Deer hunting

Deer hunting at airports. Allowed.

Bowhunting - from Library of Congress, via Flickr Commons

Bow-hunting is a popular sport in Western Pennsylvania, so the pilot program underway at Pittsburgh International Airport is a great opportunity for sportsmen and women.

But it’s a bad deal for deer caught in the airport’s designated bow-hunting zone.

The Allegheny County Airport Authority is holding a lottery to issue free, archery-only season permits for use on land owned by PIT Airport.

Last year, 11 reported deer were taken by 157 permit holders on more than 2,300 acres. This year, because of commercial development on airport property, only about 832 acres far away from the active airfield will be open to hunters and less than 100 licenses will be issued for the season, which runs from Oct. 4, 2014, to Jan. 10, 2015.

Interested? The application deadline is Sept. 21, with a public lottery to be held Sept. 24.

Pittsburgh International isn’t the only airport where bow hunting for deer is allowed on property.

Each year St. Cloud Regional Airport in Minnesota issues seven permits for bow hunters to try to bag whitetail deer on about 200 acres owned by the airport.

Last year, 79 hunters each paid $10 to put their name in the lottery, with the winners paying an additional $5 for their permits. This year, the lottery odds were much better, with fewer than 30 hunters entering the pool.

Lack of publicity may have had something to do with low turnout this year, said airport general manager William Towle, who holds a mandatory meeting each year for the seven permit winners.

“We meet to go over the rules,” said Towle, “But I also want the hunters to see each other because that helps make sure everyone gets along out there.”

Hunting for deer, with the goal of controlling wildlife, also is permitted at Cecil Airport, a corporate, military and general aviation airport operated by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority in Florida.

There, a license is granted to an archery hunting club restricted to no more than 20 members. The club pays the airport more than $13,000 a year for bow-hunting access from Sept. 1 through April 30 on more than 1,861 acres.

(My story about bow hunting at airports first appeared on USA TODAY in a slightly different format.)