Two additional gun categories approved for hunting in Pennsylvania

Two additional firearms categories have been approved for hunting in Pennsylvania Special Regulations Areas.

The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners voted Tuesday to approve the two additional categories, which include semiautomatic rifles and air guns, The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reported.

The move came after the state legislature passed a measure in 2016 to make air and semiautomatic rifles legal for hunting. The legislation was sponsored by state Republican Rep. Matt Gabler.

“Now is the perfect time for air- and gas-powered weapons,” Gabler said after the bill’s passage. “It’s been a great project to work on.”

Before that legislation was passed, all states allowed air rifle hunting except Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Pennsylvania hunters were also previously restricted to using rimfire rifles, shotguns, muzzleloading long guns and archery equipment in the Special Regulations Areas.

Semiautomatic shotguns are still legal for hunting waterfowl, while centerfire rifles remain prohibited for hunting in Allegheny County, due to a “special regulation.”

According to the new rules, air guns must be between .177 and .22 caliber when used to hunt small game in Special Regulations Areas. It remains illegal throughout Pennsylvania to use air guns to hunt big game, including deer. Semiautomatic rifles .22 caliber or smaller are now legal to use for small game hunting.

All of Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties have implemented special regulation restrictions. Ridley Creek Park in Delaware County, and Tyler State Parks, Bucks County, also have special regulation restrictions for controlled hunts.

The regulatory changes should take effect in six to eight weeks when they are published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin. As of now, this would not be in time for the start of the first small game hunting season on Oct. 14.