Tuesday, December 4, 2012

2nd Week of Deer Camp

It is the 2nd week of Deer Camp. 
Or at least the 2nd week of Pennsylvania's firearm deer season is here, and as the song goes: 

"It's the 2nd week of Deer Camp.  And all the guys are here." 

These days there's probably more fiction in that line than ever before.  As little as 10 years ago I can remember opening day being an event that everyone actually participated in, but this year was a bust.  At least in my little corner of Northwest PA.  While it may sound odd to be nostalgic for the days when you would hear 50+ gun shots before lunch, realize this:  all that activity is why people came out to hunt, and why deer are taken.  Without hunters out there pushing the deer around, the deer can hunker down and simply watch Pennsylvania's orange army stumble around the woods for a day. 

Don't misunderstand me.  I've never been one of the guys that despised the PGC's recent deer management practices.  I've been to the areas in Warren and Forest Counties where hay scented ferns are the last remaining undergrowth for as far as the eye can see.  I've witnessed the return of berry bushes and young oaks and cherries deep in the woods, and I think it's fantastic.  What I've also seen is the deer management practices decimate hunter numbers across the state. 

Where I hunt, along the banks of French Creek, I would estimate half to a third of the hunters that used to hunt that area 15 years ago are hunting that area today. Perhaps their life has taken them down a different road, and hunting no longer holds a place in their hearts.  Or perhaps the perception of over harvest of Does has led to a preponderance of yellow Posted signs.  I'd never advocate purposefully trespassing, but I have on occasion wandered behind those signs.  Even on the opener, and the first Saturday, I didn't bump into  hunters.  If you're not going to hunt the land, why close it to others that would like to hunt the land?

The demographics of the rural landowners has changed.  Perception of hunters has begun to lean to the more negative side.  And a feeling that deer have been over harvested, therefore I must post my land, to protect "my deer," pervades modern thought. 

How is a modern day hunter supposed to adapt to this?

With any luck the modern hunter will also eventually be a landowner.  Maybe not on your own.  Maybe we will hearken back to a more communal ownership models of camps and wooded land.  Where generations of a family, or a collection of friends, pool resources and own their own property for hunting. If this isn't in the cards for you I'd suggest the tried and true method of driving a country road and knocking on doors.  You don't know what you'll find until you ask.  Don't do it the week before the season.  Don't do it dressed in camo, with a gun on your shoulder.  Put in your time in June and July.  Make an introduction.  You may not have success behind each door, but you will build relationships and you will find places where you are welcome to hunt.

Happy Hunting
Scott M

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