Sunday, March 20, 2016

Game Commissioners Considering Changes To Expired Licenses, Deer Cull

It's sometimes done on purpose by poachers to give the indication of having done something legally when they haven't. It's sometimes done innocently by honest hunters in the excitement of the moment.
But it happens.
Hunters shoot a deer and tag it with their expired license from the year before. Wildlife conservation officers with the Pennsylvania Game Commission see that pretty regularly.
So Game Commissioners likely are making a change.
They've given preliminary approval to a regulation that makes it illegal to carry an expired license while afield. Final approval is expected when the board meets April 4-5.
The digest that hunters get with their license already suggests leaving expired licenses at home, said commissioner Jim Daley of Cranberry.
“This kind of makes it a ‘have to.' I fully support that,” he said.
Some hunters have asked why the commission doesn't change the color of licenses from year to year — they're now always yellow — as it once did, said board member Ron Weaner of Adams County.
The reason is it can't, Weaner said.
Hunting licenses, sold on a fiscal year basis, are printed by the same machines that handle fishing licenses, which are sold on a calendar year. There's no way to change the color of one without impacting the other mid-year, Weaner said.
Still, commissioner Dave Putnam said he's not entirely comfortable with the change. He doesn't want to see hunters who make an honest mistake penalized.
“We're making a violation out of something that might be a crime people are not intending to commit,” he said.
Commission executive director Matt Hough said officers typically are lenient in the first year after a rules change is made. They'll be the same this fall, he said.
Meanwhile, commissioners will consider another change at their meeting.
In January, board members heard complaints about a deer cull occurring in a gated community in the Poconos. The Saw Creek Estates Homeowners Association in Bushkill hired sharpshooters to remove 300 whitetails.
Commissioners subsequently directed staff to draw up regulations saying before a community can get such a permit, it must give hunters a chance to control deer.
“Let's put the sportsmen back in the mix,” said commissioner Brian Hoover of Delaware County at the time.
That's happening.
An agenda item up for preliminary approval says, among other things, that anyone seeking a deer control permit first would have to outline “how licensed public hunting for white-tailed deer has been utilized in the problem area and what results such hunting activities have had on the population and/or damage problem.”
The change also suggests that private lands not open to hunting within a cull area not be used for sharpshooting.
There may be situations in which hunting can't work, Putnam said. But the board wants to pressure communities to “accept hunting as a first line of defense.”
Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

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