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1996 deer harvest one of best ever

April 07, 1997

By LAURA ERNDE

Staff Writer

Even though hunters bagged fewer deer than they did in 1995, last season was one of the best ever for hunters in the Tri-State area, wildlife officials said.

"I had great success," said Jamie Moran, 22, of Leetown, W.Va., who killed two bucks during bow season and one during rifle season.

In the seven-county Tri-State area in 1996, hunters killed 21,499 deer. That included 12,016 bucks and 9,483 does.

Although a county-by-county comparison was not available, wildlife officials in all three states said the deer kill was down slightly.

That's mostly because 1995 was a record year in all three states, officials said.

"It was bound to decline," said Bruce Whitman, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

That came as no surprise to John Riess, 28, of Waynesboro, Pa., who usually counts on bagging two deer, but was unsuccessful last year. He blamed his lack of success on an increased number of doe permits issued in Franklin and Fulton counties.

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"They're killing too many does off, for one thing. They need to back the limit off on does," he said.

Maryland also encouraged doe hunting last year by extending the antlerless deer firearms season by two days in 18 counties.

Butch Canfield, 51, who owns CEC Sporting Goods in Sharpsburg, said he saw a lot of antlerless deer, but didn't shoot any.

The weather worked against hunters. The season kicked off with foggy and wet conditions.

"I just think hunting was a little slower this year," said Moran, who works at Sparks Sports Center Inc. in Martinsburg, W.Va. "I have friends who hunt. A lot of them just didn't go this year."

An abundant food supply also meant that deer weren't on the move as much. Hunters who staked out fields often were disappointed, said Rich Rogers, wildlife biologist at the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources.

"You gotta know your territory and what's going on," Rogers said.

All three states said the deer population is healthy despite record deer harvests in the last few years.

"What we're seeing in Pennsylvania are shifts in deer population," Whitman said.

The big woods counties in the northern part of the state are losing deer to developed areas. Having deer and people living so close together has caused problems at Gettysburg (Pa.) National Battlefield and in the Pittsburgh suburb of Fox Chapel, Pa., Whitman said.

The herd at Catoctin Mountain National Park is an example of what would happen if hunting were banned.

The deer population approaches 500 to 600 animals, about twice what the park can handle, officials said.

Ravenous deer have begun clearing parts of the 6,000-acre park of vegetation. Forest managers say that as mature trees die off, there's nothing to replace them.

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