Frye: Commission discusses 'second opening day effect'
There's nothing like the last five minutes of a Pennsylvania Game Commission meeting.
That's when board members bring up ideas under “new business,” often giving the first hints of what direction they're planning to go.
That was true again this month.
Commissioners asked staff to investigate a number of issues at the conclusion of their April meeting. One in particular revealed a split in thinking.
Commissioner Brian Hoover of Delaware County asked agency staff to explore the notion of shortening doe season. He wants to offer five days of bucks-only hunting followed by seven days of concurrent buck and doe hunting across the state, excluding special regulations counties like Allegheny. Right now, nine of 23 wildlife management units use 12-day concurrent seasons.
Hoover said he believes holding off on opening doe hunting until the first Saturday of the rifle season will drive hunters to their camps twice, once for the first day of buck hunting and again for the first day of doe. That “second opening day effect” would support rural businesses, he suggested.
Commissioner Ron Weaner of Adams County doesn't like the idea. If anything, he'd rather see two weeks of concurrent hunting.
“I'm not at all interested in going to a seven-day doe season,” he said.
That back-and-forth led to another suggestion for staff.
Commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County said the board often hears about how offering two weeks of concurrent buck and doe hunting hurts the economy, especially in northcentral Pennsylvania, home to many deer camps.
Yet a meeting held in Potter County last year on the commission's deer program drew seven speakers, he said. Several spoke of economics.
“None of them were from Potter County, and none of them were from the northcentral,” Putnam said.
He wants staff to do a study scientifically examining the social and economic impact of offering seven versus 12 days of doe hunting.
In the meantime, commissioner Jay Delaney of Luzerne County asked agency staff to look into developing a study to measure whether bears, coyotes and the like are negatively impacting deer populations.
Predator numbers have expanded greatly over time, Delaney said. Pennsylvania was home to about 7,000 bears in the mid-1980s, for example. It's got about 18,000 today, he said. Coyote populations have likewise boomed, he said. Hunters regularly suggest that's behind a dearth of deer, he said.
Delaney said it's time to figure out whether that is true. He asked agency staff to provide an outline of a predation study by the board's next work group meeting May 19.
The commission did a fawn survival study once before, from 2000-01. It has continued to monitor the ratio of fawns versus adult does in the deer harvest. Those numbers have remained steady, indicating that while predators obviously eat deer, they are not impacting the population, Weaner said.
Putnam agreed but said technology that's come available since — such as neck cameras that can be attached to bear collars — might provide interesting data.