You know, I’d never heard the term until a couple years back when I was reading a Field and Stream article about an Ohio Steelhead guide who routinely was in my neck of the woods in Northwest Pennsylvania. A ‘mupere, mupear, or other such spelling is Pennsylvania slang for “Come Up Here” or “I’m up here” and in the context of the outdoors it’s generally folks that “come up here” on weekends. This phrase is generally meant to mean city slickers going into the northern camp counties of PA for hunting and fishing. I’ve been a mupere all my life, coming most every weekend in my childhood to our place in Warren county, growing up in the woods. Some people look upon the term and the people with disdain, but let’s take a look at this for a second.
I’m proud to pack up my truck every year and move into my hunting cabin for something like a month. We’ve got a heating oil furnace at our little cabin that after many long hours on the road I turn on the power from the breakers and scurry in the cabin to fire it up in order to warm up camp while I walk the dogs. After lugging boxes upon boxes into the cabin, it’s time to hop in the truck and buy groceries. A couple hundred bucks later I’m back to the toasty cabin, and can relax and prepare for my hunts. What just happened here? The fuel oil, groceries, bacon, and gas on the way all had taxes that went to local businesses during my day long road trip to make it to the cabin from outside the DC beltway. In fact, according to Hunting Works for America the 1 million hunters in the state of Pennsylvania will contribute $986 million to the economy each year. The average hunter spends $1260 per year on their trips and expenses. I guess that means I’m an above average hunter if that counts for licenses, gear, food and gas, and other items for my trips each year. Licenses, firearms, and ammo contribute to conservation at the state and federal level as part of the Pittman-Robertson Act with license sales going directly to state wildlife conservation funds.
I do a fair amount of my prep online for my trips, ordering some Clif and Epic bars, MREs etc, adding to the ire of my UPS guy. However in recent years I’ve cut back in order to make a point to stop at local businesses along my route. I have a farm market I stop for a bushel of apples and other healthy snacks, I stop at the outfitter in town for ammunition for my rifle, and I always make sure to stop at the local grocery store — independently owned because our small cabin town can’t afford to support a chain but needs to feed the people. This money goes directly back into the community, it doesn’t go overseas, and it doesn’t go to a giant conglomerate of fat cats. These are the people in your town you’d pass every day if you lived there.
With all those positives also come negatives. The opening day of deer season and trout season are the two chief holidays of the mupere crowd. They flow into the northern camp counties of Pennsylvania from parts elsewhere and fill the bars, buy all the bacon from the grocery stores, attempt to walk into the drive thru beer distributors, and generally cause a ruckus. What’s worse, some of the mupere crowd are the once-a-year hunters and fishermen. They buy their license just before opening day and swamp the stores as if a hurricane were about to strike small town America. Even though you run your small business year round wishing there were more customers, you never pine for the surge that occurs twice a year the day before the deer and trout openers. People who have procrastinated all year long, and some people who just plain forgot a camp item pile into your store and wreck havoc. This faceless rabble, the unwashed masses flow through the doors demanding things that you can’t possibly stock in a small town store, wondering why there aren’t paleo options on the combined gas station, grocery store, and restaurant menu.
My wife grew up hating a different kind of mupere, hunters from Buffalo that would get shitfaced drunk and shoot anything that moved and trespassed on her family’s farm when she was just a little girl. I can understand that hatred now as an adult who wants to bring his city slicker friends into the woods.
How do we fix this perception and still bring new people into the hunting tradition? How can we introduce new adults to the hunting tradition? Statistically they are the most growing new market for hunters outside of women in general entering the market. It’s simple. Have some decorum and respect. Police your friends, educate them about the town, and don’t be afraid to decline the invitation for the following year if there’s an incident. Take a hard line. Make sure that they understand everything from hunter and firearm safety to knowing that it’s just not OK to leave your litter around the deer stand, ever, and it’s a mortal sin to do so on public land. Hunters represent less than five percent of the population these days in most locales, but in the Northern Camp Counties of PA often provide the lion’s share of the fall income next to logging and oil. The towns need us, but they don’t need disrespectful dolts that turn the public perception against hunting and fishing in a place most likely to accept it.