It is no surprise that Pennsylvania is among the nation’s top hunting states. Bustling with small and large game animals alike, Pennsylvania is home to black bears, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and many other critters. Whether you are targeting game birds, furbearers or both, Pennsylvania is a goldmine for hunting.
However, before you slip on your hunting gear, grab some ammo and load up your vehicle with supplies, it is important to familiarize yourself with the state’s hunting laws. Read on to learn about the firearms you can and cannot use for hunting in Pennsylvania.
Can you hunt deer with a pistol in Pennsylvania? What about a revolver? The answer is yes — you can legally use a handgun for hunting in the state. However, semiautomatic handguns are prohibited for hunting. They are only permitted for self-defense purposes.
You must use a manually operated, centerfire handgun. The firearm must be .22 caliber or larger, propelling single-projectile ammunition. You must also have one of these permits for hunting with a handgun:
- License to Carry Firearms: Anyone 21 years or older can apply for a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms. You will need to submit an application to your county sheriff. If you live in Philadelphia, you can submit your application to the city’s chief of police.
- Sportsman’s Firearm Permit: Anyone 18 years or older and licensed to hunt, fish or trap can apply for a Sportsman’s Firearm Permit. You can submit an application to your county treasurer’s office. A hunter with a Sportsman’s Firearm permit cannot carry a handgun while spotlighting or bowhunting. They also cannot carry a loaded or concealed handgun in a vehicle.
You can hunt small and large game with a rifle in Pennsylvania, but keep in mind that fully automatic and semiautomatic rifles are prohibited. You can use manually operated, gas- or air-powered, and single-shot centerfire rifles for small game and furbearers.
Here are some frequently asked questions about hunting with a rifle in the state:
- Can you hunt with an AR-15 in Pennsylvania? Because an AR-15 is a lightweight semiautomatic rifle, hunting with an AR-15 in this state is considered unlawful.
- Can you hunt turkey with a rifle in Pennsylvania? As of now, you cannot legally hunt with a rifle during the fall turkey season. Recent data shows that 14% of the state’s fall turkey hunters primarily use rifles, and these firearms contribute to 33% of the fall turkey harvest. Pennsylvania decided to remove rifles from the fall season to reduce hen harvest. The state will consider reinstating rifle hunting during fall turkey seasons if harvest numbers decrease enough. In the meantime, hunters can still use muzzleloaders, shotguns, traditional archery or crossbows to hunt turkeys during fall.
- Can you hunt coyotes with an AR-15 in Pennsylvania? You cannot legally hunt coyotes with an AR-15 in Pennsylvania, as this is a semiautomatic rifle. However, you can hunt coyotes and other furbearers with manually operated rifles or handguns of any caliber .22 or larger. You can also use bows, crossbows and manual or semiautomatic shotguns for coyote hunting.
Can you hunt with a semiautomatic shotgun in Pennsylvania? Unlike semiautomatic rifles, you can legally hunt with semiautomatic centerfire shotguns that use single-projectile ammo.
Other FAQs About Hunting in Pennsylvania
Now that we have covered the different guns you can and cannot use for hunting in Pennsylvania, we will answer some other common questions you might have.
1. Can You Conceal Carry While Hunting in Pennsylvania?
You might be wondering if you can carry a pistol while hunting in Pennsylvania. As mentioned above, you can only possess this type of firearm for self-defense purposes. According to Pennsylvania Code Title 58, you can possess certain firearms during archery deer season for protecting yourself or others.
You might also consider using a different round in your hunting firearm than in your concealed carry handgun. That way, there is no confusion regarding which gun was fired and when it was used.
2. Can You Hunt With a Suppressor in Pennsylvania?
Yes. You can use a suppressor to reduce sound and recoil during hunting, home defense, target shooting and any other legal use. Most states allow suppressors and silencers, as they promote safer and more polite hunting.
3. Can You Hunt Deer With a .223 in Pennsylvania?
You can hunt deer with a .223 caliber rifle if you legally possess it. In Pennsylvania, .22 is the minimum legal caliber for deer hunting. However, it is a good idea to check the rules in your local area to ensure you can lawfully hunt deer with a .223 caliber. The Pennsylvania Game Commission proposed a minimum caliber of .24 for deer and bear hunting, but the state’s Board of Game Commissioners voted against this proposal.
4. Can You Hunt From a Vehicle in Pennsylvania?
Under no circumstances can you hunt from a vehicle in Pennsylvania, regardless of whether it is moving or parked. When traveling to your hunting site, your firearm or crossbow should be completely unloaded while in the vehicle, even if you have a License to Carry Firearms. If you spot a critter from the side of the road, you must get out of your vehicle before aiming and pulling the trigger.
This rule means you cannot use a motorized scooter or ATV to assist your hunt. You can use this vehicle to travel to and from the hunting site, but always ensure you are hunting on foot to comply with state law. Discharging your loaded gun or crossbow into soft ground before loading it into your vehicle is best practice.
5. Can You Use a Gun-Mounted Light for Hunting in Pennsylvania?
When hunting any type of furbearer — including foxes, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, weasels and opossums — you can use a gun-mounted light as long as it does not project a laser-light beam. According to Title 34 by the Pennsylvania General Assembly, you can mount a spotlight or flashlight on the gun for furbearer hunting if the primary power source is contained within the light or on the person.
6. How Do You Get a State Hunting License in Pennsylvania?
The Pennsylvania Game Commission outlines the steps to purchase a hunting license and the different types available. You can purchase your state hunting license in person or online.
Purchase Guns or Practice Your Shooting Skills at Keystone Shooting Center
If you need a place to sharpen your shooting skills before your next hunt, come to Keystone Shooting Center in Mars, Pennsylvania. We are a world-class shooting range with one of the region’s most advanced shooting simulator systems, climate-controlled lanes and full walk-in access to anyone looking to improve their marksmanship.
You can also check out our full-service firearms superstore if you are searching for the perfect hunting gun. Visit our facility to practice your shooting skills or shop for a hunting firearm today!
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