DEER MANAGEMENT SERIES, NO. 25:

END OF A FAMILY TRADITION

By John Eveland

November 7, 2014


This last installment of the Deer Management Series is intended to represent Pennsylvania sportsmen with a story that is all too common for us Pennsylvania hunters – a personal deer-hunting account.

I was born and raised in a small town in Columbia County. On one side flows the Susquehanna River, the Appalachian Mountains rise over a thousand feet only a mile on the other side of town, and surrounding areas are comprised of farms with scattered but plentiful woodlots. Deer hunting was always phenomenal there, and a tradition for nearly every father and son. It was not unusual to see herds of 20-30 deer. My grandfather, dad, brother, and I hunted there from the time I was able to get a hunting license.


Forty years ago this mountain habitat was in great shape; we often hunted the "slashings" – dense regeneration – along the sides and across the top of the mountain. We even hunted cottontails on the mountainside, a testament to the abundance of food and cover. Today, the forest and wildlife habitat looks as good as it did 40 years ago, except for the lack of deer. The herd has been decimated, and continues to be persecuted under the PGC's deer-reduction program. I ask myself why the PGC has decimated this herd, when there always was, and remains, textbook food and cover, and hence an extremely high deer carrying capacity. Obviously herd reduction has had nothing to do with science, and if PGC truly believes that it does, then the level of incompetence on Elmerton Avenue in Harrisburg is incomprehensible.


Two years ago we saw two deer on the first day of the concurrent season --a young 4-point buck and a doe. Last year we saw less. My brother and I used to muse about how it might be if buck and doe seasons were combined; we'd need to crawl though the woods to stay below the hail of bullets. Unfortunately, now that it's happened I hear fewer shots on opening day of the concurrent season than I used to hear on the second Thursday of buck season. I talked with a father and son who had traveled some distance to hunt the mountain for the first time. The father said that his traditional deer hunting area had been destroyed, and he was seeking a new area where his young son might get a shot at a deer. However, he and his son only saw two doe, and he didn't let his son shoot at them because he wasn't sure in which WMU they were hunting.


Things have gotten so bad that my brother, two sons-in-law, and I did not hunt there this year. It was a 45-year tradition that ended for my brother and me, and we had to seek a new area that still might have a huntable herd – as the father and son had tried to do the year before on our mountain. My son-in-law's boss and his 13-year-old son asked if they could join us; he has a cabin along the Allegheny River near Franklin, and has not seen a deer in the last two hunting seasons. My next-door neighbor said that his family gave up their camp in the northern-tier counties a few years ago because of the lack of deer, and they now hunt near Pittsburgh in WMU 2B. He said it doesn't feel like it's hunting anymore, but it's their only chance of seeing a deer. A friend said he's keeping his camp in Potter County for turkey hunting, but will no longer hunt deer there with his father, son, and daughter. Recently I spoke with a taxidermist who said that he can no longer make a living from his business. He said that he has seen overzealous deer biologists collapse herds in other areas of the country, and said they have now destroyed Pennsylvania's herd and his business.


My family's experience is a microcosm of what has happened, and continues to be prosecuted, throughout rural and wild Pennsylvania. There is overwhelming documentation that the deer reduction program is a ruse – a deceitful agenda-driven scheme that is devoid of science, and callous to the impacts on sportsmen, small businesses, and families. Yet the deer staff remains employed, and the program engaged. What have we permitted to happen to the Commonwealth?


Note that the complete 25-issue Deer Management Series can be reviewed at www.acsl-pa.org, at www.gousp.org, and at www.acslpa.org. John Eveland can be contacted at 412.601.0077 / jfeveland@acsl-pa.org.

 

 

 

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