buck deer

Rifle deer season will begin Saturday this year, a change from the traditional start on the Monday after Thanksgiving. This buck was seen recently along Route 422 in White Township.

Those heading out for Saturday’s start of white-tailed deer hunting season may find themselves in one of several Disease Management Areas established by the Pennsylvania Game Commission to reduce the risk of spreading chronic wasting disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, chronic wasting disease is a prion disease, or one in which a type of protein can cause normal proteins in an animal’s brain to fold abnormally. It affects deer as well as elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose.

According to the CDC, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in people. However, some animal studies suggest CWD poses a risk to certain types of non-human primates, like monkeys, that eat meat from CWD-infected animals or come in contact with brain or body fluids from infected deer or elk.

State officials said hunters harvesting deer in a DMA should be aware that special rules and regulations apply, and that they should have deer tested for the disease.

In Pennsylvania, two DMAs are in close proximity to the Indiana area. DMA 3 basically is in the northeastern part of Indiana County, alongside U.S. Route 119 and reaching south to Clymer, as well as most of Jefferson County, much of western Clearfield County south of DuBois, and a portion of Cambria County around Cherry Tree.

DMA 2 extends to Armagh and much of East Wheatfield Township in southeastern Indiana County, as well as areas of Cambria County south of U.S. Route 22 and east of U.S. Route 219, Westmoreland County from state Route 711 eastward, and other areas in the Southern Alleghenies from Route 219 eastward to the Susquehanna River.

There also is a DMA 4 covering parts of Lebanon, Lancaster and Berks counties. An original DMA 1 established in 2012 on a captive deer farm in Adams County has since been eliminated.

Meanwhile, state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said hunters will find 516 miles of newly opened state forest roads available, in 18 of the 20 state forest districts. Included is the Cramer Tract Road in East Wheatfield Township.

“Normally open only for administrative use, these roads will afford easier access to state forestlands for hunters, hikers and others,” Dunn said. “For the hunter, regardless of whether they’re seeking deer, bear, turkey or small game, more than 90 percent of our state forest system now is within one-half mile of an open road.”

Another change is coming for hunters, but not for this year’s white-tailed deer season. On Wednesday, Gov. Tom Wolf signed into law a bill allowing hunting on three Sundays in each calendar year, including one during archery season, one during deer rifle season and a third as determined by the game commission.

That bill takes effect in 90 days.