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Into the Outdoors: Senior Hunters

I seldom rant in this column, but, this week, I must make an exception. I read a lot of outdoor publications, and many of them contain letters to the editor. Recently, I read some which claim that the Game Commission coddles senior hunters. If there was ever a crock of baloney, that is it. It is true that there is a special deer season for seniors. However, you can shoot only doe, and the season lasts for only a couple of days. Seniors can purchase a lifetime license, but it is rather costly, and they still must pay for antlerless licenses each year. That is okay. What isn’t okay is that seniors are required to abide by antler restrictions. Let me state right now that I am, and always will be, opposed to antler restrictions for anyone. Junior hunters are exempt from them. This is where the whole thing becomes ridiculous. Let’s be real. A teenager usually has keen eyesight, good hearing, excellent reflexes and considerable stamina. Seniors, on the other hand, often have diminished vision, are hard of hearing, and often have to hunt with the aid of a walking stick. The fact of the matter is that seniors are less capable of counting points when a deer goes by than are teenagers. One hates to be cynical, but could it be that seniors don’t generate as much money for the Game Commission? It’s hard not to wonder about it. I, for one, do not feel at all coddled.

Since I’m already ranting, I might as well keep on for a bit. Something that comes to mind is the idea of restricted fishing areas. This especially affects trout fishing. There are areas of streams labeled fly fishing only or artificial lures only. A bait angler, who paid the same for his fishing license and trout stamp, is not allowed to fish there. I can’t see how anyone can consider this fair.

Next up are the so-called Mentored Youth programs. The idea behind these programs is indeed a noble one. That would be introducing kids to the joys of the outdoor sports. The problem lies in some, but by no means all, of the adults involved in these activities. There are, sadly, those out there who see these programs as a way to increase their own game and fish success. To believe that this doesn’t happen is pretty naive. Perhaps the best solution would be to go back to the days when you had to be twelve years old to hunt, after completing a Hunter Safety Course. When it comes to fishing, everyone, regardless of age, should wait until the season opens.

I think that it’s time to look a bit at bear hunting. I don’t do it, so I sometimes fail to pay attention to what is going on in that realm. When you look at all of the bear seasons in Pennsylvania, you find that, in some areas, you can start to hunt them in September. Several other seasons start in October, and there are extended seasons in some areas to boot. Whether by design or otherwise, this contributes greatly to the decline of the bear population. According to my friend Dave Lewis, who has studied bears extensively, these seasons result in the killing of many pregnant sows. In the past, these sows were denned up by the time the season opened. A sow can have anywhere from one to five cubs. The breeding cycle, however, is very long. When you think about it, killing a pregnant sow could mean the end of up to six bears. As I stated earlier, I do not hunt bear, but I have absolutely no quarrel with those who do. I just think that the seasons need to be adjusted. Quite frankly, bears have been somewhat of a nuisance to me. They have wrecked bird feeders, scattered garbage and used my yard as a bathroom. Nevertheless, I enjoy seeing them and really want to keep them around.

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