Sunday, March 27, 2011

Turkey Hunters Need to Start Mapping Out Their Strategies

March 27, 2011 - By Shirley Grenoble, For the Altoona Mirror

Gobblers are kicking it into high gear these days, despite last week's tornado, hail and snow.

When it's time, it's time and now is the time for gobblers to be shrieking, strutting and sparring with one another for breeding rights. And it's time for savvy spring gobbler hunters to be out participating in the activity most vital to their season's success: preseason scouting.
Starting the season knowing the hangouts of several good gobblers gives one the edge over the casual hunters who will spend half their hunting time looking for birds to hunt.

But first, here's how most experienced gobbler hunters - including me - tell us NOT to scout. Do not bother or harrass the birds before season. Some hunters spend their preseason scouting time calling birds in, which only teaches them that the enemy is afoot, has learned their language and that chasing after hens calling from distant brush is futile. These foolish scouters have taught gobblers not to go to any hen they cannot see. These are the birds that, in season, will answer your calls, but will not come to you.

Hunters need to check out their favorite turkey haunts before season to find out if there are gobblers there this spring. Ideally, one simply finds a good listening post- high on a mountain, a point overlooking a wide valley - and waits there at dawn to listen for amorous toms gobbling their location to listening hens.

The smart scouter notes - in his mind or even in a notebook - where he heard birds, how many etc. He looks for tracks, droppings, feathers and roosting trees in the area that indicate birds are using this ridge or field for their daily activities.

This scouter takes pains to not reveal his presence to the turkeys. He wants them undisturbed. If the birds he has located are not hassled by other hunters before season, he'll be able to hunt birds less suspicious of and more responsive to his calls when season begins.

A hunter who has a number of gobblers located before season can quickly change locations if needed. Perhaps he drives to a certain spot to hunt but finds another vehicle parked there. No matter; he knows with assurance several other spots he can try.

Perhaps he hears no gobbling some morning. Rather than staying with a location where there may or may not be a gobbler that day, he can confidently move to another location where he has previously noted gobbler activity.

Still other hunters, perhaps not able to be so mobile, can stay with confidence in an area where he knows there are gobblers. Often, these toms can be started up later in the morning.

In fact, several of my regular hunting buddies have noticed in just the past couple years that gobblers have changed their morning habits in just this way: they gobble sparingly at dawn, fly down and then approach a hunter's position without uttering a sound. It sometimes takes an hour or more for a gobbler to suspiciously approach a hunter's position, and the hunter is unaware that there is a gobbler within a mile.

I learned that very lesson the hard way, starting a few years ago when I noticed this definite shift in the birds' responses to the hunter's calling. They have learned to look for the distant hen quietly, not revealing their presence and not making themselves known until they actually see the hen. It's been a nerve-wracking experience, but I've learned it.

When a gobbler answers your calls from the roost but flies down and shuts up, just anchor yourself to a tree and wait and watch. Give it an hour, and you'll catch sight of him ghosting through the woods.

He's spooked, probably because he's been hassled the last few weeks with phony calls and nonexistent hens. He's simply been conditioned to not reveal himself until he knows for sure that the hen is real. This scouter is smart to recheck his areas just before season starts. Places you heard gobbling in March may not produce in late April.

One last tip: locate at least a couple birds that cannot be heard from a road. Hike back in a mile or two if you can and pinpoint a few birds that few others will have heard.

Here's the bottom line: calling birds in before season simply wises them up. Getting spooked a couple times by hidden hunters teaches them that it is risky to parade into a place from which they heard hen calls. If their hormones drive them to investigate such calls from afar, they will do it quietly.

If they are lured to your preseason calls but find no hen there, they learn that these chases are usually futile. So when they have even one hen around them, they are not going to leave her to run after one in the bushes they can't see.

They will answer your calls, but if they don't come to you, it's because they have learned that any hen that doesn't show up looking for them is bogus. We sometimes do stupid things in the woods before season starts, and we pay big time for it.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

400 Coyotes NOT Killed in Small Western Pennsylvania Village of Hawthorn

This story is a prank that originated in South Dakota.  See the real story here!

Some people just have too much time on their hands!

Sent in by club members Dave Patz and Jim Martin...
These guy's have been busy this winter!!!
This is Tony and Terry Undercuffer, and Punk Shick.  {Hawthorn, PA }
You don't think we have a coyote problem in western Pennsylvania, well think again! These three boys shot over 400 hundred coyotes in western Pennsylvania from the first of November to the first week of February 2011 with in twenty-five miles of my home town.
There are 208 coyotes in this picture and the balance of the coyotes had mange. I do truly thank these three boys for all the help in the control of these predators!
I'm a rancher in Oak Ridge, PA and with out their help with predator control it would be impossible to raise livestock. (see pictures below)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bear Skull Found on Wisconsin Farm Is State Record

Wade Brockman of Tomah makes his living as a cranberry grower. Aside from work and family, though, he says his life "revolves around hunting."

So it should come as no surprise that Brockman was in a tree stand on his farm Nov. 28, the last day of the 2010 Wisconsin gun deer season.

He didn't see a deer, didn't fire a shot. But he did bring home a trophy that day, one that is now officially of historic proportions.
While Brockman hunted out the deer season, a worker combined corn on another part of the 800-acre farm.

The worker found a large, dead animal in the field and reported it to Brockman.
Considering Monroe County has lots of cows but relatively few bears, "you know what I was thinking," said Brockman, 35. What Brockman found not only surprised him but has caused a revision to the state - and likely world - record book.

The animal was indeed a very large, very old black bear. It had been dead for perhaps two months, said Brockman, so no weight could be attained.
However, since bear records are based on skull measurements, he obtained a permit from the Department of Natural Resources to legally take the bear into possession.
The result? The bear's skull measured 23  5/16 inches, a Wisconsin record.
If accepted by Boone and Crockett, it would rank third in the world, said Brockman.
Both Boone and Crockett and the Wisconsin Buck & Bear Club have categories for "pickups," animals found dead from vehicle collisions, for example.

The bear tops the 22  12/16 bruin taken by gun hunter George Spaulding in Washburn County in 2002. The skull was officially scored by a panel last weekend in Wisconsin Dells, said Steve Ashley, director of records for the Wisconsin Buck & Bear Club. It will be listed as the Wisconsin record as soon as Ashley receives the paperwork, likely in the coming days.

The world-record black bear scored 23  10/16 inches, according to Boone and Crockett records. It also was a pickup, in Sanpete County, Utah, in 1975. It is owned by Cabela's Inc.
Brockman said the bear's teeth were worn down to the gum line. Based on its skull size, most estimates place the animal's live weight at over 600 pounds.

There were at least three bears killed in the 2010 Wisconsin bear hunting season that weighed over 700 pounds. None of the skulls was as large as the one Brockman found.
Adding intrigue to the story of the record-breaking animal: The huge bruin had gone undetected in the area.

"We have seen some smaller bears on the farm," Brockman said, adding that in addition to the time he spends hunting and working on the farm, he has several trail cameras on the property. "But no one had seen anything this large around here, ever."

Bears have been increasing their distribution in Wisconsin, with sightings becoming more common in the southern two-thirds of the state.
Hunters killed a record 5,040 black bears in the 2010 Wisconsin hunting season, according to the DNR.

Brockman said his rural neighborhood was accustomed to a wide range of harvests from the land, but the record bear has created a stir. "There's a sense of awe that this big bear was living near us," Brockman said. "I'm a big shed antler hunter and spend a lot of time looking around the land. But I never would have imagined we'd find something like this."

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Wild Pheasant Numbers Down

By Ben Moyer Pittsburgh Post Gazette

A plan to reintroduce wild, reproducing populations of pheasants in Pennsylvania is at a make-or-break point.

On a recent Saturday, chilly gusts blew across the Washington County hills. A cold wind may also be buffeting a decade-long effort to re-establish wild ring-necked pheasants in Western Pennsylvania.

On that windy day 13 volunteers and two representatives of the Pennsylvania Game Commission assembled at the California Hill Gun Club for a pheasant flushing survey of the Pike Run Wild Pheasant Recovery Area, 250 square miles of hills folded between bends in the Monongahela River.

The Pike Run project, with roots reaching back to 1998, jump started efforts to rejuvenate Pennsylvania's wild pheasant populations, resulting in three other pheasant recovery areas in Somerset, Montour and Dauphin counties. No pheasant hunting is permitted within the areas, and no artificially reared pheasants are stocked. Instead, hundreds of wild ringnecks trapped in South Dakota and Montana have been released on the projects over three-year periods. The last release at Pike Run was in 2008.

With the Pike Run volunteers were 10 trusted bird dogs -- English Setters, German shorthaired Pointers, Springer Spaniels, a Gordon Setter and one Italian Spinone.

Pheasants Forever member and volunteer Dave Sukel of Robinson brought his German shorthaired Pointer, Viper, out for the day.

"I'm a pheasant hunter and I support what the Game Commission and its partners are trying to do here. But we're also getting in some dog time," Sukel said.

Game Commission wildlife biologist Larry Crespo and biologist aide Dan Wilson divided the volunteers and dogs into two groups, each assigned to comb prime habitat and flush pheasants.

"Count every cockbird and hen you flush," explained Crespo. "We want to establish a sex ratio. Then, next month when we do our crowing counts, we'll use that ratio to determine the number of hens out there on the project."

Crespo said the target for success at Pike Run and the other areas is 10 hen pheasants per square mile. If and when that target is reached, the recovery areas may be opened to pheasant hunting on some regulated basis.

Based on one day's flush rate, Pike Run seems a long way from the 10-hen threshold. In four hours, Crespo's volunteers flushed two cockbirds, three hens and one pheasant of unknown sex. Wilson's group flushed nine birds, but Crespo was unsure of the sex ratio when contacted later.

One year earlier, the 2010 survey at Pike Run flushed 73 pheasants, with a sex ratio of two hens per cock. Crespo said the low flush count in 2011 could be due to timing, or it could simply reflect a low population.

"We did the survey a little later this year because we kept getting bad weather on the days originally scheduled," he said. "Birds may be starting to split up and set up nest territories, which may explain the low flush numbers."

Still, the presence of pheasants suggests at least some reproductive success.

"I would think that the birds we're flushing now were born here," Crespo said. "Three years from the last release, more than likely they're native-born birds."

Jose Taracido, farmland habitat supervisor with California University of Pennsylvania, has been involved with the Pike Run Recovery Area since 1998 when cooperating groups (Partners for Fish and Wildlife) began working with landowners to improve farmland habitat.

Taracido is hopeful, but realistic, about the future of Pike Run's wild pheasants.

"That 3 feet of snow we had last year really hurt them here," Taracido said. "Right after that, in March, we went out to do some habitat work and we found a dozen dead birds. But we've learned a lot here that can help the other areas across the state. No matter where we try this, from now on it's going to go better."

"It is looking kind of grim for numbers [at Pike Run] here," Crespo told the volunteers. "We're getting close to a point where we have to make a decision about this project."

According to Crespo, biologists will prepare a report with recommendations for the Board of Game Commissioners, who will make the decision about Pike Run's fate.

"We've been thinking ahead about what to do," Crespo said, during a subsequent interview. "If this [Pike Run] is a success, we have to consider if we're going to regulate hunting by lottery, have a one-bird limit or some limitation on hunting this new resource. If it is not a success, there are other options that involve stocking game-farm birds where landowners agree."

While not opposed to opening Pike Run to hunting, Taracido is hoping for a conservative approach. "My preference would be to make hunting for cockbirds only," he said. "At least we'd protect whatever reproduction we have going."

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

Hunters' Increase in Buck Kills Leads to Greater Deer Harvest


Four things stand out in the Pennsylvania Game Commission's estimates of the 2010-2011 deer harvest.

• The final annihilation of the deer herd didn't come to pass.
• Hunters are shooting more older bucks than ever.
• Split seasons may or may not be a good idea, but they don't lead to as many dead deer as concurrent ones.
• And crossbows are popular, but perhaps reaching their peak.

According to information released this past week, hunters killed 316,240 deer in 2010-11. That's 2 percent more than they took the previous season, when the harvest was pegged at 308,920.

A jump in the buck kill accounted for the difference. In 2009-10, hunters killed 108,330. Game Commissioner Tom Boop said at the agency's January board meeting that he expected that number to be less than 100,000 after the most recent seasons, based on what he'd heard from hunters.

Instead, the buck kill totaled 122,930, an increase of 13 percent.

Hunters thrived in certain areas. The kill rose by 20 percent in wildlife management units 2F, 3D, 4C, 4D and 5C, and by 31 percent in units 2C and 2G.

Statistics prove hunters are taking more older bucks than at any time in recent memory, too. A breakdown of the harvest revealed that 52 percent of the bucks taken were 2 1/2 years old or older. That's the highest percentage recorded in the past 30 years.

Where the deer kill did go down was with antlerless deer. In 2009-10, hunters took 220,590 does. Last year, they took 193,310 does, or 4 percent fewer.

Commission executive director Carl Roe said that was attributable to fewer doe licenses issued and shorter seasons.

Commissioners expanded the number of wildlife management units where doe season started on the first Saturday of the season last fall, an expansion of an "experiment" to see whether hunters could take as many does in six days as 12. The answer again was no. The overall doe harvest declined for the third time in the past four years, as commissioners have incrementally increased the number of units with split seasons.

As for the archery take, the overall harvest was up 13 percent. Crossbows played a big role in that, but their meteoric rise as a factor slowed.

Hunters armed with horizontal bows accounted for 15 percent of the archery harvest in 2008-09. That doubled, to 30 percent, in 2009-10, when crossbows were legalized statewide for the first time.

This past season that percentage went up again, but just by 4 points, to 34 percent.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Range Permits Required Starting Next Month


The cost of shooting at Pennsylvania Game Commission-owned ranges is going up -- for non-hunters, anyway.

Up until now, anyone could shoot at any of the commission's 29 ranges statewide for free. But a regulation change that requires shooters to have either a valid hunting or furtaking license or a special range permit is set to go into effect next month.

Those permits will be effective from April 1 of this year until June 30, 2012. Starting next summer, they'll be valid from July 1 until June 30, just like a hunting license. They cost $30, are available at either the commission's "Outdoor Shop" at or its regional offices and are required for anyone 17 or older.

The only people who can shoot without a license or permit are children 16 and younger accompanied by a licensed or permitted adult 18 or older and one guest of a license or permit holder.

The new rule has two purposes: to require non-hunters to help pay for maintaining the ranges and to better track who those shooters are, said the commission's executive director, Carl Roe.

That latter issue is important, because the agency has spent a lot of money repairing damage done to the ranges, often at the hands of non-hunters, said commissioner Jay Delaney of Luzerne County.

The change is "long overdue," agreed commissioner Greg Isabella of Philadelphia.

There's a misconception among the public that the ranges are owned by the Commonwealth and maintained with tax dollars, he said. That's untrue, he said, pointing out that they are owned by the commission and supported largely - if not completely - by the sale of hunting licenses.

Isabella did warn, though, that the commission will have to work hard to make people aware of the new rule.

"We have a big (public relations) problem coming up. We need to get a lot of signage up. We need to get a lot of awareness out there," Isabella said.

Bill Capouillez, chief of the commission's bureau of wildlife habitat management, said the commission plans to put signs up at all of its ranges.