Our opinion: White-tail politics

It was 1999 when a wildlife biologist named Gary Alt championed a system of deer management in Pennsylvania that ultimately raised a firestorm of protest from hunters.

The system was designed to “improve” the herd by producing a greater number of bucks with larger antlers, the trophies that most deer hunters covet. However, it changed the dynamics of the herd, and hunters took notice that they were seeing fewer deer overall.

Over a period of years, the storm subsided, and deer hunters went about their sport with less grumbling about the concurrent buck and doe seasons and antler restrictions. There were, after all, still trophies coming out of the woods, even though hunters groused about seeing fewer deer than they had seen in the past.

Many hunters are still grumbling, and their complaints have reached to the state House of Representatives, where a package of bills has been introduced that would establish a three-day antlerless season after the two-week buck season – similar to what was in place B.A. (before Alt) and directs the Pennsylvania Game Commission to use the maximum sustained yield method of game and habitat management.

The five bills and one resolution proposed in the House got mixed reviews during hearings earlier this week, hosted by state Rep. Martin Causer, R-Turtlepoint, chairman of the House Game and Fisheries Committee.

Fiddling with Pennsylvania’s nationally famous white-tailed deer herd will never be without dispute.

The House is reacting to constituent input, and that’s what drives lawmakers, or at least should.

Nevertheless, the House needs to temper a knee-jerk response. We can guarantee that complaints aren’t coming from hunters who spent several hundred dollars to have that 10-point they killed this year mounted.

The state should not be in the business of guaranteeing a deer for every hunter, but rather policies that are good for the long-term stability of the herd and protection of its habitat.