HARRISBURG -- Pennsylvania's hunters hit the fields and woods Monday for the opening of deer season, and two hunters died of natural causes in Somerset County on opening day.
The state's two-week firearm deer season included special restrictions on some Central Pennsylvania hunters because of a deadly disease found in captive deer earlier this year.
Hunters who take deer in a 600-square-mile area covering parts of York and Adams counties must have them tested for chronic wasting disease. The neurological infection can't be transmitted to humans but is deadly to elk, moose and deer.
Joe Neville, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said in a telephone interview from a check-in station in Adams County that officials there expected to take samples from the lymph nodes and spines of 200 deer by the end of opening day.
"For most of our hunters it's been a very quick process, five or 10 minutes," Mr. Neville said.
Two deer on Adams County farms died of the disease earlier this year, making them the first cases reported in the state. No infections have been reported in the wild population.
For the past 10 years, officials have tested thousands of samples from meat processors to monitor the deer herd for signs of the disease, and this is the first time testing has been required at check-in stations, Mr. Neville said.
About 750,000 hunters are expected to take part in deer season.
The Somerset County coroner's office said two men died of natural causes while hunting Monday. Allen Webb, 71, of Windber died in the state forest near Ogle about noon. Robert Georg, 66, of Port St. Lucie, Fla., was visiting relatives when he decided to go hunting and experienced a health problem. He died in Windber Medical Center shortly before noon.