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Hunting violation counts high in York as rifle season begins

The district covering Southwestern York County consistently posts one of the highest violation counts in the state.

David Weissman
717-505-5431/@DispatchDavid

"Something about seeing big antlers with a gun in their hands" leads to more hunters committing violations, according to Wildlife Conservation Officer Steve Knickel.

Wildlife Conservation Officer Steve Knickel talks with a hunter about his harvest in Manheim Township, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. (John A. Pavoncello - The York Dispatch)

Rifle deer hunting season began Monday in Pennsylvania, and Knickel — in his fourth year patrolling southwestern parts of York County — said it's typically one of the busiest two-week periods for him and his colleagues in terms of issuing violations.

"People can hear (rifle shots) from longer distances and see the hunters because they're wearing orange," he said.

Knickel, one of three officers working for the state Game Commission in York, said his district — which stretches from Dallastown to the edge of Adams County and Shiloh to the Maryland border — consistently ranks in the top three in the state for most violations reported.

"People assume (York's) numbers are high because of its high drug usage," Knickel said, "but our No. 1 violation is unlawful taking of wildlife."

Officers issue unlawful taking of wildlife violations to hunters who harvest deer or other animals without a valid license, harvesting more than allocated, or hunting using illegal methods, he said.

Unlawful taking of wildlife violations result in a combination of fines, license probation and jail time, depending on the severity of the violation and type of animal.

Wildlife Conservation Officer Steve Knickel makes sure a buck is dead after a passerby found the deer was injured by a vehicle  in Manheim Township, Monday, Nov.  30, 2015. (John A. Pavoncello  - The York Dispatch)

These violations increased in Pennsylvania from 1,112 in 2013-14 to 1,314 in 2014-15, according to Game Commission spokesman Travis Lau.

He said the jump likely occurred because of a recent class of graduating officers that allowed the commission to cover more ground. He expects that trend to continue with another class graduating earlier this year, he said.

Before noon on Monday, Knickel had already issued one violation to a hunter who had obtained a license without taking a required hunter education course. He was planning on taking the confiscated deer to a needy family later in the day.

"100 percent of (the deer I confiscate) go to a needy family or Hunters Sharing the Harvest, (a program that processes and distributes wild game to hungry people throughout the state)," Knickel said.

Other violations officers issue include using bait or lights to aid in the hunt and hunting under the influence (HUI), he said. An HUI arrest requires a slightly higher blood-alcohol content than a DUI (.10 for HUI, .08 for DUI), but those Knickel has arrested are typically more than double the legal limit, he said.

Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com.

 

Pennsylvania Game Commission WCO Steve Knickel talks with Lynn Smith, left, and his son Jacob, who found an injured deer laying near a road in Manheim Township, Monday, Nov.  30, 2015. (John A. Pavoncello  - The York Dispatch)
Pennsylvania Game Commission WCO Steven Knickel writes out a replacement doe tag for a hunter who mistakenly killed a spike buck on the opening day of rifle deer season, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. (John A. Pavoncello - The York Dispatch)
Pennsylvania Game Commission WCO Steven Knickel, right, reviews a citation with a hunter on opening day of rifle deer season in Manheim Township on Monday. The hunter unknowingly illegally harvested a deer with a hunting license purchased without taking the required hunter education course. The hunter was fined and WCO Knickel confiscated the deer, which will be given to a local family in need.
Pennsylvania Game Commission WCO Steven Knickel handles a variety of calls on opening day of rifle deer season in York County, Monday, Nov. 30, 2015. (John A. Pavoncello - The York Dispatch)