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  • Pennsylvania

    Article 355

    Bring the Herd Back!
    It is pointless to use this precious space to discuss what a lousy deer season it was. Hunters are calling it was the worst deer season in fifty years. Yes, a few nice deer were harvested, again. However, I will be amazed if our combined buck and doe harvest was 100,000. Although, Special Regs Areas usually post some big numbers and distort the statewide harvest. We shall see how the PGC handles the harvest stats.

    Thankfully, most hunters seem to be more interested in how we can turn this thing around before it is too late, if it isn’t already too late. My email box is pounded with wide-ranging suggestions, but unfortunately most don’t consider the science and politics of restoring our deer herd. It is far more complex than going back to a two-week buck season and a three-day doe season.

    The most common suggestion I get is to close the doe season in its entirety for 3-5 years. It is highly unlikely the PGC will agree. Regardless of how strongly the PGC denies it, doe permits are a vital source of revenue, as in $4 million. Before you can achieve a total closure of our doe seasons, you would need to restructure our licensing system to include a doe permit with every license at the time of purchase. This is exactly what the Unified Sportsmen of PA suggested almost two years ago. Doe season would then be regulated by days. You will have a doe permit, but your favorite public hunting area will probably be closed to all doe hunting. This approach eliminates any possibility of the PGC selling doe permits to increase their revenue.

    The second-most common suggestion is to do something about predators. Once again, the PGC will disagree and tell us that predators don’t matter. The reality is PA has an estimated 200,000 coyotes, the highest number of coyotes of any state east of the Mississippi River. Even with a totally closed doe season, coyotes will prevent the deer herd from recovering. The University of Maine just concluded a study discovering that with coyotes in the system and five (5) deer or less per square mile, the herd is not sustainable. In other words, coyotes create what is commonly referred to as a “predator pit”. Wolves, mountain lions and grizzlies are having the same effect on big-game herds out West. There will be no game to hunt. Some states are already instituting predator control programs. The PGC will fight this effort.

    This last suggestion is almost completely mine and not nearly as common as the aforementioned, but deserves your serious consideration. Restocking deer may be absolutely necessary to successfully restore our deer herd across the state in a reasonable period of time. First, please allow me to remind everyone that we killed the deer to jump-start regeneration. That did not occur. Regeneration is still failing. The only things we’ve accomplished by killing our deer were to significantly hurt hunting as a tradition and destroy the businesses that rely on hunting for an income. Furthermore, this is a golden opportunity to bring in breeder bucks with great genes from Missouri, Iowa, Ohio and Illinois or buy them from PA deer breeders. We have done this before.

    Deer are homebodies and do not travel far from their birthplace. Deer reproduce once a year and throw off one or two fawns. Deer do not reproduce like wild pigs, or rabbits or cockroaches. It will take decades for this herd to rebuild itself without our help. In that time period, hunting will collapse. Fathers will quit hunting and their kids will never start. This is a very critical situation.

    In recent years the PGC has restocked fishers, trapped and transferred elk and spread bobcats around the state. Coyotes were actually trapped and transferred by the PGC’s Arnie Hayden years back in the name of a coyote study. They have stocked wild pheasants and trapped and transferred turkeys. Restocking and restoring is not a new concept.

    In view of this deer season and the realities we face for recovery of our herd, it is time for the PGC to convince us they are not anti-hunting and they are not trying to get merged with DCNR. It is time for the PGC to terminate the people responsible for this debacle and support the above suggestions

    It is time for them to bring the deer herd back.

    Jim Slinsky is the host and producer of the “Outdoor Talk Network”, a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program. For a station near you or to contact Jim, visit his website at
    Saltwater Fishing Articles & More by Outdoor Writer Jerry LaBella