Hunting Deer Over Bait Legal in Five Counties After Christmas

HARRISBURG – Beginning Dec. 26, hunters in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties may hunt for deer over bait on private property as a result of regulatory changes approved recently by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Recommended in the agency’s Urban/Suburban Deer Management Plan and finalized by the state’s Board of Game Commissioners in October, the regulations permit hunters to use baiting to increase the deer kill in the state’s highly-developed southeastern counties, where deer conflicts are difficult for some residents, and where hunters have had challenges getting close to deer, because of access issues and safety restrictions.

“Baiting provides the means to pull deer from suburban woodlots and private properties harboring large numbers of deer to areas where hunters can legally and safely take them, and away from places where it’s simply not appropriate to hunt or field-dress a deer,” explained Jeannine Tardiff, game commission deer biologist. “Baiting surely wasn’t our first choice in the agency’s decades-old effort to address deer overpopulation in southeastern Pennsylvania. But, it is one of our few remaining viable options to increase hunter’s success.

“The game commission — and many municipalities, too — prefer that hunters manage this ever-shifting problem through legal hunting, which provides municipalities a no-cost solution to deer conflicts. Hunting has been used to manage the state’s deer population for more than 100 years. But managing deer around Philadelphia and its highly-developed suburban counties has been an evolving problem over the last 50 years, because hunters increasingly are limited by access issues and safety regulations. Hunters needed more tools to increase their success, and baiting is one more tool that we now are offering to accomplish that goal.”

Under the new regulations, hunters are permitted to use bait only on private properties. This year, the use of bait is not permitted until Dec. 26. However, for the 2007-08 deer seasons, hunters will be able to place or distribute bait two weeks prior to the opening of the archery deer season and continue until the deer seasons conclude. Bait accumulation in any one location cannot exceed five gallons total volume at any given time.

“Make no mistake, baiting is about reducing deer numbers,” explained Tardiff. “The intent is to maximize deer harvests, not provide supplement food for deer.”

After examining other states’ methods of permitting baiting and development of an Urban/Suburban Deer Management Plan, the agency first took action to permit baiting within the parameters of the law at the board’s June meeting. While the board’s final vote to permit baiting at its meeting in October was unanimous, the board also indicated that it took this step with reluctance. The law continues to prohibit the use of bait for deer hunters in all other counties, including Allegheny County.

“I’m hoping that after this vote, we’ll never use the word ‘bait’ again,” said Game Commissioner Gregory Isabella after the board vote.

Game Commission President Thomas Boop emphasized that the vote to approve baiting was “to address a special circumstance in a special part of the state. I don’t think anyone should construe this as a feeling by the Board that we’re going to move forward on the baiting issue in other areas, other than in the special regulations areas.”

In fact, to ensure a thorough review of this new tool, the board included a sunset provision, which requires the board to reconsider the matter before March 31, 2010. Without reauthorization, the use of bait in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties would cease to be permitted.

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