Some might call it extraordinary luck that thousands of hunters will take to Penn's Woods today, the opening of deer season, armed with high-powered rifles, expending thousands of rounds of ammunition, and virtually no one gets hurt.
We would maintain, however, that it is the direct result of a comprehensive hunter safety program run by the Pennsylvania Game Commission that starts when hunters are still youngsters.
Pennsylvania's white-tail deer hunt is the largest big game hunting season in the United States - possibly the world - in terms in sheer numbers of hunters. It is a tradition so ingrained in the culture of the state that to cancel it would likely lead to insurrection.
Even though the state does what it can to keep the hunt as safe as possible, it never hurts to remind hunters that it only takes a split second of poor judgement to end one life and ruin another.
More than 100 years ago, a hunter wanted to impart this message to his son, who was about to take the field for the first time. He ended a verse he had written this way:
If twixt you and neighbouring gun
Bird shall fly or beast may run
Let this maxim ere be thine
"Follow not across the line."
Stops and beaters oft unseen
Lurk behind some leafy screen.
Calm and steady always be
"Never shoot where you can't see."
You may kill or you may miss
But at all times think this:
"All the pheasants ever bred
Won't repay for one man dead."
- Mark Beaufoy - 1902