To ban or not to ban: the deer urine debate

Posted on: February 1, 2016 | Bob Frye | Comments

Blog--Deer urineMany archers use urine-based attractants, but the state’s largest bowhunting group says it’s willing to give them up for the sake of the deer herd’s health.

It’s archers, more than any other deer hunters, who typically use urine-based deer attractants. That’s been the case for decades.

Now, some are willing to call it quits.

The United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, the state’s largest archery hunting group, has decided that the benefits of using deer urine don’t outweigh the possible risks.

“In all good conscience most bowhunters must agree that drastic measures are necessary if we are to have any hope of effectively addressing the risk associated with the spread of chronic wasting disease,” spokesman Wes Waldron told Pennsylvania Game Commissioners during the public comment portion of their meeting on Sunday.

For that reason, the group supports “a ban on deer urine-based lures and attractants” statewide.

“And coming from us, that’s something big,” Waldron said.

Two other states – Virginia and Vermont – have adopted statewide urine bans in the past year. Deer farmers and urine scent makers, and even some hunters, oppose other states doing the same, saying there’s no proof of risk.

Right now, it’s illegal to use urine attractants only within the boundaries of Pennsylvania’s three disease management areas, all places where wasting disease has already been discovered either in wild or captive deer herds.

Commissioners have not said whether they are considering a statewide ban. On Monday, though, Wayne Laroche, director of the agency’s bureau of wildlife management, is to give a report to the board about chronic wasting disease and what steps to prevent its spread are and are not within its control.

In the meantime, the Bowhunters group would also support bans on deer feeding and the “importation, exportation and instrastate movement” of captive deer and other cervids, Waldron said.

None of that drew too much debate from Game Commissioners. Something else Waldron said did.

He said the Bowhunters group is concerned that the commission is allowing hunters to use bait to attract and harvest deer in the southeast region of the state.

“With deer densities generally higher than in other parts of the commonwealth, it is hard to justify the risk of spreading CWD by enticing large numbers of animals to congregate in such close proximity,” Waldron said.

Commissioner Brian Hoover of Delaware County said such fears are unfounded. In the southeast, deer are already concentrated, and were long before baiting came along, he said. Herds live, eat and sleep on parcels of an acre or less.

“When you talk about concentration, we’ve already got that,” Hoover said.

If chronic wasting disease shows up in such places, “we’re in trouble, no matter what we do,” he added.

Bob Frye is the everybodyadventures.com editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or bfrye@535mediallc.com. See other stories, blogs, videos and more at everybodyadventures.com.

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Bob Frye is a storyteller with a passion for all things outdoors. He hunts, he fishes, he hikes, he camps, he paddles, backpacks and snowshoes depending on the season. If he’s not an expert at anything, it’s because he’s passionate to try a little bit of everything.