The first week of deer season is just about in the history books.
By now, hundreds of thousands of hunters are blessing their luck or cursing their fate. Whitetail hunting is full of heartbreak and redemption.
Let's start with the folks lucky enough to bag a deer this week. You've got a pile of meat on your hands. If you were able to draw a couple of antlerless tags, you may even have a couple of freezers full of meat. Why not share your good fortune?
Here's a tough fact. Each month in our state, nearly 450,000 folks fill at least part of their food needs through a food pantry. That's not good news. Some of our neighbors are hungry. We have a duty as sportsmen to help change that.
There's no better way to prove to the anti-hunting crowd that our sport is not the evil bloodbath they portray it to be than to share our annual bounty with the folks who need it the most.
The easiest way to do it is through the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program. It's a fantastic program that lets hunters share their meat through a network of butchers. All the hunter has to do is drop his deer at a participating processor and the program will do the rest of the work. If the hunter wants to keep a portion of the meat, he can. If he wants to donate every ounce of it, he can. But in that case, the program asks for a small donation of $15 to cover processing costs.
The bottom line is there are hungry Pennsylvanians all around us. If you're lucky enough to have a freezer full of meat, there's no excuse not to share it. For all the information you need, visit the Hunters Sharing the Harvest website at www.sharedeer.org.
Now, what about the folks who may not have been quite as lucky this week? Or worse, every hunter's nightmare -- they shot a deer and were not able to recover it? Losing a deer is one of the worst feelings in the world. Fortunately, there may be some help on the way.
There's a bill (H.B. 451) snaking its way through Harrisburg that will finally allow leashed dogs to be used to track wounded deer. If you've ever lost a blood trail or searched in vain for a wounded whitetail, you've certainly asked yourself why dogs are not allowed to recover deer in this state.
The Game Commission is in favor of it. A few years ago, it publicly supported the use of recovery dogs. The problem is the state's lawmakers. Even with several attempts under their belt, they have not been able to change the code. I'm hoping H.B. 451 changes that fate.
Right now, the bill sits with the Senate Game and Fisheries committee. It's up the panel to decide where it goes next. Hopefully, it's headed to the governor's desk.
It's clear that no matter if luck was on our side or not this week, we've got action to take. If your freezer is full, donate some or all of the meat to your hungry neighbors. And with a pivotal bill in Harrisburg, all of us need to make a phone call or write an email to our elected officials in support of H.B. 451. If it passes, your luck may be much different this time next year.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.