Thursday, September 29, 2011

Pheasant Shortage Hampers Youth Season

About the writer
Bob Frye is the Tribune-Review outdoors editor. 

Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs president Ted Onufrak delivered a message at his group's recent convention.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission had just announced that flooding at its two game farms in Lycoming County had killed or set free about 40 percent of all the pheasants that were to be stocked this fall. The agency was warning hunters to expect fewer birds across all counties and all seasons.
That's when Onufrak said sportsmen wanted the commission to stock as many birds as originally planned for the youth pheasant season, open only to kids ages 12 to 16.
"Most of the guys I've talked to have said keep that the same and let the rest of us take the heat," Onufrak said.

The commission didn't commit to that at the time. Deputy executive director Matt Hough said the commission would supply all of the birds promised for mentored youth hunts, but added that the fate of the general youth season was up in the air.
"Our goal is to get as many birds harvested as possible," Hough said then. "The question is, is that in the general season or in the youth season? We're still thinking about that."
The commission made its decision Monday, and it's the kids who will share in the suffering.
The commission has 73,390 pheasants to stock this year, down from the expected 104,000. That's a decline of about 31 percent.
Of those, 11,510 — or 31 percent less than last year — will be allocated for the junior-only season that's set for Oct. 8-15.
The commission will still supply 1,800 pheasants for this year's mentored hunts.
The remaining 60,080 birds will be stocked in time for the Oct. 22 to Nov. 26 general season that's open to all hunters. Plans to stock birds in the late season, from Dec. 26 to Feb. 4 have been canceled.
That's rough, but things could have been worse, said commission executive director Carl Roe in a statement. The commission was able to recover almost 10,000 birds set free by the flooding or there would have been even fewer available, he said.

The better news is that the losses suffered now will not — as was initially thought — impact the commission's ability to raise 200,000 pheasants for next fall, Roe said.
"Hatcheries, brooder houses, barns, workshops, farm equipment and waterlines in the fields were relatively untouched. We will retain a sufficient number of hen pheasants to serve as a breeder flock to enable us to reach the 200,000 pheasant hunting season release level next year," Roe announced.

Pheasants: when and where

Preseason stocking of pheasants for the general season will begin Oct. 19. The first and second in-season stockings will be Oct. 27 or 28 and Nov. 3 or 4, respectively. A third in-season stocking will be conducted Nov. 10 in areas surrounding the Somerset, Central Susquehanna, Hegins-Gratz Valley and Franklin County wild pheasant recovery areas.

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 northwest region will be stocked with 5,230 male pheasants and 8,390 females, while the southwest will get 14,020 males and 4,170 females. To see the specific locations where birds will be stocked, visit

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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wildlife Food Plots Can Improve Your Chances Of Shooting A Quality Buck

By John Hayes, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Sunday, September 18, 2011

In a 2 1/2-acre corner of a Westmoreland County farm last week, signs of deer were everywhere. Trails led from the surrounding woods into a long plot of turnips, winter wheat and oats, planted for the deer. Prints were scattered among the clover and alfalfa, and 6-foot sorghum stalks were brushed aside where the whitetails had passed.

As we walked the field, agronomist Adam Korman's cell phone beeped. A motion-detector field camera emailed a photo showing real-time evidence of activity on the property -- it was us.
Counter-intuitively, perhaps, Korman's hunting group uses food plots to nourish and attract deer so they can shoot them, reducing the farm's deer density.

With at least one neighbor keeping hunters out, the deer population on the 118-acre farm had soared and the owner suffered years of substantial crop damage. Korman, 34, of Westview and a private group of hunters were given an exclusive lease to manage the deer herd. They post the perimeter, chase out poachers, plant and maintain wildlife food plots, cull excess does and scrub bucks, and hunt for mature males with the best racks.

Korman said his group spends $500 a year on lime, fertilizer, soil test, seed and fuel for motor vehicles, and each member's chance of harvesting a quality deer has increased by 60 percent.
Saturday, Korman dished out the dirt on food plots during a workshop at the Pymatuning Waterfowl and Outdoor Expo in Linesville, Crawford County. His company, Eden Habitat Development (, works with landowners, municipalities, hunters and wildlife management groups to nourish wildlife including white-tailed deer, grouse, quail and pheasants.

"We work as consultants and do the dirt work, but we found there is a demand for food plot consultants among people who basically want to do the work themselves," said Korman. "Maybe they have no idea what to do, or what they're doing isn't working. We get them to the next step."

Whether the food plots are planted as long-term habitat improvements, nourishment outposts or wildlife attractants, the ultimate goal is a better hunt. In most cases in Pennsylvania, luring game animals to baiting stations is illegal. But in the regulatory parlance of the Game Commission, attracting animals to food plots is not considered baiting.

"Food plots are considered a normal habitat improvement and are legal as long as they are planted and left standing in a natural condition and not manipulated," said PGC spokesman Jerry Feaser. "For example, a landowner could plant a corn field or a sunflower field and leave it standing in a natural condition as a wildlife food source, and that would not be considered baiting. However, if the corn or sunflower was manipulated by mowing or chopping to create an unnatural concentration of grain on the ground, it would be considered baiting and illegal."
Korman said planting wildlife food plots "isn't an exact science" and more research is necessary. But much is known about enhancing nourishment for wildlife.

Step 1 in initiating a food-plot program is a deer density survey using trail cameras. Compare the deer population to acreage and other conditions to determine the size of the food plot. Situations vary, but when Korman's group started work on the Westmoreland County land, it held about 35 deer per acre. Density is going down -- Korman said they're working toward a goal of 20 deer per acre.

"On the properties I consult for, I show them the math," he said. "Say you have 700 acres. You need 5 to 10 percent of that property to be in some kind of field or forest enhancement program. . . . For a farmer trying to take his deer population down, anything would help, but he really needs at least a couple quarter-acre diversionary food plots to make a difference."

"Diversionary" plots legally attract deer for hunters. Korman recommends planting a variety of choice plants surrounded by tall sorghum -- the cover makes skittish deer more comfortable while feeding.

"Without the cover, the deer get in the habit of feeding nocturnally," he said. "When the deer get used to eating in daylight hidden by the sorghum, it makes it easier when we go hunting. I get about 40 to 50 percent more daylight feeding activity when the deer feel more protected hidden behind the sorghum."

What to plant?
• Clover provides good nutritional enhancement for deer. "It grows in wet areas and has a really good coverage rate once it's established," Korman said. "It provides a lot of protein for big antlers and body weight."
• Alfalfa is more finicky and harder to grow, requiring more intense pH manipulation. "It's more work than most guys are willing to put in, but it has a long tap root and is high on calcium and protein.
• Chickory has a long tap root and is considered a valuable draught-resistant element in a wildlife food plot, providing high calcium for better lactation and antler growth.
• Sorghum, or Egyptian wheat, looks like corn and grows as tall, but produces seeds instead of ears. The deer eat the seeds when they fall, and the tall stalks provide cover.
• Winter wheat can be planted in September. Establish the soil pH at 6.5 to 6.8 and till a half inch. Depending upon the amount of rain, winter wheat will sprout in a couple of weeks and remain green through winter.
• Turnips are a high-protein food source that gets better later into the year. "Once you get two or three frosts the sugar level goes up," Korman said. "When winter hits, they'll have a source of carbohydrates when they need it most to put on fat to stay warm."
There's one turnip caveat: After three years in the same ground, turnips can turn the soil toxic. It's important to rotate your food plot crop.

What not to plant?
• Corn. "The Game Commission has done necropsies on deer and found they starved to death with bellies filled with corn," said Korman. "At certain times of the year, deer don't have the proteins in their stomachs required to process the nutrition in corn. They're eating, they feel like they're full, but if they're eating mostly corn and not other things they starve to death. Ninety-nine percent of the time it's because people put out corn for deer at all times of the year. It's like you're eating nothing but Frosted Flakes and wonder why you got diabetes."
• "Rye, timothy and most grasses are the worst thing to plant for deer," he said. "Deer don't have the correct enzymes to break down grasses like cattle do. They eat it, but they get no nutritional value from it."
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Legalizing Sunday Hunting Continues To Be Uphill Battle

By Bob Frye, TRIBUNE-REVIEWSunday, September 18, 2011

It's a question of fairness.
That's what supporters of a move to legalize Sunday hunting in Pennsylvania -- banned since 1873 -- said at a gathering of the state House of Representatives' game and fisheries committee near Allentown on Thursday night.
Representatives of five organizations testified at the hearing. Of those, three supported Sunday hunting, including Janet Nyce, a member of former Gov. Ed Rendell's advisory council for hunting, fishing and conservation. Nyce said people can golf, go to the mall, fish or even buy liquor on Sundays. That they can't hunt is wrong, she said.
"It's discrimination at its finest and I am truly tired of it," she said. "This is about an antiquated law that's robbing us of privileges other people have."
Jennifer Saeger, president of the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania, agreed.
"Really, this boils down to one thing: choice. It's about what people want to do. For some on Sundays, that's soccer. For some, it's hunting," Saeger said.
Not everyone agreed.
Robert Krause of the Northampton County branch of the Pennsylvania State Grange said members oppose Sunday hunting for a number of reasons.
"Our main objection is the disturbance, even the danger, it would pose to hikers, backpackers, birdwatchers and others who use the woods on a Sunday," Krause said.
When asked by Crawford County Republican and committee chairman John Evans, though, he could offer no evidence of a hiker being hurt by a hunter's bullet.
Ray Mack of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau's Northampton-Monroe county chapter likewise said that organization opposes expanded Sunday hunting under all circumstances. He maintained that stance, even when Evans asked how farmers - who could post their land against Sunday hunting -- could justify keeping other landowners from hunting on their properties on Sundays.
"What we have essentially is one group telling another that, no, you can't hunt on your land. Is that fair?" Evans asked.
A visibly frustrated Rep. Ed Staback, a Lackawanna County Democrat, added that he and Evans have asked opponents several times to meet and discuss possible compromises, to no avail.
"What is wrong with trying to work this out? Why does it have to be with the Farm Bureau and Grange that everything is so black and white?" Staback asked.
In the meantime, lobbying continues. Fayette County Democratic Rep. Deberah Kula said the comments so far have been "a mixed bag."
Evans said hunters need to be more vocal in supporting Sunday hunting if they want it because its chances of getting past the committee are too close to call.
"That's going to be problematic if the members don't hear from sportsmen," Evans aid.

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