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PA - Clever decoys foil illegal hunting

By PATRICK BUCHNOWSKI
The Tribune-Democrat

December 19, 2006

MEYERSDALE — A Meyersdale hunter jumped out of his vehicle to take a shot at a pheasant – but in the end, it was his feathers that were ruffled.

Bryan Harris spotted, or thought he spotted, the bird meandering along the road.

He later found himself in court cited for shooting at a mechanical pheasant used to ensnare hunters illegally shooting within 25 yards of the road.

The decoy was left by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Harris, 22, of Glade City Road, was fined $150 by District Judge Douglas Bell of Meyersdale for shooting near the road.

Game officials say such illegal hunting is a year-round problem, and they use phony deer, turkeys and pheasants to combat the problem.

“You can’t ride around with a loaded firearm in your vehicle and jump out and shoot at something along the roadway,” said Mel Schake, game commission information and education supervisor. “That’s not how we expect you to hunt.”

Harris was one of several hunters nabbed this season for taking pot shots at the decoy on state gamelands in southern Somerset County, Schake said. When the hunters shoot, hidden game officials pop out.

“We’re not trying to keep them from hunting. We’re just trying to combat roadside hunting,” he said. “This is one of the tools we use.”

The use of decoys comes in response to complaints from nearby landowners.

“We don’t have the manpower to arbitrarily do this,” said Jerry Feaser, game commission spokesman in Harrisburg.

“People call in and complain,” he said. “In some areas, it’s a big problem.”

The mechanical pheasant was donated to the game commission by a local chapter of Pheasants Forever, Schake said. Pheasants Forever is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and enhancement of pheasant, quail and other wildlife, according to the group’s Web site.

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