Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Register Now for Bull Creek's March 2011 Hunter Safety Course

The dates and registration link are now live.  Click on the supplied link which will take you straight to the class registration form on the Game Commission's website. Click here for more information. Only 40 seats are available so don't wait!

Youth Hunter Nabs Early Christmas Gift

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sometimes, if you peek in the right closet or other hiding place, you can see what you are getting for Christmas before the holiday actually arrives.

Hanna Harris of Northumberland County experienced that this year, sort of

The 16-year-old lives and hunts on her family's farm, near Danville. She was in a treestand on opening day of the firearms deer season this year, armed with a .280 rifle. She'd killed two bucks in previous years, but this was her first time hunting alone.

A buck wandered by and she shot it -- and has been getting all kinds of attention since, given the deer's tremendous size. The 15-point, with one of its beams seemingly split, figures to rank high in the history of deer taken in the state.

To qualify for an official Boone & Crockett Club score, a deer's rack must go through a 60-day drying period, starting at the time the skull plate was removed from the deer. It's already been green-scored, however. According to Hanna's father, Joe Harris, the deer came at 210 3/8 nontypical and 181 typical.

"We do try to only harvest mature bucks, but this was over the top," he said.

Bob D'Angelo, associate editor of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's "Game News" magazine and an official scorer, told Hanna's father in an e-mail that the buck is the best he's seen taken this year.

"As far as I can tell (from a photo,) typical would be the way to go with the measurement, but I'd have to see the rack in person," De'Angelo wrote. "Either category, this buck should end up in the top seven in the state."

The day Hanna shot the deer was not the first that she ever saw it. Her father said that family had photos of the deer on trail cameras. It seems everyone is using cameras these days, which is why it's not surprising there's even a book out now on them.

Published by the Quality Deer Management Association, the 12-chapter book ($24.95 at www.QDMA.com or 800-209-3337) promises to teach hunters not only how to capture pictures of deer, but to use the information to predict their seasonal movements, identify home ranges and increase hunting success.

"Trail-camera surveys are simply the most powerful deer management tool you can use that doesn't require professional assistance," said QDMA's Lindsay Thomas Jr. "Surveys can reveal deer density, sex ratios, age structure of bucks, and even the impact of predators on fawn recruitment."

The book even includes information on how to keep your cameras safe from thieves who would steal them.

The book won't guarantee you a buck, but, as Hanna Harris showed, cameras can tell you what you might have to look forward to.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

86-Year-Old Pa. Man Hunts From Recliner, Bags Buck

by MICHAEL RUBINKAM Associated Press

ALLENTOWN, Pa. December 7, 2010 (AP)

Lester Warner left the hospital in a weakened state last
month, his frail body wracked by late-stage cancer. At 86 years old, he and his family had decided to stop teatment. But that didn't mean he planned to stop hunting.

Pennsylvania's highly anticipated two-week rifle deer season was fast approaching, and the lifelong hunter from Dover Township, about 30 miles south of Harrisburg, wanted to take to the woods one last time.

"He just assumed he would be going. We decided we were going to play along with it: 'Yeah, we can't wait for hunting season, Dad,'" recalled Warner's son, Brian.

Brian and his brother Scott were skeptical. But when their father started to rally — gaining strength with the help of a physical therapist — they decided they had better accommodate him, said Brian, 51.

So Brian lugged an old recliner up the side of Broadtop Mountain, near his Huntingdon County dairy farm, to the small hut the family had built for Les Warner years ago. His father would hunt in comfort.

It was 19 degrees as the sun rose on opening day last week, the valley floor white with frost. Warner eased his old man's frame into the recliner, sipped his coffee, and waited, armed with the .243 Winchester that Brian had selected for its mild recoil.

It wasn't long before a huge 8-point buck emerged from the woods, the biggest that Warner or his son had ever had the opportunity to take. They marveled at their good fortune. A hunter can go days without seeing a buck.

"Well, shoot it," Warner told Brian.

"No, you're gonna shoot it," his son replied.

Warner stood up from the recliner and took aim. The buck bolted. He followed it for 80 or 90 yards. Then, as it slowed down, he pulled the trigger.

A perfect shot.

Lowering the gun, Warner turned to his son and said: "Never give up."

"That's right, Dad."

Brian called his mother. Shirley Warner could scarcely believe it.

"Knowing what he's been through in the last six months, in and out of the hospital, radiation and chemo and physical therapy and really sick at times, I was shocked. In my wildest dreams I didn't think he would get a buck this year," said Shirley, who's been married to Les for 53 years. "My son and I cried because it was a miracle ... there's no other explanation."

A week later, the retired pretzel baker remains thankful.

"I know I've had many blessings through this situation," said Les Warner, whose story was first reported by the York Daily Record. "Everything seems to be turning out well for me, and I know the Lord's been with us."

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Good Article On Hunting Ethics

If you have hunted whitetail deer in Pennsylvania for very long chances are you have encountered one of the following situations or know somebody who has. Please feel free to leave your comments below (they can be anonymous)

The is from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette written by John Hayes:

Conflicted Hunting

On busy hunting grounds safety, courtesy and common sense resolve disputes
Sunday, December 05, 2010

A busy day in the field. Conflict resolution among hunters is easiest when they avoid awkward situations in the first place.I was in a good spot on a weedy cut dipping into a saddle where I expected deer to cross about 100 yards from my position. After about an hour, another hunter stopped at the crest of the facing hill, facing me. I signaled my presence with my hat, but he didn't reply. I thought he'd move on when he saw me but he stayed, watching for deer in the same shallow valley that I was hunting.

I put a range finder on the guy -- he was 265 yards from my spot. Each of us was using a shotgun firing heavy rifled slugs likely to drop within that distance. But taking a shot would have meant intentionally firing in the direction of another hunter. I had signaled, he didn't signal back. I got there first, but neither of us owned the property.

Who was right?

It can get crowded in parts of Penn's Woods, where more than 750,000 license holders share a shrinking space that's open to hunting, With that kind of traffic conflicts are inevitable. But there's no rule book, no Ten Commandments of Hunting Etiquette, dictating ways to prevent and resolve conflicts in the field.

"You can't do it with 'Thou shall' and 'Thou shalt not,' " said Jim Posewitz of Orion: The Hunter's Institute, a hunting ethics leadership group. "There's got to be a courtesy that goes both ways."

Jerry Feaser, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said it's "rare, very rare," for hunting disputes to escalate to violence, and when they do it's a police matter. Most conflicts, he said, can be preempted by putting an emphasis on safety, courtesy and common sense.

"It's about situational awareness, knowing what lies between you and your intended target and beyond," said Feaser. "The Game Commission doesn't have stipulations on how far hunters are to be apart, things like that. There's nothing in the regulations or laws."

Some common conflicts:

• You shoot once and the buck goes down, but you discover it has taken two shots. Another hunter approaches saying he hit it first and has been tracking. Whose gets the deer?

This one is clearly defined in the state Game Code: "The carcass of game or wildlife lawfully killed or taken shall be the property of the person who inflicts a mortal wound which enables that person to take possession of the carcass." Paragraph B seems particularly wise: "No [Game Commission officer] shall be called upon to arbitrate any dispute concerning the ownership of game or wildlife or to testify concerning any such dispute."

• You're part of an organized drive, standing on post as members of your party push deer your way. A stranger posts himself in position to intercept those deer. What do you do?

"I'd have no problem going up to someone and telling him there's a drive going on in this area," said Buddy Savage, long-time owner of Braverman Arms in Wilkinsburg. "It's for his safety also, because the guys driving don't know he's there."

If the interloper won't budge, Savage said the smart thing to do is back down.

"You don't know who you're dealing with, and a deer is simply not worth getting aggressive about," he said. "You meet someone like that, just walk away."

• You legally shoot a deer that runs onto private property and dies. The landowner denies you access to the property. Do you have a right to retrieve that deer?

No. Private property is, well, private and criminal trespass is a civil violation. The landowner, however, doesn't have a right to claim that deer.

"Our officers have authority to take possession of game in situations where the animal died on someone's property," said Feaser. "But they're not obligated to do it, either. It's up to the officer's discretion."

• You arrive at your tree stand and find someone hunting at the base of the tree. Who gets that spot?

Hanging a tree stand does not entitle a hunter the exclusive right to hunt that spot. That said, it's considered a courtesy to move along when the stand owner arrives. In all cases, property owners have the final say.

• In my hunting-zone quandary, with another hunter hunting the same spot from a relatively safe distance, who's right?

"With some of the new slugs on the market you can shoot proficiently at 100 yards," said Savage. "That slug may travel 200 to 300 yards total without much velocity at distance, but it's a weighty slug -- enough to injure a person even that far out. Rule of thumb: If anybody is in view, don't shoot. No shot is acceptable that's even the slightest bit risky -- hunting just isn't that important."

Posewitz, whose 2001 book "Beyond Fair Chase" (Falcon) dealt with ethical hunting, said it all goes back to the hunter's mantra.

"Be sure of your background," he said. "I handle everything the same way, that is to appreciate the privilege of hunting in a democracy and the North American model of wildlife conservation, which holds that wildlife belongs to the people and conflicts can be resolved in a democratic fashion.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

2011 Winter Trap League Schedule Posted

The Winter Trap League is every Sunday for 12 weeks beginning January 2nd. This is a more informal league and a great way to learn the sport as well as fight cabin fever! See the schedule and more details here.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Good Luck Hunters!

With tomorrow's opening of rifle deer season we wish you luck.  Remember, regulations have changed in certain WMU's and only buck (no doe) can be taken until Saturday.  These areas are WMUs 2C, 2D, 2E 2G, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bear's Demise Leaves A Trail Of Questions

Thursday, November 25, 2010
By John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Bozo the bear is gone, but that's not half the story.

The man who illegally fed pastries to the bruin for 17 years is in mourning. The hunter who legally shot him is grousing about the questions that have been raised over his potential record kill. And across the country people are debating Bozo's death, the line separating humans and wildlife and the consequences when that line is crossed.

On Nov. 15, crossbow archer David Price of Barrett Township, Monroe County, and five companions shot a massive black bear at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in northeastern Pennsylvania. Estimated to weigh 879 pounds it was confirmed the heaviest black bear on record in the state -- 15 pounds heavier than the previous record set in 2003 with another Pike County bear. Word from the Pennsylvania Game Commission weighing station was it could be the heaviest black bear anywhere.

News soon spread through the nearby Fernwood Resort, a 440-acre Pocono Mountain retreat, that the dead bear was Bozo, a neighborhood attraction who had been fed and raised like a pet by former resort groundskeeper Leroy Lewis.

"I'm just devastated," Mr. Lewis, 71, told the Stroudsburg Pocono Record. "I feel like I lost a friend. I fed him for 17 years and I raised him from a cub. He loved doughnuts and anything sweet."

Intentionally feeding bears and elk is illegal in Pennsylvania. Working on a tip from a concerned citizen, the Game Commission issued an official warning to Mr. Lewis to stop feeding the bear on Sept. 23. He complied, but Bozo continued hanging around, knocking on Mr. Lewis' door when he wanted a snack.

On the opening of Pennsylvania's five-day archery bear season, Mr. Price got a tip that the huge bear was seen at Delaware Water Gap, and within hours Bozo was history.

But not the kind of history the hunter expected -- the bear's incredible weight is not a viable criterion for determining the record.

"Record status is determined by skull size," said Game Commission spokesman Jerry Feaser. "Weight can vary according to food availability, but the size of the skull doesn't change. [The skull] will be cleaned, and after a 60-day drying time it will be measured for the record."

The largest black bear skull on record is 23 inches. Bozo was unnaturally rotund, to be sure, but his skull size may not come close to cracking the record.

Mr. Lewis had stopped feeding the bear in September, so there's no accusation that Mr. Price's trophy had been baited, which is illegal in Pennsylvania. But because Bozo had been trained to approach people for food, some hunters on Internet chat sites are cracking wise about Mr. Price's "trophy pet."

"This may be the peak of my hunting career, and it's tainted, it really is," he told the Pocono Record.

Having endured a week of reporters, neither Mr. Price nor Mr. Lewis was taking phone calls as news of the kill spread across the country, and the Web buzz morphed into a larger debate about what biologists call the "habituation" of wild animals.

"We have a saying in wildlife management -- a fed bear is a dead bear," said Mr. Feaser. "When people feed wildlife and treat them like pets, they become habituated to humans. They're less wary and may even approach people, expecting to be fed. That will often put the animal at higher risk of vehicle collision, of becoming a nuisance by getting into people's garbage and bird feeders, or even approaching other humans, assuming they'll find food."

There's little harm in feeding songbirds and squirrels, so long as the feeding never stops and becomes a permanent part of the local ecosystem. But larger animals capable of harming people are different. If they don't get food as expected, habituated animals can become confused and aggressive, frightening or even harming people.

"It's not only bears," said Mr. Feaser. "In 2006 in Clinton County, two older people were gored nearly to death by a white-tailed buck that had been hand-fed as a fawn. It had become habituated to humans. In the rut when it didn't get fed, it reacted."

Mo Brown, an animal keeper and bear expert at Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, said Bozo's habituation contributed to its death.

"Whenever you start feeding wild animals, it's always the animals that pay," he said. "The people get a slap on the wrist." Mr. Brown said Bozo's situation was bad in more ways than one.

"First, the bear ends up dead. That is not uncommon in habituation situations," he said. "Second, look at what that bear was eating. It wasn't record size because it was naturally large -- this bear got fat and probably lazy. Instead of foraging as it should, he was eating doughnuts all his life. Because it was habituated and trained to expect food from people, this poor bear probably walked right up to the guy who killed it."

No necropsy is planned -- Bozo will probably become a big rug or a giant mount -- but Mr. Brown said the bear's corpulence likely caused health problems and discomfort.

"I didn't see the bear, but it was probably in pretty bad shape," said Brown, who has worked at the zoo in various jobs for 40 years. "Clogged arteries, circulation problems. Being so heavy puts pressure on circulation, puts pressure on joints. Almost 900 pounds? Here's how heavy that bear was: At the zoo we have two black bears, one is a 26-year-old male that's considered pretty big. He's 577 pounds, and I'm bringing him down slowly. He could stand to lose 60 or 70 pounds."

Mr. Brown said Bozo's tragic saga illustrates why wild animals shouldn't be treated like pets.
"The point I'm making is: The guy shouldn't have been feeding him to begin with," he said. "He's been doing something wrong for 17 years, and the animal is dead because of him. People have to understand that."

John Hayes: 412-263-1991, jhayes@post-gazette.com.
First published on November 25, 2010 at 12:00 am
Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10329/1106073-455.stm

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sighting In Your New Deer Rifle

Sighting in your expensive new deer rifle
1. Shiny new, high-powered deer rifle............$1,200.00
2. Quality, high-powered scope.........................$550.00
3. Bore sighting device..........................$140.00
4. Forgetting to remove the bore sighting device prior to actually shooting the thing?


5. Hospital Visit............$14,893.00

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"How Dare David Price Legally Hunt Record Bear"

There has been a ground swell of opinions and accusations over the new state record black bear and how it was taken (see comments from post below).  We've followed the forums and watched intently as the facts finally unfolded.

We are relieved that the findings of the PA Game Commission have found nothing wrong was done and all regulations were followed. Mike Kuhns, Sports Editor of the Pocono Record, has published the following:

How dare David Price legally hunt record bear

November 20, 2010 12:00 AM
Let's all point the finger at David Price, the hunter from Cresco who killed a so-called tame bear, and call him the bad guy.

He's the guy who's wrong for killing Bozo, the record 875-pound black bear near Fernwood Resort on Monday afternoon.

He's the guy who fired the fatal shot from his crossbow.

He's the guy who knew there was an innocent, overweight bear walking the woods of Pike County.

He's the guy who "» did absolutely nothing wrong.

That's right, Price did nothing wrong when he, three brothers, a cousin and friend eventually tracked and killed what the Pennsylvania Game Commission is calling the largest weighing bear on record.

Many on Internet forums are calling out Price for killing the bear — an animal that was fed for years by Leroy Lewis, 71, who lives near Fernwood Resort. It was Lewis who fed the bear to the point where the bear would come to Lewis' doorstep looking for food. It was Lewis who fed the bear cakes and sweets to keep him around.

"He didn't do the bear any favors getting him acclimated (to people)," said game commission Northeast Regional Director Steve Schweitzer. "We have lots of bears that will take as much free food as they can get."

And Bozo ate. And Lewis fed him — obviously a bunch.

"I knew there were some large bears in the area," said Bill Marks, a member of Indian Mountain Gun Club. "I used to work in the park. I've seen my share of them."

Each year, the park is swarmed by hunters like Price, hoping to bring home a bear. And yet it's the opinion of many in the community — hunters and non-hunters — that it was Price who was in the wrong.

Really? Let's assume that Price knew the bear was in the area. That's no crime.

In fact, the game commission says Price didn't break any laws, but in fact it was Lewis who was cited in October for illegally feeding the bears.

And now the bear is dead, shot by a hunter who was following every rule in the book. Let's all point the finger at him and say what a bad guy he is.

The record bear should be remembered as the trophy it was. As for Price, the negative publicity has caught him off guard.

Maybe some day Price can enjoy the moment of harvesting a record bear. He deserves that much.

Related Articles:
'Tainted' trophy: Poconos hunter's record-setting bear kill spoiled
Bushkill man 'devastated' by death of bear he'd fed for years 

For those who think this was just a tame "pet" bear doing no harm, please read the following:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

New Pennsylvania State Record Bear Taken With Crossbow

This bear was shot November 15th 2010 with a crossbow in northeastern Pennsylvania (Pike County) by David Price of Barrett Township, Monroe County. 875 pounds live weight and 744 dressed, #2 in the WORLD and a new PA State Record. He missed the world record by 4 pounds......

From the hunter's nephew:
"This bear has some really cool history, It was right in the area we shot him for the last 17 years or so. Also, It has been caught in NJ numerous times which means he isn't afraid to swim the Delaware River.

He was trying to mate with a female bear who was in a snare in NJ. The female was caught by the NJDEP for testing and the big boy was trying to get his groove on with her. They had to tranquilize him so he didn't injure the female. As you can see in the pics, he has a tattoo on his lip. He was 711 pounds last year when he was caught by the Game Commission...so he put on some weight since then. He has an AWESOME blaze on his chest.  

I have never seen a bear with a "U-shaped" blaze...seen lots with diamond shaped ones though. The bear had 6" of fat on him.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bear Climbs Tree Stand

OK, imagine you're out in the deep woods by yourself high up in a tree stand. But you're not hunting with a gun. Just a video camera. Suddenly a large black bear comes along and starts climbing up the ladder beneath you...well...what would YOU do?


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Flock Mentality

Sunday, November 07, 2010
By Ben Moyer
Pittsburgh Post Gazette 

For wild turkeys in the fall, it's all about the flock. As far back as spring when the chicks pecked out of their eggs, the hen's clucks bonded the brood as a unit. They left the nest together, fed and roosted together and regrouped to her calls after every encounter with coyote or hawk.

By mid-summer, broods of different hens combined as larger flocks, which will remain together into the winter sharing the best habitats and food sources they can find. Flocks in Pennsylvania this fall are abundant and large, said Game Commission wild turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena.

"The state's wild turkey population is above the five-year-average thanks to good reproduction the past three springs and generally conservative fall season lengths, which minimizes the overharvest of hens," she said. The most experienced and successful fall turkey hunters understand the wild turkey's compulsion to flock, and use that edge to their advantage.

Pete Clare spends a lot of time hunting wild turkeys in southern New York, where the fall season is seven weeks long. There, he runs Turkey Trot Acres (www.turkeytrotacres.com), guiding visiting turkey hunters into southern tier hardwood hills on every day of the New York fall hunt.

Clare is a big advocate of the "scatter and call" style of fall hunting, especially since he uses Appalachian turkey dogs to find and break flocks (using dogs to hunt turkeys became legal in Pennsylvania in 2008). He notes, though, that flock dynamics change as the fall progresses and that hunters in Pennsylvania's late seasons may need to make adjustments.

"It's amazing how we can observe the flock maturing during our longer season," Clare said. "Getting toward mid-November, when your season [in Pennsylvania] will just be starting, younger birds do not seem so frantic to get back together when scattered. Also, the young gobblers get bigger than their mothers and they try and take over the flock."

Maturing gobblers can be a huge factor.

"If hunters break birds and call to them only with hen yelps, it won't work if young gobblers are running the reassembly," he said. "Calling back a broken flock this late may take a lot of patience and experimentation."

Clare said he's learned that no matter when the season is scheduled, woodsmanship and knowledge of the landscape are valuable assets to the fall turkey hunter. "The best approach is to follow the sign," he said. "Find what birds are feeding on and then look there for fresh scratching. Go easy and slow and you will walk up on them, then scatter them for the call-back."

Especially for hunters without turkey dogs, Clare said that following fresh sign through open hardwoods such as oak or cherry stands is a good way to hunt. "The most effective break [of the flock] is in open hardwoods by total surprise," he said. "You come over a hill and they're out there feeding and you rush into them for a 360-degree scatter. A woods break is a golden thing -- way better than a field break where the birds will see you and fan way in the same direction."

Success at calling the birds back, though, can take more than just a thorough scatter.

"When birds flush, pay close attention. Try and pick up visual clues to the makeup of the flock," Clare said. "Try to see if it is a flock of old gobblers, hens and young of the year, or a flock of jakes. The flock makeup will determine how you call. You don't want to send out 'kee-kee' whistles for a flock of longbeard toms. It won't work." Clare said a common mistake made by fall hunters is to scatter turkeys from their roost site high on a ridge at early morning.

"If you flush them out of the trees high on a ridge they will most times sail all the way to the valley and it will be tough to call them back," he said. "Let them get away from the roost site and then scatter them. Your success will be much better."

Clare's experiences tell him that the ideal time to scatter turkeys is about 1 1/2 hours before dusk. A break then allows enough time for the woods to settle down before calling, yet the turkeys are eager to regroup before dark. If a turkey isn't bagged that evening, said Clare, don't expect the flock to remain broken at dawn.

"I've seen it so many times. They have some way of getting back together at night," he said. "I don't know if they hop from branch to branch or what, but it rarely works that you can go back in there the next morning and call one in." Clare's most reliable turkey tip? "Do not ignore the break site," he said. "Those turkeys will come back there some time during the day. Don't be tempted to follow two or three from the group. Stay at the break site and call and you will have a good hunt."

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/10311/1101069-140.stm

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Turkey Population Above 5-year Average As Season Arrives

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pennsylvania's new-look fall turkey season is set to begin.

In years past, the fall season was a one- to three-week affair, depending on what part of the state you were hunting in. Everywhere, though, the days of the season ran consecutively.

No more.

This year, in an effort to attract more hunters, Pennsylvania Game Commissioners changed the dates of bear season. It will open on a Saturday, Nov. 20, take Sunday off, then resume Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 22 and 23.

That resulted in the fall turkey season getting split. It opens as early as this Saturday in some units, as late as Nov. 13 and 16 in others. In all cases, it closes no later than Nov. 19 and stays closed until Nov. 25, after the bear hunters have left the woods. What hasn't changed is that there will be plenty of birds out there.

Mary Jo Casalena, the commission's wild turkey biologist, rated populations as "excellent," at an estimated 360,000-plus birds. "The state's wild turkey population is above the five-year-average thanks to good reproduction the past three springs and generally conservative fall season lengths, which minimizes the overharvest of hens," she said. All of those birds are scattered, though, with flocks excellent in some places and just fair in others.

Doug Dunkerly, land management group supervisor for the commission in Allegheny, Beaver, Greene and Washington counties, said those latter two counties in particular have flocks containing as many as 200 birds.

"This area continues to produce lots of turkeys," he said. In Butler County, some of the birds hunters encounter this fall might be smaller than usual — a byproduct of late besting resulting from a later winter — but birds remain numerous and widespread, said wildlife conservation officer Randy Pilarcik. "They are being seen in all types of habitats from the big woods of Moraine State Park to the farms and even in the residential areas of the district," he said.

In the more mountainous areas of Somerset and Cambria counties, though — where deep snows lingered all winter — turkey numbers may be down a bit, according to field reports.
Roger Brown rates the fall turkey hunting in Somerset to be only fair, for example. "The birds I have seen have been with one or two other birds, rather than the larger flocks I usually see them in," Brown said. The real trick for hunters, no matter where they go, may be finding the turkeys.

Casalena said this year's widespread abundance of acorns "will keep turkeys and flocks dispersed throughout the woods, making them harder to locate and hunt." "Acorn production seems good locally and the key to locating birds will be finding roosting and feeding areas," agreed Stephen Leiendecker, a wildlife conservation officer in southern Westmoreland County.

Fall turkey hunter success peaked in 2001, when 21 percent of hunters bagged a bird. That dropped to 16 percent in 2007 and 2008 and fell to 13 percent last year, when hunters killed 20,934 birds. That was 20 percent less than the five-year average of 26,082.

Casalena said she's expecting something similar this year. The key, as always, will be to just get out there and give it a try. "While turkey sightings in the county are down from last year, the area still supports a large number of birds," said Beaver County conservation officer Matthew Kramer.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Pennsylvania Elk Stampede on Winslow Hill 10/16/10

From PaElk.com, submitted by member Jim Martin.  Amazing footage of an elk herd taken, appropriately, near the Elk View Restaurant on Winslow Hill in Benezette, Elk County, PA.
Post comments below!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pheasant Hunters Should Seek Stocked Lands

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

At first glance, Pennsylvania's pheasant hunting season doesn't seem like much to get excited about.

Wild birds are scarce to nonexistent in most places. The Pennsylvania Game Commission is, because of budget cuts, stocking 108,000 birds, half as many as a decade ago. The number of pheasant hunters is down dramatically, with most of those remaining crowded onto public lands.

But plenty of diehard bird hunters remain, and they are surely looking forward to Saturday's opening day.

"Though wild pheasants have vanished across most of Pennsylvania's landscape, thousands of pheasant hunters and the state haven't lost interest in the bird," says a season forecast for Pennsylvania put out by Pheasants Forever, the nation's largest pheasant-conservation organization. "Hunters and their dogs get their field time in through the state's put-and-take hunting."

That will definitely be the case again this season.

Wildlife conservation officers across the region say that pheasant hunting will be fair to good, but only on those lands that get stocked with birds. The commission and Pheasants Forever are working to re-establish wild pheasant populations in a couple of places, but if and until that works, stocked birds remain the only option.

Typical is the assessment of the upcoming season offered by Daniel Sitler, the commission's officer in northern Washington County.

"Most hunting should be focused on lands stocked with pheasants," he said. "Game lands and a few public-access properties offer the best bang for the buck. Wild populations remain low in the northern part of Washington County, and therefore the hunting will remain poor. The stocked areas will be good."

The season starts Saturday and runs through Nov. 27. The daily limit is two birds. Only male pheasants are legal game in wildlife management units 2A, 2B, 2C, 4C, 4E, 5A and 5B. Male and female pheasants are legal game in all other units.

The commission will stock birds Wednesday, then again Oct. 28 or 29 and Nov. 4 or 5. A third in-season stocking will be conducted Nov. 10 in areas surrounding the Somerset, Central Susquehanna and Hegins-Gratz Valley wild pheasant recovery areas.

Of the 108,000 birds to be stocked, 16,800 were already released for the junior season. Several thousand more are being held for the late season that opens in mid-December.

The result is only a little more than 80,000 birds will be put out for the bulk of the season. That's prompted a change in how much information is shared about those stockings.

"As financial considerations have forced us to reduce the number of pheasants we are stocking, it was decided that we should provide hunters with additional information to assist them in deciding when and where to hunt those pheasants stocked," said commission executive director Carl Roe.

Pheasant hunting will again be, as Lawrence County conservation officer Jeffery Kendell said, "strictly put and take."


Sunday, October 10, 2010

2010 Bull Creek Youth Pheasant Hunt

27 kids age 12 to 16 took part in the youth pheasant hunt at Bull Creek's club grounds on October 9th.  60 pheasants, donated by the Pennsylvania Game commission as part of the state youth hunting program, were stocked, 30 early morning and 30 prior to the second group going out.  A hunting safety course was presented prior to the hunt with live pheasants used to help the kids identify their targets and distinguish between a male and female.  4 hunting dogs belonging to members were used throughout the day giving most of the kids their first experience upland hunting over a dog.  18 pheasants were taken by the first two groups. Many members came out to help and make the event a tremendous success for all 27 kids, even if they went home empty handed.  This was a day memories are made from!

Elk County Visitor Center Has Something For Everyone

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Benezette will never be confused with Pittsburgh. The city has three professional sports venues, skyscrapers, bridges, traffic and hundreds of thousands of people.

The tiny Elk County community, by comparison, has a post office, a handful of businesses scattered along miles of two-lane road, less than two dozen houses, lots of trees — and elk.

That last feature allowed Benezette to enjoy a Pittsburgh-like celebration for a day.

On Wednesday, in a ceremony mimicking the excitement of Consol Energy Center's debut, Benezette celebrated the grand opening of the Elk Country Visitor Center. The 8,420-square-foot, lodge-like center is full not just of stuffed heads - though it's got a beautiful elk display in its main room - but interactive exhibits for adults and children, making it sort of nature center on high-tech, Disney World steroids. The 245 acres on which it sits feature hiking trails, viewing blinds and frequent visits by the area's elk, too.

The Center exists because of those animals, and - at the deepest level - because of hunters and the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Together, they brought the state's elk back from zero a century ago to a herd of maybe 750 today.

Without hunters, there are no elk, and without elk, there is no center. But it wasn't built for hunters, and that might prove its legacy.

Take the center's "4-D" theater, for example. It features a three-sided screen, vibrating floor, campfire, falling snow, scented rain, starry sky and other effects, all of them are very cool. But equally interesting is the narration. Through the voice of a grandfather and a biologist talking to a teenage boy more interested in computers than the outdoors, the movie gives hunters and the Game Commission their due as conservationists.

But it's clearly speaking to the non-hunting, non-rural tourists — such as Gov. Ed Rendell, who grew up in the city — who will visit by the thousands. The center is designed to explain the ins and outs of conservation and get them involved in it, said Rawley Cogan, executive director of the Keystone Elk Country Alliance, which will run the facility.

"That's not aimed at (hunters)," Cogan said. "They know the history of hunting and conservation. This is for everyone else. We want them become a part of conservation."

That's not to say the center takes hunters for granted or that they won't enjoy visiting. But they already know the history of conservation. The center is trying to reach everyone else.

"For you, it's routine," Rendell said. "For us, who grew up walking on cement, it's amazing."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Turkey hunting popular, but may not be for long

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Turkey hunting is growing in popularity at a time when participation in most other hunting pursuits is in decline. That's the good news. The bad news is the trend may not be sustainable.

Every five years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service compiles a report called the National Survey of Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife Associated Recreation. The last was done in 2006.

This year, it took some of the information within that document and used it to create the first-ever "Wild Turkey Hunting Addendum." It's a look at turkey hunting across the nation between 1996 and 2006.

One thing the addendum showed is that turkey hunting grew by 15 percent during that decade.

Pennsylvania shared in that. The report says the state has 369,000 turkey hunters — though that counts both spring and fall turkey hunters as separate entities, when in fact there is assuredly some overlap.

But at a time when the number of rabbit, pheasant, grouse and squirrel hunters has fallen precipitously, spring turkey hunter numbers are higher now here than they were in 1990.

"After talking to turkey hunters, I really attribute that increase in participation to increases in the number of birds," said Anna Harris, an economist with the Fish and Wildlife Service who authored the report. That's spawned an economic boom. The report says turkey hunters spent $1.6 billion, generated $4.1 billion in economic impact and supported 37,000 jobs in 2006.

Look deeper into the report, though, and you find some disturbing numbers, too. It shows the greatest percentage of new turkey hunters are coming from the ranks of sportsmen ages 55 to 64. The second-highest rate of growth is among hunters ages 67 and older.

Participation nationwide among hunters ages 16 to 17, 25 to 34 and 35 to 44 actually decreased. Could that mean the boom in turkey hunting is going to disappear as quickly as it began? Sure seems like it.

Statistics show that most hunters start to drop out of the game when they hit 65. If that's true, we're going to lose a lot of turkey hunters within the next 10 years. Will we have enough young guns behind them to keep numbers up? Maybe, Harris said. The report showed a 25 percent increase in turkey hunting among those ages 18 to 24, and participation rose 27 percent among women.

"I think that's mainly because a lot of organizations have targeted women and targeted youths and sort of become mentors to them," said Harris, who hunted turkeys for the first time this year.

Let's hope they continue, or the good turkey times may be short-lived.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pheasant plan pairs stocking, planting

Sunday, September 19, 2010
By John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Pheasant management is a delicate issue at the Pennsylvania Game Commission. They know hunters love the way the birds hunt, the excitement of the flush, the drumsticks on the table.

They also know continuing habitat losses have severely curtailed natural reproduction of the introduced species, and put-and-take stocking is expensive -- the cost-conscious agency cut its pheasant-stocking program by 50 percent in 2004-05, saving a vital $1 million-plus annually.

Since then, PGC has reinvested in the bird with a two-pronged approach to pheasant propagation. At four Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas biologists plant breeding populations with hopes they'll take hold and prosper, and the agency continues to raise and stock about 100,000 pheasants per year.

This year, said agency executive Carl Roe, in a written statement, PGC will stock 108,000 pheasants on public lands across the state, including more than 15,000 for the junior season, Oct. 9-16. The general pheasant season runs Oct. 23-Nov. 27, with late seasons Dec. 13-Feb. 5 in some WMUs.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Another Successful Gun Bash At Bull Creek!

On Saturday, September 11th over 500 people attended the Fall gun bash making it one of the most successful Fall events ever. We had a terrific amount of help from Bull Creek members and great food!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Bear Attacks Whitetail Deer!

I received an email from a friend in Clarion who received a group of pictures from another friend in Warren County, PA.  See the complete picture set by clicking here or click on the page link at the top of this Website.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Pennsylvania Hamlet Benezette About To Draw Attention For Elk

From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

Benezette will never be the center of the universe.


But try telling yourself that if you happen to be driving through the Elk County community on a Saturday night next month. The town is home to fewer than 300 full-time residents, according to U.S. Census data. But traffic will be heavy for the next two months, especially on weekends, as wildlife watchers from all over show up to get a look at Pennsylvania's elk.

The herd totals about 700 animals. In the no-hunt zone surrounding the town, habituated if not tame elk wander the streets, as likely to be grazing the post office lawn as one of the many reclaimed strip mines-turned-food-plots built for them.

September and, to a lesser extent October, when the "rut" or mating season is in swing, is prime time to see elk. Bulls weighing close to 1,000 pounds and sporting antlers big enough to rank among the largest in the world will be at their most visible, shepherding harems of cows around or trying to steal them from others. All the while, they'll be bugling, sending high-pitched, wavering calls into the air.

Dave Morris, executive director of the Northwest Pa. Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau, did not return either of two phone calls seeking information on how many people travel to see the elk.

But there's no doubt it's a large number and has been growing, especially in the last decade, said Dan Surra, a lifelong Elk County resident and director of the Pennsylvania Wilds, a tourism initiative. "You can go up there any night in the fall and see license plates from eight or 10 states," Surra said. "The elk are just a phenomenal animal and you can see them pretty up close and personal. It's like when you go into Yellowstone and see bison for the first time. It's a great experience."

Elk are native to the state, but had disappeared by the mid-1800s due to human settlement and unregulated hunting. In an effort to bring them back, the Pennsylvania Game Commission imported elk from outside the state in 1913. Some took root, but for of the next 80 or so years, the herd never topped 100 animals, as the pace at which farmers shot elk for crop damage matched reproduction.

Ultimately, though, thanks to efforts to fence elk out of agricultural fields, create habitat on public land and move elk into new areas, the herd grew to range over six counties: Elk, Clearfield, Cameron, Clinton, Potter and Centre.

There's still room for the herd to grow, too, said Jon DeBerti, elk biologist for the Game Commission. Whether it will be allowed to remains uncertain. "We don't have a numbers goal. Because when you look at this, a lot of it is driven by sociological issues. It's not a biological issue. It's like with bears, it's what society will tolerate," he said.

Right now, the elk are a draw, and new infrastructure reflects that. Twenty years ago, elk seekers traveled over narrow dirt roads and found nowhere to pull off their cars, no signs and no restrooms, Surra said.

Today, there are parking areas and official elk viewing sites and, as of this fall, a new Elk Country Visitor Center. Being built through a partnership between the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Elk Country Alliance, the 8,420-square-foot visitor center promises to be the "largest elk watching and conservation education facility in the eastern United States," said DCNR Secretary John Quigley. No opening date has been announced and Rawley Cogan, director of the Alliance, could not be reached for comment. But the center figures to be another piece of the puzzle that has seen the state's elk herd go from novelty to attraction.

"It's been a little bit of a slow transformation, but the elk are so popular that our goal next is to disperse people because we get so many," Surra said.

Guide to elk watching

If you're thinking of visiting Pennsylvania's elk range, be sure to first download a copy of the state's official elk viewing guide. It provides directions and a map to the best elk viewing sites, gives tips on when you might most likely see them - typically early and late in the day - offers advice on elk-viewing etiquette and gives a lot of information on places to stay and eat and other things to do while in the area.

The guide can be downloaded here or is available by calling 814-849-5197.

And don't be surprised if you see elk sporting collars. Those are animals the Game Commission is following. The goal, said commission biologist Jon DeBerti, is to see where the animals — and yearling elk in particular — are spending their time throughout the year.