Deer-kill reports may be forced

Harrisburg — Less than a third of Pennsylvania hunters report – as required by law – when they kill a deer, and frustrated state official are poised to force compliance.

At their recent meeting, game commissioners discussed how they would respond if a bill in the state Senate passes to remove the requirement that hunters report deer kills by mail within 10 days.

Because nonreporting hunters have escaped prosecution by simply saying that they “mailed the report card,” the legislation is seen as the first step toward getting a high percentage of deer hunters to report.

“Who’s to say they didn’t mail them? If we don’t discontinue mail reporting, we will be where we are right now – so it will be reporting by telephone or Internet or going to an issuing agent,“ said Commissioner Dave Putnam, of Centre County, president of the board.

“However, we don’t have a system like that set up now. Wherever you got your license, you could go back there to report. That’s what they do in other states.”

Commissioner Jay Delaney, of Luzerne County, noted that Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Adams County, introduced SB 374 to  change reporting requirements after conversations with game commissioners concerned about the low reporting rate.

The bill would stipulate a 24-hour reporting requirement.

“My take on this is that the reporting rate continues to go down – how low is just too low? One of the WMUs actually had only 27 percent reporting and some DMAP areas have just 10 percent reporting,” Delaney said.

“The people I talk to say, ‘I don’t care if I send a card,’ and ‘Why should I send a card,’ so where does that stop? When we are too low and do nothing – that is horribly wrong.”

Commissioner Brian Hoover, of Delaware County, agreed, pointing out that reporting deer kills is law, and must be enforced.

“Why wouldn’t we be serious about doing this? I have a problem with not wanting to get the reporting rate higher – it is the responsibility of hunters,” he said.

“The law specifically states that you have to report your deer and if we don’t prosecute, that’s our mistake.”

The commission estimates harvest figures by visiting butcher shops and examining deer, then cross-checking those they see against those reported. With that information, they calculate an estimated harvest.

Biologists have said the system – which has been peer reviewed and vetted – produces a statistically valid estimate.

“The issue with that is, no one believes the returns,” said Hoover.

Wes Waldron, spokesman for the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, told commissioners at the meeting his group doesn’t support Alloway’s bill, believing 24 hours after a deer harvest is not long enough for many hunters.

And the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs has expressed concerns with that, too. Some hunters away at camp, with no Internet and maybe no phone service, don’t want to be forced to leave to report a deer, members have said.

If Alloway’s bill becomes law, Putnam said hunters who report killing a deer likely will be given a confirmation number that they would be required to give to butchers, taxidermists and even license issuing agents the next year. 

Those who take a deer and don’t report and don’t get a confirmation number, if discovered,  would be subjected to a fine that must be paid before another hunting license could be purchased. 

The plan would be for conservation officers to step up enforcement, according to Rich Palmer, commission deputy director, who until recently was the commission’s chief law enforcement officer.

“From purely an enforcement perspective, the 24-hour system is designed to make enforcement much easier, because when you have a 10-day reporting requirement, that deer is butchered, in the freezer, all the parts are gone and there is nothing left, so how do you know whether someone reported or they didn’t,” he said.

“With a 24-hour requirement, you are talking about checkpoints and within 24 hours, you take enforcement action right there.

It’s pretty simple, Palmer added. “You kill a deer, you report, you get a confirmation number, and if you don’t have it, you are arrested.” 

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