7. One bullet went between Mr. Mich and his father-in-law, embedding itself in the corn crib.
8. We would like to be able to work and walk on the land on which we pay our taxes.
C. A. Damm, Joseph Mich
Damm had the game protectors in. There was quite a hassle for a while, and farmer-sportsman relations sank to a new low. But during the last few years Damm's house has remained intact. He says the fact that a local gun club has posted the private land around him has helped to keep off irresponsible hunters. Now he uses the sign as the cover of an old well out behind his house.
Not all accidents are caused by firearms. One deer season a hunter in his 60s fell in the frozen swamp back of my place and broke his leg near the hip. His companions fiddled around for some time trying to make a stretcher out of a small piece of rope and a couple of cedar poles. This didn't work, and they finally called an ambulance. When it came we took the stretcher down into the woods and carried him out. He had been lying on the frozen ground for two hours and, despite the sedative given him by the nurse, he kept up a running comment in a loud voice as we toted him along. "My old woman is going to give me hell for this," he kept shouting. Apparently there are terrors greater than hunting accidents.
If killing a deer is the sole object, the automobile is almost as effective as the rifle. In thickly settled areas such as ours, where numerous blacktop roads thread the fields and woodland, collisions between cars and deer occur at a high rate. Last year here in Bucks County 697 deer were killed by hunters, and in the same year 318 deer were killed accidentally and illegally, most of them by cars.
A single month's figures for the state indicate that deer are far from safe outside of hunting season. In October of last year 2,399 deer were known to have been killed in Pennsylvania. Of these 1,833 were killed by cars, 293 killed for crop damage, 66 killed by dogs and in falls or other natural accidents and 207 killed illegally.
Our local game protectors say that poaching is becoming a terrific problem. Most of the poachers can well afford to pay a fine, but apparently shooting deer illegally adds spice to the game. The worst of all are those who shoot them and leave the carcasses where they fall. These cases could be handled better by a psychiatrist than a game warden.
Poachers are still a minority in No. 56, and most hunters try to stick to the rules, their infractions resulting from overeagerness in a highly competitive sport. As deer season nears, their anticipation becomes evident, like that of children as Christmas approaches. They go out and practice with their guns, and they scout the woods for likely spots. Strangers stop by my place to ask about No. 56 in hopes of picking up valuable hints.
When the great day comes they drop everything to go hunting, or "gunning," as most of them call it. They play hooky from their jobs, and it is hard to find anybody to do repairs. One day I phoned the plumber to cope with a bathroom emergency. He rebelled, plaintively explaining that he had promised to take his wife gunning. I said he could bring her along and they could hunt in No. 56. To my surprise they showed up, he did the job with rare speed and they set off into the woods with their guns. Usually during deer season you are lucky if they answer the phone.