Due to a recent change in Pennsylvania law, deer hunting season is starting two days early. Instead of the first Monday after Thanksgiving, the first day of buck hunting will be on Saturday, November 30th, 2019 with the first day of antlerless for most Pennsylvania regions starting on December 7th. Before the season begins, hunters should check to make sure that they are complying with the law.

Checking to make sure that you are allowed to possess a firearm

Under Pennsylvania and federal law, certain persons are not permitted to possess a firearm. If you have ever been convicted of a crime or have been committed to a mental health facility, you should get a copy of your records to see if you are barred from possessing a firearm. If your conviction was in Pennsylvania, you can get your criminal history from the Pennsylvania State Police website. If you have an out-of-state or federal conviction, you should order a copy of your record from the state of conviction or from the FBI. If your record shows that you were convicted of any federal offense that has a maximum possible punishment of more than a year or of a Pennsylvania offense that has a maximum possible punishment of more than two years, consult an attorney who is experienced in firearms law. If you were ever committed to a mental health facility, order a copy of your medical records from the facility and contact the health department or department of health and human services in the county the facility is located in.

Checking your firearm to make sure that it is lawful

If your weapon has a manufacturer’s number that has been removed or altered, it may be an unlawful weapon. If your firearm has an altered or obliterated mark, consult with an attorney to explore your options.

Transport your firearm legally

Pennsylvania has special rules restricting how firearms can be transported. If you don’t have a concealed carry permit, you generally cannot have a loaded firearm in your vehicle. Even if you have a concealed carry permit, you can never carry a loaded long gun in your car.

Follow the hunting laws and regulations

This seems like a pretty generic recommendation, but it’s an important one.

  • Always make sure that you are following the rules about posted and unposted land.
  • Double check to make sure that you are hunting in the right WMU (or zone). Western Pennsylvania hunting WMUs include 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, and part of 3A. Just remember that the zones don’t completely coincide with county lines. For example, while Lawrence County sits entirely in 1A, only the southwestern region of Crawford County is in that zone. Butler and Beaver counties are both divided into three separate WMUs. So, to be on the safe side, consult a map to be sure that you are hunting in the right zone.
  • Don’t hunt on private property without permission
  • Make sure that you are hunting during legal hours
  • Follow laws about firing across roadways
  • Follow the requirements for wearing fluorescent orange

The Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest is a great resource to help you stay compliant with most of the relevant hunting regulations.

If you have any questions, contact firearms law attorney William R. Bickerton at (412) 596-8124 for a consultation.