End of an Era: Pennsylvania Will Likely Say Farewell to the Hunter Back Tag

In Pennsylvania, the state that issues the most hunting licenses per capita, some sportsman could probably paper the walls of a room or two with all of their old hunting back tags. Indeed, if the state legislature has their way, wallpaper may be the sole function of the once-prolific licenses. If the Pennsylvania Senate agrees with a recent measure approved by the House, hunter back tags will be a thing of the past in 49 of the 50 states. The once-ubiquitous back tags, now considered outdated and impractical, are currently required as part of the hunter dress code in the states of New York and Pennsylvania.

In a unanimous vote this week, the Pennsylvania state Senate passed a bill introduced by Rep. Keith Gillespie (R-Hellam) that would repeal the requirement for hunters to sport the colorful badges.

Said Gillespie, “We are now a step closer to no longer being one of two states that still requires back tags to be worn by our sportsmen… In addition to being an outdated practice, this is inconvenient for hunters as well.” Opponents of the tags have argued that crawling through brush and moving through the woods often complicate attempts to keep the tags fastened. Furthermore, in a time when budgets are stretched thin, any unnecessary expenses are open to scrutiny.

Although the tags carry with them a certain nostalgia, most believe their time as a useful tool for game officials has passed. In an age when digitized databases allow game officials to check hunter information online in real time, the practicality of asking hunters to wear tags has diminished.

Said Gillespie, “I know there will be complaints from residents who wish to see visual proof of a license, but this legislation does nothing to detract them from still having the right approach a hunter and ask to see a license.” Gillespie also noted, “Frankly, the print on these tags is so small that I find it hard to believe it could be read from a distance.”

The Pennsylvania Senate will now determine whether to send the legislation to the governor’s desk. It should be noted that a number of states still require back tags for deer and other species-specific hunting seasons.