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Pennsylvania Ag News Headlines
Pennsylvanians Encouraged to Hunt Safely, Check for CWD
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 11/23/2021

Wearing a full-body harness is essential to staying safe when using a tree stand, but a harness can prevent falls to the ground only if it is connected to the tree.

"That means you must wear your harness, and be sure it's connected to the tree, at all times you're in the stand, as well as when you're getting into and out of the stand, or climbing or descending trees," explained A.J. Garcia, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's hunter-education administrator.

A hunter using a climbing stand should tie-in the safety rope or strap that pairs with the harness before beginning to climb.

Consult the manufacturer's instructions to ensure proper installation and inspect your stand, harness and safety straps, ropes and lines before use.

With a climbing tree stand, you'll want to move the safety rope or strap up the tree first, then tighten it, each time before moving the platform up the tree. If the rope is at or slightly above eye-level as you stand on the platform, you should have plenty of room to raise the platform to a higher standing position before moving the rope up the tree again before climbing. Also, make sure your foot platform and seat platform are tied together with a length of rope to ensure that the foot platform does not fall below your reach.

"Make sure you have proper contact with the stand and tree every time you move," emphasized Garcia.

It takes only a little longer to climb with a rope, and if the stand fails due to breakage or a pin pulling out of the climbing band, or if a fall occurs because slippage or loss of balance, the harness and rope will prevent falling to the ground.

With pre-installed hang-on stands -- and especially ladder stands -- the most-practical way to stay connected to the tree is through a safety line, commonly referred to by the brand name Lifeline, that hangs to the ground from above the platform.

Because the safety line is installed above the platform, the tree must be climbed first to install one, but other safety ropes or straps, along with your harness, can be used for installation. When installing a safety line at a hang-on stand, a linemen's style belt can be worn while ascending the tree. A linemen's belt might not be an option for many ladder stands, but a separate ladder and linemen's belt could be used to install the safety line before the ladder stand is installed.

When using a ladder stand, climbing stick or tree steps, make sure to maintain three points of contact (two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand) with each step.

The important points are to always take your time and be safe when using stands. Always put on your safety harness while you're still on the ground, and keep it connected to the tree at all times until you're back on the ground.

Meanwhile, managing deer in Pennsylvania means managing Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

First discovered in Pennsylvania in 2012, CWD is an always-fatal ailment affecting deer, elk and other cervids. There is no vaccine or cure for CWD. It's spread by deer-to-deer contact and through the environment.

Although there is no known case of it being transmitted to humans, the Game Commission and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend people do not consume meat from deer that test positive for CWD.

The Game Commission is implementing several new measures for the 2021-22 deer seasons to slow CWD's spread.

First, there's a new Disease Management Area -- DMA 5 -- in Warren County, the result of a CWD-positive deer found at a captive deer facility.

A recent CWD-positive deer found near the border of DMA 3 has led to the expansion of DMA 3, as well as the creation of DMA 6 in portions of Clearfield, Elk and Jefferson counties.

Here, and within the state's other active DMAs -- DMA 2 and DMA 4 -- it's illegal to remove any high-risk parts of deer; use or possess cervid urine-based attractants; directly or indirectly feed wild, free-ranging deer; and rehabilitate wild, free-ranging cervids.

Up-to-date DMA boundaries can be viewed at

The parts-movement ban means hunters in a DMA must determine in advance what they'll do with any deer they harvest. They can take them to a processor within the DMA or to one included on a Game Commission-approved list for that particular DMA, so that the processor can properly dispose of the high-risk parts. Hunters can also dispose of high-risk parts within the DMA in trash destined for a landfill.

Hunters can also in cases leave many high-risk parts at the kill site.

Hunters can quarter or debone a deer in the field. They still must carry out the properly-tagged head for disposal. Hunters who take a buck also have the option to remove individual antlers or a cleaned skull cap of a deer and bring those out of the woods, with their tag attached to those antlers.

The meat, antlers (free of brain material) and other low-risk parts then can be transported outside the DMA.

Hunters getting taxidermy mounts must likewise take their deer to a taxidermist within the DMA or on the Game Commission approved taxidermist list for the specific DMA where the deer was harvested.

The processor and taxidermist list is available at

The Game Commission offers free CWD testing within the DMAs. Hunters should deposit deer heads -- minus any antlers, double-bagged and with a legible harvest tag attached -- in one of the provided head-collection containers. The locations of those are also on the agency website.

The Game Commission will test those deer for CWD for free and make results available to hunters. Hunters can access their results online or by calling the CWD hotline at 1-833-INFOCWD.

Also new this year is the Established Area (EA). It's a portion of DMA 2 -- specifically WMU 4A and part of WMU 2C -- where CWD is considered established within the deer population and the environment. As a result, it poses a long-term threat to neighboring areas.

The goal is to keep the CWD prevalence rate among hunter-harvested adult deer at 5 percent or less in the EA. It was 14 percent last year.

To bring that number down, the Game Commission's CWD Response Plan calls for reducing deer abundance in the EA to mitigate disease transmission risks, remove diseased cervids from the landscape, and prevent further contamination of the environment.

Hunters who harvest deer within the EA are prohibited from moving high-risk parts beyond the EA'sboundaries, including even into the surrounding DMA. Using cervid urine-based attractants, feeding deer and rehabilitating deer is also illegal there.

The Game Commission is taking other steps to control CWD, too. It is once again offering Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permits that allow hunters to take antlerless deer in areas where additional CWD monitoring is required.

Some permits may still remain. Hunters can check availability at Click on "CWD DMAP Area Look Up."

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