Consider ripple effects before changing deer season opener


While covering high school sports for more than a decade, there were few things I loathed more than high school holiday sports tournaments. Not so much from a coverage standpoint, but more from the conceptual angle of things.
To me, the week-plus off school for Christmas and New Years was a family time, spent doing special holiday-related activities away from the hustle and bustle of excess work, school and extracurricular activities. It was frustrating to me that families needed to tweak their already busy holiday schedules to accommodate extra winter sports activities, extra driving in what can be poor weather conditions and more time away from home while on the run from event to event.
While I knew that holiday tournaments meant a potential increase in revenue of the host school and provided extra chances for working parents to see their games/matches, that always seemed less important to me than the value of having good, quality at-home time before kicking off another busy year.Which is why I think I’m struggling, at least in part, with the legislation suggested Tuesday by Rep. Gerald Mullery, of Nanticoke. A freshman lawmaker, Mullery’s first official bill of his Harrisburg-based career proposes that we alter the start of rifled deer season from the first Monday after Thanksgiving to the first Saturday after Thanksgiving. In hunting days (which don’t include Sundays for deer), the proposal only moves the start of the season up one day.
Knowing that the 2011 deer season could be closer, even by such a small margin, may be reason to celebrate for many avid deer hunters. Opening the season on a Saturday would mean less would have to schedule time off work or school or both. It would also, suggests a few, increase hunting sales and overall income from a larger throng of people who would hypothetically be able to enjoy the opening day.
And yet, finding myself becoming a traditionalist more and more as I grow older, I struggle to get excited about this bill. For decades, the traditional start of the season was Monday. Most every school in the region embraces that tradition by giving off an extra day during Thanksgiving break. Employers learn quickly that deer hunting in central Pennsylvania is a force not to be reckoned with, and many consider the day an unofficial holiday.
Moving the start of hunting season to Saturday would also, just like the holiday school tournaments, cut into an increasingly dwindling amount of family time.
Christmas tree growers bank on that Saturday every year as the unofficial start of their selling season, and many families make it a tradition to get their tree and set up decorations before the busyness of the two-week rifled deer season.
Local stores target that weekend as a major part of their annual sales. Black Friday deals typically extend through the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Again, some families use that time traditionally to get a jump on the Christmas season.
And Thanksgiving weekend is also a time when families travel for get-togethers. College-bound relatives, and others who live further away, travel in to visit.
Many sportsmen in the region have taken to the potential bill with polarizing views. Some love the concept of starting the season on a Saturday as a way to avoid using a vacation day. Others, however, wonder if altering the season will negatively affect a deer herd already in transition after drastic deer management (or, as some feel, lack thereof) has altered the state’s deer population.
Ultimately, there are many potential pros and cons to the potential move … and the case is similar in many ways to the debate over allowing Sunday hunting. I just hope that before any legislation is officially decided upon, that all sides of the situation are considered. Not just the potential increase in revenue for the state, but also the possible ripple effect on other local businesses, the potential ramifications to the deer herd, the effects it could have on holiday-related family activities and, perhaps most importantly, the way it will affect a long-standing and well-rooted tradition of Monday openers.
It may be cliche, but perhaps it is better to not try to fix something that isn’t necessarily broken. The Game Commission has bigger issues to address, anyway.

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~ by zaktansky on February 11, 2011.

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