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Pennsylvania Game Commission: Small Game Season Ignites Fall Excitement.

Hunters urged to be careful and to hunt responsibly

HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- Being afield for small game hunting can be one of fall's most pleasurable experiences. Cold, crisp morning air. A colorful landscape. Barking beagles or pointing German shorthairs. The explosion of game from cover.

"The start of small game season -- whether for squirrels, ruffed grouse, rabbits or pheasants -- has been exciting Pennsylvanians for a long time," said Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe. "It historically has been the starting point of many a young person's hunting career, and an annual stepping out period for many in the state's hunting community. Small game hunting is about reliving and making memories. It's a great time to be outdoors.

"Hunters who get out for small game know that action can and does erupt at any time. In good habitat, suspense accompanies a hunting party every step of the way. It's a great way to get kids started in hunting and a fine way for family and old friends to spend a day afield.

"Pennsylvania's small game hunting tradition is well-documented in old photographs and postcards. Small game often hangs out in the thickest, nastiest cover it can find when the pressure is on. Often that means multi- flora rose tangles, swampy settings and sapling/briar thickets. That's why a dog is always an asset in these settings. But don't forget the brush-pants or chaps."

Hunters pursuing small game face the challenges of poor footing, obstacles and limited visibility almost on a regular basis. These factors can influence hunter safety, as well as success.

"A review of small game hunting-related shooting incidents over the past ten seasons demonstrates that hunters can improve their safety afield by following the SMART rules for firearms safety that are reinforced in the Game Commission's Hunter-Trapper Education Program," noted Keith Snyder, Hunter- Trapper Education Division chief. "Being SMART with firearms will ensure you are a safe hunter."
 The acronym SMART reinforces the following rules:
 -- Safe Direction: Keep your firearm pointed in a safe direction.
 -- Make Sure: Positively identify your target.
 -- Always Check: Know what's beyond your target before shooting.
 -- Respect Firearms: Treat all firearms as if they were loaded.
 -- Trigger Caution: Don't touch the trigger until you're ready to shoot.




"These simple, but highly effective firearm safety rules will help every hunter who employs them to make sound shooting decisions," Snyder said. "When coupled with the wearing of fluorescent orange clothing, which increases hunter visibility, they will surely augment your efforts to be safe and to hunt responsibly."

Hunters heading afield to hunt small game in the upcoming seasons also are asked to hunt cautiously, defensively and safely.

"Small game hunting requires participants to be especially attentive, particularly when hunting in the shrubby cover where these game animals are routinely found," said Snyder. "As with all hunting, small game hunters must make quick assessments of whether to shoot or pass. Make sure you and your hunting party have a pre-determined hunting plan, and know where everyone in the party is at all times. Be sure everyone understands where his or her safe zone-of-fire is located. Never shoot at game outside of these identified safe areas. More importantly, never shoot at game passing between you and another hunter. If there's the slightest doubt, don't shoot. It's never worth the risk."

The Game Commission encourages hunters to ask for permission to hunt on all private property and to treat any property they hunt with respect and care. With each passing year, development, changes in land ownership and posting of private property leave fewer and fewer places to hunt in Pennsylvania.

"By their actions and reactions, hunters will help to define hunting's future in this Commonwealth," Roe said. "Every year, there are a few individuals who behave poorly or worse while afield. Hunters can and do help to curb this problem.

If you notice something is wrong or improper on land you're hunting, inform the landowner immediately. A busted waterline or fence could lead to big problems for farmers. Landowners also want to know about individuals who are destructive, reckless or treat farm animals poorly.

"Most hunters are upstanding individuals who treat the property they hunt with respect," emphasized Snyder. "This is evident by the way they dress and hunt, their mannerisms and their respect for natural resources, landowners and other hunters. A landowner benefits from the services hunters provide."

Hunters who see violations afield are asked to report them to the Game Commission through the SPORT program (Sportsmen Policing Our Ranks Together). Started by the Game Commission in 1976, SPORT minimizes conflict between hunters and the general public and serves as a means to improve and promote hunter ethics. Call any agency region office to report a violation.

For more information on SPORT, visit the Game Commission's website -- http://www.pgc.state.pa.us/ -- then click on "SPORT Program" in the "Quick Clicks" box in the homepage's upper right-hand column.

"Be a good sport while you're afield," Roe emphasized. "Don't take chances or let the excitement of the hunt cloud your judgment. Ask for permission to hunt on all properties every year; don't assume you have a standing invitation to return annually. Be and project the image of a model hunter."

Be mindful of "no trespassing" signs and the safety zones for nearby buildings. Don't litter, including leaving cigarette butts behind. Don't hunt in un-harvested fields or crowd other hunters. Don't park in wet areas in which your tires will leave ruts, or block gated roads.

Created in 1895 as an independent state agency, the Game Commission is responsible for conserving and managing all wild birds and mammals in the Commonwealth, establishing hunting seasons and bag limits, enforcing hunting and trapping laws, and managing habitat on the 1.4 million acres of State Game Lands it has purchased over the years with hunting and furtaking license dollars to safeguard wildlife habitat. The agency also conducts numerous wildlife conservation programs for schools, civic organizations and sportsmen's clubs.

The Game Commission does not receive any general state taxpayer dollars for its annual operating budget. The agency is funded by license sales revenues; the state's share of the federal Pittman-Robertson program, which is an excise tax collected through the sale of sporting arms and ammunition; and monies from the sale of oil, gas, coal, timber and minerals derived from State Game Lands.

CONTACT: Jerry Feaser, Pennsylvania Game Commission, +1-717-705-6541, or PGCNews@state.pa.us

Web site: http://www.pgc.state.pa.us/
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Oct 18, 2006
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