SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Zakia Bouachraoui, Liz McMillan, Carmen Gonzalez, Roger Strukhoff, David Linthicum

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Countdown to Deer Season Has Begun; Antler Restrictions Change in Four-Point Area; Harvest Reporting Available Via Postcard, Online or Telephone; Hunters Reminded That Licenses Still Must Be Displayed; Hunters Can Check on Road Conditions in Advance; Hunt

HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania's only unofficial holiday -- the Monday after Thanksgiving -- marks the opening day of the two-week general deer season, and will feature nearly 750,000 individuals sporting fluorescent orange throughout Penn's Woods, according to Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe.

New antler restrictions are in place this year for the five Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) in western Pennsylvania previously designated as a four-point on one side area. Under the new antler restrictions, which represent the first change since 2002, hunters in WMUs 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and 2D need to identify three antler points, not including the brow tine, which is the point immediately above the antler burr. (Please see second article for details.)

Also, WMUs 2A, 2F and 3B have been added to the split-season structure, in which the first five days are open for antlered deer only and the remaining seven days are open for antlered and antlerless deer.  

"Pennsylvania's deer season has a dramatic and beneficial effect on the Commonwealth, as it provides hunters a chance to put venison in the freezer," Roe said. "In addition to being a rich part of our state's heritage, deer season is critical in managing Pennsylvania's whitetails. The efforts of hunters are far-reaching; they help to keep deer populations in check, and enable the agency to meet deer management goals that benefit those who reside, visit or travel through this state."

Roe noted that hunters will need to make sure that they have done their pre-season scouting, as fall food conditions, development, posted property and other factors will impact deer movements.

"Deer will respond to food availability and hunter pressure, both of which can vary from year to year, and from one area to another," Roe said. "Pre-season scouting can improve a hunter's chance for success this year, particularly in the week leading up to the start of season.

"Dramatic changes on the landscape will be just as important – if not more important – as looking for the highly nutritious acorns and other natural foods sought by game animals."

Specifically, Roe cited Marcellus Shale-related drilling and recent Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee damages as examples of larger impacts on the landscape that may alter what hunters and trappers find in the forests and fields of Pennsylvania.  

"The 'Big Woods' area of northcentral Pennsylvania, home to many of the traditional hunting camps, lies within the area being explored for Marcellus Shale natural gas, and has seen a dramatic increase in drilling," Roe said.  "Northeastern Pennsylvania also has seen a large volume of Marcellus Shale activity."

Roe also noted that there have been significant impacts on hunter accessibility in many areas of the state.

"Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee created widespread access issues on State Game Land roads, parking areas and trails," Roe said. "Although our Food and Cover Corps crews have worked hard to alleviate these problems, there just isn't enough time before the season to make all of it right.  Pre-season scouting will acquaint you with access issues that may impact your hunting plans.  So, do your homework before the opening day to ensure your days afield will be all you expect them to be."

Deer season will open with a five-day, antlered deer-only season in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E from Nov. 28-Dec. 2. It is followed in these WMUs by seven days of concurrent, antlered and antlerless deer hunting beginning Dec. 3, and continuing through Dec. 10. The rest of the state follows the two-week concurrent, antlered and antlerless season – Nov. 28-Dec. 10 – that has been in place since 2001.

Hunters must wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined at all times while afield during the seasons. They also are advised that it's illegal to hunt, chase or disturb deer within 150 yards of any occupied building without the occupant's permission if they are using a firearm, or 50 yards if they are using a bow or crossbow.

During the two-week season, hunters may use any legal sporting arm, as outlined on page 45 of the 2011-12 Digest.  Rifles are not permitted to be used in Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware or Montgomery counties, however, shotguns and muzzleloaders are legal.  Deer hunters in Philadelphia may use only bows or crossbows.

All hunters who take a deer must fill out their harvest tag and attach it to the deer's ear before moving the carcass. The tag can be secured to the base of the ear with a string drawn very tightly, if the hunter plans to have the deer mounted. Cutting a slit in the ear to attach the tag will require additional work by a taxidermist.

Roe noted that properly licensed bear hunters who still possess an unused bear tag come deer season may take a bear during the first week of deer season but only in selected WMUs.  Specific seasons and reporting requirements for taking bear during deer season are outlined on page 36 of the 2011-12 Digest issued with the purchase of a hunting license.  The Digest also may be viewed on the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us).

Hunters are reminded that they have 10 days to report deer harvests (five days for persons using homemade tags).  Reporting is easier than ever before.  Hunters can report their kill using the postage paid card supplied with their 2011-12 Digest, or online using the Internet at www.pgc.state.pa.us, or calling 1-855-PAHUNT1 (1-855-724-8681). (Please see third article for more information.)

ANTLER RESTRICTIONS CHANGE IN FOUR-POINT AREA

Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe reminds deer hunters that the Board of Game Commissioners approved a change in antler restriction definitions in the previous four-point area in the western Wildlife Management Units of 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and 2D.

Under the new antler restrictions, which represent the first change since 2002, hunters in these five WMUs need to identify three antler points, not including the brow tine, which is the point immediately above the antler burr. This regulatory change requires three points on the main antler beam, excluding the brow tine, for a buck to be legal.

The idea of changing antler restrictions in the four-point area began a year ago when Game Commissioners Ralph Martone and Robert Schlemmer heard from many sportsmen about the difficulty of seeing brow tines.

A review of antler data collected prior to antler restrictions from the southeastern part of the state indicated this change may affect only a small percentage of antlered deer.  For more information on antler restrictions, hunters should refer to page 53 of the 2011-12 Digest that they received with the purchase of their license.  

HARVEST REPORTING AVAILABLE VIA POSTCARD, ONLINE OR TELEPHONE

Those participating in the upcoming deer season will be able to file their mandatory harvest reports through the Pennsylvania Game Commission's online system; the toll-free Interactive Voice Response (IVR) telephone harvest reporting system, which is 1-855-PAHUNT1 (1-855-724-8681); or via postage-paid postcard.

To report a deer harvest online, go to the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on "Report Your Harvest" above the "Quick Clicks" box in the right-hand column, click on "You can link to PALS by clicking here," check "Harvest Reporting," scroll down and click on the "Start Here" button at the bottom of the page, choose the method of validating license information, and click on the checkbox for the harvest tag being reported.  A series of options will appear for a hunter to report a harvest. After filling in the harvest information, click on the "Continue" button to review the report and then hit the "Submit" button to complete the report. Failing to hit the "Submit" button will result in a harvest report not being completed.

Hunters should have their Customer Identification Number (hunting license number) and field harvest tag information with them when they call, and should speak clearly and distinctly when reporting harvests, especially when providing the Wildlife Management Unit number and letter.

"Hunters may report one or more harvests in a single session," Roe said. "Responses to all harvest questions are required.

"Hunters who use the toll-free number to submit a harvest report will receive a confirmation number, which they should write down and keep as proof of reporting.  Those who report online should print or save a copy of their harvest report submission as proof of reporting."

Roe noted that hunters still have the option to file harvest report postcards, which are included as tear-out sheets in the current digest.

"We certainly are encouraging hunters to use the online reporting system, which will ensure that their harvest is recorded," Roe said.  "The more important point is that all hunters do their part in deer management and report their harvested deer to the agency."

HUNTERS REMINDED THAT LICENSES STILL MUST BE DISPLAYED

Hunters and trappers are reminded that they still are required to display their licenses on an outer garment, said Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe.

"The Game Commission is supporting legislation to remove the statutory requirement that licenses be displayed, and thereby allow hunters to place their hunting license in their wallet with other ID," Roe said. "However, until such time as the General Assembly removes this statutory requirement, hunters and trappers will need to continue to display their licenses."

HUNTERS CAN CHECK ON TRAFFIC AND ROAD CONDITIONS IN ADVANCE

Hunters can check traffic and road conditions on more than 2,900 miles of roadways by simply calling 511 or logging onto the Department of Transportation's website (www.511pa.com) before heading out to deer camp this year.

"'511PA' is Pennsylvania's official travel information service," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "This service from PennDOT provides travelers with reliable, current traffic and weather information. This site enables hunters to check on the status of road conditions before heading out to camp."

HUNTERS SHARING THE HARVEST A WORTHY CAUSE

Hunters who are successful in the upcoming deer hunting seasons are encouraged by the Pennsylvania Game Commission to consider participating in the state's Hunters Sharing the Harvest (HSH) program, which channels donations of venison to local food banks, soup kitchens and needy families.  Pennsylvania's HSH program is recognized as one of the most successful among similar programs in about 40 states.

"Using a network of local volunteer area coordinators and cooperating meat processors to process and distribute venison donated by hunters, HSH has really helped to make a difference for countless needy families and individuals in our state," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "Pennsylvanians who participate in this extremely beneficial program should be proud of the role they play. HSH truly does make a tremendous difference."

Started in 1991, HSH has developed into a refined support service for organizations that assist the Commonwealth's needy.  Each year, Hunters Sharing the Harvest helps to deliver almost 200,000 meals to food banks, churches and social services feeding programs.

"This program is all about the generosity of hunters and their desire to help make a difference," Roe said. "It's a program that many hunters have become committed to and enjoy supporting. After all, what is more gratifying than helping others in need?"

As part of the program, hunters are encouraged to take a deer to a participating meat processor and identify how much of their deer meat - from an entire deer to several pounds - that is to be donated to HSH.  If the hunter is donating an entire deer, he or she is asked to make a $15 tax-deductible co-pay, and HSH will cover the remaining processing fees.  However, a hunter can cover the entire costs of the processing, which is tax deductible as well.

HSH established a statewide toll-free telephone number – 1-866-474-2141 – which can answer hunters' questions about where participating meat processors can be found or other general inquiries about the program.

To learn more about the program and obtain a list of participating meat processors and county coordinators, visit the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on "Hunters Sharing the Harvest" in the "Quick Clicks" box in the right-hand column of the homepage, or go to the HSH website (www.sharedeer.org).

Note to Editors: If you would like to receive Game Commission news releases via e-mail, please send a note with your name, address, telephone number and the name of the organization you represent to: [email protected]

SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission

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