Sportsmen’s lawsuit to allow hunting on Sundays in Pennsylvania puts bull’s eye on backs of farmers

In a classic black and white western movie, Gary Cooper plays the part of a town marshal. The movie is “High Noon” and noon is when the scoundrels are coming to town, to have it out with the marshal.

The marshal’s problems begin with the righteous people in town, who would sooner stay in the safety of the church’s Sunday morning service. Then there are the sinners in town, who demand the saloon be opened up Sunday morning to celebrate the scoundrel’s coming home party.

Some people tell the marshal to turn tail and run, getting out of town while he can.

The marshal is loved by two women; the one woman has a questionable reputation and leaves town rather than see him killed. The second woman, played by Grace Kelly, is the Marshal’s new bride and she doesn’t believe in violence. I think the most unusual character in the movie is the clock. The camera is constantly putting events in chronological order, by showing a clock, during what could be the marshal’s final hours.

The movie ends with the marshal throwing his badge in the dirt, disgusted with the town’s citizens. Then, the marshal and his new bride ride out of town, having no regrets about leaving.

My own version of “High Noon” happened a number of years ago when we were having problems with a group of rogue dove hunters. They were shooting at just about anything that moved as they crossed our land. BB’s from their shotgun blasts were hitting buildings and people. You would think this problem had risen to a level where the Game Commission would help me. I called the regional office at Antes Forte three times during the morning telling them about my hunter problems and would they please send me some help. I wanted an officer to be here with me, when this group of hunters arrived, on our property by four o’clock.

During the one phone conversation, the dispatcher told me, as the landowner it was also my responsibility to take care of this situation. I was now supposed to confront these armed individuals, get all their personal information, list all the game law violations that occurred and gather any evidence.

It would be up to the Game Commission whether or not they would or could prosecute the case.

At that point, I told him I would take care of the problem my own way, if I didn’t get any help from the Game Commission, by four o’clock. I kept checking my watch during the afternoon, hoping to get a call, that an officer would be coming. At quarter till four, a Game Commission officer finally called me and said no one from their agency would be coming to help me.

I asked my wife to go to town and get some “no trespassing” signs right away and I drove to the area I knew the hunters would be coming to. When the hunters pulled off the road to park their vehicles, I told them to move on and find somewhere else to hunt.

About a year later, the Game Commission sent us new contracts to sign as part of their Farmer Cooperator Program. Our farmland had been in the program for decades and these were the updated contracts. I threw them all away, knowing I would probably need future flexibility to deal with hunter problems. In the event of another showdown that might come, the signs would be put back up again.

Now it’s a group of hunters who want to change the law which prohibits Sunday hunting through the courts.

These disenfranchised sportsmen feel their civil rights are currently being violated by what they claim is an antiquated law.

Once again this civil action puts a bull’s eye on the backs of farmers because we provide a lot of the land that is used for hunting.

How many of you have ever been shot at, whether it’s intentional or by accident? The bullet makes a distinctive sound as it pierces the air space around you, getting your attention real fast.

In a bizarre way, my Uncle Nate was proud of a bullet hole in the door frame to his shop. He always had a few choice words to say about the guy who shot at him and missed. Nate, then showed me a loaded rifle he kept, ready to shoot back, when shot at again.

I would suggest that the Game Commission designate State Game lands for Sunday hunting and keep the rest of us out of the equation.

Unfortunately, that could put any nature lover out for a Sunday morning stroll in the woods, in harm’s way.

Those nature lovers willing to brave a Sunday stroll, should get one of those bright orange jump suits from the county prison, preferably by not getting arrested.

Then they need to get a decommissioned helmet from a military surplus store and duct tape a battery operated strobe light on top. It also wouldn’t hurt to pray without ceasing, for forgiveness, for skipping out on Sunday morning church services.

When Sunday hunting comes, which it probably will, and you are faced with a shoot ’em up crowd of hunters and the Game Commission can’t help. Remember this, stay calm, stay focused, and take aim before you act.

You must zero in on all the evidence, be sure and get it all exact or you will be the one responsible for having the case thrown out of court on a technicality. Better yet, when no other help comes from the Game Commission, just send your wife to town and then put up the signs.

Ralph Dotterer Jr. is a lifelong farmer in the Nittany Valley.