PGC-WILD) as soon as possible.
It is unlawful to 1) hunt from a vehicle, or assist another while hunting from a vehicle; 2) shoot at wildlife on a public road or rightof-way open to public travel; 3) shoot across a road unless the line of fire is high enough to preclude any danger to road users; and 4) alight from a vehicle and shoot at any wildlife until the shooter is at least 25 yards from the traveled portion of the roadway. NOTE: These provisions do not prevent an individual who may not qualify for a Disabled Person’s Permit, but who has health concerns or problems, to sit in or near a legally “parked” vehicle and watch for game. See loaded firearms in vehicle section for prohibitions.
It is unlawful to hunt for, shoot at, trap, take, chase or disturb wildlife within 150 yards of any occupied residence, camp, industrial or commercial building, farmhouse or farm building, or school or playground without the permission of the occupants. It is unlawful to shoot into a safety zone, even if you are outside of the zone. Driving game, even without a firearm or bow, within a safety zone without permission is unlawful. For comparison, think of a safety zone as about one and a half football fields. Hunting on hospital and institutional grounds, and in cemeteries, also is prohibited. It is unlawful to discharge a firearm within 150 yards of a Game Commission vehicle if its occupants are releasing pheasants. The safety zone for archery hunters statewide, including those using crossbows, is 50 yards. But around playgrounds, schools, nursery schools or day-care centers, the safety zone remains 150 yards. Archery hunters carrying muzzleloaders during any muzzleloader season must abide by the 150-yard safety zone regulation.
It is unlawful to 1) spotlight wildlife while in possession of a firearm, bow and arrow, or other device capable of killing wildlife. Individuals who have a License to Carry Firearms permit are excepted, but only regarding their carrying of firearms authorized by the permit. Most sporting arms are not authorized. 2) spotlight wildlife during the regular firearms deer season, including those days separating the season, as well as any late extended firearms deer seasons in the Special Regulations Area counties; and 3) cast an artificial light upon any building, farm animal or photoelectric cell. Recreational spotlighting is lawful between sunrise and 11 p.m., except as previously noted. Spotlighting includes handheld lights, accessory spotlights on vehicles and vehicle headlights when intentionally used to locate or view wildlife. A person hunting raccoons, skunks, opossums, bobcats, weasels, foxes and coyotes on foot may use a handheld light, including a gun-mounted light. Furbearer hunters may not use a flashlight or spotlight that projects a laser light beam.
Dogs are not permitted to hunt big game, except for turkeys during the fall. Leashed tracking dogs can be used to track a white-tailed deer, bear or elk in recovery of an animal that has been legally killed or wounded during any open season for deer, bear or elk. No permit is required. The tracker cannot dispatch game that was wounded and will be tagged by a hunter. The tracker must be properly licensed for the animal being tracked. The tracker must abide by hunting hours and wear the required amount of fluorescent orange clothing for the season. All laws pertaining to the taking of game apply. Trackers cannot charge for their services on state game lands. Permission is needed before entering private property.
Many landowners (federal, state and local governments) open areas to hunting and trapping, but apply more restrictive regulations. 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 are responsible for knowing rules and regulations on lands they intend to hunt or trap.
Dog Training Regulations
Dogs should be handled in a safe and humane manner, with adequate consideration to temperature and ventilation in transportation cages and compartments.