Bearly Believable........
By Randy Santucci

For quite a few years now, it is no secret that The Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania has had a rocky relationship with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, primarily over deer management. Today's climate of stagnate license sales, that follows the loss of several hundred thousand licenses since 1982 adds a validating quality to our position would you not agree? We can argue details as to why, but the fact remains Pennsylvania deer hunting is a shadow of what it once was in many areas across the commonwealth.

In the interest of working toward a better relationship with the agency in the post Carl Roe era, I had taken on a project to help out two hunters whose uncle contacted me, frustrated by how the PGC handled an unfortunate incident. Richard Ulmer, the uncle of Dennis and Michael Delong called me to see if USP could help his nephews get two bears returned that were confiscated by the PGC. The story unfolds when their group of 5 hunters (all family) went out in an area near Milford Twp. Juanita County that they briefly researched and believed was WMU 4D, but they were not entirely sure, so they decided to error on the side of caution and not hunt bear. They started the day deer hunting only, again unsure if the area was open for bear. Later in the morning around lunchtime, they ran into a Fish Commission WCO that subsequently checked their licenses and extended a courteous gesture attempting to help the hunters. He informed the hunters they were indeed in 4D and hunting bear was legal in the area. The hunters acting on that advise of the WCO, hunted bear in that area in the afternoon and harvested two bears! Later in the day when Mike and Dennis took their bears to the Huntington Check Station, to their shock and surprise, were informed the area in which they shot the bears was actually 4B, and not open to bear in the late season! The WCO had made an unfortunate honest mistake improperly advising them to hunt there.

Before I go any further, let me tell you I researched all aspects of this story, and what I determined after contacting all pertinent individuals was their story was accurate to the letter.

The issue here is not that the WCO made an honest mistake, hell we all do that, it was the subsequent handling by the PGC of this unfortunate incident. When confronted, the WCO immediately admitted his mistake in wrongly advising the hunters which revealed his integrity. Subsequently the hunters were not cited due to this circumstance, but why not additionally return their bears to complete a good faith gesture and help public relations? This was not a case of intentional lawbreaking nor a case of hunter ignorance of the law. It hit me later, not citing or fining these hunters was not a good faith gesture at all, that action would have met the letter of the law for entrapment and/or would probably be thrown out by a magistrate upon appeal. Imagine a uniformed conservation officer testifying in front of a magistrate “yes I mistakenly advised these hunters to hunt the area in question” I could hear the gavel slamming all the way to Pittsburgh “case dismissed”. Why does this agency continue to make pathetically poor upper level law enforcement decisions where extenuating circumstances need considered? Ultimately they gain little in contrast with the negative public relations that ensue? ....remember the Patti Mattrick finch confiscation story? A Game Commission wildlife conservation officer and three Elizabethtown police officers went to Mattrick’s home to serve a warrant and seize the small bird which she named “stormygirl”. She had nursed the bird back to health after it was blown from its nest in a storm, she had it for 4 years! Yes hard to believe, Google and read it for yourself.

In my conversations with commissioners, I explained returning these bears would be a win, win, win for all concerned due to the circumstances. These hunters showed me from the start they were sportsmen when one of Dennis's initial concerns, realizing the WCO made an honest mistake was, “I don't want the WCO to get fired over this” His concern for the WCO and class attitude is why I and USP work for the Pennsylvania sportsman! Dennis has the common sense to realize this was no more that an unfortunate incident born from an honest mistake....too bad the PGC does not have that kind of willingness to identify an incident for what it actually is when all facts are verified. Not all game law infringement situations are hunters trying to “get over” on the agency, and some do require leniency. The story inside the story is that Dennis's and Mike’s other brother Kevin harvested his bear earlier in the season, it was the first bear ever for all three brothers what a great memory!.....PGC shame on you once again. When I took on this incident, my intentions were to genuinely right a wrong for two hunters, and believed it could indeed be a good cooperative effort between USP and PGC leadership. But unfortunately as the years go by, it seems unless legislative guidance is imposed, there is little hope to bring cognizant common sense awareness to some inside the PGC, that ultimately they always should serve their funding customers in ways to breed cooperation not contempt.

 

 

 

 

 

©2011 • Unified Sportsmen of Pennsylvania