Landowner Assistance Programs for Deer
The Game Commission understands deer damage to farm crops, woodlands and landscaping can have a significant effect on landowner goals. And while public hunting has always been the most effective way to control deer numbers, it also is recognized that in some cases, this will not adequately get the job done. For that reason, the Game Commission offers several programs designed to help landowners control excessive deer damage.
Destruction for Agricultural Protection
Anyone who farms as his or her primary livelihood has the legal right to kill game and other wild animals (except for threatened or endangered species) they personally observe destroying cultivated crops, vegetables, fruit orchards or commercial tree nurseries. The owner or lessee, members of the family who help cultivate the land and employees hold the same rights. Any person wounding a wild animal shall immediately make a reasonable effort to find and kill it, and all regulations regarding the killing, reporting and handling of the carcass must be followed. Persons having authority to kill deer may keep one carcass for food if the land is open to public hunting. No additional deer may be kept for food until the previous deer has been entirely consumed. The head and hide of each deer kept for food shall be placed in safekeeping and turned over to a commission officer.
LINK helps landowners find hunters and trappers who can assist them with their wildlife
damage problems. It also provides a means for hunters and trappers to locate landowners who need their assistance in managing game and furbearer populations. The program enables landowners to review a profile of hunters and trappers seeking access to their property before they provide permission to hunt or trap. The program’s principal aim is to help landowners who are experiencing intolerable property damage from deer.
The Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) helps landowners achieve deer densities consistent with their land use goals. Eligible properties include: public lands; private lands where no fee is charged for hunting; and any defined hunting clubs. A hunting club is defined as a corporation or legal cooperative that has its enrolled acres in fee title, was established prior to January 1, 2000, and has its club charter and list of current members to the Commission.
Interested landowners must submit an application by July 1 to be eligible for the fall hunting season. Qualifying landowners are issued DMAP coupons at a rate of one coupon for every five acres of affected agricultural land, or one coupon for every 50 acres of all other land types. Landowners are then responsible for issuing the coupons to licensed hunters who, in turn, will apply with the appropriate fee, to the Game Commission for a DMAP Harvest Permit. Landowners may not charge or accept any contribution in exchange for coupons. Landowners are also responsible for distributing a map clearly depicting the enrolled property’s boundaries and are required to clearly mark property boundaries. Contact information for enrolled public land is posted on the Game Commission’s website. Contact information for enrolled private land is posted only with the landowner’s consent.
Each DMAP Harvest Permit is good for taking one antlerless deer on the property for which it was issued. Hunters may not obtain more than two permits per property and those receiving a permit are required to submit a report card regardless of their success in harvesting a deer. Failure to submit a report card will result in fines and future program ineligibility.
Agricultural Deer Control Program (Red Tag)
On farmlands where even greater control of deer is required, the Game Commission offers the Agricultural Deer Control Program, commonly referred to as “Red Tag.” Administered by the Bureau of Wildlife Protection, the Red Tag program is a special permit for deer control related to agricultural depredation. Applications for the deer control permits provided under this program are obtained through the local wildlife conservation officer. Applications are accepted only from landowners who have been enrolled in one of the Commission public access programs (Farm Game Project or Safety Zone) for a minimum of two years and are currently enrolled in the Program, except in Wildlife Management Units 5C and 5D.
The permit authorizes the landowner (permittee) to enlist the aid of licensed hunters (sub-permitees) who are not associated with the farm to come on the property and harvest depredating deer. To do so, each licensed hunter must have a sub-permit, available from the landowner. The landowner may issue sub-permits only to Pennsylvania residents who possess a valid resident hunting license. No fee may be charged for the sub-permit. The number of sub-permits issued to a landowner is generally one for every five acres of land under cultivation. The permit (and sub-permits) is valid for antlerless deer only from February 1 to September 28, excluding Sundays, during the hours of dawn to dusk. The permit is not valid from May 16 to June 30. Deer taken under the permit may be kept by the person with the sub-permit or donated to an established food bank. A landowner may restrict the type of firearm or bow used to take deer on lands under their control. To obtain more information, visit the Game Commission’s website or contact your local region office.