Passengers can't take guns, knives or other weapons on airplanes, but starting next month, 157 hunters will get licenses to bow hunt for deer on land owned by Pittsburgh International Airport.
The Allegheny County Airport Authority created the pilot program in response to a request from two state officials on behalf of constituents who attended a town meeting and expressed interest in hunting on airport-owned acreage.
"We have a rich hunting tradition here in western Pennsylvania," said State Sen. Matt Smith, one of the program's proponents. "The area around the airport is fairly rural and has a rich potential for game that is sought after by hunters."
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Like most airports, Pittsburgh International has a wildlife management effort to avoid hazards on from birds, deer and other wildlife.
"While there is currently no animal problem at the airport, if left uncontrolled, an overpopulation on remote land owned by the airport could eventually become a problem," said airport spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny.
A large swath of land around the airport was once available for recreation and hunting, but two years ago signs prohibiting trespassing went up.
"Not even bird-watchers could go out there," said Jerry Gileot, a hunter who lives near the airport. "We were able to get it open for this year for bow hunting and hopefully for other activities in the future."
The airport worked out the pilot with local hunting groups, and this year about 2,362 acres of remote airport property will be open for bow hunting, with licenses awarded by lottery. More than 2,500 people have applied so far, with some requests coming from as far away as Texas, Utah and Florida.
"The locals are laughing about that," Gileot said. "If those hunters think there's a big buck behind every tree here, they'll be really disappointed."
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