Sunday, December 7, 2008

Back from Deer Camp...

...and skunked again.

Now, I did see a buck yesterday. It was the only deer I saw over three days of hunting.

Why didn't I shoot? Well, there's a story that needs to be told:

A few years back, the PA Game Commission, in it's infinite wisdom, decided to change the rules and impose antler restrictions on us. What this means is that in certain areas of the state, I can only shoot a buck if it has three or more points (tines) on one antler that measure a minimum of 1" long.

3 or more points means that a deer must be at least 2 or 3 years old, as most yearling bucks sport "spike" antlers, which is one longish antler, sort of like a goat's horns. If you're a junior hunter, you still can shoot a spike buck statewide, if you live in the suburbs of Philly, anybody can shoot a spike.

Well, yesterday, at about 9 am, I saw my first and only deer in 3 days. The deer had a really big main beam (the main part of the antler, from which all other "tines" grow from). Trouble is, I couldn't see any points from the angle I was viewing this particular deer.

I had ample opportunity to shoot this large bodied deer. I'm sure it was a well seasoned buck, as the main beams were thick, which means maturity in deer. So why didn't I shoot? My hunting partners asked me the same question. They all got the same answer...Ethics.

A great friend of mine has on several occasions spoken these words, "do the right thing, for the right reason, every time". I find that I think about these words when confronted with a decision and the little guys on my shoulders get to speaking in my's sort of like having my own "Jiminy Cricket".

I didn't shoot, because it was wrong to do so, even if I do not agree with antler restrictions. I'm raising a son who will become my "hunting buddy", just like I became my father's "hunting buddy". I am teaching him to be an ethical hunter. In order to do that , I have to lead by example. If Jesse was with me, how could I justify taking that shot? I couldn't.

PA Game Commission laws, rules and regulations may have the best of intentions, but aren't always agreeable to us hunters. Sunday hunting, repeal of antler restrictions, and seasons and bag limits are just three such things that I think need to be changed.

It's up to us, as voters and hunters to contact our PGC headquarters and the head of the Fish and Game Commission to get these rules looked at and possibly changed.

Until then, I don't shoot first and ask questions later. It's wrong, it's unethical, and I cannot possibly set a good example for my son, if I break the rules myself.

Yeah, I'm bummed that I let that buck go...somebody else later shot that deer and I found out it was a massive 8-pointer. But, I can sleep at night knowing that I did the right thing, for the right reason. This time and every time.

And, the season isn't over...there's always tomorrow. I'll fill my freezer...I always manage to.


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