Red Tag deer program starts soon in PA, regulations may soon change

·2 min read

Even though the traditional statewide rifle, archery and muzzleloader seasons have ended, there is a program that soon opens to allow deer hunters to help farmers who have excessive crop damage.

A doe walks Jan. 15 toward a field line in Somerset County. Red tag  deer hunting programs are underway across the state to help farmers who have excessive crop damage.
A doe walks Jan. 15 toward a field line in Somerset County. Red tag deer hunting programs are underway across the state to help farmers who have excessive crop damage.

If a farmer believes deer are causing too much damage to their fields, the Pennsylvania Game Commission can provide solutions, including offering red plastic tags that can be awarded to hunters for antlerless deer.

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The Red Tag program season runs Feb. 1 to May 16 and from July 1 to Sept. 28, excluding Sundays.

“The Red Tag program allows hunters to help farmers address their crop damage issues while also still being able to enjoy hunting,” Jeannine Fleegle, PGC wildlife biologist, said Friday in a telephone interview.

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She said most of the hunting is done in February as some hunters enjoy being out in the snow. She said the harvest also picks up in August and September.

The Game Commission is set to review some changes and efficiencies of the program at their Jan. 28-29 board meeting. If approved, hunters would be allowed to have four permits and be able to keep all the deer they harvested. Current regulations involve just one deer per person.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The Game Commission reported on Jan. 27 that it doesn't have a majority of board members to consider these changes at the Jan. 28-29 meeting.)

The program would also be shorter. It would run Feb. 1 to April 15 and Aug. 1 to Sept. 15.

A doe walks near a trail camera Jan. 8 in Somerset County. A statewide program, called Red Tag, is available for farmers to recruit hunters to help reduce crop damage by deer.
A doe walks near a trail camera Jan. 8 in Somerset County. A statewide program, called Red Tag, is available for farmers to recruit hunters to help reduce crop damage by deer.

The proposal also addresses a new tagging process that would eliminate the program’s name sake red tags, which are made of plastic. Hunters would instead receive a harvest permit tag similar to the paper tags hunters already receive for deer.

Another change would require the hunter, not the farmer, to report their harvest.

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Fleegle said the program, which has been in place since 1995, is a tool their agency can use to help farmers who have too many deer eating their crops.

In 2020, 412 farms were involved in the program with a total of 7,846 tags. Red Tag hunters harvested 1,616 deer across the state. Numbers for 2021 are not yet available.

Hunters interested in participating in the Red Tag program can contact their regional office to find farms near them.

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The contact phone numbers are: 814-432-3187 in the northwest, 724-238-952 in the southwest, 570-398-4744 in the north central region, 570-675-1143 in the northeast, and 610-926-3136 in the southeast.

Brian Whipkey is the outdoors columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at bwhipkey@gannett.com and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter email on your website's homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.

This article originally appeared on Erie Times-News: Red Tag deer hunting program starts soon; regulations may soon change

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