Deer Season Opens With A Bang
For some sportsmen, the thrill of hunting is in the harvest. For others, the traditions of swapping stories of days gone by with the old gang or sharing a cup of steaming hot chocolate with a grandchild while waiting on the herd to pass through far outweigh the need to harvest a deer.
Matt Chipego, 31, of Wyoming County, is a combination of both types of hunters. He readily admits he loves to hunt and have it end in a successful harvest. On the flip side, what Chipego says he enjoys even more is the quality time spent in the field with his wife, Nicole, and extended family surrounded by nature.
Unlike the other estimated 750,000 sportsmen who headed out into the woods on Monday, Chipego didn’t don his usual camouflage pants and jacket topped off with fluorescent orange for the statewide deer season opener. For the first time since he began hunting at the age of 13, Chipego was clad in the green uniform of a Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife conservation officer.
With brothers Jon and Jim already involved in law enforcement, Chipego shared with the “News” that he has always wanted to work in that particular field or line or work. It was his love of the great outdoors and wildlife, however, that tipped the scale in the direction of the Game Commission.
“It seemed like a better fit for me,” noted Chipego.
Still in training and now on the opposite side of the commission’s “thin green line,” Chipego spent opening day here in Fulton County checking harvested whitetailed deer, chatting with young hunters about their first-ever hunt and making sure baited areas were hunter-free.
“It was different on Monday doing the checking instead of the one being checked. Being a hunter myself, you kind of know what the other guy is thinking. It makes it much easier to talk to them,” said Chipego, who added even though he will be missing out on the 2010 rifle season, he will find a way to squeeze some hunting into his schedule down the road.
Some of what local officers encountered on Monday reminded Chipego of traditions his own family established over the years, especially cramming into the cab of his father’s truck armed with 0 coffee and pastries as they headed out to their favorite hunting location.
Opening day wasn’t without its rough patches for Chipego and fellow officers, who encountered a variety of hunting infractions. According to Fulton County WCO Kevin Mountz, violations ran the gamut from illegal tree stands in the state forest and spotlighting during season to loaded firearms in vehicles and attempting to harvest over the limit.
On the upside, Mountz and Chipego reported seeing some antlered deer during their excursions, including a “dandy” buck following a doe and another “nice” buck they kicked out of the laurels. Mountz added they encountered an eight-point buck that was harvested in Buchanan State Forest in Brush Creek Township as well as several memorable bucks already dropped off at Strait’s Butcher Shop for processing.
Strait’s is again participating in the popular Hunters Sharing the Harvest (HSH) program, a charitable venison donation program. HSH participating butchers receive payment for their services through monetary donations, coordinate the meat deliveries and work with local food banks.
The Game Commission will be taking a portion of the restitution received from mistake kills and donating it to HSH this year, Mountz said.
The food banks redistribute the venison to more than 4,000 local food assistance provider organizations such as food pantries, missions, homeless shelters, Salvation Army facilities and churches, as well as needy families. There are 1.4 million families in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania in need of assistance, according to the Game Commission.