A Pittsburgh man has been fined $1,100 after he presented a wildlife conservation officer with a phony shooting-range permit he could have bought legitimately for $30.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission views the case as a timely reminder for those who take target practice at ranges on state game lands, where most participants who do not possess valid hunting or furtaker licenses must hold permits to use the range.
Both hunting licenses and shooting-range permits for 2013-14 go on sale soon.
Hunting licenses go on sale June 10, three weeks before the start of the new license year. Those needing shooting-range permits for 2013-14 must wait until July 1 to buy them. The permits that are on sale now are valid until June 30. The next permit period runs from July 1 to June 30, 2014.
Those who will need licenses and permits in the coming months might be able to save themselves some trouble by buying them soon after they go on sale.
The Game Commission in 2011 began requiring permits for range shooters without hunting licenses as a way to make sure all who use the agency's firearms ranges contribute to the cost of their upkeep. Licensed hunters and furtakers are required to carry their licenses with them while using the ranges.
The range at which the counterfeit permit was presented is part of State Game Lands 203 in Allegheny County.
Wildlife Conservation Officer Dan Puhala said the range sees heavy use and he often patrols there. While at the range on March 13, Puhala observed a target shooter fire a series of about 10 shots, which he said was in violation of range rules that dictate a three-shot limit. Puhala asked to see the man's shooting-range permit, and while the man presented a permit to the officer, it turned out to be counterfeit.
While shooting-range permits can be purchased online and printed at home, they have distinguishing markings that identify them as authentic, Puhala said.
The man was charged for the range violation and for possessing the counterfeit permit, and he pleaded guilty on Thursday to both counts. All told, the man was fined $1,100 and he faces a possible five-year revocation of his shooting-range permit and hunting-license privileges.
Shooting-range permits cost $30 per year for residents and nonresidents. Those 15 years of age and younger do not need a permit if they are properly accompanied by a licensed or permitted person 18 years of age or older. Additionally, each licensed hunter or range permit holder can bring along one unpermitted or unlicensed guest.
Like hunting licenses, shooting-range permits are valid from July 1 to June 30 each year. The permits can be purchased online at "The Outdoor Shop" on the Game Commission's website(www.pgc.state.pa.us
). Following the purchase, which requires payment by credit or debit cards, a downloadable permit is provided and can be printed on a home computer. The agency sells the permits through its Harrisburg headquarters and six region offices. However, since the purchase will be processed through "The Outdoor Shop," only credit and debit cards are used for payment.
Hunting licenses also can be purchased online through the Game Commission's website, and are available through a host of issuing agents. Countywide lists of issuing agents also are available at the commission's website.