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Archers will get chance to hunt deer on Pittsburgh International Airport property

| Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, 12:03 a.m.

Hunter Rick Self said a plan announced Friday by Allegheny County officials to issue archery permits to hunt deer on Pittsburgh International Airport is smart.

“They must do it. The deer population is way out of control,” said Self, 64, of South Park. “I'd be interested in it. I used to hunt right there in Imperial.”

Airport officials plan to give out 157 permits to archery hunters and open 2,362 acres of airport land. Non-hunting zones separate the terminal area from the hunting area.

“It's a pilot program, and there's a lot of interest in it. There are a lot of deer there, and we're doing it for safety reasons,” said airport spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny. “This is outside of the terminal area. There won't be bows and arrows on the airfield.”

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the FAA had to sign off on the plan and that the hunting will take place away from the runways. The airport has more than 9,000 acres, and this applies only to a portion of the property, he said.

“There's no concern as it relates to airport operations,” Fitzgerald said.

The goal of the program is to thin the deer population there and minimize wildlife hazards, Jenny said. The airport has had issues with deer, coyotes and groundhogs. She said the program is safe as it relates to airport operations.

“It's far away from the airport proper. It's separated by fencing and the interstate. It's as safe as any other hunting is safe,” Jenny said. “It's archery, not guns.”

The county anticipates more than 157 people will apply for permits, so a lottery will be held Sept. 25 to draw the winners. The airport will take applications until Sept. 22. The hunting season will last from Oct. 5 to Jan. 11.

No guns are permitted, and the state Game Commission will periodically patrol the area to ensure compliance with state game laws.

Thomas Smith, director of communications for Washington-based Airports Council International-North America, said his group was not aware of any other major airports that have a similar program.

“But we found a half-dozen smaller airports, primarily in the Midwest, where this seems to be a regular practice,” Smith said. “Wildlife hazards ranging from birds to animals are a problem at many airports.”

Joe Montuoro, 66, of South Park, who is on the board of directors of the Carrick Sportsmen's Club, said many hunters will probably be interested in the program.

“I'm sure it's a good idea if it keeps deer off the runways,” he said.

Those interested can visit www.FlyPittsburgh.com/archery for information and to apply for a permit.

Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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