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Robot deer will be used to help catch poachers

| Monday, Aug. 26, 2013, 10:42 p.m.

That deer you take aim at this fall might not actually be a deer.

Not if you're inclined to do your shooting illegally, anyway.

Regional Pennsylvania Game Commission officers are going to be working with a new robotic deer —– a realistic-looking mechanical decoy whose head and tail move — to catch would-be poachers this year, courtesy of some local sportsmen.

The PA National Pike Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association purchased the $1,650 deer decoy for use by the commission. Members will present it to the agency at their banquet, set for Sept. 13 in Belle Vernon.

It's a way of giving back to the sport while also protecting honest sportsmen and the increasingly large bucks being produced by antler restrictions, said chapter officer Jason Beck of Monessen.

“We're seeing more nice deer out there than ever before. Some people try to take advantage of that the right way, and unfortunately, some feel the need to go about it the wrong way. We don't want honest sportsmen to suffer for that,” Beck said.

The commission has another robo-deer in use. It works when used in specific circumstances, said Tom Fazi, information and education supervisor for the commission in Bolivar.

“Every officer in the region has problem roads where they habitually see a lot of road hunting. That's where these get used,” Fazi said.

Officers can use “facsimiles,” as they're referred to in the law, to nab poachers without fear of anyone crying entrapment, added Doug Bergman, wildlife conservation officer in northern Fayette County. They're set up so that only people looking to take deer illegally end up shooting at them.

“We don't just take them out and stick them in plain view in the middle of a field. Someone has to be looking for them to see them,” he said.

Officers throughout the region will share the robo deer.

“Sometimes, that's how we get that kind of equipment, when a sportsmen's club decides it's had enough and donates something like that,” Bergman said.

Beck said the chapter is always looking to do more for the outdoor sports, whether that be helping with a youth day, signing up cooperators for the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program or doing habitat work on a game lands. That will continue, he said, with plans perhaps to provide the commission with surveillance cameras.

“We're trying to keep being as much of a ball of fire as we can,” Beck 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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