At the start of my career, I was uninterested in the idea of hunting. It wasn’t until I learned how well conservation and hunting complemented each other. White tailed deer are extremely over populated in Pennsylvania, which lead to road collisions, close contact with disease, and overgrazing of natural habitat. In order to combat this at our refuge, John Heinz NWR, we offer a mentored deer hunt program. First time and beginner hunters are selected through a lottery system, paired with an experienced hunter, and taught how to ethically hunt a deer with a crossbow.
I was surprised to see how successful the first hunt went. We had harvested around 6 deer in 3 days! I was even fortunate enough to field dress one of the deer! The second hunt harvested only one deer, but it was a proud moment to hear that one of our youths in the program was the one to do so.
Hunting for deer is a good way to keep the population down, give families substantial food to eat, and keep hunters connected with nature. I think this specific hunt program is so special because it’s not often that someone who lives in the city of Philadelphia can go out and hunt a deer in the woods. The benefit of being so close to the city is that we have such a diverse group of hunters! I feel like the hunting demographic typically weighs heavy on the spectrum of white males. It was great to see people of all backgrounds, ages, and genders join in on this special program. In a way, I feel like this program is reformative, breaking barriers and stereotypes of what a hunter should be or look like. It’s incredibly inspiring to be able to witness this first hand, and I'm proud to be a part of it!