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Hunting buck in back yard about to be bagged

| Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2009

I know I tend to work too much, but when I started hearing voices last week, I was worried.

I walked around the back of my house and the voices grew louder, but then I knew they weren't my imagination. About 50 yards from my back patio stood three men, dressed in camouflage and that Day-Glo orange tone favored by PennDOT barrels and deer hunters.

My noisy visitors were from the latter camp, but why they were standing around, chatting, on my property was the day's big question.

I yelled after the trio as they made the steep climb toward the end of my three acres. I've been so busy after buying the farmhouse in Glen Osborne that I've yet to walk the land, but I could tell these guys were familiar with their surroundings.

When they were out of earshot, I phoned the local borough office for an explanation. I was still slightly confused and rattled by seeing armed strangers on my property.

Turns out, hunting on my property and that of my neighbors is perfectly legal during the firearms deer season that ended statewide Saturday. As long as the hunters observe a 150-yard distance from my home before opening fire, it was game on, I was told.

If I wanted to keep my property — and deer — clear of hunters, I'd have to post No Hunting signs, I was told.

I found this unsettling, to say the least.

I moved here, on the edge of Sewickley, five years ago mainly because I was sick and tired of watching people with guns trudge through my North Side neighborhood. I'd had enough of seeing scrawny teenagers packing semi-automatic pistols that bulged from their baggy jeans the way homemade slingshots did when I was a kid.

And the way the night sky lit up with tracer rounds every New Year's Eve made me feel like I'd invested in a property in beautiful Downtown Baghdad, not Pittsburgh.

Since moving to the 'burbs, I've not heard a single errant gunshot or the police sirens that inevitably followed them. The silence kept me from falling asleep during my first months here, but eventually I cherished the quiet.

And though I've nothing against hunting, philosophically or morally, as someone who feeds the hungry deer in my yard each winter, the liberal hunting laws here are making me reconsider what's gone wrong with the program.

There are plenty of yards the hunters could choose besides mine, after all. But I've spent five years attracting dozens of deer for daily feedings, and lots of locals know about my hobby, so I'm sure the trio of hunters didn't choose my yard by accident.

Who can blame them• "If some goofy city transplant is naive enough to invest hundreds of dollars to help beef up a herd of animals for someone else's dinner table, well, where better to get all Elmer Fudd during deer season?" they probably figured.

Next year, you can bet your last .22 slug there will be signs warning hunters to stay away from my yard. Unless, of course, the deer get to fight back by carrying guns like kids did in my old neighborhood. Now that would be sporting.

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