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, 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."