In the 1990s, Pennsylvania was a powerhouse of deer hunting, with thriving populations and a million licensed hunters. Deer hunting was such a historical event that thousands of merchants and small-town residents counted on hunter dollars to support their families and businesses. No more. Voicing concern about over-browsing in state forests, the Pennsylvania Game & Fish Commission set upon a mission of reducing deer numbers and establishing minimum point restrictions for buck harvests. The above graphic shows how the deer herd has declined; but the even more dramatic story is the decimation of deer hunting traditions and lifestyles. Many state game lands are so devoid of deer that more than 200,000 hunters don’t buy licenses. Hunters who frequently bagged a buck on opening day may not see a single deer. Despite this negative impact and nearly 15 years of reduced deer numbers, the forests have not responded and a vocal group of sportsmen is crying foul, citing illegality in state law.
Greg Levengood of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers gives this update:
The PA Game Commission and DCNR have now added insult to injury to the sportsmen of Pennsylvania with their recent announcement to conduct a further study as to why the forests of Pennsylvania are not regenerating, and its relationship to white tailed deer. In other words, as John Eveland so aptly writes in the attached commentary:
Considering that forest seedling regeneration has not improved after 12 years of herd reduction, is there some other forest-related factor that can be discovered to justify the on-going deer-reduction program? In retrospect, when the PGC first considered reducing the deer herd in 1998, the agency should have conducted an extensive study to not only determine the benefits that would result, but also the costs that would be incurred from the deer-reduction program – impacts to the ecosystem, to society, to the state’s economy, and especially to the tradition of sport hunting. When faced with collapsing the dominant herbivore from the state’s natural ecosystem, that this cost/benefit analysis was not done is unconscionable, and reeks of incompetence.
Not only has this deer management plan failed, it has cost the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania millions of dollars, and it is a direct violation of state law! Yet……this Agency continues to perpetrate the agenda of a few people upon the sportsmen of this state because they are accountable to no one. With all of the evidence that has been uncovered the past few years concerning the legitimacy of the PGC/DCNR deer reduction plan, it has been rendered indefensible. In summary,…this after-the-fact “5-year-or-much-longer” PGC/DCNR/PSU study should not distract decision-makers from recognizing the great and lasting harm that has been caused to the Commonwealth by a natural resource management failure of such great magnitude. No degree of tweaking of the deer management program as a result of new study findings should be permitted to justify their travesty. The deer-reduction program needs to be halted now; a new sensible, science-based, and legal program installed; nearly 200,000 lost hunters need to be returned to the sport; and the annual hemorrhaging of $285-415 million in state economic activity ended.
The Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania are fighting these deer tactics. For more information, and to find out how you can help solve this problem, visit their website.