By Aaron Hepler
In Ol’ PA, we’re not really known for forward progression of new ideas. Pushing a concept through such as a Saturday rifle opener, or the ability to hunt on a Sunday shouldn’t really be such a debate, but they are.
I am a Pennsylvania hunter and I can appreciate tradition. I actively hunt and hike on public lands near my home. I enjoy private lands owned by family friends. As I grew up, my family owned a cabin near SGL 80. I fondly remember my dad taking my brother and I on scouting trips, catching frogs from vernal ponds, and netting crayfish from creeks.
Our cabin was sold before I was of age to hunt. Fortunately for my family, we were invited by close friends to hunt their farm. I’ve spent 19 seasons hunting the farm for the rifle opener with close family and friends. I’ve never missed one.
For hiking, hunting and fishing, our state offers incredible access to beautiful public lands. Hours can rewardingly pass scouring vast public spaces for hunting endeavors. There are spaces in PA that truly capture remoteness.
For myself and the friends I am surrounded by, who love hunting and fishing, we aren’t affected by what day something starts. We are driven by the fact that it has started and will continue to thrive.
Being the father of a five-year-old daughter, I realize there are activities and material things at her finger tips that we didn’t have available even 10 short years ago. It’s troubling that the outdoors is often overshadowed by modern day bells and whistles.
We most likely will not see the death of hunting in our lifetime, but if we want it to stay alive we need more than just Sunday hunting and Saturday openers.
Despite controversy, if there is any chance a regulation change would introduce new people to the outdoors, why wouldn’t you do it? Without thinking of how it will affect “your” hunting or “your” traditions, you should find the selfless reasons to accept changes that increase opportunity.
If you are put off by a change in regulations or season dates because it changes your tradition, then keep your own traditions. There’s nothing that says you can’t make your own opener on a Monday if that’s what you want to do.
If you are reading this and hunting isn’t your thing but hiking is, do you want to keep the public lands you’ve had the privilege to use? Because hunters pay for it, hunters help to maintain it. Nothing says you can’t hike with hunters in the woods. Put on some orange, put a bell on your person and keep hiking.
One trend that has impacted outdoor recreation is tv, video games and social media. Although techy things have their place, please disconnect from time to time. Disconnect to build our sport and build friendships. Take an interested adult out hunting and fishing. Bring your own kids, nieces, nephews, neighbors, anyone who has any kind of interest onto our public lands. Don’t do it for you, do it for them. Tailor it for their benefit. Let kids splash in a creek and teach them about critters. Don’t take them on a 5-mile bushwhack through briars. Give away the location of a hotspot or two to create a new outdoor enthusiast and show them the meaning of a good time. Don’t worry, if you’re a serious hunter, there are plenty more spots when the time scouting is put in.
Use this example for introducing new people to the outdoors. You wouldn’t expect a person, new to a fitness routine, to be able to run five miles and bench press 280 pounds on day one. In fact, if that person even tried doing that, they would likely not return to the gym.
The same can be true with people new to hunting. Make it fun, consider age and skill level. Do all the little (and big) things possible to increase opportunity for newcomers to continue our sport and join our passion.