By Joe McDonald
EAST STROUDSBURG Pa. (Reuters) - The manhunt for the suspect in the ambush that killed a Pennsylvania trooper and wounded another won't stop the opening of deer-hunting season in the Pocono Mountains, one of most prized spots in the Northeast for game, authorities said on Monday.
Beginning Saturday, bow hunters can enter the deep woods of the region even if the search for the suspect, Eric Frein, is still under way, more than three weeks after the September 12 shooting.
Since then, hundreds of officers, supported by armored vehicles and helicopters, have combed the forests of northeastern Pennsylvania looking for the 31-year-old survivalist.
The extended operation has raised questions about whether the wave of deer hunters who descend on the Poconos in early autumn might compromise safety or the effectiveness of the search.
Saturday marks the beginning of the season when hunters can take deer with bows and arrows, and state police and game commission officials have given them the go-ahead. The fall season runs from October 4 to November 15.
But, they warn, hunters may run into patrols armed with assault weapons looking for Frein, a 31-year-old marksmen who is a member of a military re-enactment group that dresses like Eastern European soldiers.
“Hunters should use common sense and good judgment until this situation is resolved,” said Daniel Figured, the Game Commission’s Northeast region director.
“Our advice is to avoid wooded areas with obvious police activity and use extreme caution when afield, especially in Monroe and Pike counties.”
State police said searches are active in Price, Barrett, and Paradise townships in Monroe County, and in Blooming Grove, Porter and Lehman townships in Pike County.
“It is imperative that hunters do not interfere with the search operation,” said Figured.
William Williams, a spokesman for the commission’s Northeast regional office, said archery hunters should wear fluorescent vests and orange hats instead of camouflage so police can easily identify them. Normally bow hunters are not required to wear orange.
Frein spent more than two years preparing his ambush and escape from the sniper’s lair where he “assassinated" Corporal Bryon Dickson and seriously wounded Trooper Alex T. Douglass on September 12, police said.
Police said they have spotted the suspect at least once during a search but he was too far away to catch.
Deer hunting with firearms is allowed in Pennsylvania at various dates in the winter.
(Reporting by Frank McGurty; Editing by Eric Walsh)