Harvest estimates for the 2016-2017 hunting season will be released in early 2017.
The annual deer harvest is the result of the hunting faithful’s annual trek into Penn’s Woods in pursuit of our state animal. Every year, tens of thousands harvest a deer. After a successful hunt, the fun is kind of over. Now comes the gutting, dragging, trip to the butcher, drive home, and then cleaning and storing equipment. If you process your own deer, the work more than doubles.
Hunters are legally required to report their harvest to the Game Commission using any of 3 methods: postage-paid report card, toll-free phone number, or online. But in the hustle and bustle of the after-harvest activities, more than 60% of hunters do not. And compliance has been declining over the past 30 years.
Some of our research deer are even “forgotten.” None of our radio-collared deer that were killed in the hunting season last year were reported to us. This is in stark contrast to reward-tagged deer. Plenty of those were reported.
Why does this matter? Hunting is the #1 cause of mortality for white-tailed deer in Pennsylvania and the harvest data are used to monitor population trends. So harvest data are important to the PGC for setting seasons and bag limits, as well as this research project.
In a recent hunter survey conducted by the PGC, 89% of hunters agreed that accurate reporting of each deer harvested is the hunter’s ethical responsibility; 92% of hunters agreed that reporting a deer is an important part of deer management; and 91% agreed that all deer should be reported to the PGC. So why aren’t they?
The simple answer is hunters forget. Not remembering to report their harvest within the 10-day reporting period or flat out forgetting completely were the top 2 reasons hunters did not report their deer. With all the excitement (and work), who can blame them?
With regard to collared deer, there may be some confusion among hunters if they are legal to harvest. They are, of course. That’s why starting last winter ALL captured deer received reward tags whether they were collared or not.
Successful hunters have 3 free and convenient methods available to report their harvests. They just need to be reminded. This year and last, the PGC sent reminder postcards to DMAP permittees who did not report and that increased the reporting rate to 80%! Up from a low of 46%. And the Bureau of Forestry sent a survey to the remaining 20% of DMAP tag holders who hunted on DCNR lands and did not report.
These extra efforts take time and money. Time and money that could be used elsewhere. But the effort is necessary to get the best data possible. Data that are important to the PGC and the Bureau of Forestry.
So next year, take a 5 minute break from the “work” that successful hunting creates and report your harvest. We’ll try to remember to remind you 🙂
-Duane Diefenbach and Jeannine Fleegle
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Unless otherwise noted, all photos by PGC