It is my opinion we received more fake news from our Pennsylvania Game Commission in the form of their 2018-19 hunting season harvest report released March 19, 2019. Read this report yourself by clicking here. They claim hunters harvested 374,690 deer, the highest deer harvest in 14 years.
Here are my thoughts to PGC's current claim that last year they kill another record number of deer (374,690):
1) I hunted Game Lands in Columbia County for my whole life. Parking areas used to be filled an hour before sunrise on the 1st day and both Saturdays of buck-only season. I'd hear a hundred shots by 8 am and would see dozens of deer. My friend once got the 5th buck he shot at by 10 am on the opening day. This year a half hour before sunrise my brother and I were the 1st vehicle to park in the biggest lot on that game lands. I saw 3 other hunters, heard no close shots all day, heard less shots in the distance all day than I used to hear by 8 am, and saw one deer -- one more than my brother and one of the other guys saw.
2) In recent years I have hunted at Raystown, Indiana County private lands, Westmoreland, Cambria, Butler, Clearfield, and Montour with similar observations -- few hunters, few shots, few deer sightings, and little deer sign. The only place I see deer is in Allegheny -- Pittsburgh.
3) The US Fish & Wildlife Service puts out a 150-200 page hunting/fishing participation and facts report every 5 years. I have used these reports as well as the PA Legislative Budget and Finance Committee in doing their past study of the PGC. As of 2011, hunting participation in PA was way down while participation nationally was up. In fact, in the 2011 federal report hunting participation in PA had declined by 351,000 hunters from 2001-2011, representing a 25% decline just from the previous federal report in 2006. Over that 5-yeart period PA hunting participation had dropped 25%, ranking PA as the 45th state out of 50 in hunter retention. Most other states had experienced a gain in hunter participation.
4) The following 5-year report in 2016-17 did not list participation by states for some reason. However, in 2017 PGC issued a news release that said hunter participation in the regular buck season was down by 200,000 hunters from 2010-16. PGC said not to worry because they had all become archers. However, upon inspection I discovered that from 2010-16 PA had only gained 51,000 archers -- a result of cross bows being legalized. That left 149,000 in the lurch and unaccounted for (likely buying licenses out of tradition but not hunting). Add this 149,000 to the 351,000 lost between 2001-11 represents an effective loss of 500,000 hunters.
5) As of 2011, the PA LB&FC had determined that the impact from lost hunters on the state's economy was $501.6 million per year, with a loss of $40 million per year in tax revenue. As of 2017 the figure was calculated to have escalated to $1.2-1.5 billion lost per year to the state economy (mostly felt in rural communities), and a $150-170 million annual loss in government tax revenue -- a burden that has been resting and growing on the backs of taxpayers.
6) The loss of hunters caused by PGC mismanagement of the deer herd is now costing the PGC $9-17 million per year -- indicating that PGC has caused its own budget deficit. Therefore, PGC doesn't need a license-fee increase, they need a personnel overhaul to redesign their deer management policy.
7) PGC claims record kills practically every year, while the biology of the herd indicates that if this were true that deer would have gone extinct in PA by 2008. In order for PA to be killing this many deer, they would have had to have imported 3.8 million deer into the state from other states between 2006-18 and shot every last one of them. Besides, unless hunters are invisible as well as their vehicles, and unless all the invisible hunters are using silencers, intuitively their numbers are bogus.
8) The only way out of this mess is to pass HB 1483 -- which Rep. Dave Maloney will soon introduce as HB ?83.