January 29, 2023

Pennsylvania Game Commission – Deliberate Obstruction Or Poor Organization?

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Nearly one year ago Governor Ed Rendell became the first Governor in the United States to sign into law a Bill that will allow the Pennsylvania Game Commission to proceed with a youth mentoring program for hunters. This is part of the Families Afield program that Pennsylvania is a part of.

At that time the program was “non-specific” and a committee was formed to work with the PGC to iron out the details of the program. In early April of last year, the PGC began waffling on the mentor program concerning youths hunting deer, claiming that it might interfere with their tracking programs. The April 18, 2006 meeting of the PGC was to make that decision and all indications were that deer would be included for 2007.

Now, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the PGC is once again stonewalling the mentor program.

Last year, state lawmakers approved legislation that said any child, regardless of age, could hunt provided they were accompanied by an adult mentor. Game Commissioners subsequently allowed youngsters to hunt groundhogs, squirrels and spring gobblers.

They were initially going to let youngsters hunt antlered deer, too, but delayed that until the fall 2007 season so that agency staff had time to work out the logistics of the program.

Now, those same staff people are telling commissioners they need yet more time. When commissioners meet this week, agency staff will recommend that they not let kids hunt bucks.

The excuses seem to be running rampant – anywhere from no way of tracking deer harvests to fears of mentors shooting the deer for the kids. Now some PGC staff are recommending that kids not be allowed to shoot bucks for that reason. PGC staff whined that they needed more time.

“We simply need more time to consider alternatives and the potential benefits and costs to the agency, the resource and the citizens of the Commonwealth,” reads an item in the Game Commission’s agenda.

The PGC has had one year to look at these issues. Personally I think the idea that mentors will shoot the deer is ridiculous. That isn’t to say it won’t happen but the rate of occurrence would be fractional. According to Ron Fretts who chaired the committee, he claims that PGC biologists don’t foresee any problems with the program and in particular, hunting bucks.

Fretts also expressed concerns about the delays calling it unacceptable.

“Many youth who experienced hunting with an adult mentor in 2006 because of the new program are eagerly waiting to pursue the crown jewel of hunting, the white-tailed deer,” Fretts wrote. “We stand to seriously disappoint those families who hoped to enjoy time afield this fall.”

Fretts isn’t the only one voicing concerns. In today’s Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Sunday Commission hearing was the platform for many concerned about the direction the PGC is going with this.

“You are tearing the heart out of this very important program,” said Janet Nyce, adviser to the Governor’s Youth Advisory Council for Hunting, Fishing and Conservation. “Most of us were under the impression that you would be stepping up to include deer this year.”

“We promised,” said Patrick Domenico, a member of the committee of representatives of sporting organizations that worked with state lawmakers last year on setting up the mentored youth program.

“Now is the time to honor that promise,” said Gregg Caldwell, another member of the panel. “Why shoot ourselves in the foot? If removing the deer provision is being considered, shame on you for going back on your word.”

After a year, the PGC still is asking for more time. How much time is needed to implement a program of this kind. If the PGC feels that allowing kids to shoot deer with no means of tracking the harvest would hamper their management plans, then why haven’t they devised a tagging system to track the deer? If PGC believes that there will be a serious problem with mentors doing the shooting, then I presume it’s a real problem now with adults shooting the deer for kids over age twelve before they are old enough to hunt on their own?

The PGC has some serious public relations problems now. They just had a lawsuit tossed out of court that was filed in protest of their deer management program. Yes, it was a victory for them but does nothing to correct ill feelings. Now with the PGC seemingly wanting to obstruct this aspect of the youth mentoring program, one can only ask why?

If what members of the committee are saying is true, that PGC promised that youth would get to hunt deer under this program, why are they rescinding that promise? What is it they need to accomplish in two years that couldn’t have been done in this past year? If the PGC is looking for Pennsylvania residents to trust them with their deer management program, this effort will only further destroy a very fragile relationship.

Tom Remington