Last updated: February 17. 2013 12:50AM - 215 Views

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Dennis Morgan doesn't know who started the website www.huntingpa.com in 2001.

Ownership has changed hands multiple times, he said, and things got lost in the shuffle.

But it didn't hurt the website's popularity, which features an interactive forum with 71 topics used by nearly 30,000 members.

The free site allows members to discuss and raise questions about virtually every topic pertinent to the outdoors, from deer hunting to waterfowl. Membership has grown by almost 10,000 during the last three years while the only advertising is in the form of bumper stickers that are passed out for free.

Not bad for a site that began as simply a clearinghouse of hunting rules and regulations with less a few hundred members.

The current owner of HuntingPA.com – a company named Huntingpa LLC -- has owned it for the last four years. There's stability now, said Morgan, who is the sales/operations manager for the site, and that has only helped it grow.

"The name has become more household," Morgan said. "Guys find it very easy to just hop online and get the information they need. Instead of driving hundreds of miles to check out a Game Lands, they can go to the forum and talk to other members who live near there."

Members of the site include not only hunters, but Wildlife Conservation Officers who can accurately answer just about any question posted, Morgan said.

The site has also brought hunters together to share favorite spots.

"I've hunted farms and properties of people I met on the site," Morgan said. "We're like a family. When a member incurs a tragedy, we'll send a donation and flowers. We're close."

Ironically, Morgan attributes the spike in popularity to an event that he said caused a lot of hunters to give up the sport – herd reduction.

When deer numbers began to decrease in the state and license sales dropped, Morgan said it left a large contingent of hunters who wanted to save the sport.

"It caused us all to get closer," he said.

And despite being from all ends of the state, HuntingPA.com kept them close.

The site has no employees and is run by unpaid volunteers, such as Morgan, whose full-time job is a network specialist. All revenue from advertising goes back toward operating the site and to purchase prizes for numerous contests.

With nearly 30,000 members, more than 70 forums and message boards that are active 24/7, Morgan admits maintaining and operating the site does come with its challenges.

Space tops the list.

HuntingPA.com has had to increase its bandwidth six times to accommodate rising membership and demand, Morgan said.

Because the site is family-oriented and doesn't tolerate foul language, threats or personal attacks, moderators are needed around the clock.

"We run a tight ship," Morgan said.

Another challenge is simply keeping up with all the requests made by members. Usually, that means adding forum topics that are requested by members.

Morgan said he is working on adding a forum for metal detector enthusiasts, and other forums dealing with antler restrictions and quality deer management have been added as those topics grew in popularity.

"If a couple dozen members want a forum, we'll create it," he said. "The goal is to keep our members happy."

After 11 years, Morgan said it's fairly predictable which forums will become popular throughout the year. Much of it is dictated by the season, he said.

June and July are big months for the Trail Cam Forum, waterfowl and archery take over in September and October, predator forums start to hop in November, which is also the same time when deer hunting forums begin to dominate all the way to January.

"After a Game Commission or Fish and Boat Commission meeting, the Rules and Regulations Forum really hops," Morgan said. "We know every month which forum will explode."

As far as changes to the site, Morgan said there isn't anything significant planned for the future. With a growing membership that is active around the clock, there really isn't a need for change, he said.

"Just keep the lights on and keep helping members," Morgan said. "The only thing that limits us is bandwidth, and we've increased it whenever we needed to."

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