Harrisburg – If you were hoping that a Commonwealth Court judge
dismissing the lawsuit filed by the Unified Sportsmen of
Pennsylvania against the Game Commission was going to dampen the
state’s raging controversy over deer management, dream on.
The ruling – which stated in no uncertain terms that the Unified’s
case was unfounded – may have only made things worse.
“In a way, I’m glad the judge ruled the way he did – hunters got a
wake-up call and this put some piss and vinegar into them for the
fight,” said Steve Mohr, a former game commissioner from Lancaster
County, who is now president of the Unified Sportsmen.
“We view his ruling against us as just a bump in the road – just a
temporary setback. We are going to file an appeal to the
Commonwealth Court within the required period, and we will appeal
it all the way to the state Supreme Court if we have to.
“We are not going to give up, we can’t give up, because if we do
the deer-hunting tradition in Pennsylvania will be done.”
The decision, which was issued Feb. 8 and signed by Senior Judge
Barry Feudale, was the second ruling against Unified Sportsmen
since 2007, when Commonwealth Court dismissed the organization’s
lawsuit against the commission on procedural grounds. The suit was
unfounded, according to the agency’s executive director.
“This court ruling is a strong statement that the Game Commission’s
deer-management program is being conducted in a sound and
scientific manner,” said Carl Roe. “In essence, Commonwealth
Court’s latest ruling dismissed the challenge because it lacked
“Our hope is that this second ruling will cease the unnecessary
expenditure of sportsmen’s dollars and tax dollars fighting
frivolous and baseless lawsuits.”
As part of the ruling, the court canceled the scheduled hearing
that had been set for Feb. 28. Mohr contended that, in his opinion,
the judge “left the door wide open for an appeal,” because he
spelled out the things that the Game Commission should be doing,
and is not doing, in its deer-management program.
“It was almost like he left the door open on purpose,” Mohr noted,
adding that the Unifieds should have had their day in court.
“What is really irritating folks about this ruling is, if the Game
Commission is so sure of its deer program, why is it so reluctant
to get into the courtroom and defend it,” he said.
“It’s no wonder they fear us – the whole program is built on
fraudulent science and they know it. That’s why the Unified and
hunters will win this eventually.
“The Game Commission is the big dog, the Unified Sportsmen is the
underdog,” Mohr added. “But we’ll win in the long run. We are
already making a difference.
“There is no question in my mind that there will be changes in
personnel in the deer program as a result of all this. I guarantee
Response to the lawsuit being thrown out by the court was swift and
sharp. “My reaction, similar to many supporting our case, was
disbelief,” said Randy Santucci, a Pittsburgh businessman and
Unified board member.
“Thousands of sportsmen invested tens of thousands of dollars in
legal fees, watched this case get legal standing and develop over
31⁄2 years – only to see it dismissed 21⁄2 weeks before the hearing
Ted Onufrak, president of the Pennsylvania Federation of
Sportsmen’s Clubs, was glad to see the suit dismissed. “Needless
hours of staff time and agency funds were expended to defend a
pretty much baseless claim made by hunting license buyers, but not
sportsmen,” he said.
Regarding an appeal, he added, “I wish there was a way to get them
to reimburse the sportsmen for the cost of all this.”