By Ruth Topper
In most parts of the country today, the Monday after Thanksgiving marks the end of the holiday weekend. Parents and children head back to work and school. It’s just another day. For those of you who live in or grew up in Pennsylvania you know this day to be an unofficial holiday–the first day of deer hunting season! Newcomers to our state are shocked that many schools and even some businesses close down for one or more days this week. It is not unusual for the “guys” to pack up all their hunting gear, food/drink and head to “deer camp” on Saturday or Sunday. They want to be in the woods all set to go once the sun rises on Monday morning.
The Game Commission estimates that this year’s two week deer hunting season will feature nearly 750,000 individuals in the Pennsylvania woods. Although many may think that hunting the beautiful white-tailed deer is appalling, there are many benefits to our state:
- According to Carl G. Roe, Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Executive Director, “In addition to being a rich part of our state’s heritage, deer season is critical in managing Pennsylvania’s whitetails. The efforts of hunters are far-reaching; they help to keep deer populations in check, and enable the agency to meet deer management goals that benefit those who reside, visit or travel through this state.”
- Hunters are also generous in sharing the venison from the deer. The Hunters Sharing the Harvest Program (HSH) was established in 1991. Individuals can donate all or part of the meat from their deer to HSH. Each year hunters have helped deliver 200,000 meals to food banks, churches and social services feeding programs.
- Hunters help our economy. With ¾ million individuals in the woods each season many businesses will do well. It is not unusual for hunters to travel several hours to go to their favorite hunting location. Gas stations, restaurants, convenience stores, grocery stores, etc. will all benefit. The seasonal deer processors and taxidermists also will be very busy for a few weeks.
Although hunting is a male-dominated sport there are women who do enjoy hunting too. One of those women is a friend of mine, Joanne. Joanne is a hair dresser by day and an AVID hunter. In a recent conversation she told me that the beginning of hunting season for her could be compared to a child anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus–she is so excited that she can’t sleep at night! She started hunting at the age of 15 with Steve, who is now her husband. In her early years of hunting there were guys who didn’t want to hunt with her because they thought she “didn’t know what she was doing.” Her love of the sport got her through those times. After purchasing their farm more than 10 years ago it became much easier for her to get out and go hunting. (This is her version of stepping off the “merry-go-round” of daily life.) She told me of a time when her now grown son came home from school. Joanne told him they were going hunting for a few hours. When he said that he had homework to do she firmly told him that they would hunt first and then he would do his homework!
So what is it that she loves so much about hunting? She says that it is being out in nature. You get to see squirrels, turkey, deer, etc. in their habitat. You even see unusual things like a bird landing on a deer! Joanne hunts as often as she can. In fact, her family claims that she is obsessed with it! She hunts squirrels and turkey occasionally and participates in bow and arrow, rifle and muzzleloader seasons with deer hunting. She is always trying to learn more about hunting, so she will frequently watch hunting shows on TV–while her husband watches the Food Network! Joanne has also learned the trade of taxidermy. She has prepared, stuffed and mounted several animals for herself and family/friends. Joanne has certainly crafted her hobby over the past 20 (or so) years and continues to enjoy the sport of hunting to the fullest extent.
Do you have a hunter in your family or have a hunting story to share? We would love to hear about your experiences and/or thoughts on Pennsylvania’s unofficial holiday–the first day of deer hunting season.
Source: Pennsylvania Game Commission Website