HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania’s Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) is available on some state game lands for the first time in the 2023-24 hunting seasons, including in Warren County.
Through DMAP, hunters can get permits that allow them to harvest antlerless deer – one per tag – on the specific property for which the permit was issued.
State game lands 29, 86 and 143 will offer the program in Warren County, as well as game land 24 which is in both Forest and Clarion Counties.
DMAP permits for the 2023-24 deer seasons go on sale at 8 a.m. Monday, Aug. 14.
DMAP has been around for years, but previously was offered only on other public lands and private lands to help landowners achieve land use goals and/or to limit the spread of chronic wasting disease. But it’s needed on some state game lands now as well, said Game Commission Forestry Division Chief Paul Weiss.
Forest management conducted on state game lands is intended to create the best variety of habitat for wildlife, a desirable distribution of tree age classes, including early successional forest. But, Weiss said, overbrowsing attributable to deer is limiting the success of those efforts.
“We cannot successfully re-establish new age classes and get them through to maturity if we cannot get the seedlings beyond deer browse height,” Weiss said.
He pointed to State Game Lands 100 in Centre and Clearfield counties as an example of what’s going on. It was hit hard by spongy moths between 2006 and 2009, so the Game Commission did salvage harvests, treated the area with herbicides twice and conducted prescribed fires on about 2,000 acres.
Together, that opened the canopy enough that a new forest should be growing.
“But if you stand up there and spin in a circle, as far as you can see, there’s no vegetation taller than the height of the ferns,” Weiss said.
Dig beneath the ferns and you can find knee-high red maples as big around as your thumb, he noted. But they can get no taller before deer browse them back. If that continues, that would-be forest – and others like it elsewhere – “have no future,” he said.
That’s bad not just for the trees, but for the deer and a wide range of other wildlife, ruffed grouse among them, that need young forest to thrive, he said.
The Game Commission has tried to overcome deer browsing using fencing, but that’s expensive. Weiss noted that, over the past two years, deer fence installation costs increased by about 50%, to about $579 an acre.
Hunters can help control deer in those situations, Weiss said. But by excluding state game lands from DMAP previously, hunters often had greater incentive to hunt elsewhere.
Weiss pointed out that Pennsylvania’s Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), which manages state parks and forests, and Allegheny National Forest both use DMAP. They are two of the state’s three largest public landowners, with the Game Commission being the other.
The state’s two largest private landowners, Collins Pine and Lyme Timber Co., use DMAP, as well.
All have property either adjacent to or surrounding state game lands.
State Game Lands 34 in Clearfield and Elk counties, for example, is completely surrounded by DCNR lands enrolled in DMAP. State Game Lands 29 in Warren County is completely surround by Allegheny National Forest, while State Game Lands 24 in Forest and Clarion counties is bounded by Allegheny National Forest on one side and Collins Pine land on the other.
“This means in areas where we have significant overbrowsing problems, oftentimes hunters are incentivized to hunt on lands surrounding game lands because of the additional tags and opportunities,” Weiss said.
So this season, the Game Commission is turning to DMAP on game lands in the Northwest, Northcentral and Northeast regions to better achieve its goal of creating healthy wildlife habitat while also providing more opportunities for hunters.
Game Lands enrolled were chosen using a thorough, targeted process that included developing individual land management plans for each. Even then, lands enrolled include only those where every other option to promote successful forest habitat regeneration – from opening roads to increasing deer hunter access to creating deer hunter focus areas to fencing – were first exhausted.
Game lands offering DMAP this season, and the county or counties in which they are found, are:
SGL 24 – Forest/Clarion
SGL 29 – Warren
SGL 54 – Jefferson
SGL 74 – Clarion/Jefferson
SGL 86 – Warren
SGL 143 – Warren
SGL 283 – Clarion/Jefferson
SGL 30 – McKean
SGL 34 – Clearfield/Elk
SGL 37 – Tioga
SGL 75 – Lycoming
SGL 78 – Clearfield
SGL 90 – Clearfield
SGL 94 – Clearfield
SGL 100 – Centre/Clearfield
SGL 12 – Bradford
SGL 13 – Sullivan (part)
SGL 36 – Bradford
SGL 57 – Wyoming (part)
SGL 66 – Sullivan/Wyoming
SGL 123 – Bradford
SGL 206 – Luzerne
SGL 219 – Bradford
SGL 289 – Bradford
Details on those properties, such as the total number of DMAP permits available and the number remaining for sale, are available at https://www.pgcapps.pa.gov/Harvest/DMAP. Find state game lands – listed by the game lands number and/or a four-digit DMAP unit number – using the search function to identify the property region and county.
Hunters can purchase up to two DMAP permits per state game lands DMAP unit. The same limit applies for DMAP units on other public properties. For private properties where DMAP is used, landowners might provide coupons hunters must obtain before buying a DMAP permit. On those properties, hunters can purchase up to four permits.
DMAP permits cost $10.97 for Pennsylvania residents and $35.97 for nonresidents. They can be purchased from any license issuing agent or online at www.huntfish.pa.gov. Hunters must identify the DMAP unit number when purchasing a permit.
All hunters who get a DMAP tag must report whether they harvested a deer or not at www.huntfish.pa.gov, or by calling 1-800-838-4431 or sending in a postage-paid report card available in the 2023-24 Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest.