Thoughts on neighboring Pennsylvania’s Saturday deer opener
I moved to New York in the late 1960s, and for me it was the best of two worlds. I grew up in Pennsylvania and hunted, fished and trapped in the Keystone State until I graduated from college. I no longer trap but after more than 50 years, I still hunt there every season. When I moved to the Southern Tier I felt it was a dream come true because living so close to the Pennsylvania border I could hunt and fish in two states, with the opening day of deer, turkey and fishing season all coming on different dates.
However, there was one little, okay, call it one big hitch in my in my hunting plans. Both the New York and Pennsylvania deer season opening dates came on a Monday and because of my job, I never, not ever, got go hunting on the opening day of deer season in either state. For my entire working career, I wished deer season could open on a Saturday. Only after retiring did my wish come true.
After retiring almost 20 years ago, it no longer mattered to me when opening day occurred. I could and did go anytime. All this changed, of course when, in an effort to include more hunters, both states moved the opening day of the regular firearms season to a Saturday, and not everyone was happy. It didn’t matter to me of course because I could go anytime. And besides, if it allowed more hunters to get out, I was glad for them. What could possibly go wrong?
On the evening before this past season’s opener on Saturday, those of us who are avid bowhunters found ourselves in a tree with our archery tackle on Friday and then having to go home and trade in our bows for rifles and our camouflage clothing for blaze orange in order to go out the following morning. Worse yet, it left no time to remove our tree stands and climbing ladders prior to the Saturday morning opener. The transition seemed hectic to say the least. Clothes had to be taken out for an all-day sit, lunches had to be packed, rifles had to be checked and archery equipment had to be taken out of the truck and placed out of the way until it could be put away for the season. All this in only a few hours before we had to turn in and get up the next morning. “If only we had a day or two between seasons,” I lamented to a friend who found himself in the same situation. As crazy as it was for many of us, the new Saturday opening for the Pennsylvania deer season would prove just as problematic as did New York’s, only in a different way.
For the first time in more than 50 years the Pennsylvania firearms season opened on the Saturday after Thanksgiving rather than the Monday after, but the logistics for getting out proved to be no better for me than they did in New York. My son and his family flew from their home in North Carolina for the Thanksgiving holiday and they would be leaving to fly back on Saturday morning. The idea of my going hunting without seeing them off would never fly in my house, so once again the excitement of going hunting on opening day would have to wait another year at least for me.
Deer season is now logged into the books, and because one season closed the night before the other one opened I still have equipment to remove from the woods. To reach my stands on the farm I hunt I have to traverse a road that bisects two hay fields and a corn field. Warm weather and hubcap-deep mud on the road through these fields have kept me from getting to my stands and ladders in order to store them until next season. I’ve been waiting since December for enough cold weather to freeze the mud so that I can drive through it without making things worse or getting stuck.
I find I’m in the same situation in Pennsylvania. I have two stands and climbing sticks still in the trees they were in when the archery season closed in November. In order to get to them I have to cross two creeks and, because of rain and melting snow, both creeks are currently too high for me to safely cross. In one state I have to wait for a freeze and in the other I’m waiting for the water to go down.
A Saturday opening day has its merits as well as its drawbacks, but if more hunters can get to go, then why not? For this hunter, keeping it to a Monday would prove far less frenzied.