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

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

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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.

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.

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Opening day of deer season

 

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