MANAGEMENT SERIES, NO. 25:
OF A FAMILY TRADITION
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
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
John Eveland can be contacted at 412.601.0077 / firstname.lastname@example.org.