PGC hears complaints: ‘too few doe tags issued’

DuBois, Pa. — Maybe this should be put in the “you can’t please all of the people all of the time” category.

Over the last few years, Pennsylvania Game commissioners have reduced the number of doe licenses available to hunters in an effort to let the deer herd grow. Hunters asked for that and the board listened, said Commissioner Brian Hoover, of Delaware County.

Now they – or at least a different segment of the hunting community – aren’t happy and want something else.

This year, said Commissioner Tim Layton, of Somerset County, board members received numerous complaints from hunters who said they wanted to buy a doe license but couldn’t because, with fewer available, they sold out too fast. Most of those complaints came from non-residents, he said.

That’s common, added commission President Dave Putnam, of Centre County.

“It is one of the more recurring themes in the comments we receive,” he said.

Layton said now is the time to look at whether there’s a way to fix that.

“One of the things I’d like to see for the next working group meeting is to have staff kind of get together and talk about how our doe license sales and allocations are distributed,” Layton said.

Under the existing rules, when doe tags go on sale, only state residents can apply immediately. Non-residents have to wait two weeks. When they do get to apply, resident hunters can, too, in hopes of getting a second tag.

By that time this year, several wildlife management units were already sold out of licenses.

“We get comments every year from out-of-state hunters about their ability, or the lack of their ability, to get doe licenses because they’re all gone by the time they get the opportunity to apply,” Layton said.

He asked staff to look at how many doe tags sell the first week, how many non-residents hunt in Pennsylvania annually, how many apply for a doe tag and how many get one, all to get a handle on how big a problem this might be.

“Virtually every one” of those hunters are former Pennsylvania residents, Putnam said. They say they moved away to find work, or because of being in the military, but would like to return home each fall to hunt, he added.

“They have camps here, they have family here,” Layton agreed. “So we really need to make that opportunity available to them.”

Hoover made sure to note that hunters, in a sense, are now complaining because they got exactly what they asked for. Issue fewer doe licenses, they said, and that’s what the board did, “pretty much all across the board.”

“Then the wave of ‘I didn’t get mine’ showed up,” Hoover added.

What some hunters are saying now, he added, is that they wanted fewer doe licenses issued, but not at the expense of being able to get one for themselves.

The commission is probably in a position now where it can afford to boost doe license allocations a bit, in response to growing deer numbers in places, he said. Maybe that will solve the issue, he added.

“Now we’re going to take a look at the deer herd, and as it comes up, we’re going to take the appropriate action,” Hoover said.

Any change would likely be minimal in the sense that it would impact only a portion of the state, Putnam said. 

Only a handful of wildlife management units in the northcentral part of the state sell out of doe tags in a matter of days.

That’s where any changes in application schedules or allocations will be noticed, he said.

Commissioner Jim Daley, of Butler County, asked for staff to take a look at some of the places with the most doe licenses to sell, too, though.

Right now, in management units that contain special regulations areas, hunters can at some point each fall buy licenses over the counter. There’s no limit on how many they can buy at a time.

“There are people who go out there and buy 47 tags,” he said.

He asked staff to see if there’s a way to limit how many licenses people can buy at one time, with the idea of perhaps selling licenses in multiple rounds so as to better distribute them among more hunters.

Commissioners did not speak to what kind of reaction they thought they might get if the rules change and a Pennsylvania hunter doesn’t get a doe tag because it went to someone who moved away. 

This review is worthwhile, though, Putnam said.

“I think it’s a very good topic for us to discuss,” he added.

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