Weekly news, tips, trivia, fun facts and wild tales from the outdoors
Nov. 4, 2015
An interesting court case co-mingling the First and Second Amendments of the Constitution was filed last week in Lancaster County, Pa., not coincidentally located in heart of Pennsylvania’s Amish region. You’ll also read about a record year for bear hunters in Western Maryland last week, and more.
Court Case Questions Photo ID For Amish Gun Buyers
Andrew Hertzler, as a man of Amish faith and tradition, claims in a suit filed October 23 in U.S. Middle District Court that the photo identification requirement to purchase a firearm is a violation of his constitutional right to possess a firearm and of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The Amish hold strict religious beliefs and also reject photography, especially posed photography, which they believe leads to idolatrous vanity.
The suit claims Hertzler was prohibited from purchasing a firearm for self-defense purposes at a Pennsylvania licensed firearms dealer with his state-issued non-photo ID on June 2.
Defendants in the suit include the federal government, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, FBI Director James B. Comey and Thomas E. Brandon and Christopher C. Shaffer, acting director and assistant director of public and government affairs, respectively, for the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE).
Hertzler’s suit contends the use of the state’s non-photo ID regularly used by those of Amish faith, supplemented with other documentation, should be sufficient to allow him to purchase firearms for personal and family protection.
Outside of not possessing a photo ID, Hertzler is not prohibited by state or federal law from purchasing or possessing a firearm, according to the suit.
Attached to the court complaint is a letter from the ATF’s Shaffer indicating the agency provides no exceptions to the photo ID requirement.
The suit seeks a permanent injunction to prevent the defendants from enforcing the photo regulations against those who claim a religious exemption, as well as a declaration that the photo regulation and related policies and procedures violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Pennsylvania CWD Rules, Restrictions Expanded
Pennsylvanians who hunt deer, elk or other cervids out-of-state might be affected by newly updated rules that prohibit the importation of specific high-risk cervid parts into Pennsylvania from states and provinces where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission announced this week that high-risk deer parts no longer may be imported from Ohio, Maryland, New York, Virginia, or West Virginia in an effort to prevent the spread of CWD in The Keystone State.
Ohio is new to the list of states from which high-risk cervid parts – including the head and backbone – cannot be imported into Pennsylvania. The addition is in response to CWD being detected in Ohio for the first time in 2014. Previously, the prohibition applied only to portions of those states in which CWD had been identified in captive or wild cervids.
Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said the updated rules better protect Pennsylvania from high-risk parts that might come from out-of-state harvests.
“The introduction and spread of CWD in our wild-deer population is a serious issue,” Hough said. “The consequences of spreading CWD has potential to jeopardize the future of deer hunting in Pennsylvania.”
Maryland Hunters Harvest Record 95 Bears
The 2015 Maryland Black Bear Hunting Season came to a close on October 29, with a record 95 bears harvested and reported into mandatory check-in stations across Garrett and Allegany counties. The harvest total is one more than the previous record of 94 set in 2013.
Ronald Oberender of Toddville took the largest bear of the season, a 520-pound male.
Statistically, a total of 80 bears were taken in Garrett County and 15 in Allegany County, two of the four counties where bear hunting is legal in Maryland.
Out of more than 4,300 hunt applicants, 1,173 were drawn for tags.
“The record success of the bear hunt shows that we are effectively managing the black bear population,” Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Paul Peditto said. “With such a healthy bear population throughout Western Maryland’s four counties, this hunt is an essential tool used to slow the growth of the bear population.”
Legislators From 30 State Sportsmen’s Caucuses Convene
Last week, legislators from 30 state legislative sportsmen’s caucuses and nearly 200 attendees joined the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) and representatives from the hunting and fishing community in Manchester, Vt., for the 12th Annual National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Sportsman-Legislator Summit, to reflect on current issues related to hunting, angling, and fish and wildlife conservation.
Themed, “Taking Action: Advancing a Conservation Agenda,” this year’s Summit informative policy sessions included: Lead Ammunition Bans, Rebranding Hunting and Angling to the Public: Wildlife Councils for Public Education, Habitat Management on Public Lands, Anti-Hunters’ New Focus, Chronic Wasting Disease, Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation, Right to Hunt and Fish Constitutional Amendments, Challenges for America’s Anglers, Wildlife Trapping Issues, and many more.
“Now with 48 states under NASC, hunters, anglers, recreational shooters, and trappers throughout the country are represented better than ever in the states legislatures,” said NASC Executive Council President Sen. Robin Webb of Kentucky.
Quote of the Week
“I suppose there are no bad bird dogs, even though there are many we do not understand.”
– Charles F. Waterman,
Times and Places, Home and Away, 1988
J.R. Absher is a freelance outdoor writer whose articles and columns appear in numerous national publications. He offers his unique perspective of the outdoors weekly for sportsmansguide.com. You may contact him at email@example.com.