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Pennsylvania is considering expanding its successful crop-damage deer harvest program, which lets hunters kill antlerless whitetails into May. Farmers and property owners who have experienced extreme crop damage due to overpopulated whitetail deer herds may soon be allotted more permits thanks to proposed changes in the Keystone State’s “Red Tag” program.

Pennsylvania’s Red Tag program allows the taking of deer long after general state seasons have passed. As it stands, the special licensing for deer control related to agricultural depredation runs from dawn to dusk Feb. 1 to May 16 and from July 1 to Sept. 28, except on Sundays. Only antlerless deer may be taken however it’s worth noting that many bucks will have dropped their antlers during this crop-damage season.

The program has been on-going for more than 25 years aiding landowners with deer depredation. Possible changes include:

  • Permit holders will be permitted to allow other hunters to fill their Red Tags.
  • Currently it’s limited to one tag per person. The new proposal would allow a hunter to have up to four tags, according to GoErie.com. (Hunters keep all the deer they shoots).
  • Shortening the season to Feb. 1 to Apr. 15, and Aug. 1-Sept. 15.
  • The hunter, not the farmer, would need to report harvested deer

The program is a good example of how hunting can be used to manage wildlife populations, and how states can leverage private land to offer more public hunting opportunities.

“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, told GoErie.

February is when most hunters fill Red Tag permits, says Fleegle, with August and September also popular. In 2020, 412 Pennsylvania farms were issued 7,846 tags, with Red Tag hunters collecting 1,616 deer. Property owners wanting Red Tags should contact PGC regional offices.