Sunday, April 28, 2013

Creating Illusion In The Turkey Woods Leads To Success

By Bob Frye

Bill Bassinger demonstrates the three-bird setup he uses when hunting
turkeys — a sitting and a standing hen out front with a jake a few feet
behind — Friday, April 26, 2013, at his Boggs Township home
When Bill Bassinger talks to kids about what it takes to be a successful turkey hunter, he offers three pieces of advice.

The first is, don't move. The second is, don't move. The third? Don't move.

Violate any of the three rules and a gobbler likely will spot you and be gone long before you can draw a bead on him, said the Kittanning man.

“Their heads just never stop, and their eyesight is just unbelievable,” Bassinger said. “They're on a swivel all the time, just looking.”

Bassinger combats that by giving suspicious gobblers something else to look for besides himself. He hunts often, if not always, with a turkey decoy or three. He's far from being alone that way.

There was a time when turkey decoys were unheard of. That's changed in more recent times, to the point now that many consider them as essential as their calls. That will be obvious again in the coming weeks — turkey season opened Saturday and continues through May 31 — when fake birds will fill the woods.

“If turkey hunters have an empty pocket in their turkey vest, they've got to fill it with something. Decoys are another tool that some hunters swear by,” said Kristen Giger, a project biologist for the National Wild Turkey Federation based in Warren.

They're growing more popular because they work, said Tad Brown, a Missouri turkey hunter and product developer for Flambeau Outdoors. A former guide, he and his brother made their first turkey decoy more than 25 years ago. It was a plywood silhouette of a bird, with Styrofoam glued to the sides to give the body shape and real turkey wing feathers wired to it for color.

Today, hunters can buy any and all manner of decoys, from those mimicking hens to others meant to look like jakes and mature gobblers. They come in all manner of poses, from standing to feeding to even breeding. Some are meant to elicit an aggressive or jealous response from male birds; others are meant to attract hens that might pull in a trailing gobbler.

All work best if they make birds feel comfortable, Brown said. “A decoy paints a more realistic picture of what's going on. It makes a situation look right,” Brown said. “And the better job you can do creating the illusion that everything is good, the better your chances of success.” How realistic a decoy looks is not the most important thing, Giger said.

“The idea is not for a gobbler to come in and check the decoy out too closely, though we've all seen video of birds attacking or trying to mate with decoys,” she said. “The idea is to bring a gobbler within gun range. The hope is that by the time he gets close to the decoy, you're ready to pull the trigger.”

There are tricks to making that happen.

Bassinger prefers using two hens and a jake, with the idea that a mature gobbler will see that kind of mini-flock and try to take over. “When a longbeard gobbler comes in, he sees that jake and maybe gets mad, then he'll come in to fight. That's when I surprise him with a load from my shotgun,” Bassinger said. “I've done that many times.”

Brown's ideal setup involves putting out four decoys — after dark the night before a hunt if possible — with one being a hen looking ready to be bred, another a combination gobbler/hen in the midst of breeding, and a couple of feeding hens.

He always positions the birds so that they're partially concealed and facing toward him, too.
“If a gobbler thinks a hen is looking at him and pointed in his direction, he may think, ‘I'll just wait for her to come to me.' If the hen's pointed away from him and toward me, though, and it looks like they're walking away from him, he's got to hurry and catch up if he wants to meet her,” Brown said. “That brings him right in to where you are waiting.”

Of course, decoys aren't foolproof turkey getters. Some, like Bassinger, think turkeys shot at and missed over time become decoy shy. Others, like Brown, doubt the birds make the connection between decoys and danger.

Both, though, agree they're often worth using. “Being able to call a bird into you, that's the fun of the sport. That's why it's my passion,” Bassinger said. “But a decoy can really help sometimes. The combination of the two, calling and a decoy, it's worth the while.”

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.


Outlook good for a loud spring season

Hunters killed an estimated 35,392 gobblers last spring across Pennsylvania, according to game commission estimates. That was up slightly over the two previous springs.

The outlook for this year is similarly promising, given that turkeys made it through the winter in good shape in most places, said Mary Jo Casalena, the commission's turkey biologist.
“Gobblers are in good condition this spring, despite the cold winter, because of abundant mast in most of the commonwealth, excluding the southwest counties,” Casalena said.
The state's turkeys may be especially vocal this year, she added. Cooler-than-normal temperatures in March and early April suppressed early gobbling activity; warmer weather in the coming weeks should spark an increase in that activity, she said.

As always, hunters are limited to taking one gobbler unless they've purchased a second tag. All birds killed must be reported to the commission.

Hunters can chase birds until noon daily through the first two weeks of the season. In the final two weeks, hunting is allowed from one half-hour before sunrise until one half-hour after sunset. Last spring — the first when all-day hunting was allowed in even a part of the season — 6 percent of all the gobblers taken by hunters were shot in the afternoon. Most of those were taken between 6 and 8 p.m.

Pennsylvania Residents Support Deer Hunting

By John Hayes / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Keystone State residents have a great affinity for white-tailed deer, enjoy having them nearby and support regulated hunting as the best method to control them.

Released last week, a public opinion and attitude survey commissioned by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and conducted by Virginia-based Responsive Management found positive attitudes toward deer and deer-related recreation. The study said 77 percent of Pennsylvanians like having deer around, and a large majority, 85 percent, support the legal regulated hunting of deer.

The telephone survey reached some 9,200 adult residents with at least 400 interviews in each of the state's 22 wildlife management units, and included hunters and non-hunters. Coren Jagnow of the Game Commission's Research and Education Division said the results will be used to help the agency fulfill its mission to manage wildlife populations for all Pennsylvania residents.

"This study was important because it didn't just look at hunters but at the residents of the commonwealth as a whole, and it let us know what they think," he said, in a written statement. "... We are encouraged by a lot of the results, such as high levels of support for deer hunting and satisfaction with the size of the deer herd."

Queried about the agency's three primary deer management goals:
• 91 percent agree with managing for healthy and sustainable deer populations.
• 89 percent agree with managing the deer for a healthy and sustainable forest habitat.
• 84 percent agree with managing for safe, acceptable levels of deer-human conflicts.

While 85 percent support legal regulated hunting as a population control method, 46 percent support fertility/birth control (current technology would require each individual doe in unfenced populations to be inoculated every year). Use of sharpshooters is supported by 39 percent; 24 percent support trapping and killing excess deer.

Deer watching is a pastime enjoyed by more than half the state's residents. The survey found 56 percent spent time viewing or watching deer around home, 22 percent took a trip to view deer, and 8 percent intentionally fed deer.

Among those who enjoy having deer around, 28 percent said they worry about the problems that deer may cause. Slightly more than half of all respondents, 54 percent, said the deer population in their area is just right. Twenty-five percent identified themselves as hunters. Find the full report at

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Western Pennsylvania Has Seen A Spike In Lyme Disease Cases In Both People And Dogs

By Rick Wills, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

In the six years he's worked as a veterinarian in Butler County, Dr. Hisham Ibrahim has

treated 63 dogs that tested positive for Lyme disease.

When Ibrahim practiced in the South Hills from 1999 to 2007, he encountered about two dogs each year with the disease.

“We have had very high numbers of Lyme disease in the past five years or so. It's a new development,” said Ibrahim.

Lyme disease, which is carried by deer ticks, can be treated with antibiotics and other medications to control joint pain and other symptoms such as fever, chills and body aches.
Humans are unlikely to get the disease from dogs unless they try to remove an engorged tick from the animal, Ibrahim said.

The spike of Lyme disease in dogs is mirrored in the number of people in Butler County who have contracted the disease.

In 2011, the last year for which figures are available, 93 Butler County residents were reported to have contracted the disease, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. The county has about 185,000 residents.

In Allegheny County, which has 1.22 million residents, there were 58 cases of Lyme disease in 2011. Westmoreland County reported 12 cases that year.

Numbers from the state show a gradual increase since 2000 in many Western Pennsylvania counties. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2008 broadened the definition of Lyme disease, but numbers were on the rise even before then.

The range of the tick that carries Lyme disease is expanding, said Richard Ostfeld, an disease ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, N.Y.
“Western Pennsylvania and Western New York have seen a sharp increase in cases of Lyme disease,” he said.

The deer tick flourishes in forests, not in the heavily agricultural areas in the Midwest. In 2011, 96 percent of Lyme disease cases were reported from 13 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The disease was first identified in Lyme, Conn., in the early 1970s, when a mysterious series of rheumatoid arthritis cases occurred among children there.

The prevalence of the disease is linked to increasing populations of deer and mice, Ostfeld said.

It is also linked to the acorn crops from oak trees that are common in forests in the Northeast and Midwest, he said.

“This year, ticks might not be as bad. Acorns vary year to year quite a bit. Last fall was a total bust for acorns. They have crashed in numbers,” he said.

Long winter, recent cold may keep mating turkeys muted

Hunters can yelp, cackle, kee-kee and cutt when spring gobbler season opens Saturday. But this year, simply talking turkey may not be enough.

Mating, nesting and hatching are expected to follow their usual seasonal schedules. But experts say the long winter and recent cold snap may muzzle much of the gobbling. With the birds keeping their mouths shut, aggressive calling may seem unnatural to wary toms.

"Unlike last year's warm early spring weather, which triggered an early start to gobbling, this year's cooler-than-normal March and early April have suppressed gobbling activity," said Pennsylvania Game Commission wild turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena, in a spring gobbler forecast she generally described as "promising."

"Our research has shown that although weather affects gobbling, it does not affect the onset of egg laying by hen turkeys," Casalena said. "Rather, photoperiod, the amount of daylight, triggers it."

After the Dec. 22 winter solstice, days grow progressively longer. The increase in lighted hours in February and early March stimulates the pituitary gland of wild turkey hens, causing them to ovulate.

Breeding activity begins in early March, but fertilization isn't immediate. Hens gather and store active sperm from a variety of gobblers outside their ovaries. The oviduct containment lasts 56 days in domestic turkeys -- there's been no conclusive study of delayed fertilization among wild turkeys.

Casalena said spring gobbler season is intentionally scheduled to open around the peak of nest incubation to minimize hen disturbance and the number of mistaken kills.

Over a period of about two weeks, hens will lay a clutch of about a dozen eggs, leaving the nest immediately after each egg is laid. Egg mortality is high, and they don't immediately begin to incubate.

When the clutch is fully laid, the hen settles on the nest for some 20 hours per day, raising their temperature and prompting incubation. The eggs hatch together in 26 to 28 days.
"Nesting hens are less prone to come to a hunter's call and abandon their nests," Casalena said. "... The arrival of warmer temperatures will bring more gobbling activity, and just in time for the spring turkey season."

Bob Eriksen, a New Jersey-based biologist with the National Wild Turkey Federation, said hunters will have to adapt to a quieter hunt, at least early in the season.

"What you may see is some remnant of winter flocks that have not broken up efficiently yet," he said. "In some situations you might see two to four gobblers with a dozen hens or so. But that will be the exception, not the rule."

Wind and rain, as well as unseasonably warm or cold temperatures, typically impacts gobbling. A quieter mating season puts the jakes at a biological disadvantage. With less calling going on, the younger birds may have trouble finding hens, while veteran longbeards rely on experience to find willing females.

"Those older gobblers may not gobble, but they know were to find hens," Eriksen said. "If you notice in your pre-season scouting a gobbler displaying in an area, remember the spot. Even if you don't hear a gobbler in the morning [during a hunt], you may want to revisit that spot because the gobbler may return. If you have patience and stick it out, it may pay off."
The gobblers may not be gobbling, but the hens will be listening. During a quiet early season such as this, Eriksen said, a counter-strategy is to cackle aggressively in an attempt to annoy a dominant hen. When she approaches in a jealous rage, the tom may follow.

Casalena said most gobblers made it through the winter well, relying on ample mast everywhere except southwestern Pennsylvania.

With that in mind, this year's pre-season scouting may be more important than ever.
"Scouting improves hunters' chances, especially if they line up multiple locations for the spring season," she said. "Learning several gobblers' favorite strutting areas also is helpful for determining the best in-season set-up. This requires early-morning preseason scouting, but the potential in-season reward is worth it."

Leave the calls at home while scouting.

"It will educate birds and cause them to be less inclined to respond to the early-morning calls of in-season hunters," Casalena said.

Fish and Boat Commission Backs Off Boat Registration Proposal

By Bob Frye 

It looks as though Frank Berarducci and others like him are off the hook for now.

Berarducci is co-owner of Youghiogheny Canoe Outfitters in West Newton. From there, he and his brother-in-law, Orlando Lash, rent canoes and kayaks to boaters who float the river. They've got nearly 90 boats.
None of them are registered.
The rules say that's OK. Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission regulations say only motorboats need be registered, at a cost of $26 to $52, depending on size, for two years.
There's been talk of changing that, though. Desperate for cash to meet looming budget shortfalls tied to health care and pension costs, the commission has been talking about requiring all boats — including the estimated 137,750 canoes, kayaks, rowboats and other nonpowered boats — to be registered.
Berarducci doesn't want that.
“That would put a heck of a damper on our profits. It's not something we'd like to see,” he said.
“That would be a lot of registrations for us, a lot of stickers, a lot of paperwork, a lot of numbers on boats. That's definitely something we'd be against.”
He's not been alone in expressing those kinds of opinions. Several Fish and Boat Commissioners, at their meeting this past week, said they've heard similar sentiments from boaters and lawmakers around the state.
That prompted several, such as Ed Mascharka of Erie County and Warren Elliott of Franklin, to say they oppose registering nonpowered boats. The result is that the registration idea has been put on hold, for now.
That doesn't mean commissioners hate the concept completely. Rather, several said the problem is how it's structured. Its impact on liveries like Berarducci's is an issue, said commissioner Rocco Ali of Apollo.
“I have heard nothing about the commercial guy who owns these kayaks and how that's going to impact him. That is a concern,” Ali said.
There's also the issue of rowboats and other small crafts on things like farm ponds, said commissioner Bob Bachman of Lancaster County. Many of those never get used off those tiny waters, he said.
Yet a rule requiring all nonpowered boats to be registered would include them, too.
“It seems like a great, big, broad sort of thing,” Bachman said.
Commission staff, in presenting the proposal, noted that all boaters, whether their crafts are registered or not, benefit from the commission's work in some ways. That includes the pollution monitoring behind clean water, enforcement of safety rules, fish regulations and more, they said.
“I think we have to get paid for the services we render,” said commissioner Bill Worobec of Lycoming County.
But how to do that needs to be better fleshed out, he said.
Ali agreed, saying the commission recently created a firestorm by announcing it was closing two trout hatcheries as a cost-cutting move without notifying lawmakers first. Many responded angrily enough that the commission backtracked and has agreed to keep both open while the search for the money needed to run them long-term goes on.
Unless the commission has taken the “political pulse” of lawmakers on this registration issue and is sure it won't likewise create a problem, it should be wary, Ali said.
“I would hate for us to get into the same sort of thing we got into before, where we upset a lot of people for nothing,” Ali said.
Not every commissioner agreed. Len Lichvar of Somerset County said the commission's fiscal concerns are such that it needs to make hard and perhaps unpopular decisions.
It's time for everyone to pay their way, he said, rather than relying on a few to pay for the services all enjoy.
“I don't think anyone deserves a free ride any more. And I think we have some free riders out there,” Lichvar said.
Given that the board itself is split, though, the commission largely has shelved the idea until there's more consensus, said executive director John Arway.
“This is now a low priority. It's not going to get a lot of staff time,” Arway said.

Friday, April 19, 2013

National Rifle Association is taking over the Eastern Sports & Outdoors Show

The National Rifle Association next year will run a new show at the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex in Harrisburg to replace the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show.

Scheduled to run Feb. 1-9, which is about when the Eastern show traditionally was held, the Great American Outdoor Show will be bigger and better than its predecessor, according to the NRA.

"Next February ... the place to be if you're an outdoorsman or outdoorswoman, if you're a family that's interested in the outdoor sports, the place to be will be Harrisburg, Pennsylvania," said David Keene, president of the NRA. 

"This is going to become a national show with implications way beyond the borders of this state and this county, and it's going to attract people from all over the country — not just next year but for years to come."

Keene said the show will include country music concerts, national speakers and conferences, all to be held after show hours.

The desire to expand the show is what made the NRA rise above the 16 other promoters who applied to the state Department of Agriculture, which owns the Farm Show Complex, to take over the show, according to Jeff Haste, chairman of the Dauphin County commissioners.

"Going through the proposals, there clearly was one vendor that stood out from the rest," Haste said. "There was one producer who looked at the show as a reason to be here."

That applicant was the NRA, Haste said.

"Having been the host of this show for over 60 years, here in Dauphin County, it's become a tradition of ours," he said. "It has been something that has driven our economy."

When Reed Exhibitions, which owns the Eastern show, canceled this year's event, Haste said, it "was like a stock market crash — our own economy took a crash right there. It had over an $80 million economic impact to our citizens." 

Reed canceled the show after hundreds of vendors and celebrities boycotted the event, due to a rule imposed by Reed just three weeks prior to its scheduled start on Feb. 2.

Under that rule, Reed banned the sale and display of semiautomatic assault rifles and high-capacity magazines — both of which can be legally bought and sold in Pennsylvania.

Reed officials indicated such products might have created a distraction at the show, given the political turmoil in the wake of the December massacre of 20 children and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., by a man carrying a semiautomatic rifle.

One of the first exhibitors to pull out of the Eastern show and to denounce Reed's actions as an attack on the Second Amendment was Lancaster Archery Supply.

Owner Rob Kaufhold said Tuesday he was pleased to hear the NRA would be taking over the show, and he said Lancaster Archery will exhibit at the new event.

"The whole reason for the boycott was there was someone running the show that obviously was working against the interests and core beliefs of sportsmen — those of us that believe in the Second Amendment," he said.

"The NRA is very good at organizing sportsmen and gun people."

Keene promised "all legal firearms and products" will be allowed to be displayed and sold at the Great American Outdoor Show.

That was good news to Joe Keffer's ears.

Keffer owns The Sportsman's Shop in New Holland. He said he was directly affected by Reed's weapons ban.

The Sportsman's Shop had planned to sell semiautomatic rifles at the Eastern show.

"I'm looking forward to it," Keffer said of the NRA-led show. "At this moment in time, it would be our intent to pursue space at the show."

And if the show grows under the NRA, that's even better, he said.

"Anything you can do to make it bigger and better — I'm all for that," he said. "If they bring in more people, we can sell more stuff."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

PA 2013-2014 Seasons And Bag Limits Adopted; Doe License Allocations Set

Includes adoption of new Wildlife Management Unit 2H

HARRISBURG – The Board of Pennsylvania Game Commissioners today adopted seasons, bag limits, and elk and antlerless deer license allocations for the 2013-14 license year, which begins July 1. The board also finalized the inclusion of Wildlife Management Unit 2H during its quarterly meeting.

An antlerless deer allocation of 839,000 was approved by the Board for the 2013-14 seasons. Allocations by WMU are as follows: WMU 1A, 49,000; WMU 1B, 31,000; WMU 2A, 49,000; WMU 2B, 62,000; WMU 2C, 43,000; WMU 2D, 61,000; WMU 2E, 22,000; WMU 2F, 29,000; WMU 2G, 28,000; WMU 2H, 6,000; WMU 3A, 23,000; WMU 3B, 39,000; WMU 3C, 35,000; WMU 3D, 32,000; WMU 4A, 28,000; WMU 4B, 24,000; WMU 4C, 27,000; WMU 4D, 35,000; WMU 4E, 26,000; WMU 5A, 19,000; WMU 5B; 50,000; WMU 5C, 103,000; and WMU 5D, 18,000.

The board also approved an elk license allocation of 86; 26 will be antlered elk tags. Allocations by Elk Hunt Zone (EHZ) are as follows: EHZ 2 – 3 antlered, 10 antlerless; EHZ 3 – 2 antlered, 6 antlerless; EHZ 4 – 3 antlered, 2 antlerless; EHZ 5 – 4 antlered, 11 antlerless; EHZ 6 – 3 antlered, 12 antlerless; EHZ 7 – closed; EHZ 8 – 1 antlered, 1 antlerless; EHZ 9 – 1 antlered, 4 antlerless; EHZ 10 – 3 antlered, 5 antlerless; EHZ 11 – 1 antlered, 1 antlerless; and EHZ 12 – 5 antlered, 8 antlerless.

Other highlights of the new slate of seasons and bag limits included subdividing WMU 2G into two WMUs, which are now recognized as WMUs 2G and 2H (they will be featured in the 2013-2014 Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest); allowing qualified adult mentors to transfer one Deer Management Assistance Program antlerless deer permit to a youth they are mentoring as part of the Mentored Youth Hunting Program; changes to fall turkey seasons in several Wildlife Management Units to accommodate ongoing research; a return of the statewide snowshoe hare hunting season with a shortened season in WMUs 3B, 3C and 3D; increased daily and season bag limits for beavers in certain WMUs; and the addition of WMUs 3A, 3D and 4E to the list of WMUs open for fisher trapping. Another change eliminates the extended regular firearms season in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, except in Special Regulations Area counties – Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, which will retain the extended regular firearms season in these WMUs.

Hunters and trappers – particularly those setting vacations for this fall and winter – also are advised that several seasons will open or run about a week later in the 2013-14 license year to accommodate calendar swings – related to the timing of Thanksgiving – that occur about every seven years.
A listing of most 2013-2014 seasons and daily bag limits can be found by clicking here

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Outdoor 3-D Archery Shoots Every Month At Bull Creek!

3-D Archery Shoots at Bull Creek will be held on the following dates:


REGISTRATION   9:00am-2:00pm

MAY 12 Mother's Day Shoot- mothers shoot Free!


REGISTRATION   9:00-2:00

ADULTS $8.00    YOUTH UNDER 16 $4.00

Pair of bald eagles in Hays may have hatched a baby

A prominent Pittsburgh couple may have something to celebrate.

The eagles of Hays have yet to announce an expansion of the family, but mom and dad appear to be tending to at least one eaglet. No sightings have occurred, but eagle watchers have noticed a change in the birds' behavior indicative of a hatched egg.

Since nesting in February on a steep hillside near the Glenwood Bridge and the Monongahela River, the bald eagles have caused a stir. The nest is clearly visible in the pre-foliage skyline. Eagle watchers gather almost daily on the Three Rivers Heritage Trail near the Keystone Iron and Metal scrap yard.

The male, which frequently rests on a nearby branch, has been hunting more often and bringing more food to the nest. In recent weeks, the female had been less visible, leading some to speculate she was incubating an egg. Over the weekend, she suddenly became more active inside the nest.

"Behavioral changes lead us to believe one or more eggs have hatched, but we're waiting for them to get larger to be sure," said Samara Trusso, Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife management supervisor for the southwest region.

"You can't see the baby, but there's definitely at least one there," said Robin Weber of the National Aviary, who monitored the site Monday. "We observed the male returning to the nest with food and hopping in. The female was in, and even without binoculars we could see her tail end sticking out. We're assuming she was feeding an eaglet."

"Based on the behaviors we've seen, we should have visible confirmation in the next week, two at the most," Ms. Trusso said.

Henry Kacprzyk of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium said mid-April is the right time for bald eagle eggs to start hatching.

"Typically, two to three eggs would be normal. If one has hatched, the next would come in a few days," he said.

Following a hatching, a female eagle generally spends most of her time inside the nest, Mr. Kacprzyk said. The male hunts frequently, bringing food back to the female, who takes it into her craw and regurgitates into the offspring's mouth. Fledging, when the young birds leap off the edge of a nest and learn to fly, generally starts in June.

A sign describing the Game Commission's advice for eagle-watching etiquette has been posted near the bike trail. Ms. Weber said people so far have kept a respectful distance.
Mr. Kacprzyk said the most sensitive time for the birds, the mating period, has passed. But if offspring are in the nest, unintentional human behavior could still be disruptive.

"They've apparently gotten used to all the activity," he said. "But if an egg or eggs have hatched, the adults could be driven off often enough that they'd provide insufficient nourishment to the young."

Elsewhere in Allegheny County, eagles have left a nest on a cliff near the Hulton Bridge in Harmar. Ms. Trusso said the original inhabitants of that nest, a pair of red-tailed hawks, have reclaimed it.

Crowds marveled at the aerial display as the eagles and hawks battled for control of the nest.

"Without being able to get inside the mind of an eagle, they must have decided that it wasn't their preferred nesting site and wasn't worth the fight," Ms. Trusso said.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pa. Fish And Boat Commission Mulls Charging Industry For Water

Senate resolution to explore imposing a fee has bipartisan support

What's water worth? Depends on whom you ask.

To some 850,000 trout anglers expected to hit Pennsylvania's lakes and streams for today's statewide opening of trout season, that's like asking the value of a day out fishing with your dad.

But for industries that extract Pennsylvania's most abundant natural resource from 83,000 miles of streams and rivers, nearly 4,000 lakes and an estimated 80 trillion gallons hidden underground, water is free. Billions of gallons per day are taken at no cost, much of it never to be returned to the citizens who own it.

With a $9 million budget shortfall threatening to hit the state Fish and Boat Commission in 2017, executive director John Arway said he's "searching high and low" for alternative funding to hold afloat an agency financed mostly by anglers and boaters. One idea with possible legal precedent and tentative bipartisan support in Harrisburg is imposing a new fee for the "consumptive use" of water, with revenues going to Fish and Boat and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Consumptive use refers specifically to water that is extracted by industry and permanently removed from the environment, Mr. Arway said.

"When people drink water or take a shower, it's returned through the sewage system," he said. "When farmers irrigate fields it drains back into the ground. The Pennsylvania Constitution says we, the citizens, own the water. Some of these companies take it out of the environment, use it for free and it's gone, never returned to Pennsylvania's environment."
The bottled water industry, for instance, pays nothing to remove it from the state's waterways. It treats and packages water and ships much of it out of the state. The Marcellus Shale industry also extracts water for free. The process of hydraulic fracturing pumps much of it so far below the water table it is rendered forever unusable. Other industries make similar permanent use of water.

"That's our water they're taking for free," Mr. Arway said. "They're stealing the resource from us, and that makes me mad."

In the American West, most land ownership includes water rights. But in Eastern states, including Pennsylvania, rules dating to English common law leave most flowing water and the aquatic life that inhabits it in a trust owned by the citizens of the state.

Under a 1940s state law, dredging companies that remove sand and gravel from the riverbeds of the Allegheny and Ohio rivers compensate the state with revenues shared by Fish and Boat and DEP, agencies with roles in managing those waterways. Mr. Arway sees the law as precedent for a new regulation that would compensate the state for the permanent extraction of water.

The idea has conceptual support from Republicans and Democrats in Harrisburg. Submitted in March with bipartisan co-sponsorship, State Senate Resolution 39 would allocate money to study the issue and recommend an as-yet undetermined fee structure for the permanent use and degradation of water.

"Billions of gallons of water are either never returned to Pennsylvania's water cycle or returned in a degraded condition each day, and the commonwealth of Pennsylvania receives no compensation for either the consumptive use or degradation of water," said the bill's sponsor, Sen. Richard Alloway, R-Adams, Franklin and York counties, in a written statement. The resolution is in committee.

The bottled water industry supports regulation of the industrial use of water. But Chris Hogan of the International Bottled Water Association said the trade group opposes the kind of state-levied fees suggested by Mr. Arway.

"The consumptive use of water for bottled water is arguably one of the highest and most appropriate consumptive uses of water in a product, since it quite literally is then directly consumed by consumers," Mr. Hogan said.

In 2008, the bottled water association supported ratification of the Great Lakes Compact, which addresses commercial water extraction from the Great Lakes Basin, including Pennsylvania. But more than a dozen Pennsylvania-based bottlers extract water from outside the Lake Erie Basin. Most, including the Nestle brand's Poland Springs Water, KD Service's Great Oak Spring Water Co., Pure Elements H2O and 3 Springs Water, draw from the Susquehanna and Delaware river drainages.

In 2009, the state denied the request of a bottled water startup company to drain more than 100,000 gallons a day from the Laurel Hill Creek watershed in Somerset County. The DEP said the withdrawal would significantly diminish the flow of the popular trout stream and its tributaries and cause environmental damage.

With DEP oversight of its operations in Pennsylvania, water bottlers are subject to permit and inspection fees and taxes. Considering that much of the product is returned to the environment from which it came, Mr. Hogan said the bottled water industry is actually a "net importer of water into states in the region."

The association's national water policy statement supports government involvement in long-term sustainable water usage. It opposes, however, "targeted state and federal fees placed on its members' operations and products, but is happy to review broad-based proposed user fees to determine whether or not they are equitable for all, including the bottled water industry," said Mr. Hogan.

The Marcellus Shale industry moves water from the surface to deep underground. Each drilling site uses 3 million to 5 million gallons, almost all of it during the hydraulic fracturing stage. Steve Forde, a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, said that in 2011 in Pennsylvania drilling operations used 8 million to 10 million gallons of water per day, among the least used by water consuming industries.

A 2011 U.S. Geological Survey report said fracking operations accounted for 0.1 percent of 9.5 billion gallons of water extracted daily from the state. Mr. Forde said new cost-saving technologies developed in the past three years enable operators to reuse water used in fracking, reducing the industry's need for water.

"There's a good business case to be made for reducing water withdrawal. Transporting it to the well and then disposing of it -- it's expensive," he said. "In our business, hydraulic fracturing is where water is utilized, and the truth is we're not using as much water as we did just a few years ago."

A DEP spokesman said the resolution, which would provide new revenue to the department, is under review. Mr. Arway said water usage revenues would provide a partial remedy for Fish and Boat, which runs on a $55 million annual budget mostly derived from license and permit fees and a federal excise tax on fishing and boating gear and fuel. He said the $9 million shortfall will hit in four years in the form of employee pension obligations and growing infrastructure expenses.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

New Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show Nearly Set For Next February

By Jeff Frantz | 

sports and outdoor show will be coming back to the Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex next February.
This week, the Farm Show selected a potential promoter for the show, Dauphin County Commissioner Jeff Haste announced Tuesday night at the State of the County Address. The complex currently is negotiating with that promoter and Haste expects a deal will soon be final.
2011 Eastern Sports and Outdoor ShowThe cancellation of the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in February cost the midstate an estimated $80 million. A new show at the Farm Show complex next year will generate at least that much, said Dauphin County Commissioner Jeff Haste.
The 2014 show should generate at least that much, if not more, Haste said.
After the cancellation, the county used $56,000 in tourism money to secure a deposit on the complex for the show's traditional week. Seventeen promotions companies from around the country submitted proposals to the Farm Show, Haste said. Reed was not among them.
In the process, the promoters told Farm Show officials that the outdoor show has been mismanaged in recent years, Haste said, limiting chances for growth. That will change next February, he said.
"We found out the show could have been better, and it will be." - Dauphin County Commissioner Jeff Haste
"They heard from folks with really great ideas," Haste said. "We found out the show could have been better, and it will be."
Many vendors and longtime attendees said they would not return if an assault weapons ban remained in place. It will be up to the promoter to develop a policy for the display and sale of firearms, Haste said.
Gesturing to the Hilton Harrisburg ballroom where he gave his speech, Haste said there was not a person in the crowd who didn't know someone who had been impacted by the cancellation. 
Seeing the list of potential promoters looking to get into business in the midstate showed how important and respected the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show had become, Haste said. The nine-day show was billed as the largest of its kind in North America.
It's too important to let that legacy go, Haste said.
But Haste did not need any reminding.
An outdoorsman himself, Haste said that the show folding this year "was like Christmas getting canceled.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Opening Day Of Trout Season Busy, But Quiet Fishing Still Available

By Bob Frye Tribune Review

So just how crowded is it going to be Saturday?

Take Heinz Field, PNC Park, Petersen Events Center and Beaver Stadium and fill them to capacity, two-and-a-half times each. Add in a few crazy uncles, a handful of neighbors and maybe that friend of a friend whose name you don't really know.

Then you'd be getting close.

There will be somewhere in the neighborhood of 570,000 fishermen on the water at 8 a.m. on Saturday when trout season officially opens across Western Pennsylvania. That's about seven out of every 10 fishermen who will wet a line at any point this year statewide, all on the water on one particular day.

“We expect everyone to be out fishing this weekend,” Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission spokesman Rick Levis said.

The commission has been preparing for that by stocking most of the 3.2 million brown, brook and rainbow trout in its hatcheries. The last of the preseason stockings take place this week. More than 1,000 stream sections and 100 lakes will have gotten fish by Saturday.

Still, solitude will be at a premium.

Things need not be that way, though. Anglers who aren't concerned with keeping trout — the daily limit is five fish of at least 7 inches — or at least with filling their creel first thing in the morning can find elbow room aplenty by concentrating on streams managed under delayed-harvest, artificial-lures-only and fly-fishing-only regulations.

On those waters — which also have been stocked in recent weeks — you can't use bait, and you can't keep fish.

But you can find trout without loads of competition — even on opening day.

“It's been my experience on the first day of trout season that you can find plenty of room on those delayed-harvest waters. Everybody wants to kill 'em and grill 'em on opening day,” said Woody Banks, owner of Indiana Angler, a fly shop in Indiana.

“A lot of fly fishermen who don't care about keeping trout anyway and don't want to fight the crowds will fish them. Some will do that for the whole first week,” agreed Dan McMaster of Ligonier Outfitters. “But it's never a lot of people on the first day.”

Opening day doesn't have to come down completely to choosing quiet fishing or harvesting a few for the table, though.

Opening day's crowds thin considerably after noon or so, said Pat Ferko, a Fish and Boat Commission waterways conservation officer in Somerset County. Anglers can take advantage of that.

“Every year, we see guys who go to a delayed-harvest water early to fish, with flies and lures, because they've got the bug like everyone else. They catch fish and release them,” Ferko said.

“Then after lunch, when a lot of people have gone home, they go to stocked waters under statewide regulations and fish where they can still try for their limit.”

Often, those waters are one and the same.

Many stocked streams have sections managed under delayed-harvest rules and sections managed under statewide regulations side by side, said Rick Lorson, area fisheries manager for the commission based in Somerset. Laurel Hill Creek in Somerset County is a good example.

“A long stretch of Laurel Hill is stocked from up near the Turnpike (in Somerset) all the way down to Confluence, with Laurel Hill Lake in the middle,” Lorson said. “It's got two delayed-harvest stretches, one in kind of the upper portion above the lake and one in the lower portion, as well as lots of water under statewide regulations.”

Anglers can fish pretty much alone in the delayed-harvest section early then move as little as a mile and fish for a few keepers, he said.

Bull, Deer and Pine creeks in Allegheny County; Buffalo Creek in Armstrong; Dunbar Creek in Fayette; Dutch Fork Creek in Washington, Little Mahoning Creek in Indiana; Slippery Rock Creek in Butler and Lawrence; Loyalhanna Creek in Westmoreland; and Clear Shade Creek in Somerset are other waters that offer those opportunities.

The Yough and Stonycreek rivers offer options bait fishermen also can take advantage of.
Both have sections that get stocked with adult trout but also long sections that get stocked only with fingerlings. Those latter stretches don't draw big crowds opening day but can be productive, Lorson said.

It really comes down to picking the kind of experience you want to have.
“I hate to call them all good, but all of the waters we put fish in are that way, or we wouldn't be stocking them in the first place,” Lorson said.