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Start of deer season has mixed feelings

Commentary

Well, April is almost gone. Before us stretches a month of trout fishing at its best and spring gobbler hunting, one of the supreme thrills of the hunting seasons.

The opening day of deer season has been officially set for the Saturday after Thanksgiving but that has not changed the minds of most as to how they feel about it. Now, only experience will bring the truth forward. Remember how hunters fought against having antler restrictions? Yet, now most will admit, even if grudgingly, that that at least was a good idea because we are seeing many more bucks with great antlers. Hunters now approve of that.

But now the suggestion has sprung up that the first day of rifle deer season should start on Sunday! That sort of came out of left field. We cannot even hunt on Sunday. I’ve heard, however, that this idea of opening day being on Sunday is supposed to kick-start the approval of Sunday hunting.

I’ve heard most of the arguments against Sunday hunting but the one that makes the least sense to me is the one that the deer need a day of rest from hunters. That is nonsense. Deer live every moment of every day on alert because the woods are filled with predators looking for their skin. Free-roaming dogs, coyotes, human poachers are ever-present in the deer’s world and they don’t let up for a moment. A bear will kill a fawn on Sunday as well as on any other day of the week.

Arguments, both for and against Sunday hunting, are everywhere now and who knows how this one will finally play out. Religious folks truly believe that Sunday is God’s appointed day of rest. Unbelievers are little concerned with what God thinks so want what is convenient for them.

I am personally moot about this decision because I know for sure what effect a decision to have opening day of deer season on a Sunday will have on me. Hunting is not my top priority; serving the Lord is. On Sunday, I am always found at my church, teaching an adult Bible class on Sunday morning and playing the organ for worship services.

If opening day becomes Sunday it will bring to a close my own personal record of never having missed an opening day in the woods since 1953. But will I sacrifice church to not break that record? No I will not. But that is a very personal decision to me and that is how every hunter will have to adjust if Sunday becomes the opener for deer season. Which is most important to us personally? But trying to inflict my personal wishes onto to folks who do not honor Sunday as a special day is not mine to do.

Another change coming to us beginning next year is the change in the rules for wearing fluorescent orange while hunting. Do you remember back a decade or so ago when it was first suggested that hunter wear orange while hunting turkeys? What an explosion of disagreement came from Pennsyl-vania’s turkey hunters. And I was very much against it, from a hunting perspective. A turkey’s eyes are its best defensive mechanism and they do see color. They would get aware in short order that a glimpse of orange meant trouble and would vanish from sight if they did see it.

A compromise was arranged whereby hunters had to be wearing orange while moving in the woods and would be required to put orange bands around nearby trees to warn other hunters of their presence. Hunters learned to live with that ruling. Now, for next year, orange requirements for turkey hunting will be greatly reduced.

The same hunters that objected to orange in the first place are now speaking that without orange, we are not safe. Well, any hunter who wants to wear orange may certainly do so.

The real danger, at least in my opinion, is that hunters will resort to believing that if they hear a turkey calling but don’t see orange, it really is a turkey and not a hunter and so pull the trigger prematurely. That was exactly the circumstance when I became the victim of a “hunter mistaken for game” shooting back in 1989.

Orange was not a requirement back in that day but I did have some with me. I had been sitting in the shadow of some bushes by a green gas line, near Raystown Lake that year. I made turkey calls every 10 minutes or so, hoping to evoke a response from a gobbler.

After a half hour of hearing nothing I decided to move on. I stood up and began strapping on my waist pack and other gear. Before I was finished I was hit square in the face with a blast from a shotgun, with five more shots that followed.

The long and short of the story is that, unbeknownst to me, twilight hunters several hundred yards from my position heard these calls I was making and decided to sneak up to the area to see if they could see the turkey. I was making only hen calls but when the two hunters got close and saw movement in the bushes put two and two together: to them if they heard turkey voices and then saw movement, it must be a turkey.

They made no attempt to distinguish if what they saw was a gobbler or hen, they just commenced shooting. Would the sight of orange have made a difference? I’ll never know but I was getting ready to move on and so the orange band was tucked into my pack.

But orange or not, the decision to pull a trigger should have been made on whether or not they saw a legal target and not on whether or not some orange was spotted.

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