Bob Frye / Trib Total Media
The question of how many antlerless deer permits to issue via the deer management assistance program is proving vexing for some.
Pennsylvania Game Commissioners have a target they desperately want to hit, but haven’t figured out how to do it just yet.
So it’s back to the drawing board.
At their recent meeting, commissioners tabled a proposal to change the agency’s deer management assistance program.
DMAP, as it’s known, allows public and private landowners to get additional antlerless deer tags for use on their specific properties. It’s meant to be a “surgical” tool for addressing “hot spots” of too many deer on a particular landscape, commissioners have said.
Board president Dave Putnam of Centre County said the program works best when landowners get extra tags and knock deer numbers back in areas where they’re having trouble, then ease up.
“Some of our DMAP users, we don’t think they’re using it that way,” Putnam said. “They’re issuing the same number of permits every year. Despite what the science says, the number of permits put out on the landscape never changes.”
He didn’t call it by name – this time — but Putnam was referring to the state’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, manager of state forests and parks.
Commissioners have said the program’s use on those lands accounts for more hunter complaints than just about anything. They’ve been in talks with department officials for months, trying to get them to take some properties out of the program altogether or at least cut back on the number of tags requested.
Department officials have argued that they’re making DMAP requests based on on-the-ground habitat surveys, and are not anti-deer, as some have suggested.
There’s been no resolution.
Frustrated, commissioners were at their fall meeting prepared to vote on a proposal that would have limited the size of DMAP parcels to 15,000 acres and required landowners seeking permits to submit and get approval for a deer herd/forest health management plan.
Those changes were aimed at forcing concessions they couldn’t get otherwise.
The proposal drew concerns from other landowners, though, who said the new rules would have eliminated their ability to use roads and other easily recognizable landmarks as boundaries, while also drowning them in paperwork.
Commissioners didn’t want that, so they backed off for now. Board member Tim Layton of Windber said the commission and bureau of forestry need to keep meeting.
“I think we need to carry on those conversations a little bit longer before we can make any changes to the program we feel are valuable,” Layton said.
Putnam agreed, but said he wants hunters to understand the board is aware of their feelings and is working to address them.
“We hear what everybody is saying,” Putnam said.
Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.