Deer reporting failures spark debate for Pa. Game Commission
HARRISBURG — Something probably needs to be done, for appearances if nothing else, most agreed.
That’s the question Pennsylvania Game Commissioners debated Monday regarding the large-scale failure of hunters to report the deer they kill.
By law, hunters who harvest a deer are required to report it within 10 days. They can do so online, via phone or by mail.
Most don’t. Statewide, a little more than 30 percent of successful hunters report their deer; in some wildlife management units, it’s even less, said commissioner Jay Delaney of Luzerne County.
“I think that’s absurd,” he said.
That leads to complaints. The commission estimates harvest figures by visiting butcher shops and examining deer, then cross-checking those they see against those reported. With that information, they calculate an estimated harvest.
Biologists have said the system — which has been peer reviewed and vetted — produces a statistically valid estimate.
“The issue with that is, no one believes the returns,” said commissioner Brian Hoover of Delaware County.
State Sen. Richard Alloway, an Adams County Democrat, has proposed a change. His Senate Bill 374 would require hunters to report a kill within 24 hours, with the event still fresh in their minds.
The Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs has expressed concerns with that. Some hunters away at camp, with no Internet and maybe no phone service, don’t want to have to have to leave to report a deer, members have said.
On Monday, Wes Waldron, spokesman for the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, said that group doesn’t support Alloway’s bill either. It’s unlikely it would be easier to enforce or lead to a better estimate, he said.
Commission president Dave Putnam of Centre County agreed on the latter point, but, like Hoover, said there’s a social issue at work. Many hunters don’t believe the commission’s estimates, he said.
What’s more, Putnam said, it’s almost impossible to enforce the reporting law. A hunter can say his harvest report card got lost in the mail, he said.
Putnam suggested hunters who report a deer should be issued a confirmation number.
Waldron said the group is open to whatever produces the best harvest estimate.
Delaney said something needs to be done, either way.
“As long as (reporting) continues to spiral downward, how low is too low before we say we have to do something?” he asked.