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Bucking a Trend

In Pittsburgh, great deer-hunting is a one-zone bus ride away

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J.D. Salinger's antihero, Holden Caulfield, famously said of the hunting cap he wears, "This is a people hunting hat. I shoot people in this hat." Untold numbers of undergraduate papers have seen this cap as a portent of Caulfield's creeping misanthropy, but maybe Salinger simply meant the hat as a symbol that would set his protagonist apart from his surroundings in cosmopolitan New York City. A hunting hat, after all, is an incongruous thing to see on a bustling urban street.

Unless you're Dennis McLynn, who hunts from a deer blind not far from the 11D-Perrysville bus stop.

Given a budget to make a MasterCard commercial, McLynn's ad might run as follows:

Pennsylvania Resident Adult Archery License: $16. Summit Viper SS Climbing Tree Stand: $239.99. Dalaa Classic Recurve Bow: $799. Under Armor Hunter Adjustable Hat: $24.95. Hunting deer and pheasant on Pittsburgh's North Side: Priceless.

In addition to rehabbing North Side properties, McLynn has worked as a fitness trainer and bartender. About a year ago, he moved from Pittsburgh to New York City to manage Angels & Kings, a bar on East 11th Street. But his real avocation is the outdoors -- and what better hunting ground than his old North Side home?

There are myriad rules and regulations for hunting in Pennsylvania: what can be hunted, when and where, and how to tag and report kills. For instance, crow season runs from Dec. 28 through April 6 -- Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays only. And then there are the regulations pertaining to weaponry. Muzzleloader licenses are separate and distinct from rifle licenses. Not to mention archery licenses.

Of course, you can't fire a gun in close proximity to dwellings (although someone should try telling that to some of the criminals in my neighborhood). Archery hunting, however, is permitted in much of Allegheny County, according to Jerry Feaser of the Pennsylvania Game Commission. With the proper license, archery and crossbow hunting is allowed within 50 yards of occupied housing.

"Most archery shots with a bow and arrow, or with a crossbow, are taken within 40 yards of the target," says Feaser. "Also, most hunters are shooting from up high, in a tree stand, so they are shooting downward, alleviating ricochet issues."

Which is precisely what McLynn has been doing since he walked out the door of his North Side home a few years back and found an ideal hunting spot in an urban woodland just a few blocks away.

When we spoke by telephone shortly before the start of Pennsylvania's two-week deer season -- a high holiday in Western Pennsylvania -- McLynn told me about getting a nine-point buck last year in the wooded area nestled between Federal Street and Henderson Street. This sylvan paradise lies within the shadow of Television Hill, a short walk from West Park and Allegheny General Hospital.

Speaking of incongruities, that nine-point buck now hangs in his NYC apartment.

His work in New York has kept McLynn too busy to return to his old bow-and-arrow hunting grounds as often as he might like. But, he says, "Last time I was there, I saw a six-point and two pheasants."

Not only does his tree-stand remain in place, but he often finds notes upon his return. "People have left all kinds of notes for me up there," McLynn says. "Once I got one asking why it was there. It read, 'Why is this here? Hunting? Spying? Cops?'

"I've seen all kinds of stuff from that spot, you know, because you can just walk in from Federal Street," he adds. He's seen more than his fair share of oddities -- natural and otherwise. Laughing, McLynn talks about startling an unsuspecting interloper one morning from his tree perch. "I was up there and this crackhead came in to light up, I think," McLynn says. "So I just whistled to get his attention. He had no idea what to make of me, up there, with bow and arrow.

"I think I scared the hell out of him."

Too bad McLynn can't set up his blind outside the local nuisance bar. But I'm not sure when loud-mouth drunks are in season.

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