SNYDER: Proposed Pennsylvania deer bill a disaster

  • House Bill 2083 has been signed by more than two dozen Pennsylvania legislators.
  • The bill would create a new layer of bureaucracy called the Forest and Wildlife Advisory Council.
  • The bill also mandates a three-day doe season and changes wildlife management unit boundaries.

Now they’ve gone and done it.

Just when we thought the state’s deer war was quieting down, they went and shot off another salvo.

The state Game Commission earlier this month dissolved York County's deer management program area — established in 2012 after a farm-raised deer at a captive facility tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease — meaning only general hunting regulations apply.

It’s more weighty rhetoric that promises to make our woods and forests a better place. In reality, however, it’s a low-brow plea to get a few dirty votes.

If you haven’t heard, a handful of state lawmakers recently put their names on a bill that’s designed to permanently change who controls the deer population and how they do it.

The creators of House Bill 2083 say they have sportsmen in mind. In reality, though, the bill is a disaster in the making. It does nothing for the state’s hunters and could do potentially irreversible harm to the state’s deer herd.

In a nutshell, HB 2083 has a single purpose — to increase the number of deer in Pennsylvania. It does it by mandating a three-day doe season, changing wildlife management unit boundaries and ending the popular Deer Management Assistance Program on public lands.

If that’s not enough to get your attention, this will. If enacted, the bill would create a brand new layer of bureaucracy known as, hold your tongue, the Forest and Wildlife Advisory Council. It would be the very definition of a political group, with each member being appointed by lawmakers.

That’s bad because this partisan group would then be charged with telling the Pennsylvania Game Commission how to manage the state’s deer herd. In other words, the well-educated folks currently in charge of maintaining a healthy deer herd would be replaced by political appointees with one goal in mind … maximizing the deer herd.

Now, to some folks, a larger deer herd sounds great. It’s more hunting opportunities and who doesn’t want that.

But let’s scratch our chins and think about this a bit. Isn’t the state suffering from the recent outbreak of chronic wasting disease? Weren’t our forests greatly stunted from a dangerously large deer population less than two decades ago? And aren’t we already seeing plenty of collisions with deer on our state highways?

Twelve new cases of CWD reported in Pennsylvania deer

The answer, if you haven’t guessed, is “yes” to all three questions. A deer population that’s managed at the peak of the state’s carrying capacity — the ultimate intent of HB 2083 — would toss all of those ideas aside. And it would do it only so the state’s hunters could put more antlers in their cross hairs.

It's the exact opposite of the intent of every educated sportsman.

Remember, hunting is not supposed to be a selfish sport. Sure, we take to the woods for the memories and the occasional bragging rights. But, above all, we’re there to manage the population. We’re there to help maintain a delicate balance — a balance that Mother Nature can’t always take care of by herself in modern times.

That’s why HB 2083 must go no further. As I write, it’s sitting in committee, with 26 signatures attached to it. Rumor has it that it won’t go any further. Let’s certainly hope so.

The mere fact that this bill was introduced and got the support of more than two dozen lawmakers proves the deer wars are alive and well.

That’s too bad.

This battle gives all sportsmen a black eye.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at