Hunters take to field and forest
BY JAMES HAGGERTY
Zach Traver knew the Blue Bird II Diner in Factoryville would do a brisk breakfast business among hunters when he arrived at work Monday morning.
“We had trucks lined up outside before we opened the doors,” said Traver, a waiter at the restaurant, which moved its opening time an hour earlier to 5 a.m. to accommodate sportsmen. About 100 hunters filled up at the diner before heading out to the woods, Traver said.
“We were kind of surprised. We weren’t expecting it,” he said. “The last two years were slow.”
Antlered-deer rifle season started in Pennsylvania on Monday, and early estimates indicated a good turnout for hunters. Sportsmen headed out to seasonably mild weather, with clear conditions after an overnight low of 34 degrees in the Scranton area, according to the National Weather Service.
“We have estimated that more than three-quarters of a million hunters are out there now,” Mark Rutkowski, law enforcement supervisor for the state Game Commission’s regional office in Dallas, said Monday morning. “That’s the fifth-largest army in the world.”
Harvest numbers won’t be tabulated until after the season, but Game Commission information and education supervisor Bill Williams said the number of hunters and the weather conditions would have a positive impact.
“Overall, the hunter participation seemed to be pretty good,” he said, adding that officers saw plenty of hunters out in the mild weather. “It’s safe to assume that hunters stayed in the woods longer. That helps the harvest.”
Deer season is a major business generator in Pennsylvania. Last year, Southwick Associates, a Florida company that researches wildlife economics, estimated that deer hunting generates $1.7 billion in annual economic activity in the state. Expenses range from fuel, food and lodging to weapons, ammunition and other gear, guide fees, licenses and property purchases or rentals.
John Sibio saw an uptick in business by noontime on opening day at his Dunmore deer-processing operation.
“Compared to prior seasons, I would say at this point in the day we are a little bit ahead of the last two years,” said Sibio, who butchers deer into venison steaks, roasts and other cuts of meat. “At this time, I think we have six (deer) already. Normally, they don’t come in until later in the day.”
But the effects of Superstorm Sandy took a toll on some business in the region.
The storm devastated parts of coastal New Jersey and New York City and cut down on visitors who hunt in the region annually, said Michael Jones, owner of Northeast Firearms, a Honesdale gun shop.
“I’ve lost a couple weeks of those customers,” Jones said of the out-of-state hunters who did not travel because they were tied up in storm-recovery efforts.
Northeast Firearms typically does about $5,000 in ammunition sales on the day before deer season opens, Jones said. On Sunday, he said, he did about $2,000 in sales.
“I’m kind of disheartened,” Jones said. “I’m not as busy as I was hoping to be.”