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Changes to reporting deer discussed

| Sunday, April 14, 2013, 8:15 p.m.

HARRISBURG — Knowing the rules and following them are not the same thing.

Hunters who take a deer are required to report it to the Pennsylvania Game Commission within 10 days of the kill. This past season, though, just 36 percent of hunters who killed a buck and 33 percent who killed a doe reported it, said the commission's chief deer biologist, Chris Rosenberry.

That's not unusual. Reporting rates have been going downhill for years, he said.

Monday, Game Commissioners will set seasons and bag limits and decide how many antlerless deer licenses to allocate based in part on that poor reporting.

The commission estimates deer harvest numbers by taking the total hunters report and cross-checking it against deer they examine at butcher shops around the state. The result is a statistically valid estimate, Rosenberry said.

“Our numbers are probably more accurate than anybody else's because of the number of deer we handle,” added commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County.

Commissioner Ralph Martone of New Castle noted that such estimates have been used since 1982 and been peer reviewed favorably several times in the decade since.

Still, Rosenberry said it would help if reporting rates increased substantially.

“It would certainly make my job easier — or at least that one part of it,” he said.

How to accomplish that is the issue.

Surveys indicate that the main reason hunters don't report taking a deer is that they forget, Rosenberry said. Or, having forgotten initially, they fear doing it after the specified 10 days believing that they'll get in trouble, he said.

That's not the case; biologists use any reports they receive right up until the end of the last deer season, he added.

Putnam wondered if changing the rules to require hunters to take a deer within 24 hours of killing it would increase compliance. Rosenberry said another option might be to give hunters until 10 days after the last deer season to report.

The commission can't make either change, said Cal DuBrock, director of the agency's bureau of wildlife management. It's up to state lawmakers to change reporting rules, he said.

In the meantime, the commission needs to make hunters better understand the existing rule, Putnam said.

“People ask us all the time, ‘Why don't you make reporting mandatory?' Well, it is mandatory. Reporting is not optional,” Putnam said.

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