by Christopher J. Dean

Last week I discovered my neighbor tracking the blood of a “big buck” he shot with his crossbow earlier in the day. He described, with some enthusiasm, how the deer ran “covered in blood” onto Bishop McDevitt’s athletic fields in Glenside. He pointed to the blood soaked blanket of leaves, in my yard, where the deer lay injured – the same blanket of leaves where I observed this beautiful animal and a small herd bed down all season.

Surely, this could not be legal, I thought. What of the safety concerns, animal cruelty issues. This same deer, I was told, was pierced and wounded a year ago by the same neighbor.

I learned, in short order, that killing deer is completely legal in every town, suburban community and municipality in Pennsylvania. No local law can supersede this state mandated law, permitting everyone with a bow and arrow or firearm license to fire away on their property as long as they meet a safety zone requirement of 50 and 150 yards respectively from the nearest occupied building. The maiming and killing can only be done during hunting season, which we are now entering.

Where is the outrage, the concern? How do we make people care? My personal visits and calls to my state representative, Steve McCarter, have gone unanswered. My neighbor’s property backs up to Bishop McDevitt High School and fronts the Cheltenham Township playground which is filled with children every day. The township library sits next to our properties.

State game officials tell me that I would be shocked by the number of residential hunting licenses that are issued. Every community from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh should be challenging this arcane, backwoods law. How many states permit similar neighborhood hunts? After all, Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation to legalize pigeon shoots. State legislators are paid off by NRA-backed gun lobbyists to keep the “Pennsyltucky” in Pennsylvania. Henry David Thoreau said, “Any fool can make a law and any fool can keep it.”

This prehistoric law permitting crossbow and firearm hunting in the congested suburbs of Philadelphia is a grotesque, dark-ages ignorant act that violates all that we should expect from a civilized society and suburban setting. As long as legislators are paid off, arrows and bullets will fly in our suburbs. Every state and local official should be on record on this one.

For citizens, ignorance of the law is no excuse. For legislators, ignorance, and some amount of corruption seem to be the prerequisite and only way to conduct the affairs of Pennsylvania. Call your legislators and see where they stand.

Christopher J. Dean is a resident of Glenside.