Hunting's latest challenge
Needing some fresh eggs, I decided to take a ride to one of the Pennsylvania farms I hunt and get a dozen for me and another for the farmer whose land I also hunt. I picked up the eggs, which I doubted the chickens even missed yet, and drove three more miles to the other farm. Expressing his gratitude for the eggs, my friend invited me into the kitchen. "Sit down, I haven't seen you for a while," he said.
A product of the Depression, my friend, now in his 80s, has worked the land all his life. Over the years, I was amazed about the stories he told of living on the farm during the Depression and having little to eat and only a straw mattress on which to sleep. Over a lifetime he and his younger brother worked the land, raised their families, educated their children and found a way to make a living. Tilling the soil, liming the fields, spreading manure, fixing equipment, planting crops and filling the silos while every day milking cows – the work never stopped. Day after day, year after year, little changed, but now the land is paying them back.
The good news is my friend recently enrolled the nearly 1,000-acre farm in a lease agreement with a major gas drilling company, and let's just say without a molecule of gas yet to be pumped out of the ground, he's comfortable and his family will be comfortable – probably for generations. Good for him; he and his family deserve whatever bounty comes out of the ground they own. Good, hard-working people deserve that and I'm happy for them. However, more selfishly, I couldn't help noticing the blue, orange and yellow ribbons festooning many of the trees where I hunted last fall.
I learned the blue ribbons marked the path of a new gas pipeline, while the yellow ones delineated the area where drilling will begin. The orange markers indicated where the dynamite would be set off in order to do seismic studies of the area. In short order, my best hunting spot will be crawling with workers, awash in noise and polluted with the stench of diesel fumes from the bulldozers that will be working the ground, building roads to the drill site and for building the drill pad itself.
Dump trucks and 'dozers will soon be driving through the pastures where I hunted deer, and the hillside where I hunt turkeys will soon be denuded of trees in order to build the pipeline necessary to get the gas to market. We here in New York haven't seen any gas drilling yet, but I'm betting we soon will and, just like my spot in Pennsylvania, there will be many other hunters facing the same problem.
On the drive home I couldn't help thinking it's not the anti-hunting groups that might put an end to hunting, but rather it will be the lack of access to hunting land that will cause many to just give up and quit hunting altogether. Those currently owning rural land are often reluctant to let anyone else hunt because family members and their friends are hunters as well. I've been looking for a new hunting spot for next fall but so far it hasn't been easy.