DCNR Developed a Deer Management Plan that

Supported Forestry and Audubon Goals

By John Eveland

July 14 , 2014

Quoting from a private forestry company publication: "Hunting is the best way to curb unrestrained growth of white-tailed deer... As a forester, zero deer is a good number." Audubon stated in a 362-page ecosystem management master plan: "...deer will continue to decimate the flora and fauna in Pennsylvania's state forests without merger of P.G.C. with D.C.N.R. in a combined natural resource agency...achieving a change of this magnitude would require an improbably large expenditure of political capital." Following are excerpts from DCNR's 2003 deer management plan: Pennsylvania State Forests --- Deer Management --- A Plan for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

"This process found that the primary factor threatening the sustainability of these forests is overbrowsing of vegetation by white-tailed deer. In response to this threat, and as a condition for DCNR to retain (green) certification, the auditors (Scientific Certification Systems of Oakland, California and Mr. Bryon Shissler) required the following CAR (Corrective Action Requests):

Solutions to the Pennsylvania deer density problem cannot be designed and implemented solely by BOF (Bureau of Forestry) because currently the Game Commission regulates deer seasons, bag limits, antlerless licenses and all other regulatory functions used to reduce deer density by hunting.
Initiate earnest and aggressive strategic, public advocacy, and political actions aimed at liberalizing hunting regulations in ways that reduce the deer density of State Forests.
Implement better utilization of the current DMAP program such that the program can be expanded to cover all appropriate District Forests in 2004 and succeeding years."

DCNR continued: "The Pennsylvania Game Commission has begun to implement a variety of measures to bring the deer herd into balance (including) Gary Alt's multimedia huge public-information campaign; 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; a gradual increase in antlerless permits; switching from counties (WMUs); a one-week early muzzleloader 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. Increased restrictions for antlered bucks made it harder to harvest a buck so hunters were more apt to harvest an antlerless deer instead."

• Under the heading "Analysis of and requests for additional tools", DCNR listed other "Potential Deer Management Tools: • Early, Extended Rifle Hunting • Multiple Permits per Hunter per DMAP Area • Eliminate the Tagging Requirement before Harvesting Multiple Deer • Party Hunting • Provide special incentives for individuals and hunting groups to get additional buck permits for meeting antlerless deer harvest quotas • Use of Bait to Entice Deer • Night Hunting • Semi-automatic sporting rifles • Use of Dogs • Professional Control of Deer."

• Under the heading "Challenges/Potential: 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 deer and finding tools that will make them more efficient..."

Conclusion. It is apparent that DCNR's perspective of deer management is more receptive to the interests of foresters and Audubon than to the interests of hunters. Any future considerations toward merging Pennsylvania's three conservation agencies under a single, DCNR-led, agency should closely examine the potential effects to the future of sport hunting in the commonwealth.




©2011 • Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania