Government that governs least governs best. So said one of the founding fathers. The fewer laws on the books, the better for the people of the country. With that being said, I believe most people would agree with that precept. It is usually when the discussion is political but, in a way, doesn’t the working of the Pennsylvania Game Commission tilt toward being somewhat political?

I suspect, with the help of a little inside knowledge, that we will soon be facing another set of rules, however, one that I support whole heartedly. There is no doubt that the use of semi-automatic firearms will soon be legalized here in our conservative home state and with it will come rules on the caliber firearm that can be used in big-game season. I have discussed this with friends who are avid shooters, who also hunt our big game. You see, the biggest problem with the use of semi-autos is it drags with it into deer hunting the inadequate .223 cartridge. You will find those who believe in multiple shots. Sorry, not a fan.

It is with these two problems the commission will be faced with a way to minimize the AR and AK mentality. Both the AR and the AK are fine military tools but are each just firing an inadequate cartridge in most instances. I was reminded of a few of the problems facing the Game Commission in deciding just where do you draw the line and how to make it work under field conditions?

Most hunters and riflemen I have talked to think the .243, 6MM-class rifle should be the lightest allowed for whitetail deer. This makes sense, but what of the fellow who wants to prove that his .22-250 is enough rifle and cartridge for deer? I know some who will take a shot afield just to prove a point. But his point is not why we hunt. Ethics are important and an adequate deer round starts with the .243. I know that the Jordan Buck, which was a world record at one time, was taken with the 25-20 but that was back in the dark ages and I believe he was shot multiple times.

Deciding what should be an adequate elk round is easy, for there are so few taken in Pennsylvania it’s easy to control what the hunter is using. So, let’s skip over elk and look at bear hunters. I have always said that bear require a bit more cartridge than deer. I still believe that to be true as even a small bear can weigh more than 175 pounds when field dressed. It takes a large deer to even approach that dressed weight. Then there is always a chance of running into a 500-pound bear. That’s a lot of muscle and teeth. Not only that, but bears tend to carry a layer of fat that the bullet must penetrate, and his fur coat may be wet and muddy. All this affects the path of the bullet as it strikes the target.

Logic says a bullet used for a bear should at least be .25 caliber but here we run into a snag. Should the puny .25-20 be allowed and the much more potent .240 Weatherby be illegal?

Now we face the problem that the commissioners must face. By using caliber alone, we eliminate some very good rounds and allow some that aren’t the best of performers. When looking at problems like this one the answer is never easy. There is always the smallish person who wants to bear hunt with a .243, and what about a 12-year old?

Then there is that old saying, government that governs best governs least.

George Block writes a weekly outdoors column for the Observer-Reporter.

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