GAME COMMISSION RELEASES 2004-2005 DEER HARVEST ESTIMATES
Deer Hunting- The Commonwealth's deer harvest estimates declined about 12 percent over the past year, down from an estimated 464,890 in 2003-04 to an estimated 409,320 in 2004-05, according to Pennsylvania Game Commission figures released today. Historically, this year's deer harvest estimate is the sixth highest since 1986, when the agency began calculating deer harvest results.
The 2004-05 antlered deer harvest was 124,410 and the antlerless deer harvest was 284,910, compared to 142,270 for antlered deer and 322,620 for antlerless deer the previous year.
Bowhunters took 62,460 deer (28,070 antlered deer and 34,390 antlerless deer), compared to 65,100 deer (30,960 antlered deer and 34,440 antlerless deer) in 2003-04. Muzzleloader hunters harvested 31,270 deer (1,090 antlered deer and 30,180 antlerless deer) last year, compared to 35,860 deer (1,240 antlered deer and 34,420 antlerless deer) in 2003-04.
Overall, compared to the 2003-04 harvest results, the 2004-05 statewide antlered deer harvest was down 13 percent, ranging from a decline of 35 percent in Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) 2G to an increase of 13 percent in WMU 4B; and the statewide antlerless deer harvest declined 12 percent, ranging from a drop of 48 percent in WMU 2G to an increase of 51 percent in WMU 2B.
"What these harvest figures reinforce is what we've been hearing from many hunters - they didn't see or harvest as many deer this past hunting season in some areas," said Calvin W. DuBrock, Game Commission Wildlife Management Bureau director. "Harvests declining by more than 20 percent in WMUs 1B, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3D and 4D coincide with areas where hunters have expressed their concerns of too few deer. However, harvest data in some units - such WMUs 2A and 5C - indicate good populations.
"As we've been saying all along, deer populations and their trends are not the same across the Commonwealth."
Harvest figures for the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP), which enables landowners to target hunter pressure where needed, are not available at this time, as the agency continues to wait for report cards from about 25 percent of the 34,135 DMAP permits that were distributed. Currently, only 75 percent of DMAP permit holders have submitted a report card, despite the fact that all DMAP permit holders are required to submit a report card regardless of whether they harvested a deer.
"Hunters with DMAP permits who have not yet submitted reports are encouraged to do so immediately," DuBrock said. "Those DMAP permit holders who fail to submit a report will be declared ineligible to receive DMAP permits in 2005-06."
Hunters may complete and submit their DMAP report cards either by mail or through the agency's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us). Just click on "DMAP" in the "Quick Clicks" box in the upper right hand corner of the homepage and follow the instructions.
The Game Commission relies on information from hunters to estimate deer harvests. If all hunters who harvested a deer would send in their harvest report card, as required by law, harvest estimates would not be needed. However, the agency was forced to begin using reporting rates to estimate deer harvests in the 1980s, when report card returns from hunters began to decline.
DuBrock noted that, each year, roughly 75 deer aging personnel - working throughout the state - check and record information from ear tags on harvested deer. This year more than 34,000 deer were examined. This sample is then cross-checked with report cards that are submitted by hunters to establish reporting rates for antlered and antlerless deer by WMUs. These reporting rates are then combined with report cards that the agency currently receives by mail to estimate deer harvests.
The Game Commission's method of estimating deer harvests was designed to account for less than 100 percent hunter reporting rates. The approach the agency uses to establish annual reporting rates recently was evaluated and found to be scientifically valid. Based on what was learned doing the evaluation - results of which were published in the Journal of Wildlife Management - refinements have been made to the agency's method of estimating annual deer harvests.
Although the agency's method of estimating deer harvests provides reliable harvest estimates at the WMU level, it is the finer scale estimates that suffer when reporting rates are low.
"At the current level of report card returns, attempts to address deer management concerns in units smaller than the existing WMUs - such as county or township levels - are futile due to a lack of data," DuBrock said. "When reporting rates are low, the details are lost and management must proceed at the scale where reliable data are available, which currently is the WMU level."
DuBrock noted that it is important to point out that hunters submitted nearly 170,000 deer harvest report cards to the agency for this past season.
"That we continue to receive such a large number of report cards indicates many Pennsylvania hunters are following through with their obligation to report their deer harvest, and that they do feel reporting is important," DuBrock said. "But the loss of information created by so many other hunters not reporting their deer harvests isn't helping the Game Commission in its efforts to manage deer to the best of its ability for Pennsylvania hunters.
"When reporting rates - for both antlerless and antlered deer - drop to the 40 percent level they hit for the 2004 season, the precision of the harvest estimate is decreased."
DuBrock noted that deer harvest data, as well as comments from hunters, demonstrates that the agency's efforts to reduce the deer herd in some units are working.
"By decreasing the deer herd, and thereby deer impacts on the habitat in these areas, we believe that overbrowsed habitat will begin to recover so that these areas can one day sustain higher deer numbers, as well as other game and nongame species," DuBrock said. "In other words, we are asking hunters to work with us and endure some short term pain, in terms of lower deer densities, so that we can achieve long term gain, in terms of better habitat that supports more deer and other wildlife for all Pennsylvanians."
DuBrock noted that there are some real positives in the harvest results from this past year's deer seasons.
"Hunters have once again performed an important service to the rest society by controlling the state's deer herd," DuBrock said. "They do it willingly, and without burden to taxpayers.
"Also, by combining harvest information with age information collected by our deer agers, we can see the success of antler restrictions that hunters have adjusted to over the past three hunting seasons. Of the bucks harvested, 50 percent were 2.5 years old or older this past year, compared to only 20 percent being that old prior to antler restrictions. More than 60,000 2.5-year-old bucks being killed in one year has to be a new state record, and many hunters have commented about taking a very nice, or the nicest, buck of their lives this past year."
DuBrock also noted that the harvest data showed that the statewide antlerless deer harvest was comprised of 22 percent of button bucks, which is about average, although that figure varied by WMU, ranging from 16 percent in WMU 2G to 32 percent in WMU 5D.
Deer harvest estimates by WMU are as follows:
WMU 1A: archery, 1,480 antlered, 1,950 antlerless; muzzleloader, 100 antlered, 1,860 antlerless; total, 5,100 antlered, 15,600 antlerless.
WMU 1B: archery, 1,190 antlered, 970 antlerless; muzzleloader, 40 antlered, 1,090 antlerless; total, 5,400 antlered, 12,000 antlerless.
WMU 2A: archery, 1,540 antlered, 1,590 antlerless; muzzleloader, 50 antlered, 2,180 antlerless; total, 7,800 antlered, 18,500 antlerless.
WMU 2B: archery, 2,140 antlered, 4,570 antlerless; muzzleloader, 70 antlered, 1,420 antlerless; total, 4,200 antlered, 16,000 antlerless.
WMU 2C: archery, 1,820 antlered, 1,640 antlerless; muzzleloader, 50 antlered, 1,830 antlerless; total, 8,600 antlered, 19,500 antlerless.
WMU 2D: archery, 2,570 antlered, 1,840 antlerless; muzzleloader, 90 antlered, 2,350 antlerless; total, 10,500 antlered, 22,100 antlerless.
WMU 2E: archery, 780 antlered, 530 antlerless; muzzleloader, 40 antlered, 810 antlerless; total, 4,400 antlered, 8,100 antlerless.
WMU 2F: archery, 840 antlered, 730 antlerless; muzzleloader, 30 antlered, 1,240 antlerless; total, 6,400 antlered, 13,100 antlerless.
WMU 2G: archery, 590 antlered, 690 antlerless; muzzleloader, 60 antlered, 1,300 antlerless; total, 6,600 antlered, 10,600 antlerless.
WMU 3A: archery, 560 antlered, 960 antlerless; muzzleloader, 20 antlered, 1,410 antlerless; total, 4,200 antlered, 11,600 antlerless.
WMU 3B: archery, 1,010 antlered, 1,050 antlerless; muzzleloader, 40 antlered, 1,710 antlerless; total, 6,400 antlered, 13,400 antlerless.
WMU 3C: archery, 940 antlered, 920 antlerless; muzzleloader, 20 antlered, 1,410 antlerless; total, 6,900 antlered, 13,500 antlerless.
WMU 3D: archery, 860 antlered, 1,120 antlerless; muzzleloader, 40 antlered, 1,160 antlerless; total, 4,500 antlered, 9,800 antlerless.
WMU 4A: archery, 300 antlered, 550 antlerless; muzzleloader, 40 antlered, 1,220 antlerless; total, 4,100 antlered, 11,000 antlerless.
WMU 4B: archery, 850 antlered, 840 antlerless; muzzleloader, 30 antlered, 1,090 antlerless; total, 4,900 antlered, 11,000 antlerless.
WMU 4C: archery, 1,400 antlered, 1,340 antlerless; muzzleloader, 60 antlered, 1,460 antlerless; total, 5,400 antlered, 12,100 antlerless.
WMU 4D: archery, 910 antlered, 1,020 antlerless; muzzleloader, 70 antlered, 1,250 antlerless; total, 6,300 antlered, 12,700 antlerless.
WMU 4E: archery, 840 antlered, 1,110 antlerless; muzzleloader, 30 antlered, 1,180 antlerless; total, 4,100 antlered, 11,000 antlerless.
WMU 5A: archery, 430 antlered, 730 antlerless; muzzleloader, 30 antlered, 900 antlerless; total, 2,400 antlered, 7,300 antlerless.
WMU 5B: archery, 2,890 antlered, 3,200 antlerless; muzzleloader, 60 antlered, 1,710 antlerless; total, 7,400 antlered, 14,800 antlerless.
WMU 5C: archery, 3,170 antlered, 4,920 antlerless; muzzleloader, 110 antlered, 1,450 antlerless; total, 7,100 antlered, 16,900 antlerless.
WMU 5D: archery, 880 antlered, 2,110 antlerless; muzzleloader, 10 antlered, 140 antlerless; total, 1,300 antlered, 4,200 antlerless.
Unknown WMU: archery, 80 antlered, 10 antlerless; muzzleloader, 0 antlered, 10 antlerless; total, 410 antlered, 110 antlerless.
"Now that these harvest data are compiled, the Deer Management Section in the Bureau of Wildlife Management can begin to prepare an antlerless license allocation recommendation for the Executive Office and senior staff to review, prior to presenting it to the Board of Game Commissioners for its consideration," DuBrock said. "Additionally, as directed by the Board, we will explore opportunities to recommend any changes in season lengths for the 2005-06 seasons."
The Board of Game Commissioners will be meeting on April 25-26, at the agency's Harrisburg headquarters, 2001 Elmerton Ave., just off the Progress Avenue exit of Interstate 81. The meetings will begin at 8:30 a.m. on both days. On April 25, the Board will hear public comments on the proposed 2005-2006 hunting and furtaking seasons and bag limits that were given preliminary approval in January. The Board also will receive agency staff reports and updates. On April 26, the Board is scheduled to take official action to finalize the 2005-2006 hunting and furtaking seasons and bag limits. The Board also will set antlerless license allocations by WMUs at on April 26.
Prior to that, on April 14, the agency is scheduled to appear before the House Game and Fisheries Committee to discuss deer management. The meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. in Room 60E of the East Wing of the State Capitol in Harrisburg.
DuBrock also noted that this is the last year county harvest estimates will be provided for comparison to previous years as the Game Commission completes its transition to WMUs. County estimates only include deer that could be assigned to a county and do not include checked deer or report cards that could not be assigned to a county due to missing data.
For example, because the WMU letter and number is pre-printed on antlerless ear tags and report cards - and some hunters didn't record the county of kill - more antlerless deer were not assigned to counties. For this reason, county harvests will not equal the official estimates provided for WMUs.
Following is the county-by-county harvest estimates:
Adams, 1,200 antlered, 3,400 antlerless; Allegheny, 2,100 antlered, 6,000 antlerless;
Armstrong, 3,200 antlered, 6,700 antlerless;
Beaver, 1,200 antlered, 3,600 antlerless;
Bedford, 3,100 antlered, 6,700 antlerless;
Berks, 3,100 antlered, 8,000 antlerless;
Blair, 1,300 antlered, 2,400 antlerless;
Bradford, 4,300 antlered, 8,400 antlerless;
Bucks, 1,900 antlered, 4,400 antlerless;
Butler, 2,800 antlered, 6,600 antlerless;
Cambria, 2,100 antlered, 3,900 antlerless;
Cameron, 500 antlered, 700 antlerless;
Carbon, 700 antlered, 1,700 antlerless;
Centre, 2,200 antlered, 4,700 antlerless;
Chester, 2,200 antlered, 5,300 antlerless;
Clarion, 2,300 antlered, 4,800 antlerless;
Clearfield, 3,300 antlered, 6,000 antlerless;
Clinton, 1,100 antlered, 2,000 antlerless;
Columbia, 1,600 antlered, 3,900 antlerless;
Crawford, 3,200 antlered, 7,600 antlerless;
Cumberland, 900 antlered, 2,800 antlerless;
Dauphin, 1,500 antlered, 2,800 antlerless;
Delaware, 200 antlered, 1,100 antlerless;
Elk, 1,200 antlered, 2,400 antlerless;
Erie, 1,700 antlered, 3,900 antlerless;
Fayette, 2,000 antlered, 4,200 antlerless;
Forest, 1,200 antlered, 2,500 antlerless;
Franklin, 1,700 antlered, 4,200 antlerless;
Fulton, 900 antlered, 3,000 antlerless;
Greene, 2,800 antlered, 6,700 antlerless;
Huntingdon, 2,800 antlered, 6,200 antlerless;
Indiana, 3,400 antlered, 6,400 antlerless;
Jefferson, 2,800 antlered, 5,800 antlerless;
Juniata, 1,000 antlered, 2,100 antlerless;
Lackawanna, 900 antlered, 1,900 antlerless;
Lancaster, 1,600 antlered, 3,500 antlerless;
Lawrence, 500 antlered, 1,800 antlerless;
Lebanon, 800 antlered, 1,600 antlerless;
Lehigh, 1,000 antlered, 2,900 antlerless;
Luzerne, 2,200 antlered, 4,900 antlerless;
Lycoming, 2,900 antlered, 4,500 antlerless;
McKean, 1,400 antlered, 3,800 antlerless;
Mercer, 2,000 antlered, 6,000 antlerless;
Mifflin, 800 antlered, 1,400 antlerless;
Monroe, 1,300 antlered, 2,600 antlerless;
Montgomery, 1,100 antlered, 2,100 antlerless;
Montour, 300 antlered, 800 antlerless;
Northampton, 1,000 antlered, 2,200 antlerless;
Northumberland, 1,000 antlered, 3,100 antlerless;
Perry, 1,800 antlered, 4,400 antlerless;
Philadelphia, 40 antlered, 90 antlerless;
Pike, 1,100 antlered, 2,700 antlerless;
Potter, 2,100 antlered, 5,500 antlerless;
Schuylkill, 2,200 antlered, 6,200 antlerless;
Snyder, 500 antlered, 1,200 antlerless;
Somerset, 2,200 antlered, 7,300 antlerless;
Sullivan, 1,300 antlered, 2,500 antlerless;
Susquehanna, 2,700 antlered, 5,200 antlerless;
Tioga, 3,300 antlered, 6,400 antlerless;
Union, 600 antlered, 900 antlerless;
Venango, 2,200 antlered, 5,400 antlerless;
Warren, 2,200 antlered, 5,000 antlerless;
Washington, 4,000 antlered, 9,400 antlerless;
Wayne, 1,900 antlered, 3,800 antlerless;
Westmoreland, 4,000 antlered, 9,600 antlerless;
Wyoming, 1,100 antlered, 2,500 antlerless; and
York, 3,800 antlered, 6,600 antlerless.
Source: PA Game Commision
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