Thursday, May 31, 2012

Bull Creek Is In The News! Bull Creek Rod and Gun Club invites women to have a blast

From the Pittsburgh Tribune Review!

By Julie E. Martin

Published: Sunday, May 27, 2012, 4:04 p.m.
Updated: Tuesday, May 29, 2012

An all-day event Saturday promises a host of fun activities for women -- but this girl's day out trades facials for fly-casting, shopping for self-defense and manicures for marksmanship.

That's all just fine with Lori Lojak, coordinator of the annual Women in the Outdoors event, which is sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Brittany Thomas tries out a bow and arrow during a
previous Women in the Outdoors event at
Bull Creek Rod and Gun Club

"I want women to get out of the malls and out to the woods," Lojak says. "There's so much more for women. Once they come and they see what it's like, they have a blast -- it's so much fun."

The event, at Bull Creek Rod and Gun Club in Fawn, includes a choice of four classes, continental breakfast and lunch and all necessary materials.

The $55 cost also covers a one-year membership in the National Wild Turkey Federation and a one-year subscription to Turkey Country and Turkey Talk. For those who are members of the federation, the cost to attend is $20.

"It was created to get women more involved in the outdoors," Lojak says. "When they come to the event, it's noncompetitive; it's a friendly atmosphere. It's supporting them; you can just see the amount of joy and pride in them when they accomplish something."

Attendees select from two morning classes and two afternoon classes, which include archery, bird-watching and gardening for wildlife.

Bud Murray, the owner of Murray's Stream Master Fly Shop in Cabot, will lead a fly-casting class that, he says, will cover the basics, like what to do when casting in the wind or around trees. If his experience at his shop and on recent fly-fishing trips is an indication, he'll likely have a good turnout.

"There's more and more women getting involved in (fly fishing)," he says. "They're enjoying it as much as any man does."

According to Brian Sackett of C.S. Kim Karate in Natrona Heights, his women's self-defense class should offer a lasting lesson.

"You're not just exercising; you're learning something," he says. "By the time they leave, it's like something inside of them woke up. They've been empowered."

Leslie Smith, Pennsylvania Women in the Outdoors Coordinator for the National Wild Turkey Federation, says the opportunity for women to try something in a friendly atmosphere is a welcome one.

Like the 15 other Women in the Outdoors Events taking place in the state -- the Allegheny Valley event appeals to the spirit of today's women and allows them to not only take a walk on the wild side, but also make new friends.

"These events are set up so women can go out and enjoy the outdoors without any kind of pressure," Smith says. "It's the camaraderie of the other women -- women with the same interests that come from the same area."

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fishing Tackle Loaner Program Has Room To Grow

By Bob Frye 

Pennsylvania has more miles of rivers and streams than any state besides Alaska. It has a state park within 25 miles of every resident, many of them with a waterway of some kind. It’s got U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lakes, county park lakes, municipal reservoirs, frontage on Lake Erie and even tidal waters near Philadelphia.

That’s a lot of places to fish.

But how do you get started? Well, that’s the aim of the long-standing, if not very well-known, fishing tackle loaner program.

Sponsored by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, the program makes fishing rods — along with a tackle box and assorted tackle like hooks, sinkers and even some artificial baits — available to would-be anglers for free. The equipment is available from all kinds of partners statewide. A number of state, county, city and local parks participate in the program, as do public libraries, Indiana (Pa.)’s Punxsutawney campus and Erie National Wildlife Refuge.

It works much like borrowing a book from the library. You leave a name and contact information, sign out the equipment, go fishing, then return it that day when you’re done.

“It’s hoped that those making the loans will enjoy fishing so much they are hooked for life,” reads a description of the program from the commission.

But it’s all very much under the radar.

Keystone State Park has been participating in the program for years and has about 15 rods available for loan, all maintained by the Loyalhanna Bassmasters club, said environmental education specialist Pam McQuistan. Yet, despite events like Monday’s statewide Fish for Free Day — when anyone can try fishing without a license — rods only get borrowed 20 or 30 times a summer, she said.

“There’s pretty low usage,” she said. “I think it’s a matter of awareness. A lot of people don’t even know we have the poles.”

The same is true at Yellow Creek State Park, said environmental education specialist Mike Shaffer. The rods get used a lot during “Smart Angler” and family fishing programs put on for scout groups and others.

But they aren’t borrowed by the general public much, he said.

The program is not equally widespread around the state. The nine-county northwest region has 13 loaner sites, the 10-county southwest region just four.

Some counties like Allegheny, Washington and Fayette don’t have any participating partners.

If things take off at places like Keystone, though, maybe word will get out, McQuistan said. The gear is there to be used; all that’s needed are anglers.

“It’s a great program. I think all parks should offer it,” she said.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Memorial Day Marks First Fish for Free Day

Harrisburg, PA – Families and friends visiting Pennsylvania’s popular outdoor spots this holiday weekend can enjoy a day of free fishing, thanks to the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC).

Memorial Day - Monday, May 28 – marks the first of two free fishing days in the Commonwealth. Fish For Free Days allow anyone – residents and non-residents – to legally fish in Pennsylvania. From 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. on both days, no fishing license is needed to fish in Pennsylvania's waterways. All other fishing regulations apply. The second Fish for Free Day is Labor Day – Monday, Sept. 3.

“Fish-for-Free days are a convenient way to introduce friends and family to the sport of fishing,” said PFBC Executive Director John Arway. “Many families spend the day at lakes and parks throughout the state. Now they can try fishing at no cost. We know that once people try it, particularly kids, they will see that fishing is a great recreational activity and they will want to do it more.”

More information about Fish-for-Free Days is available on the PFBC website at:www./

To make it even easier to get started – or restarted – in fishing, visit the PFBC’s web site and select “Fish” from the left-hand navigation bar. From the drop-down menu, select Fishing Fundamentals.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pymatuning Reservoir Ranks As Pa.’S Panfish Paradise

Given reasonable weather and water conditions, the biggest problem I find with the fishing during May is deciding what to fish for, as angling opportunities for most popular species in Pennsylvania tend to be as good as or better now than at any other time of year.
Click Map To Enlarge
I particularly enjoy setting aside a few days each spring to fish for panfish - bluegills, perch or crappies - because the biggest specimens of these species invade the shallows and shoreline cover in preparation for spawning. And not only are they fun to catch on light tackle but also some of the best eating fish in freshwater.
Last week, I enjoyed some of the best crappie fishing I've ever experienced in Pennsylvania at Pymatuning Reservoir in the northwest corner of the state. Located on the Pennsylvania-Ohio border in Crawford County, Pymatuning is the largest lake in Pennsylvania, covering 17,088 acres with 70 miles of shoreline. In spite of its size, Pymatuning is much more "fisherman friendly" than many other large impoundments. All of the shoreline in Pennsylvania lies within Pymatuning State Park, and there are numerous boat launches throughout the 17-mile long lake. Powerboats are restricted to motors with a 20 hp maximum, however, so anglers are not competing with the chaos of water skiers and jet skis. Pymatuning is also a relatively shallow lake, averaging 8 to 10 feet in many places, with a maximum depth of 35 feet.
Walleyes have long been the most popular fish for Pymatuning anglers. Other species present there include muskellunge, carp, catfish, bluegills, perch, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and, of course, black and white crappies. Ironically, several years of downturn in the walleye population in the lake actually helped create a boom in the crappie fishing currently. Biologists have discovered that young crappies are one of the preferred forage fish for Pymatuning walleyes. While the walleye numbers were depressed for a few years, the crappie population exploded, generating the exceptional fishing for those panfish that Pymatuning anglers are currently experiencing. Fortunately, the walleyes have also rebounded, and many anglers I talked to have found the walleye fishing excellent this spring.
I hate to admit that as much as I've fished in northwest Pennsylvania, I had never wet a line in Pymatuning. Fortunately, my fishing partner last week provided me with a perfect introduction to the crappie fishing there. Bob Mead is a native of Crawford County and has been fishing Pymatuning all his life. As we motored to our first fishing spot, Mead told me he prefers to drift fish for crappies, but there wasn't enough of a breeze for that method at the moment. Therefore, we began by slow trolling over some submerged stumps in 7 to 8 feet of water at the northern end of the lake.
Now that three rods per angler are permitted in Pennsylvania, Mead and I trolled an assortment of lures, including some of his favorite swimbaits along with several types of soft-plastic bodies on Roadrunner jigheads. In about an hour, we boated a dozen or more nice crappies, most of them whites with a few blacks mixed in.
Next, we headed to another of Mead's favorite spots, the shoreline of a small island near the main lakeshore. Here we employed 1-inch white twister tails rigged on tiny gold-plated jigheads and fished below a small bobber. This technique was a familiar to me and one I've often used for crappies, and it quickly produced a couple large black crappies and a few dandy bluegills and pumpkinseeds.
Mead then noticed that the wind had picked up a tad, so we opted to try some drift fishing. That proved to be a good call, as we boated three white crappies before we had gone 50 yards. A few minutes later, the tip of one of my rods dipped sharply, but when I picked it up, I thought I had snagged a sunken stump. That is until my line abruptly changed directions and went under the boat as the drag on my reel whined under the weight of a heavy fish.
As luck would have it, the big fish had attacked the lightest rod in the boat, so I couldn't much pressure on it early on. For the first five minutes or so, we speculated just what species I was attached to. A muskie would have surely sheared the 4-pound line quickly, and even a large walleye isn't as strong as what I felt. I surmised I had hooked a carp until I finally gained some ground on the fish and was pleasantly surprised to see it was a channel catfish of about 10 pounds. Mr. Whiskers had eaten my chartreuse-and-black Roadrunner crappie jig.
By the time we wrestled the big catfish into the net, the wind had subsided again, so we finished the day fishing in a small cove near an old beaver house. The place was simply loaded with nice black crappies, and we caught one after another for almost an hour until I needed to be back at the dock to meet friends for dinner. For any angler who enjoys catching crappies, I heartily recommend a trip to Pymatuning. It is crappie heaven for sure. My only regret is waiting so long to try it myself.

This Tick Season Figures To Be A Bad One, Starting Now

By the Tribune-Review
Consider yourself warned.

This figures to be a bad year for ticks across Pennsylvania and the Northeast, with the worst of the bad times all but upon us. For that, you can blame acorns and mice.

Researchers at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York have been studying Lyme Disease for more than 20 years. They’ve found a “strong connection” between acorn abundance and Lyme Disease risk, said senior scientist Richard Ostfeld.

It works like this: every few years the woods of the Northeast experience a bumper crop of acorns, as happened in fall 2010. That abundant food leads to a surge in the number of white-footed mice, the best host for newly-hatched baby ticks, as was the case in summer 2011.

The problem is that when the acorn crop returns to normal or even lower-than-average levels, there isn’t enough food to go around, and mouse populations plummet. That’s what’s happened going into this summer. And that’s where we come in.

“As those ticks are coming out in droves this year, it’s unlikely they’re all going to find a white-footed mouse, their favorite host. So they’re going to be looking for other ones, like us,” Ostfeld said.

Pennsylvania already is one of the top places for contracting Lyme Disease. It averages 3,000 to 4,000 cases annually, more than just about anywhere in the country, said Holli Senior, deputy press secretary for the state Department of Health.

“We continue to be one of the leading states for Lyme Disease nationwide,” she said.
The disease, once confined to the southeast corner of the state, and still most prevalent there, “appears to be spreading westward and northward, placing larger proportions of our population at risk of disease,” she added.

“Lyme Disease is a significant public health issue in Pennsylvania,” she said.
This is the time of year when most cases of Lyme Disease are contracted, too, given that turkey hunters, fishermen, hikers, campers, and kids are outside.

“The peak of outdoor activity for people is fast approaching, which means the danger season is fast approaching,” Ostfeld said. That doesn’t mean people should be afraid to go outdoors, Senior said. But they should be wearing layers of clothing, spraying themselves with insect repellent and checking themselves for ticks when they get home, she said. Early detection is key to getting treatment, Ostfeld added.

“We’re hoping people will use this knowledge and be more vigilant,” agreed Ostfeld.
Consider yourself warned.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Understanding Fawns And Knowing To Leave Them Be

No good comes from mothering nature anywhere in Pennsylvania

By Joe Kosack
Wildlife Conservation Education Specialist
Pennsylvania Game Commission

HARRISBURG – It’s an annual chapter in nature that begins in May, peaks in early June and always goes largely and surprisingly unnoticed. But with time, the annual birth of hundreds of thousands of white-tailed deer has the potential to influence the lives of most Pennsylvanians and many wildlife species.

Whitetails represent one of the Commonwealth’s most vibrant and valuable natural resources, but also serve as one of its most problematic. The complexity of their management is closely tied to their health, habitat and conflicts with people. This is compounded further by the whitetail’s inherent adaptability and resilience and the desire of many Pennsylvania hunters – who primarily finance wildlife conservation – to see more deer afield.  

            When fawns hit the ground in Pennsylvania, they start a journey that millions before them have taken. It begins in a quiet section of field or forest, and sometimes, even a backyard, but eventually leads deer to almost every open acre of land in the Commonwealth. They can be found wandering in the open spaces and parks of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh; roaming our agricultural fields and deep forests; sloshing through our swamps and waterways; and taking comfort wherever they find it. That coverage ensures fawns will pop up almost anywhere in spring, seemingly out of place and parentless. But they’re not.

Fawns use a “hider” strategy when born; they lay curled motionless and quiet in the weeds and on the forest floor.  Their spotted coats provide camouflage, they emit relatively little scent and they rarely travel their first few weeks. The parenting doe leaves her fawns to forage regularly and returns periodically to nurse her hiding fawns. So, it is not unusual to see fawns unaccompanied by an adult deer in late May or June.  At about a month old, fawns start traveling with their parents.

Research shows about 65 percent of fawns make it through their first two months. Most making it through this critical period go on to represent about a third of the state’s overall deer population and their addition offsets the losses from hunting and other mortality factors in the previous year.

“Fawn recruitment has sustained Pennsylvania’s deer herd for decades,” noted Dr. Christopher Rosenberry, Game Commission Deer and Elk Section supervisor. “Even though some fawns die annually, it is the norm in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Their annual addition to the deer population must equal or exceed the number of deer removed for a deer population to remain stable, or to increase.”

The Game Commission examines tens of thousands of deer taken each year during the statewide firearms seasons for whitetails. Through this analysis, deer managers keep tabs on the percentage of fawns in the harvest – and, ultimately, the statewide population. This work would uncover if predators or some other mortality factor was causing an unacceptable level of harm to fawns or the overall deer population. It hasn’t, for decades.

Fawns confronted with peril in their first several weeks usually escape it. The danger may come from exposure, sickness, parental abandonment, predation, loss of parent, or being struck by farm machinery. Fortunately, many of these mortality threats largely are escapable, but even when they aren’t, fawns don’t flee a closing danger. Their natural response is to remain in a fetal position and motionless. That makes them susceptible to prowling predators, such as black bears, coyotes and other predators, ranging from dogs to even fishers.

            “Our deer have continued to thrive in the face of expanding black bear and coyote populations over the past two decades,” Rosenberry noted. “Annual statewide deer harvests reflect this. Whitetails are extraordinary adapters. They can survive on landscapes densely populated with humans and increasing numbers of predators.”

Field research has shown that predation has never been a significant fawn mortality factor in Pennsylvania. That’s probably related to the tremendous supply of other prey and seasonal foods at the time; the amount of effort required for a predator to find and take a fawn; and the narrow time slot in which most fawns are born and remain most vulnerable to predators.

During a fawn mortality study conducted in 2000 and 2001 by the Game Commission, Penn State University and Pennsylvania Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, similar numbers of fawns – less than three weeks old – were captured and radio-collared in Penns Valley (agricultural landscape) and the Quehanna Wild Area (forested landscape). No relationship was detected between fawn survival and habitat or landscape features. After 34 weeks, predation accounted for 49 of 106 mortalities that were sustained by the 218 study fawns. Coyotes took 18 fawns; black bears, 16. The study concluded fawn survival in Pennsylvania was similar to rates from studies in other northern states and that overall fawn mortality in the Commonwealth was not preventing population growth.

“This study and others that followed showed clearly that after a fawn makes it through its first summer, the greatest threats to its survival were from hunters and moving vehicles,” explained Rosenberry. “In other studies across Pennsylvania, we have captured and marked thousands of adult deer. Confirmed predator mortalities for those adult deer can be counted on one hand.”

Most fawns are born within a week of Memorial Day, which leaves a sudden and incredible number of them curled up in the weeds and woods statewide. The plethora of young deer all but ensures death will not consume the majority in this massive recruitment effort.

At birth, an average fawn is about 7.5 pounds, the weight of a small housecat. At one month, about 23 pounds. Consequently, it’s not hard to visualize their vulnerability early in life. That’s why this wobbly-legged fawn employs the hider defense, rather than run. Emitting little odor and being tucked into the vegetation has its advantages, too.

A doe feeding fawns needs to consume large quantities of food to fuel their rapid growth and milk lifeline. That means she has to forage often, leaving her fawn(s) unattended – bucks do not assist in raising young – and at risk. It’s almost always when the doe is away that people bump into fawns. If they’d leave these young deer where they find them, the fawns would be fine. But they don’t, and no good ever comes from removing a fawn from the wild.

“Everything changes the moment a fawn is taken from its natal area,” explained Rosenberry. “Its absence – coupled with lingering human scent – is treated as a loss by the returning doe after a short search. It’s just another adjustment for her in the world of whitetails. She moves on, possibly caring for her other fawn, and the abducted fawn is separated from its natural parent for life.”

People who care about wildlife can best help fawns and other young animals by leaving them alone. If they appear out of nowhere, distance yourself from them immediately. Reassure yourself that they’ll be fine without your assistance. And then stay away from the area – pets included – for a few weeks to allow nature to run its course.

Fawns grow quickly. Within two months, they’ll be cruising with adult deer, eating and nibbling from nature’s smorgasbord and learning life’s lessons. Their increased size and mobility provide that edge they need to mature. And most do, so long as they weren’t removed from the wild by someone wanting to mother nature.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Women In The Outdoors Event At Bull Creek June 2nd!

Women ages 14 and over are discovering a world all of their own; the National Wild Turkey Federation's Women in the Outdoors program was created just for them.

Today millions of women enjoy outdoor activities such as camping, fishing, shooting, hiking, and more. By becoming a member of Women in the Outdoors, you'll join a network of women who share the same hobbies and interests. You'll learn new skills, tune up existing ones, and make memories that last a lifetime in a relaxed, non-competitive environment.

Spread the word to your mom, sister, friend or co-worker. Bring them all to the Allegheny Valley Chapter event for a fun and exciting day of learning and fellowship.

Pre-registration is required.

What Will Be Provided:

* Choice of 4 expertly instructed classes

* Continental breakfast, lunch, snacks and beverages

* Equipment & materials needed for classes

* A l-year $35 membership in the NWTF

* I-year subscription to Turkey Country magazine and Turkey Talk

 Classes include:


Registration form must be received by May 25th!

Print the form below or call Lori Lojak at 724-224-4182 for more information

Page 1 of registration form. Click to enlarge and print

Page 2 of registration form. Click to enlarge and print

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Pa. Senate OKs bill to limit landowner's liability for hunting violations

The Pennsylvania Senate on Monday approved legislation that would limit the liability of landowners who allow hunting on their property, according to the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Richard Alloway II, R-Franklin/Adams/York.

Senate Bill 1403 would prevent landowners from being prosecuted for Game Code violations committed by hunters who are permitted to use the property, according to a news release from Alloway’s office.

Under current law, landowners who allow hunting on their property could be held responsible for violations by hunters, such as taking an animal out of season.

“We should be encouraging farmers and landowners to open their land to hunting and other recreational purposes instead of threatening them with legal consequences for the actions of others,” Alloway said in the release. 

Property owners could still be held responsible for violations if they receive a fee, payment or gratuity from the hunter, according to the release.

Senate Bill 1403 was sent to the 
Pennsylvania House of Representatives for consideration.

Alloway is chairman of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Game Commission Enrolls 29th Class Of WCO Cadets

HARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s 29th Class of Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO) Cadets recently took up residence at the agency’s Ross Leffler School of Conservation, which adjoins the headquarters building along Elmerton Avenue in Harrisburg.

The class, comprising 31 men and five women, will undergo 50 weeks of exhaustive training, including field duty with veteran officers, before graduation in March of 2013. If all 36 Cadets reach graduation, it will represent the largest class in the agency’s history.

“For years, the Game Commission has been one of the top ranking agencies in terms of employee longevity,” said Carl G. Roe. “This spoke volumes about the dedication and commitment of our employees to the agency’s wildlife management mission. However, in recent years, we’ve had an increasing number of employees reach retirement, especially within the ranks of our WCOs, which has made it necessary for more frequent classes with even more Cadets.

“Those who pass will join a proud team of Wildlife Conservation Officers, and be entrusted by the public to protect and conserve Pennsylvania’s wildlife resources and habitats and enforce the state’s hunting and trapping laws.”

Roe noted that the individuals who made it into the 29th Class were chosen from a field of nearly 750 applications, and were selected through a series of written tests, interview boards and physical examinations.

“These cadets now will be challenged to successfully complete the nearly year-long training program that will prepare them to become a valuable part of the state’s wildlife management agency,” Roe said. “They will undergo an intensive and wide ranging curriculum that will test them physically and mentally.”

Training will include subjects such as: wildlife management; physical fitness; firearms proficiency; unarmed self-defense; law enforcement; legal procedures; conservation education; land management practices; computer skills; and public relations. Cadets will be evaluated throughout the weeks and required to meet stringent standards to continue.

Upon graduation, each cadet will be commissioned a Wildlife Conservation Officer and given an assignment within the Commonwealth. Following a probationary period of at least one year, the WCO’s performance will be evaluated and, if acceptable, he/she will be granted permanent status. Continued training will be required on a regular basis for certain skills, such as firearms proficiency and legal updates. Other advanced skills training may be offered on a voluntary basis.

Of the 36 individuals enrolled in this class, 30 have college degrees or professional certifications; six have served as Deputy WCOs for the Game Commission; and five have been or were Game Commission employees in other capacities. Nine are veterans, of which three are from the Army, one the Marine Corps, one the Coast Guard, two the Air Force, and two the Navy.

Other previous careers include police officer, corrections officer, deputy sheriff, clerk, dispatcher, attorney, wildlife nuisance control agent, land abstractor, city councilman, arborist and sales representative.

The minimum age of those enrolled is 21 years, the maximum is 49 years and the average age is 29.6 years.

Cadets and their hometowns are: Cory Ammerman, Harrisburg, Dauphin County; Jason Amory, Meadville, Crawford County; Eric Anderson, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County; Douglas Barrick, Newport, Perry County; Shawn Barron, Somerset, Somerset County; Douglas Bergman, Sutersville, Westmoreland County; Jesse Bish, Corsica, Jefferson County; William Brehun, Stahlstown, Westmoreland County; Richard Briggs III, Wapwallopen, Luzerne County; Shawna Burkett, Erie, Erie County; Stacy Carroll, Holbrook, Greene County; Patrick Cull, Sharpsville, Mercer County; Kathleen Edmiston, New Wilmington, Lawrence County; Susan Edmiston, Hermitage, Mercer County; Josh Fette, Farrell, Mercer County; Byron Gibbs, Mars, Butler County; Ryan Gildea, Ashley, Luzerne County; Michael Greiner, Beaver Falls, Beaver County; Mark Gritzer, Clearfield, Clearfield County; Philip Kasper, Hunlock Creek, Luzerne County; Francis Keilbach, New Stanton, Westmoreland County; Nathaniel Kimmel, Indiana, Indiana County; Steven Knickel, Red Lion, York County; James McCann IV, Cheltenham, Montgomery County; Kirk Miller, Williamsport, Lycoming County; Kevin Moran, Scranton, Lackawanna County; Aaron Morrow, Harrisburg, Dauphin County; Bryan Mowrer, Hanover, York County; Jeffrey Oleniacz, Montrose, Susquehanna County; Michael Papinchak, Murrysville, Westmoreland County; Anthony Parrott, New Castle, Lawrence County; Christopher Reidmiller, Homer City, Indiana County; Brian Sheetz, Lebanon, Lebanon County; Michael Yeck, Rochester, Beaver County; Salvadore Zaffuto Jr., Portage, Cambria County; and Cassie Zliceski, Quakertown, Bucks County.

The Game Commission has budgeted nearly $2 million to train these 36 individuals, who will fill vacant districts throughout the state. The agency anticipates that all vacant districts will be filled when this class graduates in March.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Wildlife: Turkeys Grow Fast To Avoid Predation

In a few weeks, broods of turkeys will begin to appear in woods and along country roads. In Pennsylvania, hatching peaks around June 1 after a 28-day incubation period. After the mild winter and early spring, it will be interesting to see if broods appear earlier this year.
Young turkeys are precocial -- they leave the nest with the hen just hours after hatching. Sometimes several hens form large flocks with their offspring.

Hunters and birders alike often ask how to age young turkeys. Here's a guide to aging them by size. It's not exact because everything from weather and food availability to genetics affects growth rates, but it will put you in the ball park.

A newly hatched poult stands 4 to 5 inches tall, about twice as large as a newly hatched domestic chicken, and is completely covered in natal down. At seven days it has grown an inch or two, and juvenile feathers begin to replace the natal down. Sometime during this second week, poults develop the ability to fly to a roost. This is a critical skill, because every night they spend on the ground puts them at risk to predators such as bobcats, coyotes, foxes and great horned owls.
At three weeks of age, the young turkeys have doubled in size and now stand 8 to 9 inches tall. By now, poults can fly short distances.

When a month old, young turkeys are about 9 to 10 inches high, and a week later they reach 10 to 11 inches. At this point, their natal down has been completely replaced by juvenile feathers.
By the end of Week 6, poults stand about a foot tall. At two months of age, young turkeys stand 12 to 14 inches tall, and tail and wing feathers are growing rapidly. At 13 weeks, poults stand 19 to 20 inches tall, about two-thirds the size of adult hens. Young males begin to appear darker than females due to sexual differences in molt.

At 15 weeks, poults stand 18 to 23 inches tall and males are clearly taller than young hens. After 16 weeks young males are taller, but distinctly trimmer, than adult hens.
If you can accurately estimate the size of young turkeys, you should be able to estimate their age. By the end of summer, they'll be fully grown.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Commission Looking for Diverse Applicants to Perform Duties of Waterways Conservation Officer

HARRISBURG, Pa. – The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is looking for individuals interested in a career as a waterways conservation officer (WCO).
Applications for WCO Trainee positions must be sent to the state Civil Service Commission and must be received or postmarked by June 23, 2012. All written testing must be completed with the Civil Service Commission by July 28, 2012.

“WCOs perform specialized work in fish conservation and watercraft safety under the jurisdiction of the PFBC, blending law enforcement and public relations duties,” said Jeff Bridi, assistant director in the PFBC Bureau of Law Enforcement. “Our officers represent the face of the agency, since they are always in the field and are always interacting with anglers, boaters and the general public.”

Typical duties include patrolling by foot, car and boat to detect violations of fishing and boating laws; apprehending violators; issuing warnings and or citations; serving warrants; presenting evidence at hearings and court proceedings; investigating water pollution incidents; investigating boating accidents; and stocking fish. Appearing in public to conduct classes or provide information to groups are also highlights of the WCOs duties. WCOs work demanding schedules, including holidays and weekends, to perform their vital public safety and conservation duties.

All WCOs begin their career as a WCO Trainee. Before candidates are assigned the highly independent duties of waterways conservation officer, they must complete an extensive 52-week specialized training program beginning with approximately 21 weeks of instruction in law enforcement principles and practices that meet the standards of the Municipal Police Training Act.

An additional 31-week period follows with 19 weeks of classroom training by the Commission at the H. R. Stackhouse School of Fisheries Conservation and Watercraft Safety in Centre County, Pa., and 12 weeks of supervised field training. The program is conducted under close supervision, according to stringent rules. Those who successfully complete the training program will be promoted to a waterways conservation officer position.

Applicants must be Pennsylvania residents, at least 21 years of age at date of hire, and have a valid Pennsylvania driver’s license. Successful candidates must pass written, oral, and physical evaluations. Waterways conservation officers are required to wear a uniform and carry a firearm while on duty.

Additional information about a career as a WCO is available on the PFBC’s Careers web page at: or by calling the Human Resources Office at 717-705-7820.

Application forms and further information on the process can be obtained from the State Civil Service Commission website at Information may also be obtained from State Civil Service Commission offices in Harrisburg at 717-783-3058 (Text Telephone for deaf and hard-of-hearing callers: 717-772-2685); Philadelphia at 215-560-2253 (Text Telephone: 215-560-4367); or Pittsburgh at 412-565-7666 (Text Telephone: 412-565-2484.) Information may also be obtained by contacting the PFBC’s Human Resource Office at 717-705-7820 or by visiting the website at

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission is the sole state agency, charged by law, to manage the fisheries and to regulate fishing and pleasure boating in the Commonwealth. The Commission also has a vital, mandated interest in the enhancement and preservation of the state's aquatic environment. These responsibilities have been in place for nearly 140 years, growing steadily in scope, complexity and the number of people served.