HUnters will be able to shoot a few additional antlerless deer in disease management area 3 this year, provided they have the proper permits.
Hunters in northwestern Pennsylvania have an opportunity to shoot more white-tailed deer this year.
But will they?
That’s one question. There’s another, bigger one, though.
Namely, what will those whitetails say about the health of the herd in that region?
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is making deer management assistance program, or DMAP, permits available for use in disease management area 3. That’s the area of the state where a buck with chronic wasting disease, or CWD, turned up in June.
It was killed by a wildlife conservation officer on state game land 87.
Permits are also being offered in disease management area 2.
In the case of area 3, biologists are trying to figure out if the game land 87 buck was the only sick one there. That’s unlikely, said Wayne Laroche, the commission’s special assistant for CWD.
So the commission needs to get a handle on how widespread it is, he added.
That’s where the DMAP permits come in.
Hunters will be able to use them to kill antlerless deer on public land and private properties where they have permission to be. They can be used in any open deer season.
The hope is that hunters will not only use the permits to kill deer, but turn the heads in for testing, Laroche said.
“We haven’t gotten good enough hunter harvest sampling out of that area in the past,” he said.
One problem apparently is that hunters have been uncomfortable leaving deer heads – with tags bearing their unique CID number – in dumpsters, Laroche said.
To address that the commission will put out collection boxes that function much like traditional blue post office collection boxes. Hunters will pull open a door, place the head inside, then allow the door to swing closed.
Laroche said the hope is to get 26 such boxes out in time for opening day of archery season.
Then, this winter, the commission plans to return to disease area 3 and do targeted removal of deer using sharpshooters.
There was some thought to going to the area now and shooting bucks in particular, while they’re still often together in bachelor groups, Laroche said. But there’s logistically no time to make that happen, he added.
So instead, sharpshooters will kill deer – as many as they can, even if that’s all of them — within a one-mile circle around the spot where the CWD-positive buck was killed in June on state game land 87 in Clearfield.
That won’t amount to thousands of deer, though, Laroche said.
A one-mile circle amounts to about three square miles of land, Laroche said. So sharpshooters will be looking to kill about 100 deer or so, based on preliminary population estimates.
“The hope is that if this is the very beginning of a hot spot, we can wink it out. If not, this will at least give us a real good assessment of where we’re at,” he said.
Laroche said the commission plans to do targeted shooting in disease management area 2 in southcentral Pennsylvania — which will also offer DMAP permits — again this winter, too. Sharpshooters killed 30 white-tailed deer there last winter.
This year’s effort will come with a twist.
In DMA 2, prior to any shooting, researchers from Penn State University will put GPS collars on deer. The idea will be to see what percentage are shot abd figure out where those that don’t get killed go.
That might tell the commission how effective shooting is at removing all of the deer in an area, Laroche said. It might also show how far they go if they escape.
That’s important, Laroche said. The commission doesn’t want to causes deer to spread out further than they might have otherwise, he added.
“This is a serious, dire threat to the future of deer hunting and wildlife management,” Laroche said.
Learn more about white-tailed deer and CWD
The Game Commission is hosting a series of public meetings to talk about its plans for white-tailed deer in disease management area 2. They’re set for later this month.
Also listed on its site is information on where hunters can take deer killed within a disease area to get butchered. Taxidermists are also identified.