Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Two-For-One Deal!

Phil Rutt of Quarryville, PA shows off his two-for-one catches.

Rutt was fishing a small lake in Bradford County on May 14 when he hooked the small largemouth on the right. As he was reeling in that fish, the bigger largemouth — 24-inches long, 8 pounds — swam out of the depths and inhaled the smaller bass.

Rutt managed to hook the big bass in the lip with the hook that was also stuck in the mouth of the smaller fish, and he landed both.

After a few pictures, both fish were released.

Read more:

Wet Spring Could Hamper Fall Game Bird Hunting

Sunday, May 29, 2011
By Scott Shalaway

The end of summer seems a long way off, but the rain we've received over the last six weeks will affect the success of ground-nesting game birds. This includes ducks, geese, ruffed grouse, turkeys and, to a limited degree because there are so few, bobwhite and ring-necked pheasants.

These birds are particularly susceptible to wet springs because when the ground is saturated, it is difficult to keep eggs dry and warm. When rainfall is normal, hens use their bodies to shield the clutch from rainfall. But when it rains almost every day, chilling moisture seeps into the nest from the ground.

The nesting period for these game birds is fairly lengthy. Hens lay one egg per day and clutch size varies from four or five eggs for geese to 10 or more for bobwhite, grouse, turkeys, ducks and pheasants. Then add an incubation period that ranges from 23 days for bobwhite and grouse to 31 days for turkeys.

Unfortunately, the last month has been very wet. It has certainly been an unusual year and could result in very few successful nests. Game bird numbers could be down this fall.

Fortunately, most ground nesting birds renest if they lose their first attempt. They can recover, but late nests are more vulnerable to predators such as foxes and raccoons that have lots of babies to feed. And second clutches are often smaller than the first clutch.

Game birds have long incubation periods because their young are precocial. When these chicks hatch, they can leave the nest in a matter of hours. Precocial chicks stay with one or both parents for several weeks after hatching, but feed independently within a matter of days. During wet springs, however, even insect populations suffer and young precocial birds may have a hard time finding high protein food.

Watch for broods of game birds this spring and into the summer. Your observations will be best guide to predicting the status of fall populations.

Scott Shalaway is a biologist and author. His other weekly Post-Gazette column, "GETintoNATURE," is published in the GETout section. Shalaway can be reached at and RD 5, Cameron, WV 26033.

Read more:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

New Deer Survive Due To Concealment, Timing

Sunday, May 22, 2011
There are thousands of them out there right now -- six to eight pounds each, warm brown dappled with white, looking like they're all legs and ears. The sight warms the hearts of animal lover and seasoned hunters alike.

They are whitetail fawns, nearing the peak of their springtime arrivals.
Doug Furin of Jumonville, Fayette County, saw a fawn last week, while digging "ramps" or wild leeks.

"I didn't even know it was there," Furin said. "I laid my bag of ramps on the ground and started to dig when I caught movement out of the side of my eye. There was this fawn, curled up in the leaves beside my bag. I'd almost stepped on it."

Furin did the right thing by the fawn and its mother. He left in a hurry.

"I know enough not to disturb them," he said. "I took a quick picture, heard the doe snort and got out of there. I think [the doe] had another one nearby because she kept looking back and forth."
Furin's encounter gave him a glimpse of the white-tailed deer's simple, but effective, strategy for ushering enough fawns into adulthood to sustain the species -- camouflaged young, concealed in the doe's absence, emitting little or no scent.

When a fawn lies motionless, the spots, numbering about a hundred on each side, give the appearance of dappled sunlight, an effective camouflage unless the young deer flinches, as did Furin's. Although Furin found the newborn lying down, it is likely that it had already taken some steps. Biologists' accounts document that fawns typically try to stand within 10 minutes of birth, and that most can stagger a few steps soon after. Young of large ruminants like deer, caribou and antelope must be able to leave the birth site quickly to avoid predators attracted to the scent of fluids lost by the doe. By six days of age, fawns can easily follow their mother anywhere.

Despite those built-in precautions, predators still exploit the protein windfall of whitetail fawns. In a two-year (2000-2001) study of fawn mortality on two sites in central Pennsylvania, Game Commission and Penn State biologists identified predation as the greatest source of fawn mortality. Researchers monitored marked fawns until the fall hunting season and found 46 percent of all spring and summer fawn mortality attributable to predators. Fawns were especially vulnerable during their first nine weeks. Bears and coyotes killed roughly equal numbers. Bobcat predation was minor.

Still, biologists concluded that enough fawns survived to at least sustain the herd.
"We have no evidence to suggest that the fawn survival rates we observed were preventing population growth," the authors wrote.

Another, more complex, ploy has helped whitetails thrive for hundreds of thousands of years, despite predators that find and eat as many fawns as they can.

"It's called a 'birth pulse' or 'birth synchrony.' The idea is that most fawns are born in a short window of time, which overwhelms predation. Even bears and coyotes can only eat so many fawns at the same time," said Marrett Grund, farmland deer project leader for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and a former deer biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Grund explained that when the ratio of adult does to bucks in a population is balanced, bucks are able to breed all available does during a tight span in the fall rut. After a seven-month gestation, then, does drop their fawns at roughly the same time.

Among Pennsylvania's deer herd, 70 percent of fawns are born within 14 days of the first day of June.

But in herds with higher proportions of females, some does do not conceive until later 28-day estrus cycles, spreading out the birth pulse throughout the summer.

"If the pulse is extended, predators can feed on fawns for a longer period of time," Grund said. "Over the season, predators form a 'search image,' sort of like humans do when they are searching for mushrooms or something else that's hard to see. Given enough time, predators get good at finding [fawns]."

Grund explained that roughly equal numbers of male and female fawns are born each spring.
"But when deer densities become unnaturally high, the birth proportions shift to about 52 percent males. We believe that is a natural way for the population to self-regulate," Grund said.
Grund agreed that Furin did the right thing when he found his fawn. "It's a rare opportunity. Enjoy it," Grund said. "But do not touch. The proximity of a large predator, represented by your presence, is stressful to the fawn. If you handle or touch it, you only add to the stress."

Read more:

Monday, May 2, 2011

This Hunting Season Is Over - For Good!

The Navy Seal was asked what he felt right before he
shot Osama Ben Laden and his response was, "Recoil".

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Local Gun Maker Introduces High-end Pistol

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pennsylvania gained fame more than two centuries ago for producing some of the finest, most accurate longrifles in the world, the misnamed "Kentucky" rifle.

Could it next be known for being home to some of the best pistols around?

Perhaps, if a Butler County manufacturer — the only gun maker in Pennsylvania — succeeds. Cabot Guns will officially launch a line of four high-end, 1911-style sidearms in January at the Las Vegas-based SHOT Show, the shooting industry's annual convention.

But shooters will get a sneak peak at the guns starting today, at Cabot's booth - No. 3508 — at the National Rifle Association's gun show at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The company's website,, goes live today, too.

All of the company's pistols are made by Penn United Technologies Inc. in Cabot. The manufacturer has ties to the defense, oil and gas and electronic technology industries, said Cabot president Robert Bianchin.

In fact, it's that background which sets the company apart. Penn United is making guns so fine that the parts from one gun can be interchanged with the parts from another, something that's never been possible before, Bianchin said.

"We build them where the parts are identical, clones every time. The tolerances are 0.001 inches all the time, every time," he said.

"As an example, if you took a human hair and split it three times, then split it again 10 times, that's what we're working with. That's why we believe this is the highest quality 1911 ever produced."

It might need to be if the company is to succeed.

The 1911 is a single action, semi-automatic, recoil-operated .45-caliber gun. Created by legendary gun maker John Browning, it's called the 1911 because that's the year it was adopted as the official sidearm of the American military. It remained in service from World War I through the mid-1980s.

They remain the most popular style of handgun with recreational and competitive pistol shooters, said Bruce Piendl, general manager of Anthony Arms and Accessories in West Mifflin.

"The way people talk about Corvettes and Harley Davidsons, that's how they talk about 1911s," he said.

But the competition for that market is intense. Virtually every major gun manufacturer produces a 1911, he said.

"So there are tons of 1911s out there," Piendl said.

That's OK, Bianchin said. Cabot Guns' 1911 are intended to satisfy a specific niche in that market. The quality of their manufacture — plus aesthetic features like grips made from Sonoran desert ironwood — make them the "Ferrari of the 1911 pistols."

The price reflects that, too. They will average $4,500 each, with some as expensive as $4,950.

"We weren't looking to save money anywhere. They're very expensive to make," Bianchin said. "So they aren't for everyone. But for connoisseurs, collectors, competitive shooters, people who expect top-of-the-line quality, I think they're going to be very impressed."

The company has bigger plans, too. Over the next 12 to 24 months, it plans to produce additional sidearms, including concealed carry and women's versions. It may develop factory tours and a museum of sorts to turn its facility into a destination for gun owners, too.

"We think Cabot Guns has the potential to become a major and enduring brand in the next five to 10 years," Bianchin said.

Read more: Local gun maker introduces high-end pistol - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review