It seems like every conversation these days about Pennsylvania deer management eventually comes around to harvest estimates being inaccurate. The inaccuracy is the result of so many hunter’s attitudes about reporting animals they harvest. Only about a third of successful hunters actually report their deer kills to the commission.
The problem begins as soon as DMAP and regular doe licenses go on sale, if you listen to hunter conversations. You’ll hear comments such as “I don’t report because it’s no one’s business,” “I’ll buy up extra tags and not use them to save the deer” or “I can never remember to report as I’m too busy.”
Those actions result in the Pa. Game Commission using the method it does to get a fairly accurate harvest count.
The commission personnel check a sample of harvested deer each year, both in the field and at butcher shops during the hunting seasons, and compare these records with harvest reports to determine reporting rates. That gives enough data to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty of what the deer harvest is.
So when two-thirds of our hunters don’t report, it leaves the Game Commission with no option, but to adjust doe tag allotments in some units to get the desired harvest numbers.
That action, in turn, causes hunters to complain and say there’s no deer now. But how is the commission suppose to know how many deer are actually harvested when hunters don’t comply with reporting? It ends up being a double-edged sword: the commission doesn’t have an exact count, more tags are allotted and the deer population takes a hit.
Of course, the response to that is to enforce mandatory harvest reporting by saying if you don’t file a report, you won’t get a license next year.
In reality, it’s not that simple. Enforcement is fraught with political, legal and social ramifications.
We saw that several years ago when the commission intended to enforce reporting through the DMAP license program. That ended up triggering a backlash from hunters and meat processors who claimed the action was a deterrent to license sales and hunter retention.
The issue became a real fiasco when hunters engaged their legislators to put an end to it. As a result, the commission will use the system now in place as they have done everything they can do to make the reporting process easy and convenient.
There’s no use in pushing it further as it just stirs the social media and causes a negative public image.
Besides we all know that when things change — for better or worse — there is always a majority who’s never satisfied no matter what. We’ve seen it with deer season changes, the Saturday opener, Sunday hunting and especially crossbows.
When you think about it, you’ll realize what happened to all those sportsmen clubs of the past. They faded away because no one could agree on or wanted any change.