Sunday, February 1, 2015

PA Game Commission Deals With Tree Stands, Blinds Left Behind

By Bob Frye 

If it can be carried into the woods, it can be carried out.

And it will be, if the Pennsylvania Game Commission has anything to say about it.

It looks as if, starting this fall, hunters who use a tree stand or ground blind on state game lands or private properties enrolled in the commission's various access programs are going to have to identify it as theirs and take it into and out of the woods on time.

This past week, Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a proposal that would require all stands and blinds to be labeled, either with the owner's name and address, the “CID” number on their hunting license or with a free permit that will be available online from the commission, said Tom Grohol, director of the agency's bureau of wildlife protection.

Hunters who seek the free permit will be issued a unique number, but only the commission, courtesy of a database maintained in Harrisburg, will have the personal information attached to it, he said.
That should address privacy concerns some had raised, commission president Dave Putnam of Centre County said.

“People will have three options to pick from,” he said.

The need for identification springs from people not following the rules.

Under existing regulations, tree stands and portable blinds may be set up on game lands and other commission-managed properties two weeks before the earliest deer season in a particular wildlife management unit. They can stay up until two weeks past the close of the latest deer season.
After that, they must come down.

Increasingly, commission officials say, they are not coming down, and that causes problems.

“Some of these are becoming permanent fixtures,” Grohol said. “We would like to hold those people who leave tree stands on game lands responsible.”

Wildlife conservation officers usually cannot do that now, he said. They confiscate stands and blinds on occasion but have no way of knowing who they belong to unless a hunter comes looking for it.
The idea of including private lands enrolled in the commission's public access programs — such as the farm-game program — met with the approval of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau for similar reasons.

Jeff Grove, director of government affairs for that group, representing nearly 60,000 farm and rural families, said private landowners often encounter tree stands that have been put up on their lands. Sometimes the hunters using them do not have permission to be there, he added.

“By not knowing the owner, it is very difficult to stop the trespass or to legally remove, confiscate or sell the tree stand to recover damages to trees or property caused by the stand's owner,” Grove said.
The proposal is not a done deal. Commissioners have to give it final approval at their next meeting, set for April 9 and 10 in Harrisburg. But given that it was approved unanimously by the board this past week and has the support of staff, that likely is a formality.

Also up for consideration will be a change to the state's elk hunting zones.

Right now, the commission manages elk hunting in 12 “zones.” The elk herd is growing and moving, however.

Elk biologist Jeremy Bandfield said the state had 515 elk in 2008. That had grown to a minimum of 881 by last January. Work to determine how many are out there right now is underway.

Some of those animals have moved south and east, setting up residence on state game land 100 and parts of Sproul State Forest, Banfield said. The first elk was spotted there in 2012. Nine, all bulls, had moved in by 2013, and 40 consistently were hanging out there this past fall.

To minimize human conflicts, Banfield said he'd like commissioners to create a 13th hunt zone there. It would be a big one, taking in 278 square miles, 61 percent of which is public land.

A vote on the new zone will be discussed in April, which is when the board also will decide how many elk hunting licenses to award for this fall.

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

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