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No satisfaction after Commission's attempt at compromise

| Saturday, April 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

It's hard to find a happy medium. Oh, sure. You can find your giddy palm reader, dressed in a thrift store gypsy costume, on occasion. Carnivals have been known to have a few.

A pleasant oracle? A jolly soothsayer? A contented diviner? There are likely some around.

Perhaps you might even some day run into a chipper clairvoyant.

But a happy medium?

Good luck with that.

Just ask the folks at the Pennsylvania Game Commission. They tried to placate unhappy hunters by seeming to change their deer management program without really doing so — in search of a happy medium — and came up short.

Between 2008 and 2011, the commission studied deer and deer hunters in wildlife management units 2D, 2G, 3C and 4B. In each, the firearms deer season was switched from 12 days of concurrent buck and doe hunting to five days of buck-only hunting followed by seven days of concurrent hunting.

The idea was to determine whether the commission could maintain stable deer populations while making hunters happier by allowing them to see more does.

The answers? Nope and, for the most part, nope.

“Were they more satisfied with deer abundance in firearms season or with the deer program? Uniformly, no, across the board, after four years of the seven day concurrent season,” said Chris Rosenberry, chief deer biologist for the agency.

Deer populations increased each year in each unit. Yet only in 2G and 3C did hunters see more, and in both cases that amounted to three extra doe a week.

That increased hunter satisfaction in 2G from 15 to 25 percent but not at all in 3C.

The move to a split season also didn't spark an economic boom via a “second opening day effect,” as some had hoped, envisioning hunters going to camp on the first Monday to open the season, then returning the first Saturday to hunt does. In fact, fewer hunters traveled to camp to hunt the first two days than when seasons were concurrent, Rosenberry said.

None of that is surprising, said commissioner Ron Weaner of Adams County. Hunters who dislike concurrent buck and doe hunting usually aren't looking for half measures; they want to go back to when two weeks of buck season were followed by three days of doe, he said.

Weaner said those days are gone but hopes the hunters who remember them won't disappear, too.

“They're important to us,” he said

But they are not the future.

Surveys show the hunters who want the split seasons are typically 45 and older. Those who want concurrent seasons — the “hunters of the future and their mentors” — are typically younger, Rosenberry said.

The board has been trying to satisfy both groups at once. The split season experiment didn't do it.

It may be time, soon, to simply move toward concurrent seasons statewide, said commissioner Ralph Martone of New Castle.

“It's just going to be a hard transition,” he said.

As if it could be anything else.

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

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