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Baiting sought to control deer

| Saturday, June 1, 2013, 11:48 p.m.

Baiting may come back to Pennsylvania's deer hunting scene.

But it likely won't be coming to Pittsburgh.

There's interest among at least a few Pennsylvania Game Commissioners in again legalizing the use of bait to control deer in some urban environments.

Brian Hoover of Delaware County in particular — president of a group of hunters calling themselves the “Deer Management Professionals of Southeastern Pennsylvania Inc.” who work with urban communities to hunt deer — wants baiting legalized in the special-regulations areas in and around Philadelphia.

Baiting has never been legal in Allegheny County, which also is managed as a special-regulation area by the commission. Commissioners said they have no interest in changing that.

The southeast had baiting once before. It was allowed over a three-year period several years ago on a trial basis. Today, it's legal only on “red tag” farms suffering from severe deer-related crop damage.

Hoover said he wants to expand it because hunting in that urban environment is different from what most sportsmen know.

It's less about recreation and more about controlling managing populations.

“We're talking about (hunting) one-half-acre, one-quarter-acre plots. They may have one tree. They may not have any. You might be shooting from someone's porch,” he said.

“When you're standing on the roof of a tin can, a shed, that's not hunting. It's deer management.”

In a situation like that, where three adjacent homeowners may allow an archer to operate within their safety zones, it only takes a fourth homeowner who feeds deer to keep them perpetually out of reach, he said.

Rich Palmer, director of the commission's law enforcement bureau, said any move to legalize baiting should come with restrictions. He said he'd want hunters to have to register their bait sites so that officers could check them. He'd want rules regarding what kind of bait and what kind of waterproof containers could be used, too, to protect wildlife health.

He also said he'd like conservation officers to have the authority to shut down bait sites if they concentrated deer to the point that safety and traffic issues resulted.

Commissioner Ralph Martone of New Castle said he favored adopting those kinds of regulations — which Hoover worried would be “onerous” — if the board revisits baiting.

“I think we have to be able to regulate this in a way that's reasonable,” he said.

Commissioner Ron Weaner of Adams County agreed, saying commissioners should consider banning the feeding of deer in the same areas in which it might legalize baiting.

That would make it more effective in drawing deer to specific areas, he said.

Commissioners have made no decisions yet.

“My thought is, let's give hunters baiting as a tool for urban deer management,” Hoover said.

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

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