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Pa. men belong to international hunt club

March 11, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

McCONNELLSBURG, Pa. - Safari International conjures up visions of men like Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway hunting big game on Africa's Serengeti Plain.

In truth, most of the 115 members of the Mason-Dixon chapter of the international hunter's organization hunt deer in their backyards.

Men like Joey Lane, 32, a McConnellsburg, Pa., optometrist, and Fred Waite, 59, a Fulton County, Pa., builder, fit that mold. Both belong to the local chapter. Lane is president.

Ray Koontz fits the Roosevelt-Hemingway mold better. Koontz, 83, a Fulton County businessman, has traveled the world after his favorite prey - wild sheep. Koontz, who owns Penn Village Shopping Center in McConnellsburg, said he has killed every species of wild sheep in the world.

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Koontz, who has been hunting since he was 11, said he has shot more than 100 whitetail deer, his share of bears - black and grizzly, including a 600-pound bruin in British Columbia - plus the big game of much of the world including Africa, Asia, Canada, the Far East and the American West. His office and a home trophy room are crowded with mounts of animals and birds he has shot over the years.

Koontz said since he's been getting on in years he mostly hunts whitetail deer these days.

While his safari days are behind him, he's still an ardent member of Safari International and was a leader in getting the local chapter started more than 20 years ago. Before that he belonged to a chapter in Washington.

"I believe everything Safari International stands for," Koontz said. "They do a lot of good. It's one of the few organizations that is looking after hunters' rights.

"It's the anti-hunters who want to do away with them," he said. "It's the best way to manage wildlife."

Waite said the local chapter started with 25 members. Today its members come from Fulton, Franklin, Bedford and Huntingdon counties in Pennsylvania, Washington and Frederick counties in Maryland and from West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle. The group meets four times a year. Dues are $110.

Safari magazine, the organization's Bible, calls a safari any hunting adventure whether the prey is a squirrel or an African rhinoceros.

Guys like Lane, Waite and Koontz see their organization as much more than the promotion of hunting as sport. Nonhunters also belong, they said.

Lane said the organization promotes the education of wildlife conservation through hunting. It supports the need for a well-balanced ecosystem along with proper wildlife management, he said.

The local chapter has its own projects. In the last three years it has donated $12,000 to the Tuscarora Wildlife Education Project headquarted at James Buchanan High School in Mercersburg, Pa.

It also sends three Tri-State Area teachers to a 10-day wildlife conservation seminar in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and two area students to a week-long conservation course at Penn State University.

The members buy about 50 tons of corn for the group's wildlife feeding program, mostly for wild turkeys to get the game birds through the winter, Koontz said.

He's worried that hunting is losing its appeal.

"I hate to own up to it, but there are fewer young people taking up hunting," Koontz said. "When I first started it was a family activity. Everybody hunted. Now there are so many other things to do.

"Young people today are so lazy they don't want to climb a mountain to find game."

The loss of habitat and places to hunt to developers has had a major effect on hunting. The result is a flourishing of game and hunting preserves where game animals and birds, domestic and foreign, are raised just for hunting on preserves. Larger ones range for tens of thousands of acres, according to advertisements in Safari magazines.

Hunters pay as much as $7,000 to $10,000 and more for trophy specimens, Lane said.

"There's nothing the matter with shooting preserves," Koontz said. "There are five right now within a 50-mile radius of here."

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