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Pennsylvania Game Commission debates deer season rules

Bradford is in the running for the title of "America's Toughest Weather City."

That's no surprise to Ken Kane.

A forester with Keith Horn Inc., he's seen deer seasons marked by five feet of snow and witnessed how landowners, who say they need hunters to take deer, have tried to deal with that. One spends $15,000 annually to keep roads into his property open for hunters, he said.

Still, hunters need as much time as they can get in the woods if they are to keep deer at levels that allow forests to grow, Kane said. That's why he asked Pennsylvania Game Commission members at their April meeting not only to offer a suitable number of doe licenses but, most importantly, to maintain two weeks of concurrent buck and doe hunting in all wildlife management units.

"You have to take into account the weather of the northern tier of this commonwealth," Kane said. "It's a different climate."

Last season was proof of that, he said. Deer season in the region was marked by loads of snow. That hurt the hunting, especially as the season wore on.

"You know me. I drive a half-ton pickup with chains on the tires, and I was out looking," Kane said. "Not only couldn't I find a hunter, I couldn't find a vehicle."

He didn't convince the board. It put additional wildlife management units under split-season rules, with five days of bucks-only hunting followed by seven days of concurrent hunting.

Commissioner Ralph Martone of New Castle spoke for the majority of the board when he said he was supporting split seasons to provide more hunters with opportunities.

Unit 2F, for example, sells out of doe tags within a matter of days, he said. That leaves a lot of hunters without a license.

"We can split the season, up the number of tags by 20 percent as you're requesting and offer more recreation for hunters," Martone said.

The state has made strides in promoting forest — and deer — health, said Ron Fallon, a ranger in Allegheny National Forest's Marienville District. He said there's been "substantial progress" made on forest lands over the past few years. That includes not only habitat, but also deer, according to studies of hunter-harvested deer in the Kinzua Quality Deer Cooperative.

"We've seen the number of antler points, beam diameter and antler spread all go up at the same time that body weights have increased across all ages and sex classes," Fallon said.

Kane hopes that continues, even as Bradford squares off against Fargo, N.D., in the Weather Channel's "Cold-Weather Championship Showdown."

"If we get that weather, we can't do it; we can't manage deer without access," Kane said.

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