Outdoor Articles

Farewell to Deer, Deer Hunting and the PGC

by Pursue The Outdoors on June 6th, 2005 in Conservation and Restoration

By now you have heard our PGC Commissioners approved 879,000 antlerless licenses for the upcoming 2005 deer season. This represents a 15% reduction from last year. Some may claim a victory, but I have yet to hear from anyone who feels this reduction will do much to save our vanishing deer herd. Additionally, the Commissioners approved DCNR’s request for “two” DMAP tags per hunter. I believe DCNR issued about 24,000 DMAP tags last year, which will automatically become 48,000 this year. If DCNR enrolls more land this year, the DMAP numbers will go higher. Unfortunately, we are approaching 1 million antlerless tags for the upcoming season.

In a scenario of direct questions by Commissioner Tom Boop and evasive responses by DCNR Bureau of Forestry Chief Jim Grace too lengthy to repeat, DCNR’s goal for deer management finally came “out of the closet” at this PGC meeting. DCNR’s plan is to achieve 5 deer per square forested mile (dpsfm) across their holdings for a generation or the next 25 years. (For most of us that’s the rest of our lives.) Their 2.1 million acres of State Forest Land translates into 3281 square miles or 16,406 total deer. The PGC didn’t admit that their goals are the same, but they didn’t need to. In these past few years the PGC has literally caved to DCNR’s wishes across the board. It is painful to say, but the PGC’s proud tradition of independence is completely gone. The PGC currently functions as a DCNR lapdog.

Looking at the statewide picture, if we say 60% of PA’s 45,000 square miles is forested for 27,000 square miles times 5 dpsfm, we get a statewide herd of 135,000 animals if private landowners buy into the program. Needless to say a bad winter and predators can clean up the remnants of a herd that small.

The justification for hunting is based on the principle of “compensatory losses”. Hunters are permitted to cull the surplus each season to “compensate” for potential winter losses. Under our current management plan there will be no surpluses. Without surpluses there is no justification for hunting.

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It is interesting to note that our new PGC Deer Project Leader, Dr. Chris Rosenberry has admitted a number of times in a number of indirect ways that we may not have ever had 1.6 million deer. Apparently, the PGC’s strategy has been to say they have discovered a “problem” with the Dr. Alt deer model. We have not seen an updated number in the last five years. No one of authority has yet to ask if we didn’t have 1.6 million deer, why do we continue to kill deer with a vengeance.

PGC Executive Director Vern Ross finds himself in an interesting position these days. Those who fear merger of the agencies under DCNR absolutely disdain Vern Ross for doing nothing to fight-off DCNR and the deer eradication program. Those who seek merger find Vern Ross the major obstacle to achieving it. This is what happens when one rides the fence in an effort to be a political survivor.

One doesn’t need a crystal ball to see where we are headed. If the killing continues, our herd will collapse and so will deer hunting in this state. That is a fact. The deer processors, the sporting goods shops, the family motels, the local diners and our rural communities will all be severely impacted.

The regeneration argument, which we hear so often, is scientifically bankrupt. Let us not forget the trees we allegedly save today will not be ready for market until 100 years from now, if they survive. We are in essence cutting $30-40 million in trees each year on state land, but we are told we must destroy a yearly $5 billion dollar hunting industry to continue that revenue.

The PGC is rapidly heading to meet its final destiny of merger. It is inevitable considering their current course. They can hold off for a few years by dumping wood on the market. Eventually, they will realize they can’t offset the license sales losses without hiring more foresters and dramatically increasing their timber receipts. The Governor will stop them or the price of wood will plummet.

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