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.

New Fall Gun Bash Details Posted

Use the link to the right or click here for details on the 2010 Fall bull Creek Gun Bash on September 11th!

Here's a short video from our Spring gun bash at Laube Hall in Freeport: