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SNYDER: Hunters must realize they're not above obeying the rules

ANDY SNYDER
YorkDispatch

Archery season starts on Saturday. That means we're moving into hunting season's prime time. Lots of folks will be in the woods and fields on Saturday — weather permitting.

It brings me to a tough question but it's a question that needs answered. What is so hard about following the rules? It's one of the first lessons we were ever taught in school, yet for so many of us, it's an impossible task.

When we dig into it, it's perplexing and disrespectful. We find anglers taking more than their share of fish. Or, a pet peeve, we see them leave their garbage along the water's edge. And don't forget the poachers who fully disregard the law or the fact that they're stealing from us all.

I'm not sure why some folks consistently choose to break the rules — but they all seem to have some way to rationalize it (at least in their heads).

During my time as a guide in southeast Alaska, I ran into folks from across the world who would feel entitled to stretch the rules to fit their needs.

One year I fished with a multi-millionaire movie producer who paid nearly eight grand for a week of fishing, yet was convinced he was above paying the $10 fee for a king salmon stamp.

"It's just fishing," he said. "Don't take it so seriously."

I was tempted to tell him it's just money and that he had enough of it to buy his own fleet of salmon boats, but I wanted my fair share of his money at the end of the trip so I kept my mouth shut and put a salmon stamp on his tab.

One of the most disturbing trends here in Pennsylvania is hunters believing they don't have to report their deer kills, even though the law requires it. Somehow, a whole ring of friends knows within hours that Junior killed a monster buck, but it's kept a tightly guarded secret from the Game Commission and its biologists.

Even worse, many of those unlawful folks are the first to complain when the state's biologists say they have no way of accurately measuring the state's deer population.

Too many of us — nearly half the state's hunters, in fact — are withholding valuable information from the agency.

We can't point our fingers at others when we are purposefully making it impossible for them to do their work. Frankly, it's downright disrespectful, not so much to the lawmakers, but to the animals we say we value and cherish.

My above-the-law client was probably right. Many of us do take hunting and fishing way too seriously. But if we didn't, who would protect the sport and traditions we love and look forward to every year.

The state's fish and game agencies don't create laws to purposely irritate or impede you. They do it because they're looking out for your best interests and to protect the environment and the living creatures that surround us.

Do your part and follow the law, like the rest of us.

Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdispatch.com.