The Red Tag deer hunting program begins soon; regulations may soon change

Even though the traditional rifle, archery and muzzleloader seasons are over, a program is opening soon for deer hunters to help farmers with excessive crop damage.

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

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

“The Red Tag program allows hunters to help farmers solve their crop damage problems while still enjoying the hunt,” PGC wildlife biologist Jeannine Fleegle said in a phone interview on Friday. .

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She said most of the hunting is done in February because some hunters like to be in the snow. She said the harvest also resumes in August and September.

The Game Commission is set to review some changes and the effectiveness of the program at its January 28-29 board meeting. If approved, hunters would be allowed to have four licenses and be able to keep all the deer they harvested. Current regulations imply only one deer per person.

The program would also be shorter. It would run from February 1 to April 15 and from August 1 to September 15.

A doe walks near a trail camera on January 8 in the county of Somerset.  A statewide program, called Red Tag, is available for farmers to recruit hunters to help reduce crop damage caused by deer.

The proposal also addresses a new labeling process that would eliminate the red program name labels, which are made of plastic. Instead, hunters would receive a harvest license tag similar to the paper tags hunters already receive for deer.

Another change would require the hunter, not the farmer, to declare 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 statewide. Figures 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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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 southeast.

Brian Whipkey is the outdoor columnist for USA TODAY Network sites in Pennsylvania. Contact him at [email protected] and sign up for our weekly Go Outdoors PA newsletter via email on your website homepage under your login name. Follow him on social media @whipkeyoutdoors.