Readers offering an earful on changes to deer opener
Harrisburg — State Rep. Greg Lucas asked readers of this newspaper for response to his proposal that firearms deer season open on a Saturday – and man, did he get it!
Bucking five decades of tradition by suggesting the opener be moved up two days from the Monday after Thanksgiving to the Saturday after that holiday, the Edinboro Republican introduced a non-binding House resolution urging the Game Commission to make the change.
It passed in late December.
In a changing world, citing the problem of hunters having difficulty taking time off from work or school for the weekday opener, Lucas suggested a weekend opener would be good for hunting in the Keystone State.
And it turns out that many Pennsylvania Outdoor News readers agreed with him; but he estimated two out of three did not.
“I want to thank all who responded to me regarding House Resolution 576,” he said. “I received close to 1,000 emails, posts, letters and calls. I got a ton of responses to the story in Outdoor News – the newspaper has a strong following!”
Secretary of the House Game & Fisheries Committee, Lucas estimated the disapproval-to-approval rate of his proposed change at about 65 percent against to 35 percent in favor.”
According to Lucas, readers’ reasons for not wanting to see opening day change ranged from tradition, travel time, economic impact to small towns in the Northern Tier, family time, getting camps ready and scouting.
Readers’ reasons for wanting to see the change included not being able to get the time off work or school, the possibility of getting an extra Saturday to hunt, more of an opportunity to hunt on weekends, and saving vacation time.
“Perhaps the most common and most vocal response – close to 85 percent – involved the lack of deer, especially in the Northern Tier of the commonwealth,” Lucas said. “I also heard the pros and cons of Sunday hunting, with the results about 50/50 for and against it.”
Lucas noted that he was well aware the response to the story was not a scientific survey, but rather “a dialog between hunters and outdoorsmen.”
And while some of the response came with personal insults and angry verbal attacks for even daring to suggest the change from a Monday to Saturday opening day, Lucas said that was part of serving as an elected official.
“But I got some feedback indicating that I didn’t know what I was talking about and claming I was not informed, so I want to set the record straight.”
Lucas lives in the northwestern part of the state among rolling hills and farmland where game is plentiful, but he, too, has seen a decline in the deer herd over the years.
“We are lucky in my area because we have ample food and cover,” he said. “However, I also hunt the big woods of Pennsylvania and the mountains of New York and see the difference in the deer population that some are talking about.”
An avid sportsman and outdoorsmen, Lucas wants readers to know that he’s an NRA shotgun instructor, coach and recruiter. He’s a life member and secretary of the Lake Edinboro Sportsmen League where he shoots trap and skeet.
He serves as the state director for the Scholastic Clay Target Program and president of the state Scholastic Clay Target Educational Foundation.
“I am also a hunter/trapper education instructor and I have led several youth teams to state and national competitions,” Lucas said.
“I have been hunting for over 40 years and I have never missed the first day of buck season. I have over 20 stands in a four-county area and this year logged over 150 hours during archery season.”
The owner of a camp in Marienville, Forest County, he and has been hunting there for 30 years. He shot what he called “a decent buck” at his camp the first day of the 2013 firearms season and spent time flintlock hunting after Christmas.
“I generally purchase doe tags but rarely harvest more than one deer,” he added. “I hunt hard and often, so I believe I am qualified to make observations and suggestions.”
Where does the issue go from here? It’s not clear, but Lucas indicated he intends to follow through with his suggestion.
“The resolution that I introduced was to ask the Game Commission to consider making the opening day change and to take input from all those involved,” he said.
“I want your readers to know that I am listening and will be taking this information back to the House Game & Fisheries Committee and the commission to make recommendations.”
Lucas noted that the Game Commission will be getting a new executive director to replace retiring Carl Roe in the coming weeks, and he expressed the hope that the new agency chief might enact regulations to address this issue, which he sees as affecting hunter recruitment, participation and license sales.
“This is an issue that concerns all of us, but the Game Commission must address it, not the Legislature,” he explained.
“Seasons and bag limits are set by the agency and to change them by legislation would endanger the Pittman-Robertson funds the commission receives from the federal government.
“So those changes need to come from the Game Commission. I would encourage everyone to stay informed and engaged.“