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Pennsylvania women take to the woods for deer season

Emma Riglin, 16, speaks Spanish and Chinese, performs lead roles in local theater productions, and is an avid hunter. Monday marked the fourth consecutive year she’s gone out with her dad for opening day of rifle deer season.
Emma Riglin, 16, speaks Spanish and Chinese, performs lead roles in local theater productions, and is an avid hunter. Monday marked the fourth consecutive year she’s gone out with her dad for opening day of rifle deer season. psheehan@centredaily.com

Emma Riglin is 16. She speaks Chinese and Spanish. She sings like an angel.

And she hunts.

On Monday, the Philipsburg girl was in the woods with her dad, Jim, just as she has been for the past four years on the Monday after Thanksgiving.

“I started when I was 12. That’s when I took my hunter’s safety course,” she said. “My first year, I got a really big one.”

That one was stuffed and displayed at home. So are the antlers from the spike buck she got last year. Her second year she bagged a doe, and while she didn’t bring home anything Monday, she’s going out to try again Tuesday.

Valerie Stiner is not 16. She’s a retired music teacher from Philipsburg-Osceola. She spent years marching alongside the drum line in summer band in parades and has a daughter, Samantha, who is studying opera.

And Stiner hunts, too.

“I can’t count how many I’ve bagged,” she said.

The number of women who hunt in Pennsylvania is on the rise. According to Pennsylvania Game Commission statistics, licenses for women have increased by 44 percent since the 2009-2010 season. Last year, 96,555 women received hunting licenses, more than 10 percent of the total issued.

Stiner comes from a long line of hunters. Her dad and grandfather, sure. But so did her mom, and her grandmother. And so does her daughter.

“I got my very first buck on the very first day of buck season when I was 12,” she said.

Years later, her daughter got her first buck about 50 feet away in the same area of Olanta, Clearfield County. On Monday, Stiner was back there again with her great-nephews, one of whom took his first shot in the same place.

“He missed it, and it was OK. It was just so exciting that he got to do it in the same place where so many of our family have hunted. It’s a very family-oriented thing,” she said.

Riglin loves the family aspect, too. It’s time she can spend with her dad.

“I’ve learned a lot from him about how he does it, how he hunts, how he manages to find his solitude in it,” she said.

A former vegetarian, she also learned a special kind of respect for the deer. Her family eats what they kill, and she now relishes a good deer steak.

When Stiner was growing up, the venison was a critical part of their survival.

“It was a staple,” she said.

Her mechanic father was self-employed with five people to feed. Deer hunting as a family meant an opportunity to catch, process and stock the pantry for a year.

Both of them also appreciate the surroundings.

“I like the fact that I’m out in the open, being one with nature. I like the fact that we go the same area every year and I can see how things have changed or how much has stayed the same,” Stiner said.

“I think definitely the quiet is one of the best things. It’s just you and nature,” said Riglin. “I saw two does today I couldn’t shoot, but other than that, all I saw was a porcupine climbing a tree. I’ve never seen that before, and I wouldn’t have seen it if I wasn’t out there. It was really cool.”

Not everyone is a fan of hunting, but Stiner is glad that she has the opportunity, and glad it’s something embraced in the state.

“I appreciate how nice it is to hunt in Pennsylvania, and I think the hunters do a great service,” she said. “I hate to see a deer get hit on the side of the road and wasted.”

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce

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