2009-01-29 / Sports

Split Antlered/Antlerless Seasons In WMUs Focus Of New Study

HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania Game Commission and U. S. Geological Survey's Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Pennsylvania State University Tuesday presented an overview of a new deer research project to the Board of Game Commissioners.

For the 2008-09 deer seasons, the board approved a change in the firearms deer season in WMUs 2D, 2G, 3C and 4B. The change made antlered deer legal for the first five days of the twoweek firearms deer season, followed by seven days of antlered and antlerless deer hunting. Previously, these four WMUs had a two-week concurrent firearms season for antlered and antlerless deer season.

In passing this change in seasons, the board directed staff to develop a four-year study for these WMUs to evaluate its impact before considering changes to the two-week firearms deer season length in any other WMUs. It was noted that these four WMUs were chosen for this split season because: WMUs 2G and 4B had ongoing deer research in them; WMU 2D is an area where antler restrictions are set at four points on one side, and is where the agency previously had deer research conducted; and WMU 3C is an area where antler restrictions are set at three points on one side, and is an area of the state where no extensive deer research has been conducted.

Recently, Dr. Christopher Rosenberry, Game Commission deer and elk section supervisor, and Dr. Duane Diefenbach, who heads up the Cooperative Research Unit, presented information on the study.

"The research will address biological and social aspects of the shortened antlerless season in the four WMUs," Rosenberry said. "The study will seek to answer several questions, including: will hunters see more deer; and will the shorter antlerless season allow deer population objectives to be met?

"As with all of our deer studies, we will address these various questions using radio-collared deer, ear-tagged deer, deer harvest data and hunter surveys."

From the social side, Rosenberry noted that the study will monitor hunter response and opinion regarding the shorter antlerless rifle season. From the biological side, the study will monitor deer populations and determine actions necessary to meet deer population objectives with a shorter antlerless rifle season.

"Although many believe a shorter season may reduce the antlerless harvest, it is important to remember that the antlerless harvest is the method of meeting the population objective for a WMU and can be adjusted with the antlerless allocation," Rosenberry said. "If fewer deer are being harvested and the population objective is not being met, then we would recommend an increase in the allocation to achieve the proper antlerless harvest."

Diefenbach said that this study also will be using reward tags to collect deer harvest information. He said that some research deer will be marked with ear tags that say 'Reward' and provide a toll-free number for individuals to call in order to report harvest information and obtain the $100 reward. Deer wearing radio collars will not be marked with reward tags.

"This is not the first time reward tags have been used in Pennsylvania," Diefenbach noted. "Reward tags have been used on pheasants, doves and turkeys. And, in these past experiences, we have not seen any increase in poaching or other illegal activity regarding reward tagged animals.

"Reward tags provide advantages to our research, including reduced cost when compared to radio collars and less bias in terms of visibility to hunters. Small ear tags on the inside of a deer's ear will be less visible than radio collars."

In addition to answering specific research questions, Diefenbach noted that the study, like others in the past, will provide learning opportunities for young wildlife biologists to gain valuable field experience and for graduate students to further their careers.

"This study marks another opportunity for the Game Commission and Cooperative Research Unit to further our understanding of deer and deer hunting in Pennsylvania," said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. "Through this cooperative relationship, thousands of deer have been captured in Pennsylvania in the last nine years. Using these deer, we have learned a great deal about deer and deer hunting.

"The quality of the collaborative work between the Game Commission and Cooperative Research Unit is evidenced by the publication of numerous scientific research articles in national and international wildlife journals."

Hunters are reminded that all research deer are legal for harvest if the hunter has the appropriate license. If hunters harvest a tagged deer, please call the tollfree number on the tag.

"This study, like much of our work in deer management, relies on cooperation of hunters," Roe said. "We ask hunters to report harvested deer and return surveys that they may receive. Hunter cooperation will ensure the success of this research."

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