This past week a woman walking her dog along the Lehigh River in Palmer Township heard gunshots and saw a man in camouflage in a boat on the river. She promptly called 911, but by time the police responded the man and his boat had moved on. The man was most likely hunting waterfowl on the river which is legal if in season which it was, along with having the proper hunting license, a duck stamp, the appropriate firearm and ammunition.
People must understand that hunting along some rivers (especially the Lehigh River in Northampton County), in certain designated lakes and ponds and at some county parks and state parks is allowed. Many people are oblivious to this fact. Many are also oblivious to stay out of most woods, whether hiking or bike riding during the rifle deer season. Of course hunting is still not allowed in Pennsylvania on Sundays despite the attempt by some to change that rule.
In Northampton County, you can legally hunt anywhere in the Lehigh River from Freeman Island (also called Laubach Island) near the Freemansburg/Bethlehem Township line to the Chain Dam in Palmer Township (a distance of about 5.5 miles). There is no hunting west or east of this area on the river. Also, hunting is not permitted anywhere from land on the north side of the river. (Hunting is not allowed from the river shore in the city of Bethlehem, Freemansburg, Bethlehem Township, Palmer Township or the city of Easton.)
There are no fluorescent orange requirements for waterfowl hunters or dove hunters. So both hunters and their boats in the river may be welled camouflaged and not visible to the common passer-by.
Hunting is permitted on Freeman Island and from the shore in Steel City which is on the south side of the river. All hunters must use extreme caution though. Houses on the Steel City side occasionally get hit with pellets. Steel shot only is allowed here. Hunters must remember they cannot hunt within 150 yards of an occupied structure. And as always to not trespass on any posted private property.
Hunting is also allowed on Turkey Island which is directly across from the PFBC Route 33 boat launch.
The large island just south of the PFBC Route 33 boat launch is called Island Park. There is a shallow pond inside the island. Some say you can’t hunt on the island, others say you can and they do hunt. Nothing is posted, but the island is part of Hugh Moore Park, City of Easton. Even the Game Commission is uncertain about hunting here. Past this island on the river is the Chain Dam, which all boaters should stay a good distance clear of; the Dam is a killing machine. There are buoys close to the top of the dam alerting boaters to stay back.
Hunters need to be extremely careful when shooting, especially towards the north side of river; where the towpath (D&L Trail) is heavily used by joggers, walkers and bikers. Also kayakers, canoeists and other motor boats frequently use this section of the river. REMEMBER ALWAYS: SAFETY FIRST!
People even non-hunters should be aware of hunting season dates (go on the PA Game Commission website) for their own safety and to always be leery of hunters because some do not follow the rules. Note: there are 2 gun clubs with shooting ranges on the south side of the river through this stretch. Shooting can be heard year round and it can be very loud down by the Lehigh.
Calling 911 in an actual emergency is only common sense but being aware of what’s going on around your environment may stop an unnecessary panic when someone is just legally hunting.