By Guest Blogger, W. Scott Yoder, HSBC Board of Directors
As a child in Berks County with the last name of Yoder I was introduced to all the “traditions” and “heritage’ items at a very young age: Shoo-fly Pie, Pig Stomach, Schnitz und Knepp, AP Cake, Montgomery Pie, Milk Tarts, Liver Pudding, Hunting, Local Gun Club Memberships, and Pigeon Shoots; the list is endless. Of the before mentioned items the one I’d really like to focus on today is Pigeon Shoots.
I seemed to get dragged along to every Pigeon Shoot that was held in many more venues than today (and in those days, there was public notice given instead of the modern “secret society” notification that must currently exist), by family members and friends’ fathers who, by the way, were all trying very hard to teach me how to become an ethical hunter. My job was to stand out in ”center field” and shoot at “sleepers”, aptly named because these were the poor pigeons that were half-dead, flying low at a slow rate of speed, and easy targets for a kid of 9 or 10 years old.
Before leaving to go home, we would always go closer to the “traps” and watch the men shoot the pigeons from behind. This was where this Pigeon Shooting Tradition started to go south for me in a hurry. I watched the birds for the next round being carried in, packed like sardines, in wooden crates. I watched the young kids or “wringers”, whose job it was to pick up the dead or wounded birds inside the ring and dispatch them by wringing their necks before throwing them into a 55-gallon barrel, before being dumped into a dumpster, while the wounded birds lying outside of the ring were just left there to flop around and die of their own accord.
All of a sudden the mixed message thing started to go off in my very young brain about what my father and grandfather were trying to teach me about becoming an ethical hunter: dispatching of harvested game quickly and then preparing it, before doing anything else, for the table. Dumping these dead birds into a dumpster ran antithetically to what my young mind was trying to learn. The short trip home gave me more time to “process” all this and I spent many sleepless nights mulling this over in my brain. The final straw for me was going for Sunday breakfast at one of these clubs, the day after the shoot, and watching the wounded birds from the day before hopping pathetically around the parking lot, and looking up to the roof of the Gun Club, where many half-dead birds were perched waiting for certain death, or if they were lucky, to get picked off by a passing hawk.
As a hunter, gun owner, and animal advocate, I realize that it’s time for Pennsylvania’s National Embarrassment of protecting and defending these distasteful, depressing, horrific spectacles, to come to an end and come to an end NOW! The NRA, and I’m a member, has even backed off the “Pigeon Shoot Question” because they don’t want to be associated, in my opinion, with a certain loser and I believe even they’re beginning to realize that banning pigeon shoots has nothing to do with 2nd amendment rights. As a Sportsman and gun owner the least of my fears is the banning of pigeon shoots, but that’s another topic for another day.
I’m going to continue eating Schnitz und Knepp and Shoo-Fly Pies, as long as my doctor allows it, but the one tradition that needs to get thrown into the dumpster is the protection of pigeon shoots by our law-makers in Harrisburg. I’d encourage everyone who feels as I do to contact their representatives and encourage them to support and bring this Pigeon Shoot and Tethered Turkey Shoot Ban Bill up for a vote as soon as possible so we can all sleep a little better at night and carry on with traditions that still work in the 21st Century.