Deer Hunters Debate New Semi-Automatic Weapons Law

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COOLBAUGH TOWNSHIP -- Rifle deer season is underway in Pennsylvania, and big changes are on the horizon when it comes to what type of gun you can use to hunt.

The season started just one week after Governor Tom Wolf signed a law allowing hunters to start using semi-automatic rifles. The new option for hunters is not in effect yet, but many are anxious to see how the new law changes things in Pennsylvania.

In Monroe County, it was a quiet day for hunters for the start of rifle deer season on Monday morning. Many hunters admit there wasn't a lot of success getting any deer.

"The weather is a lot nicer than it has been any other year, but it hasn't made the deer move. The deer seem to be staying put," said David Fehr of Easton.

These quiet mornings could get a little louder now that the ban on semi-automatic rifles for hunting has been lifted.

Even though the bill has been signed into law, the Pennsylvania Game Commission still needs to tweak the regulations and rules before hunters can start using semi-automatic weapons for hunting.

According to the game commission, the earliest that semi-automatic rifles could be approved and enacted would be April of 2017. Hunters we spoke with admit they're not too thrilled about the idea.

"They're not for hunting. They're for the target range and go have fun with them," said John McShaffery of Moscow.

"Personally, I don't think it's necessary for deer. For predator hunting, it's not a bad idea just because they're fast moving, but I don't think it's necessary for deer," said Trevor Faust of Bethlehem.

David Fehr of Easton has hunted deer in West Virginia where semi-automatic hunting is already allowed.

"When there's a deer running around, it sounds like a war zone. I'm in favor of it for coyotes, groundhogs, and stuff like that, but not for deer. The last thing I want to hear is rat-tat-tat. There's no reason for it," he said.

Those we spoke with don't think it'll add much more revenue for the state.

"I think the people that want to hunt, hunt right now whether it's rifle, archery, flintlock season. I think the guys that want to hunt are out here. I don't think people base it on the rifle they can use," said Dan McShaffery of Moscow.

The game commission meets in January where members will have to preliminarily adopt those changes, then advertise the changes, then bring it all up to a final vote.


  • critterbait

    There goes the 30 shot clips ,what better way to phase them out .When has the game commission in the last 20 yrs done anything right,gun grabbers full blown …


    The Remington 7400 is an autoloading sporter rifle. I have wanted one for some time, but they are impossible to find due to lack of a market for them. Hunters had to use manual actions, and target sports shooters used military pattern rifles. Speaking of military pattern rifles, m1garand, m1a, SKS, and m1 carbine are all useful in a hunting role. It would be great to see some of these guns come off the rack. Even the underpowered AR rifle’s have a role in hunting.

  • Archer

    And I thought legalizing crossbows for everyone was bad. Sheesh, pretty soon no one will have to put any effort into hunting. Let’s just train the game to walk up to you, and shoot themselves…

    • Haas Whisperer

      Wow what a slippery slope! How do you figure a crossbow or semi-auto makes hunting trivial? I believe they just make hunting more accessible to a more diverse group of people. Pennsylvanians pay for the State Game Lands through taxes and licence fees. Why should hunting be reserved for only those without physical limitations.

      • Jay

        If this law was really about persons with disabilities than the law should have been limited to persons with disabilities. After all, why shouldn’t the blind be able to for out hunting with their semi-automatics.

      • Jay

        And what relevance does State Game Lands have to this discussion? Last I checked, almost all public State Forests and most public State Parks are open to hunting as well. Land that non-hunters pay for through taxes. And there’s almost twice as many acres of State Forest and State Park land in the commonwealth as there is State Game Lands.

      • Haas Whisperer

        Well Jay, it was nice that you started with what looked like a compromise(limit it to those with disabilities) but then immediately retracted it by bring up the blind. In doing so you missed the point. If there was a technology or method by which the blind could safely enjoy hunting why would anyone oppose it? You also misunderstand my use of the word physical limitation. Not everyone has the benefit of being 6 feet tall 250 pounds. Your right there are more places to hunt than just the state game lands it was an example of a state resource. So why should we restrict anyone on the basis of physical limitations from enjoying these public resources.

  • Lloyd Schmucatelli

    Just like it’s always been been, the responsible hunters will be responsible, be it with a compound bow, flintlock, bolt action, AR, or even if they legalized a fully automatic. The irresponsible morons will still be irresponsible morons.

    • Supporter of America

      Don’t always agree with you, but well said. The 1st thought when shooting at an identified target should be one shot one kill, right along with is the shot safe/ethical to take. If those cannot be met, then there isn’t a shot regardless of the weapon.

  • Bill Gallagher

    And you show AR15 rifles. A regular everyday old 5.56/.223 is NOT a deer rifle, and will never be. The cartridge is too weak. Yes, there are uppers that can be fitted to these rifles to make them ‘deer’ rifles, but what you are showing in this video is sheer misrepresentation. I just want to use my WWII era wooden rifle that I can use in 48 other states. Right now, you can’t hunt with one of these with ONE round…and I can work a bolt action just as fast as a semi if I needed to. And rat-tat-tat????? That is “FULL auto”. Good luck with that…ten grand at a minimum, 6 to 9 month FBI/ATF background check, a special tax stamp, and not legal to hunt with anywhere. Poor reportage.

  • Sam I Am

    I am not against hunting at all, but if you can’t work the bolt or cock the lever, stay home,
    Besides that, someone firing multiple rounds on a moving target is obvi not aware of what’s behind it and just very well may hit another hunter.

    • Haas Whisperer

      “if you can’t work the bolt or cock the lever, stay home,”
      This is blatantly ignorant and discriminatory. Probably the biggest benefit to the semi-automatic action for hunting (which you still have to operate to load the first round) is that for a given cartridge the recoil is more manageable. Are you really of the opinion that people with disabilities should just stay home? How about wounded veterans should they just stay home? Secondly, what MEH said. Finally, thanks for the excellent example of a false dilemma.

      • L

        WHY does everything have to be considered “discriminatory” ?? Its your opinion, and that’s leave it be.
        WHY does everyone bring up Wounded Veterans like they have some “GOD” status?? Your service is appreciated and I Thank You, but when a Wounded Veteran takes a hammer and starts smashing apart shelving in your house, then pulls out a .45 and shoves it in your face, I lose a little bit of sympathy for that status you so proudly hold. Some Veterans shouldn’t even own guns, let alone be out hunting.

      • Sam I Am

        So now we pull the D card, gimme a break already, I suppose you want a handicap accessible ramp at the entrance to the woods too.

      • Haas Whisperer

        I can call it discriminatory since the quote was by definition discriminatory. I never said he was not entitled to his opinion but I am also not aware that I am prohibited from disagreeing. I never said that veterans held a god like status that gave them immunity. It was an appeal to those that might sympathize. I am sorry that you have had a bad experience with a disturbed veteran but unverifiable anecdotes is just bad debate. Saying “Some Veterans shouldn’t even own guns, let alone be out hunting” is essentially meaningless.

        Sam, I was addressing your claim that allowing semi-automatic rifles is absurd. So why are you pulling a red herring? Try producing evidence that in the 48 states that allow them it has significantly impacted hunter safety?

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