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Feature - Game Commission Begins Countdown To 2008 Deer Season

The state's biggest draw for hunters is set to begin the Monday after Thanksgiving, according to Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe, when the two-week firearms deer season opens.

"When hunters begin to mobilize for the start of our traditional firearms deer season, there's an unmistakable change that sweeps throughout Pennsylvania," Roe said. "Fluorescent orange and camouflage clothing instantly become as common as denim. The crack of firearms being sighted in at rifle ranges can be heard in the distance. Cars are parked on the shoulders of roads that bisect or border most forested areas, as hunters scout for deer sign and look for the perfect stand locations. Newspapers advertise hunter breakfasts and write stories about mom-and-pop butcher shops that process deer for hunters.

"Deer season has a dramatic effect on the Commonwealth. It provides recreation to hundreds of thousands of hunters, and for those who take a deer, dozens of meals of tasty venison. It also provides an economic surge that local businesses and national chain stores count on annually. Hunters buy everything from clothing and equipment, to fuel and food. Their economic impact is substantial.

"Deer season also is an important tool that the Game Commission has used for more than a century to manage Pennsylvania's whitetails. The efforts of hunters are far-reaching, and they help to keep deer populations at levels to meet deer management goals."

The Game Commission manages deer for a healthy and productive deer herd that provides recreational opportunities within acceptable ecological impacts and human conflicts. It's a never-ending job, and one that will always be influenced by Pennsylvania's changing landscape and the varying viewpoints of its residents. But, the agency is committed to providing sound deer management.

One of the biggest changes in deer season this year is the new five-day, antlered deer-only season in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 2D, 2G, 3C and 4B. It starts the Monday after Thanksgiving and concludes December 5. It is followed immediately in these four WMUs by seven days of concurrent, antlered and antlerless deer hunting beginning December 6 and continuing through December13. The rest of the state follows the two-week concurrent, antlered and antlerless season – December 1-13 – that has been in place since 2001.

The changes to these four WMUs will pave the way for the Game Commission to investigate the relationship between antlerless allocations and season length. These WMUs were chosen because: WMUs 2G and 4B have ongoing deer research in them; WMU 2D is an area where antler restrictions are set at four points on one side, and is where the agency previously had deer research conducted; and WMU 3C is an area where antler restrictions are set at three points on one side, and is a physiographic area of the state where no extensive deer research has been conducted so far.

The Game Commission will use a four-year study to determine the impact and effectiveness of the proposed five-day antlered/seven-day concurrent season before additional WMUs may be considered for this season configuration. It also will assess hunter satisfaction with the modified season structure in the four WMUs.

Hunters must wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined at all times while afield during the seasons. They also are advised that it's illegal to hunt, chase or disturb deer with a firearm within 150 yards of any occupied building without the occupant's permission.

All hunters who take a deer must fill out their harvest tag and attach it to the deer's ear before moving the carcass. The tag can be secured to the base of the ear with a string drawn very tightly, if the hunter plans to have the deer mounted. Cutting a slit in the ear to attach the tag will require additional work by a taxidermist.

A harvest report card – which is provided with every license sold - must be mailed to the Game Commission within 10 days after taking the deer. Hunters who lose or misplace a deer harvest report card are urged to use or copy the big game harvest report card found on page 33 of the 2008-09 Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest, which also is provided to all license-buyers.

Deer hunters with an unused bear license also are reminded they may take a bear in the state's extended black bear season. The extended bear season will be held in WMU 3C, and portions of 3B and 2G, from December 1-6. In WMUs 4C, 4D and 4E, the extended season will run December 3-6. Bear licenses must be purchased prior to Dec. 1 to participate in these hunts.

Local Deer Information Available Online

Interested in learning more about what's going on with whitetails in your county? Please consider visiting the Game Commission's "Field Officer Game Forecasts" found on the agency's website.

Developed to share field officer perspectives and observations on game and furbearer trends in their respective districts and to help hunters and trappers get closer to the action afield, the field reports have been warmly received by many hunters and trappers.

"Our field officers spend a tremendous amount of time afield, often in areas hunters and trappers are eager to learn more about," said Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe. "Their observations have value to hunters and trappers so we decided to make them accessible to anyone who enjoys hunting and trapping in Pennsylvania – resident or nonresident."

Don't Forget To Submit A Harvest Report Card

The Game Commission counts on hunters to provide information on the deer they harvest. If all hunters who harvested a deer would send in their harvest report cards, as required by law, harvest estimates wouldn't be needed. But it hasn't been working out that way for some time.

The Game Commission began using reporting rates to estimate deer harvests in the 1980s, when declining report card returns were documented. Right now, reporting rates - for both antlerless and antlered deer – are less than 40 percent. The dropping compliance by hunters to report their harvests over the past decade is disappointing and an obstacle to simple deer harvest calculations.

Each year, according to Calvin W. DuBrock, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management director, about 75 deer-aging personnel check and record information from ear tags on harvested deer throughout the state. During the 2007-2008 hunting seasons, more than 25,000 deer were examined. The information collected then was cross-checked with harvest report cards submitted by hunters to establish reporting rates for antlered and antlerless deer by Wildlife Management Units.

"Hunters submitted about 125,000 deer harvest report cards for deer taken in the most recent deer seasons," DuBrock noted. "That we continue to receive such a significant number of report cards indicates many Pennsylvania hunters are following through with their obligation to report their deer harvest, and their cooperation is appreciated.

"But when you consider that only slightly more than one in three deer that are checked are reported by hunters, it is obvious there is room for improvement. Successful hunters need to help the Game Commission have the best, most complete harvest data available for management decisions. Hunters should report their harvest, even if after the prescribed 10-day reporting period. The Game Commission is committed to managing deer to the best of its ability, but it cannot do it alone. Just as we rely on partners and stakeholders in other parts of the deer program, we rely on and need hunters to report their deer harvests accurately."

For more information, visit the Deer Management webpage.

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