Pennsylvania bowhunters, count your blessings
When it comes to modern bowhunting opportunities, Pennsylvania hunters truthfully have never had it so good. The season is longer than ever, a choice between crossbow, compound or traditional is up to the individual, and recent additions, such as Sunday hunting and concurrent bear and deer seasons give people even more reason to be in the woods throughout the fall.
But things weren’t always this way. The state’s first archery season only came to fruition when the 1951 Pennsylvania General Assembly gave the green light to launch an October bow-and-arrow deer season. At first, the season was limited and slow to gain traction. But as equipment and interest improved, archery hunters began to advocate for more opportunities.
In 1985, a group of bowhunters decided to gather and form an organization to look out for everyone’s rights as bowhunters, establishing the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania. For the past 35+ years, the group — calling itself the UBP — has played an integral role in archery hunting’s growth in the state, working in concert with the Pennsylvania Game Commission to promote the sport and expand its offerings.
“It’s important for archery hunters to realize we didn’t always have a season, and it wasn’t always this good,” said Patrick Schild, a managing representative with UBP. “When I started hunting in the mid-to-late ’80s, bow season was only four weeks, basically just in October. Now it’s seven weeks, with special regs seasons and the late season giving even more opportunity. We’ve come a long way.”
Following the mantra of “organize, educate, activate,” UBP serves as the voice of Pennsylvania bowhunters, working hard to make its presence known at Game Commission Board of Commissioners meetings to preserve, promote and protect bowhunting in the commonwealth.
It regularly advises on decisions that directly impact archery hunters, showing ardent support for enhanced opportunities, while promoting further discussions on rule changes when warranted.
For example, UBP has weighed in on adding an archery bear season, extending legal hunting hours to one-half hour after sunset, reducing the safety zone for archers to 50-yards, adding a concealed carry provision for bowhunters, expanding the youth mentor program, reducing fluorescent orange requirements for archers, allowing bowhunters to take an antlerless deer, and the addition of Sunday hunting days, among others.
“We adhere to a biological, resource-first philosophy,” Schild said. “We encourage all our members that it’s not just about us, but trying to reach out and give back to preserve our sport and way of life.”
UBP does just that through its Disabled Hunter Program, which raises money to give disadvantaged individuals opportunities to hunt. Several of its members are also certified bowhunting instructors and active with the National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP), helping to educate others on the many merits of archery in addition to their countless hours of volunteer work at the local level.
“We realize there are some misconceptions out there regarding our sport,” Schild said. “Some might think it’s cruel or that the animals suffer, but with today’s advanced technology, the equipment really provides a clean, ethical kill.”
“Beyond the harvest, though, archery hunting allows you to be one with the woods, you can get out and enjoy peace and quiet and enjoy the fall season. It’s a passion of mine, just like it is for all the other members representing our ranks.”
As Pennsylvania bowhunters embark on another season, it’s important to pause and count your blessings, because we really do have it pretty good here — largely a result of those who’ve pushed to make it so. For that, I’m thankful.
For more information about United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, visit www.ubofpa.org