Taunting protesters fail to stop Pennsylvania park hunt

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BUCKS COUNTY.

Taunts fail to stop Tyler deer hunt

Under state supervision, 121 hunters who won a lottery were allowed into the park to thin the deer herd inside. At day's end, 80 of the animals had been slain.

By DUANE A. BOURNE, Bucks County Courier Times
 


Protestors gather outside the park's entrance in the early morning hours.
(Photos: Jay Crawford/Courier Times)
 
Under the steady glow of the moon and the twinkle of fading stars, the first batch of hunters whizzed by a picket line where a dozen protesters yelled "garbage" and "hoodlum" at them as they headed through the main entrance into Tyler State Park yesterday.

The hunters, clad in day-glow orange hats and vests and boots with rifles over their shoulders, ignored the fracas and did what they came to do - hunt.

On this day, talk of the woulda-shoulda-couldas of hunting- that prized buck someone bagged, the prime hunting territory near the New York border, one's choke on a shotgun - is muffled by the No. 1 priority of the day's hunt.

"Safety," demanded state park manager Stan Peterson during one of the many orientation sessions with hunters that he and Wildlife Conservation officer William Dingman conducted near the main entrance to the park in Newtown Township.

Inside its sprawling 1,711 acres, park rangers fanned out to keep a steady eye on 121 hunters yesterday as they crossed fields and stalked the woods and trails to make sure they obeyed the rules.

Peterson estimated that between 150 and 200 deer inhabit the park, spanning parts of Newtown and Northampton along the Neshaminy Creek. He said half that number is all the park can sustain.

"The deer will be moving today, I guarantee," Peterson said before the hunters, many veterans of the hunt, jumped into their vehicles and sped off to claim their turf.

One of them, Karl Dollman of Philadelphia, nodded in approval.

"There are too many deer," he said.

He has hunted at Tyler twice before and is simply in love with the sport. "They say we're terrorists on the news, but that's more volatile than what we're doing," he said.

And yes, "harvesting game" as it is called by some IS a sport, he added.

Robert Heilig, a senior citizen from Bensalem, was just happy to have the opportunity to hunt this year in the unfamiliar terrain of Tyler Park.

"I enjoy hunting. I've been hunting since I was 16," he said.

This year marks the first time since 1906 that buck and doe season - where hunters could bag both male and female deer - coincided in Pennsylvania. Instead of getting two weeks to hunt bucks followed by three more days to hunt does, hunters have about two weeks to hunt both.

On the trail in the early morning light, a "pop" was heard and three bucks were spotted hobbling in a pasture just before the Schofield Ford Covered Bridge on the Northampton side of the park.

"I hate to see that. That's a shame," said Jerry Foglia, a Department of Conservation and Natural Resources officer who was patrolling the park.

A deer, perhaps a buck, was heard snorting- a loud wheeze deer make when they sense trouble. Temperatures weren't cold enough for the "real" hunters. Frost blanketed the grass and foliage throughout the park.

"Hunters prefer snow," Foglia said. "I like snow. I'm a skier."

Enrico Veneziale, of Philadelphia, did not have to wait long for his prey. He "bagged a big one" as the apt hunter calls it, shortly after 7 a.m.

"He's a nine-pointer," his son, Ernie, said excitedly, referring to the size of antlers on his father's catch. "It's a big one."

He pointed with bloodstained hands to the large buck with frozen turquoise eyes still dripping blood in the back of their Ford truck.

It was the Veneziales third time at Tyler, but the first time they would not go home empty-handed.

"That's a big one. We're going to cook it up," the elder Veneziale repeated in a thick Italian accent.

Outside the park as the hunt began, Northampton resident Sydell Gross rustled together a few supporters and did what she has done for years - protested the deer hunt at the park entrance.

 


(Photos: Jay Crawford/Courier Times)
 
She got enough people together before dawn to make their voices heard.

Gross, chairwoman of the Tyler Committee Against Deer Hunts, and her supporters left just before 8 a.m. after all the hunters had entered the park for the scheduled eight-hour hunt.

"This is wrong," she said in the early morning light. "I'd stand alone if I had to."

She peered from behind a placard, which read, "Peace in the Park" and "No Game in Tyler."

"I've never been as vulgar as I am today," she said, noting that a ranger would not allow her to stand on the side of the road as hunters entered.

The numbers of demonstrators has steadily diminished over the past few years. But Gross, a former civil rights activist in the 1960s, is determined.

"To overcome, you just keep on walking and talking," she said.

Except for the two years that the hunt was not held, Gross has been there protesting the hunts since they began in 1986 and has become a local institution.

She organized a candlelight vigil at the park on Monday as a tribute to victims of the Pentagon and World Trade Center disasters. The vigil drew about 20 supporters.

"They don't care anymore," said Helen Steele, one of them. The resident of the Trevose section of Lower Southampton said she grew up in a hunting family, but deplored the savage maiming of defenseless animals.

"I believe a park like this shouldn't have hunting," she said.

"This is hunting at its very worst," added Linda Michael of Northampton, chastising the state Game Commission for allowing the "horrible" hunting of the deer.

"Hunting is really an abomination- it's sick. It's the Game Commission's breeding farm. They are really the Taliban of the wildlife."

Gross lit a candle.

"I'm fighting what I consider injustice," she said.

The protesters - with their incessant jeering - could not deter the hunters.

They were chosen from a pool of 500 applicants who won a lottery to attend the one-day event in the state park.

The hunt proved to be a success by state standards: Eighty deer - 21 bucks and 59 does - were slain. But that was less by six than last year's total, said Peterson.

For Gross, the news of fewer deer slain made her day. "Oh, thank you," she said. "I don't believe there's a problem [in the number of deer]."




(Photos: Jay Crawford/Courier Times)

Wednesday, December 5, 2001
 
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