Sunday, July 13, 2014

Counting points: Everyone should be able to do it

March 23. 2013 5:47PM

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No disrespect to Pennsylvania’s senior hunters, but I don’t believe they should be exempt from antler restrictions. As some of the most experienced hunters, I have faith that senior hunters are perfectly capable of following the antler restrictions established for the areas they hunt.

Several members of the state senate, however, believe otherwise.

Senate Bill 547 cleared the Game and Fisheries Committee this month and is headed to the floor. The bill exempts senior license holders from antler restrictions, allowing them to shoot a buck under the old provisions — two or more points or one antler that is at least 3 inches in length.

Antler restrictions come in two forms — three points or better on one side (including the brow tine) or “three up” (which eliminates the need to look for a brow tine when three points can be identified on one of the main beams). If senior hunters are expected to determine if one antler is at least 3 inches in length, then it’s not too much to ask them to count points.

Of all the deer hunting regulations that the Pennsylvania Game Commission has passed in recent years, antler restrictions are one rule that, in my opinion, the majority of hunters agree on. It’s clear that years of antler restrictions have allowed bucks to grow older and larger, evident by the increase in record book deer taken each hunting season.

To allow one segment of hunters an exemption to the current provisions is a step backward. It’s basically saying that yes, antler restrictions are important, but not so critical that every group of hunters has to abide by them. Junior hunters are also expempt from antler restrictions. Why? I guess to increase the odds that they’ll be able to shoot a buck.

That’s great, but it sends the wrong message. By exempting junior hunters from antler restrictions, we’re basically telling them that the kill is more important than sound wildlife management.

But when it comes to senior hunters, I’m not really sure that they need a break from antler restrictions.

State Sen. Tim Solobay (D-Canonsburg) introduced the bill in response to comments he has recieved from his constituents.

“Many of the seniors I’ve heard from face difficult physical challenges and I think most of my colleagues support giving them a slight advantage when it comes to getting a buck,” Solobay said. “They’ve paid their dues and passed on their tradition.”

Yes, our senior hunters have paid their dues, and as a result they are some of the most experienced, capable outdoorsmen in the state. They know how to hunt and they can certainly count points.

But what really gets me about SB 547 is why it’s even being discussed by the legislature in the first place.

Antler restrictions are a deer management issue and, as such, it’s one that should be handled by the PGC board.

Sure, the PGC has made its share of mistakes over the years when it comes to deer management, but is this really an issue we want our legislators to dictate?

No doubt the bill was in response to complaints that several senators received from constituents about antler restrictions.

While the bill may address those complaints, is giving senior license holders an exemption from antler restrictions really in the best interest of deer management?

I’d rather the PGC board make that determination.

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