Pennsylvania’s fall archery deer season is winding down, although we arguably are in the best part of the season right now.
Statewide, the season runs through Nov. 20.
And don’t forget, that stretch includes Sunday, Nov. 15, which will be the first Sunday ever when hunting deer is allowed in Pennsylvania.
After that, the firearms deer season begins Nov. 28 and runs through Dec. 12.
The antlerless deer license allocation for Wildlife Management Unit 5B has been sold out for weeks. Those are the tags hunters in Lancaster County need to shoot does here.
But there still is an ample supply of specialty tags designed to focus hunters in a particular part of the county.
For the 2020-21 season, the state Game Commission created Deer Management Assistance Permit Unit 3468 in the northeast part of the county, plus adjacent areas of Berks and Lebanon counties.
Essentially, it’s the northern half of Chronic Wasting Disease Management Area 4. The DMA was created in response to the discovery of several captive deer that were infected with the always-fatal CWD.
The deer were found on two farms – one in the Denver area and the other in Upper Leacock Township.
There is no evidence of CWD existing in wild deer in this area, according to the Game Commission. The agency said it did examine two “clinical suspect deer” from CWD Zone 4 in April, but both were found not to have CWD.
Part of the agency’s CWD response plan, however, is to focus monitoring efforts in this area to find out if it does show up in wild deer.
Monitoring requires samples – dead deer. That’s where hunting comes into play.
All of DMA 4 is within WMU 5B, but tags for that unit are good for the whole unit.
By creating DMAP Unit 3468, the Game Commission was able to issue 4,430 DMAP permits which must exclusively be used within the boundaries of that unit.
DMAP Unit 3468 encompasses 346 square miles in Bern, Brecknock, Cumru, Heidelberg, Jefferson, Lower Heidelberg, Marion, North Heidelberg, Penn, South Heidelberg and Spring townships in Berks County; Heidelberg, Jackson, Millcreek, North Lebanon and South Lebanon townships in Lebanon County; and Brecknock, Clay, Earl, East Cocalico, East Earl, Elizabeth, Ephrata, Upper Leacock, Warwick, West Cocalico and West Earl townships in Lancaster County.
This unit is a narrow area surrounding the farms where infected deer were found, as compared to the entire CWD Zone 4.
DMAP permits don’t count toward a hunter’s statewide doe-tag limit. For example, a WMU 5B hunter could have the maximum allowed three tags for that unit, and could still get DMAP permits.
The DMAP permit limit for unit 3468 is two per hunter. So someone who hunts that part of WMU 5B could have a total of five doe tags.
Why am I telling you all this?
Because there still were just over 2,000 DMAP 3468 permits available for sale as of last week.
Most of the land within the unit is privately owned, but a healthy portion of that land gets hunted. Those hunters could use these DMAP permits.
There’s also a fair amount of public land in the unit, including all or portions of State Game Lands 46, 220, 225, 274 and 280. Hunters who chase deer on those properties can use the DMAP permits as well.
The Game Commission has noted that it relies primarily on hunters for its dead deer samples. That means they need hunters carrying tags.
So is the agency worried about having about half the DMAP 3468 allocation unsold this far into the 2020-21 hunting season?
“It is not imperative that all of those permits get sold,” said Bob Frye, the Game Commission’s CWD communications specialist.
“In CWD DMAP units, we are focusing sampling efforts in an area to determine the extent of the disease. Our target for these areas is 250-300 samples. It is possible to meet that target without selling all of the DMAP permits.
“However, we want to give hunters as much opportunity as possible to help us meet that goal knowing that not every deer that gets harvested in the DMAP unit will be submitted for CWD testing.”
To help hunters provide samples to the Game Commission for testing, there are 10 collection bins - like the one pictured - scattered across CWD Zone 4.
Into these bins, hunters can place the heads of deer they’ve shot.
At the bins, hunters will find plastic bags for bagging their heads, zip ties and information cards to be completed and submitted along with heads identifying the hunters and the locations of their kills.
Hunters either will be notified of the results of testing their heads, or they can find out that information online or by calling a special number posted on the collection bins.
While it is believed that CWD cannot be transmitted to humans, the Centers for Disease Control recommends people not eat the meat from a deer known to have CWD.
Hunters should remember that they cannot take out of CWD Zone 4 any “high-risk parts” from deer they’ve shot inside the zone.
High risk parts include the head - including brain, tonsils, eyes and any lymph nodes - spinal cord/backbone; spleen; skull plate with attached antlers, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; cape, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if root structure or other soft tissue is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord tissue; unfinished taxidermy mounts; and brain-tanned hides, according to the Game Commission.
So what do you do with a deer if you live outside CWD Zone 4, but you hunt inside the zone?
You can take it to any butcher shop inside the zone. If it’s a trophy worth mounting, you can then take the head and hide to any taxidermist within the zone.
You can also butcher the deer yourself before leaving the zone, and then take the high-risk parts and other refuse to any of the four “high-risk parts disposal” sites within the zone.
“Since movement of these parts outside the DMA is prohibited, (these disposal sites) provide hunters with a better alternative than leaving those parts on the landscape, which can contribute to environmental contamination associated with the disease,” Frye said.
To buy a DMAP 3468 permit, go to the Game Commission’s website at pgc.pa.gov and click on the red bar titled “CWD-related DMAP Units.”
For details on the locations of head collection and high-risk parts bins in CWD Zone 4, click here.