PA: PGC to sell more doe tags this year

Harrisburg – The length of doe season is changing. The number of
doe licenses to be available is changing. Antler restrictions are
changing. The Deer Management Assistance Program is changing.

Other than that, this year’s deer hunting will look just like last

When Pennsylvania Game Commissioners gathered in Harrisburg earlier
this month to give final approval to seasons and bag limits for
2011-12, a number of species were discussed, some extensively. But
deer, as always, dominated.

One change expanded the number of wildlife management units that
will be managed under a split season format – five days of
bucks-only hunting followed by seven days of either-sex hunting –
to 11. The state’s other 11 units will feature 12 days of
concurrent buck and doe hunting.

The units with the split season are 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3B, 3C,
4B, 4D and 4E. Those with concurrent hunting are 1A, 1B, 2B, 3A,
3D, 4A, 4C, 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D.

That was not a surprise. Commissioners had given the change
tentative approval in April, and stuck to the idea, even though
enough people testified in opposition to the idea that Commissioner
Ralph Martone, of Lawrence County, congratulated them on
“connecting split seasons to everything but drought and famine in

Commissioners also adopted another proposal that had been
championed earlier in the year by Martone and Commissioner Bob
Schlemmer, of Westmoreland County.

The change is that units where bucks previously had to have four
antler points to a side to be legal will now be managed according
to a “3-up” rule. That means any buck with three points on one side
– excluding the brow tine – will now be legal.

The change – which impacts units 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and 2D – was
adopted to make it easier for hunters to identify what is a legal
deer, said Schlemmer.

“I’ve heard from a lot of our older hunters in particular who
wanted to say thank you because now they don’t have to worry about
that brow tine,” Schlemmer said.

Hunters don’t have to look for the tine, but if they see one in
those units, they can’t count it as the third point, warned
commission Executive Director Carl Roe.

Commissioners also set the number of antlerless deer licenses to be
made available. In most management units, the allocation is
designed to keep the herd at existing levels.

There are a few exceptions. The commission is – as always – trying
to lower the deer population in the state’s three most urban units,
including 2B, which surrounds Pittsburgh.

They also upped the number of doe permits issued in units 2D, 2F
and 3D. In the case of 2F, it was to offer more opportunity, since
licenses there typically sell out within a matter of days,
explained Martone.

In 2D, the goal is to lower the deer herd, as a citizen advisory
council recommended, he added.

In Unit 3D, the goal is to lower the deer herd a bit more and speed
up forest recovery, said Commissioner Jay Delaney, of Luzerne

Commissioners lowered the doe license allocation to allow the deer
herd to grow in units 3B, 4D and 4E.

Commissioner Tom Boop, of Northumberland County, who recommended
those adjustments, said he would have preferred more dramatic

“I’m just really tired of catering to the timber industry on
wildlife. Whether people like it or not, we are about providing
recreational opportunities for hunters,” Boop said.

Boop’s frustration – long on display over the deer program – was
nothing new. He predicted back in January that the buck harvest
from 2010-11 would be drastically down over prior years.

That didn’t come to pass, at least according to the commission’s
chief deer biologist, Chris Rosenberry. The agency’s estimated buck
harvest in particular was actually 13 percent higher than the year

Boop, in a March 16 letter to Roe, questioned the veracity of

“Quite frankly, no one that I have talked to since the news release
believes that the estimated antlered harvest figures are accurate,”
Boop wrote to Roe.

“Although I would like to believe that ‘no creative accounting’ has
been utilized, I am skeptical,”

He continued in that same vein at the commission meeting. When
Rosenberry gave a presentation to the board, Boop asked him if he
actually believed Pennsylvania held enough deer to support a
harvest of 316,240, last season’s estimate.

Some have suggested that would mean Pennsylvania had upwards of one
million deer, or 36 per square mile, he said.

Rosenberry’s answer was that “it doesn’t matter.” The commission
does not manage deer based on how many live within the state, he
said. It manages deer on a unit basis, with the size of the herd in
each based on deer and habitat health and human tolerances.

“If those goals for the deer program are being met, it doesn’t
matter” what the number of deer is, he said.

Cal DuBrock, head of the commission’s Bureau of Wildlife
Management, echoed those sentiments when asked about the total
number of doe licenses being issued this fall.

The total is 902,000, the highest it’s been in the last several
years. But that’s irrelevant, given that the commission manages
deer by specific wildlife management units, he said.

Commissioner Delaney said commissioners and the public would like
to have population estimates, though.

He also asked why Pennsylvania’s forests are not getting healthier
faster, given the presence of fewer deer compared to past

Roe suggested it’s possible to see quicker change, but only by
further lowering deer numbers and keeping them down longer,
something that would likely prove unpopular with many

“That’s where the social aspect of management comes in,” he

“It takes time,” Rosenberry added.

Finally, commissioners changed the rules regarding DMAP. It gives
landowners coupons that hunters can redeem for doe permits good for
their specific properties.

Last year, commissioners capped the number of permits and counted
them against the overall doe license allocation.

This year, there is no limit on coupons, and they will be offered
in addition to regular doe licenses.

Requests for coupons must be justified, however, said President
Commissioner Ron Weaner, of Adams County.

“Public landowners will have to present a management plan for their
property, and it will have to be approved by staff,” Weaner

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