My thoughts on everything from albacore tuna to zebras
| With all those memories and the accumulated influence of those experiences upon my life I sit here, scratching my head, wondering what happened.
It is o course, extremely easy to point a finger at the Game Commission and blame them for the evolution of hunting in Pennsylvania. And there is no lack of people out there that have done just that. For my own part, I believe a certain amount of responsibility does lie at their feet, but that being said, I believe there is enough blame (and I’m not sure blame is the right word. Perhaps responsibility would be better) to go around. I must admit that because of my education and chosen career (environmental protection) it is extremely difficult for me to separate my traditional hunting upbringing with my understanding and desire to have a balanced environment. It truly is a conundrum. One part of me wants to “fill the freezer” with tasty venison and the other has walked in the forests of Pennsylvania and marveled at the lack of understory, and still another part of me has struggled with trying to get forests to regenerate on reclaimed surface mines where the tree seedling mortality was 80% because of deer browse.
So, I waffle. And when I hunt (which isn’t often anymore) I feel the same frustration I felt at twelve when I could only hunt the two Saturdays of “buck season.” I don’t want to feel that frustration. I don’t want to come home at the end of the day with nothing to show for it but sore feet and the memories of whatever I happened to see that particular day. We are quick to tout the “hunting experience as being more than just the killing of an animal, but if I am to be truthful, even today, at 51 that killing of the animal is still a large part of my “hunting experience” and to judge from the outpouring of emotion against the Game commission, I am not alone in this sentiment.
With each passing season I struggle more and more. I see land posted that was always open to hunting. I feel crowded when I go to public lands where I was used to not seeing another hunter for most of the fall archery season. Add into that, the fact that because of work I have relocated to Harrisburg, a decidedly urban area if there ever was one, for someone that is used to towns with populations less than 5000, and the frustration mounts.
Today, it’s all about land being posted and leased, clubs and permission, landowner liability, urban and suburban expansion, slob hunters and anti hunters. We harvest deer instead of kill them. We move farther and farther away from the hunting of my youth to what, I’m not quite sure. Today we have wildlife management units and more seasons than I count. Today, even if I saw a deer or a turkey, or a pheasant, I would be hesitant to pull the trigger without consulting my Pennsylvania Game Commission rulebook. The rule book, by the way, has “evolved from a handy dandy little booklet that you could carry next to your handkerchief in your hip pocket to a full blown magazine that I can’t even fit in the glove compartment of my car.
I look backward to the generations of hunters in my family, now gone, and I see them standing in faded Woolrich or tattered canvas, dogs running between their legs, carefully cradling the one, all purpose, weapon they could afford to purchase, most likely a double barrel shotgun, and I see them looking down at us, at me, shaking their collective heads in sadness, and wondering where everything went wrong.
Will I continue to hunt? Yes, for the foreseeable future. But for the first time in my life, since I was twelve, I’m not sure I enjoy it enough to overcome the frustrations. And…I always said, when it was no longer fun I would stop. I wonder if I am not alone. I suspect I am not. The number of hunters goes down annually. With each new No Trespassing sign, with each new confusing “rule” the hunting community shrinks and I get another day closer to joining the ranks of hunters who came before, wondering where everything went wrong and wishing it was long ago, when I was little...