Sunday, January 29th, 2023
Sunday, January 29th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Debate expected at Jan. 22-24 meeting

Staff Report

Harrisburg — The January meeting of the Pennsylvania Game
Commission, often the liveliest of the year, figures to be marked
by debate, discussion and dialogue again.

And that’s just counting what’s likely to go on between
commissioners.

Differences of opinion about how to manage the state’s
white-tailed deer herd figure to drive all of that. At least a few
commissioners want to leave the road the board has been following
in regards to deer, or at least pull to the side for a while.

Commissioner Tom Boop, of Northumberland County, for example,
tried to persuade commissioners in October to change the look of
the firearms deer season in about half of the state’s wildlife
management units. He wanted one week of buck-only hunting, followed
by a week of concurrent buck and doe hunting.

That, he said then, would allow deer numbers to grow in
so-called “cold spots” that have few deer left.

These days, after seeing five deer in six days of hunting from
his camp in Union County, he plans to push that idea again. He said
he’ll propose something similar in January.

“I think we need to manage these different management units
differently,” said Boop, who did kill a doe on his own farm. “The
statewide system of managing deer has some problems.”

Boop also said he’ll again lobby the Game Commission and
Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to cut more timber
on state game lands and state forest lands.

“I think, with deer numbers as low as they are, now is the time
to start doing some of that,” Boop said.

He may have an ally in Commissioner Steve Mohr, of Lancaster
County. Mohr admitted that the 2004-05 deer harvest was better than
some predicted it would be — it ranked sixth all-time in
Pennsylvania history at 409,320. He doesn’t think this year’s
harvest will match that, though, and not just because the
commission sold about 15 percent fewer doe licenses this year than
last.

What’s more, he said the commission has to do more than worry
just about harvest totals. It’s just as important that those kills
come from the right places.

“The statewide kill may have been OK in the past, but if all of
it is occurring in the southwest and the southeast, what good does
it do? It does nothing to satisfy the hunter who hunts from a camp
in the northcentral,” Mohr said.

Commissioner Dan Hill, of Erie County, meanwhile, doesn’t
necessarily agree that any changes need to be made in the deer
management program. He’d like to have some more information in hand
before making his mind up completely, however.

Hill tried to get commissioners to delay giving preliminary
approval to 2006-07 seasons and bag limits in October, before any
of the 2005-06 seasons had even been held. He didn’t win that
argument — a motion to table things failed by a 4-3 vote, with
commissioner David Schreffler, of Bedford County, absent — but he
plans to make it again in January.

Specifically, he’d like commissioners to wait until April to
give final approval of seasons and bag limits so that they can know
things like the estimated size of the deer harvest.

As proof of the need to wait before acting, he pointed to the
2005 bear season. In October, commissioners voted to expand the
2006 bear season by adding a one-day archery season to the mix.

Six weeks later, hunters killed a record 4,123 bears, prompting
Cal DuBrock, director of the bureau of wildlife management, to
express some concern that the kill may have been too high. HIll
doesn’t want to jump out too far on deer, then find out
commissioners should have been more conservative.

“I don’t think that discussion is so theoretical now,” Hill
said.

He suspects a vote to table seasons and bag limits in January
could wind up deadlocked 4-4. If that happens, they’re tabled by
default.

All in all, January’s meeting is shaping up to perhaps be a
noteworthy one.

“I think it’s going to be a real interesting time,” Hill
said.

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