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Into the Outdoors: Game Commission History

Let’s start off with a few “blurbs.” First of all, in my column on squirrel recipes, I failed to mention hasenpfeffer. This traditional German dish is usually associated with rabbit, but squirrel works equally well. The recipe is somewhat complicated, but worth trying at least once.

There is some sad news, in that outdoor writer Dave Wolf has passed away. Nobody turned a phrase better than Dave, and his work will be missed.

There have been more reports of mountain lion sightings in Pennsylvania. I don’t know what to think about that, but when there is enough smoke, there is usually fire.

Now, for some Game Commission history.

When my dad, who would be 116 years old if he were alive today, was a young man, he worked for the Game Commission in Potter County, as well as some of the other counties in the northern part of the state. At that time, the officers were officially known as game wardens, and often represented just about the only law in the more remote areas. They were sometimes called upon to settle disputes, etc.

By the time I was old enough to hunt, the title had changed to Game Protector. The position had also become much more specialized, and each officer’s territory was specifically defined. Then, they became known as Wildlife Conservation Officers, or WCOs. Nowadays, they are once again simply called Game Wardens. an official change which I like.

Deputy Game Wardens are volunteers who work under the direction of a Game Warden. For the most part, they are unpaid, and, in fact, often incur personal expenses for their equipment, etc. They also must undergo extensive training in a wide variety of areas. As Game Wardens often have large territories, the deputies are often called upon to fill the gap.

As many readers know, I am not a fan of the Game Commission. Frankly, I see them as a group of bureaucrats with little regard for the needs and wishes of the hunters and trappers they are appointed to serve. The law enforcement officers, on the other hand, are a different story. They are dedicated and hard working individuals with huge tasks to perform. Over the course of many years of hunting, I can truthfully say that I have never encountered a Game Warden or deputy who was anything but courteous and professional. This applies not to just Pennsylvania, but to several other states as well. Usually, when you hear someone complaining about the “game warden,” it’s someone who was breaking the law and got caught at it.

On another front, this is the time of year when encounters with bears are probably the most common. In preparation for their impending hibernation, the bruins are feeding very actively, and looking for anything they can find to eat. Around here, there was a time when a bear sighting was almost unheard of. That is no longer the case, as they are becoming rather common. In fact, nowadays, seeing a bear is not really a big deal. They have, in fact, become a bit of a pest in some areas.

When you come right down to it, most bad experiences with bears are the result of human error. We’ve all heard horror stories about what can happen if you mess with bear cubs, yet people continue to do it. The mother bear doesn’t know if you mean any harm or not, and doesn’t really care. She has only one response, and it’s not pleasant.

A bear can smell food from miles away. Leaving garbage lying around will often attract them to your property. Some unwise individuals actually put food out in hopes of attracting bears. In addition to the obvious dangers, this can also lead to “nuisance bears,” as the critters come to expect food from humans.

Personally, I think it’s great that the bear population has recovered so well in Pennsylvania. All it really takes is a bit of common sense to avoid most problems. Personally, I don’t hunt bear. I find the meat awful, so what would I do with a dead bear?

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