State Rep. Gerald Mullery, D-Nanticoke, presented the following testimony to the Pennsylvania Game Commission board last week:
President Martone, Board Members, Director Roe, staff, and fellow sportsmen, I come here today to speak about something that is happening within my legislative district that, if left unchecked, will, I believe, guarantee the end of deer hunting as we know it within Luzerne County.
I am not here to offer my opinions on deer management throughout the state. I am not here to discuss antler restrictions in the southwest or the need for more or less tags in areas with which I am not personally familiar.
I am here to talk about Luzerne County, an area that I do know. And I say with due respect to managers and biologists and directors and officers: I know deer hunting in Luzerne County better than most.
I know about Luzerne County because I have lived and hunted there my whole life. I have been up its mountains and down its hollows – and I know the camps and the landowners and the farmers and the hunters who spend the end of each year spread out all over its lands.
And between myself and my staff I hear from hundreds of the license buyers each year. And it is with their words in mind and my own first-hand experiences that I come here today.
Since the introduction of WMUs, Luzerne County has had the distinction of resting within four units. There are locations in the county where, with just a few steps, a hunter could be in three WMUs, depending where his boots touched.
Other than the obvious confusion that these quirky boundaries create, another very real problem arose from day one. Given the fact that doe tags are WMU specific, and 4 units intersect in my home county, Luzerne County could be host to doe hunters from as far away as southern Dauphin County to northern Tioga County. So hunters from this huge area within 3D, 3B, 4E, and 4C could come and hunt and kill Luzerne County doe deer – and I believe that something very similar to that scenario has actually happened.
The hunting pressure in Luzerne County has changed the hunting experience.
I know that you can site the estimated deer kill for 3 of the 4 units as having increased in the last years. I don't know about all that – but I do know that because they are killing more deer in Dauphin County or up in the woods of Tioga does not change the fact that within the 4 corners of these units that intersect within Luzerne County, the kill has greatly decreased, as has deer sightings.
And today there is nothing you can do about it. Local management of a depleted deer population, as has happened already in Luzerne County, seems impossible because of the size of WMUs.
I am here to urge the Board to consider new management tools that will be responsive to local needs. Without the ability to respond to under-populated areas, like in Luzerne County, as you do to over-populated areas (with allocation numbers and DMAP), the Commission risks leaving large wooded areas of the state without deer.
I believe the Commission needs to begin a program that addresses areas in the state where hunters' observations and field studies agree that the deer population has not only been controlled but nearly eradicated.
As you do with crafting local responses to over-population of deer, the Commission can step in and take action. In areas that can support more deer, on the county or township level, the Commission can close deer season, shorten deer season, close or shorten doe season, or respond with other similar plans. By using such tools in these ways, areas that are smaller than WMUs and that are now no longer huntable, like much of Luzerne County, can have a growth in their deer population and once again become a hunting destination.
Such a program would use the science behind your deer management decisions but instead of on a large scale, it would hone your data and knowledge to affect areas that are much smaller than a WMU and have too few deer
I hope this idea can be considered by the Board. After many years of controlling the deer population in WMUs with DMAP and land owner options, I believe the time has now come to use your data and regulations in new ways, and by doing so rescue deer hunting in areas like Luzerne County.
In closing, as a past and present member of the Game and Fisheries Committee, I am always appreciative of each time I get to come into this building and each opportunity I get to work with you and the Commission's staff on the issues that mean so much to me and to my constituents.