It seems like most agree, Pennsylvania needs a pheasant hunting stamp
In a discussion about the merits of creating a pheasant-hunting stamp that occurred during the Game Commission's recent meeting in Dubois, Pa., I thought Commissioner Tim Layton made a fool of himself — and from the spate of letters we have received in response to our coverage of the meeting, Pennsylvania Outdoor News readers agree.
The discussion occurred because the agency spends more than $4 million annually raising and stocking about 220,000 ringnecks for hunters, and now that Marcellus Shale natural gas revenues are dwindling, the commission again needs to pay attention to its budget. The shale gas windfall resulting from reserves under game lands has allowed the commission to pump up its stocked-pheasant program.
Now many hunters, Game Commission officials, lawmakers and even a few commissioners believe it is time for the 100,000 or so hunters who say they pursue pheasants (out of more than 850,000 licensed hunters in the state) to pay for a special stamp to help support the expensive program. If ever there was a good candidate for a user fee — a pay-to-play hunting scenario — they say, the commission's pheasant program is it.
But some disagree. For his part, Commissioner Layton, of Cambria County, gave a rambling, sincere but naïve-sounding rationale for opposing a pheasant stamp.
“One day while hunting rabbits on a state game land, my son flushed and shot a big ringneck," he said. "Since then, I spent $2,000 on a bird dog and all my son wants to do is hunt pheasants. Flushing and shooting that one pheasant has made him a hunter for life."
I winced when I heard Layton make his lame argument, because I knew what was coming. He's a decent guy, and he means well. He just didn't realize how elitist his comments sounded. And the letter writers have been right on, I believe. Here is a sampling:
George Brojack of Jermyn, Pa. put it this way:
"If Mr. Layton is willing to spend $2,000 on a bird dog, what's the problem with spending another $20 on a stamp to enhance and support the pheasant-stocking program?"
Jack Fisher, of Lewisburg, wrote this: “Commissioner Timothy Layton’s comments absolutely floored me. Although he said he ‘understands that the cost of this pheasant stocking program is a burden, it is something that we can give back to hunters.’
“And why does he feel this way – well, HIS son likes the sport, and he has spent $2,000 on a dog so his son can continue to hunt pheasants.
"Of course Mr. Layton sees nothing wrong with the Game Commission spending $4 million to $5 million – that it really can’t afford – just to continue this program, because it makes his son happy.
“Someone should kindly explain to Mr. Layton that his job as commissioner is to do what’s best for ALL Pennsylvania hunters – not just what’s best for his son.”
I wrote this in my column in the last issue, and I’ll repeat it here: If I were a state lawmaker, the only way I would agree to the hunting license fee increase the Game Commission is lobbying for is if the agency establishes a pheasant hunting stamp. It’s only right.