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Game Commission splits one unit, tweaks another

| Sunday, Feb. 3, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

In the end, they changed but one.

After nearly two years of discussions, Pennsylvania Game Commissioners this past week redrew the boundaries of just one wildlife management unit. Unit 2G in the northcentral part of the state was split.

The commissioners decided against redrawing the boundaries of unit 2B, which surrounds Pittsburgh. But they made another change that will impact deer hunters there.

When it comes to 2G, 2,900 square miles on its eastern side will remain under the same name. Its westernmost 1,900 square miles, east of routes 120 and 555, will become a new unit, 2H.

The change was made to more accurately reflect differing kinds of habitat, said commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County. Unit 2H is being timbered by private landowners, the Game Commission and the bureau of forestry at a much faster rate, he said, and is more productive for wildlife. Unit 2G, which is heavy on publicly owned land, has far worse habitat, and there's far less timbering of the kind that would improve it going on, he said. It supports far fewer deer, Putnam said.

The new boundaries may allow the commission to increase the herd a bit in 2G and stabilize it in 2H, Putnam said. That doesn't mean deer numbers in 2G will return to what some hunters remember, he cautioned. The habitat just isn't there, he said.

“But this is a compromise, we think,” said commissioner Ron Weaner of Adams County.

As for unit 2B, commissioners had been thinking of making it smaller to force a change in hunter behavior.

The unit has long had a month-long, post-Christmas deer season to allow hunters to control deer in urban areas. It's become obvious hunters were targeting the fringes of the unit to the exclusion of Allegheny County, though. To fix that, commissioners are eliminating the late season in unit 2B, as well as in units 5C and 5D in southeastern Pennsylvania. It will be replaced with a late season that will be held only in “special regulations” counties: Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia.

That means the portion of Allegheny County that lies within management unit 2A will be part of the late season, and the portions of Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties in 2B will not.

“The intent is to put greater pressure on the special regulations areas and alleviate some of the pressure outside them,” said executive director Carl Roe.

The change must get final approval in April, but that's likely a formality. So pay attention to where you are in the woods this fall. The rules have changed.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at bfrye@tribweb.com or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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