GETTING THEIR BANG FOR THE BUCK

How Concurrent Seasons, Antler Restrictions,

and Hunters are Used to Reduce Deer

By John Eveland

November 2013

As documented in the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' (DCNR's) Deer Management Plan, concurrent seasons, antler restrictions, and hunters, themselves, have been used to reduce the deer population and maintain the herd at exceedingly low numbers. The approach has been flawlessly successful at eliminating doe. The following explanation demonstrates how these three elements interact.

Concurrent Seasons. The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) claims that concurrent seasons are now used in order to provide hunters with "more opportunity" to harvest deer. However, the true purpose of concurrent seasons was uncovered in a DCNR Deer Management Plan. Quoting from page 3 of the Plan:

"The first major change to Pennsylvania deer management after the creation of the Deer Management Section (in which Gary Alt was switched from the bear program to leader of the new deer program) was the switch from a two-week buck-only rifle season and a three-day antlerless season to a concurrent two-week buck and antlerless rifle season. This was a tremendous positive step forward, with antlerless deer hunting now occurring when most hunters were afield. The concurrent season increased the number and proportion of antlerless deer being harvested and reversed the historical trend of antlered deer dominating annual harvest levels. Other changes include a gradual increase in antlerless permits in most areas of the state, switching from counties to ecologically based Wildlife Management Units, a one-week early muzzle loader antlerless deer season, a 3-day early antlerless rifle season for Junior and Senior hunters, and more restrictive buck antler requirements...All of these initiatives have been successful at providing tools for increasing the antlerless harvest."

As is evident from this DCNR document, the new concurrent season was not designed to benefit sportsmen, but, instead, is intended as a tool to rapidly and permanently reduce the herd.

Antler Restrictions. Over a decade ago Gary Alt conducted PGC's infamous statewide tour to convince sportsmen that deer reduction was in their best interest, would be limited, and would be temporary. All of these promises were false. In addition, the concept of antler restrictions was introduced to hunters – using the premise of harvesting a trophy buck as a "carrot" to gain hunters' support of PGC's proposed new deer-reduction program. However, the true reason for the new antler-restriction policy is quoted from page 3 of DCNR's Deer Management Plan:

"Increased restrictions for antlered bucks made it harder to harvest a buck so hunters were more apt to harvest an antlerless deer instead."

For those who believe that antler restrictions were designed in the best interest of sportsmen, this DCNR document leaves no doubt that antler restrictions were concocted with a dual purpose: (1) to serve as another significant tool to reduce the herd (reducing the number of legal buck in the herd so that frustrated hunters would refocus their attention on doe), and (2) to deceive sportsmen with a "carrot" toward enticing their approval of the deer-reduction program.


Using Hunters as a Deer-Reduction Tool. On pages 15-17 of DCNR's Deer Management Plan, DCNR listed other antlerless-reduction recommendations for PGC to consider. Quoting some of the proposed tools as listed in the DCNR document:

"It is expected that implementing most of these tools will require the review and approval of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Potential Deer Management Tools: (1) Early, Extended Rifle Hunting; (2) Multiple Permits per Hunter per DMAP Area; (3) Eliminating the Tagging Requirement before Harvesting Multiple Deer; (7) Party Hunting; (8) Unlimited Permits; (9) Incentive System (getting more buck permits if doe quotas are met); (10) Use of Bait to Entice Deer; (11) Night Hunting; (12) Use of semi-automatic sporting rifles; (13) Dogs; and (14) Professional Control of Deer."

However, DCNR and PGC knew that none of these tools would be successful without the cooperation of hunters. DCNR's Deer Management Plan acknowledged that the success of PGC's deer-reduction program depended on the premise that hunters will harvest as many deer as are permitted. Quoting from page 17 of the DCNR document:

"The greatest challenges appear to be making the most efficient use of a shrinking hunting population...The greatest potential lies in the growing group of hunters who appear willing to harvest multiple antlerless deer..."

This statement is an abrasive and disrespectful affront to sportsmen – those whom the PGC is charted to serve by state law in Title 34. That sportsmen are being used as unwitting tools to inflict their own traditional-hunting demise is indicative of the misguided agenda that drives the deer management program.

Conclusion. According to original DCNR documents, the initial 1998 Green Certification agreement between the German-based Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), DCNR, and PGC was not intended to temporarily reduce the deer herd, but to permanently decimate it in many areas of the state. The primary herd-reduction method was, of course, increased antlerless allocations. However, two principal tools were used in tandem to accelerate the reduction process – concurrent seasons and antler restrictions – while another tool was vital to the success of the reduction program – compliance by hunters, themselves.

 

 

 

 

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