By RICHARD FELLINGER
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
After hunters bombarded them with complaints about deer being scarce, state game commissioners decided Tuesday to sell fewer antlerless-deer licenses for this year's hunting season.
By a 4-2 vote, the Pennsylvania Game Commission approved a 15 percent cut in the number of antlerless permits that will be available statewide. There will be 879,000 antlerless licenses available, down from 1.039 million last year.
But the commissioners rejected sweeping changes that would have shortened the rifle doe season. They decided to keep a concurrent, 12-day rifle season for buck and doe.
Their decisions followed months of controversy about the size of the state's deer herd.
Some hunters said they saw few deer in the woods and wanted a shorter doe season or reductions in the number of antlerless licenses.
Meanwhile, some farmers and forest advocates argued against changes, saying the deer herd should be smaller to prevent damage to farms and forests.
Commissioners Thomas Boop and Stephen Mohr, who voted against the 15-percent cut in antlerless licenses, said the change doesn't go far enough.
"I think we could have made a further reduction without retreating from science," Boop said.
The four commissioners who voted for the 15-percent reduction were John Riley, Roxane Palone, Russell Schleiden and Gregory Isabella.
Boop proposed a shorter doe season, but his plan was rejected by the same vote of 4-2. His proposal would have maintained the 12-day buck season but shortened doe season to only seven days in most of the state.
Riley, the commission president, said commissioners have listened to hunters and tried to consider the interests of farmers, nurseries and others who use the woods.
"We gave it our best shot. We argued until we were blue in the face," Riley said.
The reductions in antlerless permits vary in different regions of the state.
In the wildlife units that cover York and Adams counties, there will be 13 percent fewer antlerless permits this year.
In unit 5B, which includes most of York County, there will be 56,000 permits available, down from 64,000 last year. In unit 5A, which includes most of Adams, there will be 28,000, down from 32,000.
The biggest reduction is in the northcentral region, where one unit will have 44 percent fewer antlerless permits. Unit 2G, which stretches from Elk County to Lycoming County, will have 29,000 permits this year, down from 52,000.
Reactions to the changes varied. A statewide sportsman's group said they don't go far enough while the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau fears they go too far.
Greg Levengood, board chairman of the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania, was disappointed that commissioners rejected the shorter doe season.
"I would have liked to have seen something more aggressive," Levengood said.
Jeff Grove of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau said he was "very concerned" that fewer doe permits will be sold, but he also said he wanted to analyze the changes before reaching a final conclusion.
Grove said the changes should serve as a reminder that landowners with problems caused by deer browsing should apply for special programs such as the Deer Management Assistance Program, which allows expanded deer hunting on private land.
The number of deer killed in Pennsylvania dropped 12 percent last year to 409,320, but it was the sixth-highest harvest in the past 20 years, according to the Game Commission.
Meanwhile, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources last week released the results of aerial deer surveys that show low deer numbers in some areas of the state. But DCNR supports more hunting as a way to rebuild state forests that have been damaged by browsing in some areas.
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