Hunting Responsibly for the Environment

By Daniel Carr

Gannon University Student Contributor

Hunting is as ancient as humanity itself and is still a resource for obtaining food and for recreation in our region today. According to the 2011 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation, Pennsylvania had over 800,000 active hunters in 2011 – more than any state besides Texas and Wisconsin. According to the PA Game Commission, Erie enjoys not only a thriving deer and turkey hunting population but also is a popular destination for goose hunting in the area near Lake Erie. Hunting is a very healthy and common part of Pennsylvania and Erie culture.

Unfortunately, many people mistakenly associate contemporary hunting with harming the environment because of its history in wiping out species and damaging the natural ecosystem. Most people are aware of how to hunt safely, but not how to practice green hunting. Hunting done correctly is critically important to the maintenance of our wildlife.

How is Hunting Good for the Environment?

When deer don't have predators, deer numbers are no longer in balance with the food resources, thus exerting tremendous pressure on forest saplings (a predominant deer food source) as well as on agricultural crops.

Hunting reduces the number of deer-car collisions.

Hunting license fees support 1.4 million acres of state gamelands.

How can I make sure that I'm hunting "green"?

1. Obey the Law. The laws exist for a reason. Many are for safety, but many are also for conservation.

Hunt with a license. The money goes to help make sure that hunting remains sustainable in the area.

Report your harvest. Reporting your success helps keep accurate statistics for the game commission, which allows them to better decisions about wildlife management.

Hunt during the correct seasons, and only hunt the appropriate game for that season. There are good reasons for the restrictions.

Don't use illegal equipment, including weapons, lures, and scents. These can harm the environment as well as provide a dangerous situation for you and for other hunters.

2. Consider Arrows or Lead-free Ammunition.

Lead shot shatters on impact and can be eaten by birds and animals, leading to lead poisoning. People eating game may also ingest some lead.

If you do use lead bullets, bury gutpiles to make it less likely animals will eat them.

3. Leave No Trace. While Leave No Trace is primarily a camping and hiking program, it still applies to hunting. Especially when hunting somewhere that isn't on your property, try to leave it as you found it. You want to leave the area the same for someone coming in after you. This means:

Clean up after yourself – don't litter, and pick up your garbage, including your shells.

Respect wildlife, both that which you're hunting and wildlife you encounter.

4. Use What You Kill. Unless the animal is visibly sick, there is value in the animal.

Utilize as much of the meat as you can. Freeze extra meat to use over longer periods of time.

If you don't use the meat of the animal and you don't know anyone who wants it, especially if it's large game like deer, you can donate that meat to a food bank. This can help feed a local family and to feed the hungry.

If you find an animal that is visibly sick, make sure to contact the PA Game Commission. You may help save someone's life.

Photo Courtesy of Joe Kosack and the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission 

Additional Resources:

PA Game Commission: The Pennsylvania Game Commission website has resources to share where and when you can hunt. It also has information on where you can obtain a hunting license, a list of classes you can take, a place to report poachers, and a description of how to easily report your harvest.

United Bow hunters of Pennsylvania:Bow hunting is a quieter form of hunting. This is a non-profit dedicated to promoting bow hunting in Pennsylvania.

Hunting can be a way to avoid industrialized meat. This New York Times feature describes young hunters who are taking up hunting for ethical reasons.

Hunters Sharing the Harvest: This program provides ways for hunters to have their venison donated to a local area food bank to help feed the hungry in our region.

Leave No Trace:This website explains information about what it stands for and how to spread education, especially to youth.