We all have a family member we hate to hear from.
It seems like the only time we hear his or her voice on the other end of the line is when he or she has bad news to share.
That's how I feel this week.
It's March. I shouldn't be writing about deer. We should be talking about trout fishing, a springtime hike or the return of our summertime birds from their long winter trips.
But the phone is ringing and the voice on the other end of the line is all-too familiar. It's bad news about the state's whitetail herd.
Last fall, we had the state's first real scare related to Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). The killer disease popped up on a nearby captive-deer farm. But, at least until last week, it appeared we might have gotten lucky. It looked like the Game Commission's testing would show the disease had not yet infected the state's wild population.
Now we know that's not the case. CWD was found in three of Pennsylvania's free-roaming deer. And they came from nowhere near the Adams County farm that scared us all last year. All three deer were killed by hunters in Bedford and Blair counties.
In other words, it's official. CWD has crossed into the commonwealth's borders and has infected our native herd. As the Game Commission has pointed out, there's virtually nothing we can do to change that fact. Of the 21 states impacted by CWD, none of them has successfully eradicated it.
All we can do is slow the spread of the disease and, as sportsmen, do whatever we can to help the state's biologists and game managers.
At this point, I'm not sure what next year's hunting season will look like. A lot depends on if more infected deer are detected and where they're found. If the news is good, the majority of the state's hunters won't even notice enhanced restrictions. But if the news is bad, and it appears CWD is spreading through a larger portion of the state, there's a strong chance all of us will see at least some sort of tweak to our hunting routine in 2013.
No matter what happens between now and next fall, though, all of us must understand that sportsmen are the ultimate caretakers of the state's whitetail population. If we want to see our rich hunting traditions continue, it's up to us to ensure the herd remains as healthy as possible.
There are stiff challenges ahead. And I'm sure we won't get through this initial phase without some controversy (another long tradition for the state's deer hunters). But we must stay unified and diligent. If we don't do this important job, nobody will.
We got the call we've all been expecting. It's up to us to determine how bad the news gets.
-- Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@york dispatch.com.