Tuesday, April 18, 2006

PENNSYLVANIA NEWS: Controversial 2006 season to be set today

By P.j. Reilly, Intelligencer Journal Staff
Intelligencer Journal

HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Game Commission's board of commissioners got an earful Monday. And the main topic of discussion was deer.

The commissioners heard from several foresters and farmers who urged them to "stay the course" with the agency's deer management program. Deer populations are finally starting to decline in parts of the state, making it easier to grow crops and trees, the farmers and foresters said. "We want to be able to grow a forest without having to build fences to keep the deer out," said McKean County forester Blaine Fuller. "We're just beginning to be able to do that."

The commissioners also heard from several hunters and two state lawmakers who recommended drastic changes to the agency's deer management program, which they blamed for cutting deer numbers too much over the past several years. "Some people think we want to see a deer behind every tree," said Greg Levengood, president of the Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania. "All we want is a reasonable chance of seeing a deer when we go out hunting."

Today, the commissioners will vote to establish the hunting seasons and bag limits for the 2006-07 hunting year. They also will vote to set the antlerless deer license allocations for the year.

Chris Rosenberry, director of the Game Commission's deer management team, said the antlerless allocations and seasons recommended by his team are designed to "stabilize" deer populations across the state. "Our goal is to manage for healthy deer and a healthy forest," Rosenberry said.

That's exactly what should drive the agency's management program, said Jim Grace, director of the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Bureau of Forestry, which manages state forests across Pennsylvania. "In many areas of the state where hunters are saying they're not seeing many deer, it's because the habitat can't support any deer there," Grace said.

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