NEWTOWN, Pa. -- While a decline in the number of Pennsylvania hunters has raised concern about managing deer population, there currently is no shortage of those hoping to pursue the “dense” number of whitetails at Tyler State Park here in the Philadelphia suburbs.
“We allow 150 hunters during our one-day shotgun hunt and 70 archery hunters, and we generally get double that applying for a permit,” said Phillip Schmidt, manager, Tyler State Park. “Even if there is less people hunting in the state -- or even in this area – we will still probably get more applications than we can take.”
It’s a different story statewide, according the Pennsylvania Game Commission. It said because so many deer hunters are aging out of the sport – and new ones not recruited -- deer management strategies will need to change,. Demographics of big-game hunters indicate wildlife agencies should consider modified or new regulations to manage the deer population, said Tavis Lau, spokesperson, state Game Commission.
But at the 1,700-accre Tyler, the one-day hunt and 30-day archery session will continue its annual tradition, said Schmidt.
“We don’t have the hunt to support the sport of hunting,” he said. “We do it solely because the population of deer is entirely too dense here.
Those opposed to the hunt and archery occasions often contact Tyler, said Schmidt.
“We get a lot of people who are against the hunt that will either email or call us to make suggestions for what we should be doing,” said the park manager. “Our answer, generally, is that it’s not cost-effective. That’s what it comes down to. Allowing hunting is within out budget because it only costs us having rangers and managers to help us.”
A statewide drop in hunters has been recorded, according to the Game Commission. It said there were 1.3 million in the state in the early 1980s, but overall license sales in 2020 were 887,221. From 2010 to 2020, resident adult license sales dropped from 647,242 to 577,140, while resident senior licenses climbed from 30,447 to 31,841 and resident junior/mentored youth licenses and permits fell from 114,274 to 92,738.
The aging structure also has changed, it was noted by the Game Commission. In 1991, 41 percent of the U.S. population was more than 45 years old, with an increase to 52 percent by 2016. But hunters more than 45 years old increased from 28 percent to 60 percent during the same time period.
Changing demographics will affect management of the deer population and require managers consider new strategies like allowing hunters to take more than one at a time, said Duane Deifenbach, a whitetail deer researcher.
“Recreational deer hunting is the primary tool that’s available to state wildlife agencies to manage the resource, but in the next 10 years we’re going to see a steep decline in the number of hunters,” said the adjunct professor of wildlife ecology in the College of Agriculture Science at Penn State. “A few states still have large numbers of hunters, but it’s coming at all the state agencies very quickly. There have to be changes .The question is, what alternative tools are available to meet this deer-management change?”
Finding "alternative tools" for deer population management is difficult, according to Chris Rosenberry, deer and elk section chief, state Game Commission.
"The complex personal and social issues surrounding declining hunting license sales cannot be solved by having more deer in the woods," he said.
(Keep track of the wild life. Click ‘Following,’ then register or download the app.)