Sunday, July 28, 2013

Eco Relay Race a New Event at Lake Arthur Regatta

By Karen Price, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

When avid kayakers Christina and Michael Handley of Freedom grew weary of paddling past everything from tires to an old riding lawn mower in the Connoquenessing Creek last year, they started the nonprofit Allegheny Aquatic Alliance.

In one cleanup day alone last year, a group of 150 volunteers pulled nearly 55,000 pounds of trash from the waterway. On Aug. 3, they will host the first Quest for the King Eco Relay Race as part of the Lake Arthur Regatta at Moraine State Park.

For them, it's a way to not only support the park but get people involved in the outdoors and — hopefully — interested in doing their part for the health of the environment.

“Once people are out and enjoying the outdoors, they begin to realize how important nature is and they can become more inspired to make a difference,” Christina Handley said.

“We wanted to help promote the regatta and the park and the diversity it has to offer. There
are so many different activities you can do at Moraine that we decided to incorporate a bunch of them into one race to make it a fun and competitive team experience for the community.”

Teams of up to five participants will cover 18 miles via biking, trail running, canoeing and kayaking. It's one of the newest events that people can participate in during the 15th annual regatta and festival.

Held Aug. 3 and 4, the event is designed to highlight Butler County in general and Moraine State Park in particular while getting people outdoors.

“We do tailor it to young people to get them away from the TV, away from the Internet and portray that part of Butler County as an area where they can go get some exercise and get outdoors,” said Sam Barill, who's been the vendor coordinator for the regatta for the past 10 years.

Another new activity this year is a lesson on building a low-cost canoe at home and a workshop on making safe and natural household and personal care products.
Visitors, as always, will be able to try out the climbing wall, canoes and kayaks as well as get information on a wide variety of local and national outdoor recreational activities.
The event draws from 10,000 to 30,000 people, Barill said, depending on the weather.
Admission and parking are free, with most activities beginning at 10 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday at the Pleasant Valley Beach area on the South Shore of the park. Saturday closes with fireworks over the lake, and the regatta and festival end at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Registration for the Quest for the King begins at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday, and the race begins at 9 a.m. The cost is $100 per team.

The course begins at the Lakeview parking area with a bike trip along the trail to the Moraine Outdoors Center and back for a combined eight miles.

From there, the second and third team members will canoe three miles to the Pleasant Valley area, where the fourth team member will run three miles along the Sunken Garden Trail. The last component of the race will be a four-mile kayak.

To register for the Quest for the King, visit For more information on the regatta and festival, visit

Littering now, always troubling

Bob Frye, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Bill Holtzer turned 80 this summer and admittedly has outlived many of his fishing buddies.
Still, he fishes whenever he can.

This past week, he traveled from his home in Jeannette to Virgin Run Lake near Perryopolis.
He found the lake to be pastoral and pretty and did well, too. Tossing artificials as he worked his way around the shoreline, he landed a variety of fish, from bass to assorted panfish.
But all was not well.

Everywhere he went, from the areas closest to the parking lot to the far side of the lake, he encountered garbage.

“Oh, I'll tell you what. I've never seen anything like it,” Holtzer said. “In all the years I've spent hunting and fishing in Pennsylvania, I've never seen littering as I did at Virgin Run Lake. I could have filled 20-gallon garbage bags at each of the places I found trash.”

That's not nearly as surprising as it should be.

At Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission lakes, other impoundments and along rivers and creeks, littering is a problem.

“It's always in the top three when it comes to the kinds of citations we write in a year's time across the state,” said Tom Qualters, manager of the commission's southwest region law enforcement office in Somerset. “It's a shame.”

Last year, fishing without a license was the most common offense handled by waterways conservation officers, with 1,623 citations issued. Lack of personal floatation devices ranked second with 1,126. Littering was third with 453.

That was par for the course. Over the previous two years, officers averaged 463 littering citations.

Some litterbugs are anglers and boaters, Qualters said. But day-hikers, adults and kids partying and others cause problems, too. All toss aside everything from fast food bags to beer cans to cigarette butts to bait containers.

Scott Opfer, the commission's conservation officer in Fayette County whose district takes in Virgin Run, is aggressive about fining them. He leads the state in littering citations just about every year, Qualters said.

“That's my pet peeve, littering,” Opfer said. “That's one thing I won't give a guy a break on. I don't care who you are, if I find you littering, you're going to get a ticket because there's no need for it.”

The problem is widespread, he noted. Even hard-to-reach places suffer. The area along Jacobs Creek known as Creek Falls — a 11⁄2-mile walk along railroad tracks from the closest road — is incredibly scenic, for example, but is marred by the constant accumulation of trash.

The base fine for littering is $108.50, counting court costs, though officers can add penalties of $20 to $50 per item discarded. Getting hit once that way is enough to convince some people to stop leaving garbage behind, Opfer said.

But officers only can be in so many places, Qualters said. Sportsmen need to spot problems and report them.

Holtzer has and hopes others likewise are willing to be vigilant for the sake of the places they hold dear. Places like Virgin Run.

“It's such a beautiful lake,” he said. “But I came away from there with a tear in my eye because of the incredible problem I found.”

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Game Commission To Host Annual Waterfowl Briefing

This year’s symposium to be held at Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area.

Representatives of waterfowl organizations, interested hunters and the public are invited to attend a briefing on Friday, Aug. 9, co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Northwest Pennsylvania Duck Hunters Association, on the status of Atlantic Flyway waterfowl populations and proposed preliminary federal frameworks for the 2013-14 waterfowl hunting seasons.
The briefing will begin at 1 p.m., at the Game Commission’s Pymatuning Administration Building, 9552 Hartstown Road, Hartstown, Pa.
In addition to reviewing frameworks established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for upcoming waterfowl and migratory bird seasons, Game Commission staff will provide updates on current and planned research and management programs, as well as past hunting results.
Public comments will be accepted at the meeting; or by sending a letter to: Pennsylvania Game Commission, Bureau of Wildlife Management, 2001 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797; or via e-mail
Based on public comments, Game Commission staff will prepare and present recommended waterfowl and migratory bird seasons, bag limits and related criteria to the USFWS for final approval. 
All migratory bird hunting seasons and bag limits must conform to frameworks set by the USFWS.  States select their hunting seasons within these established frameworks.
Early migratory bird hunting seasons – including September Canada goose, mourning dove, American woodcock and webless species – will be announced soon.
By mid-August, when the final selections are made, the Game Commission will issue a news release on the remaining hunting seasons for migratory birds.  The agency also will post the annual brochure outlining the seasons and bag limits for waterfowl and migratory bird seasons on the agency’s website (

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pennsylvania Sunday Hunting Lawsuit Is Filed

By Bob Frye

The battle is on.

Hunters United for Sunday Hunting and Kathy Davis of Speers filed a lawsuit in Middle District federal court in Harrisburg this past week seeking to have the state's prohibition against hunting on Sundays lifted. It claims the ban is unconstitutional under the First, Second and 14th amendments.

Attorney Peter Russo of Mechanicsburg writes in the suit that the Supreme Court has, in recent decisions, held hunting to be guaranteed by the right to bear arms. That's not been the case before, Davis said.

“That is hugely watershed,” she said.

Russo also writes the ban creates separate classes of citizens who are treated unequally. What's more, the “blue law” — designed to enforce religious standards — behind it no longer makes sense when people can gamble, buy alcohol, shop and more on Sundays, he writes.
The suit names the Pennsylvania Game Commission as the defendant, even though the agency in 2010 adopted a resolution supporting Sunday hunting.

“You can't sue a state over this. You have to sue the regulatory authority. So it's a bit of an oddball situation where we're actually suing an agency that supports our position,” admitted Brad Gehman of Lancaster County, another Hunters United board member. “It's weird.”

But the lawsuit is necessary because state lawmakers have repeatedly failed to overturn the ban on their own, said Josh First of Harrisburg, a board member for Hunters United.

“The legislature is paralyzed on this issue. So we have no other way to achieve our goal,” he said. “We're stuck.”

Lawmakers have held hearings on and debated various bills that would have either allowed Sunday hunting for specific species or given the Game Commission authority to decide whether to include Sundays in seasons. None went anywhere.

Neither Gary Haluska nor Marc Gergely, Democratic members of the House of Representatives game and fisheries committee from Cambria and Allegheny counties, respectively, could be reached to say why that is.

The Game Commission won't act as legislative guidance, though.

“It is our position that we lack the authority to lift the prohibition,” spokesman Travis Lau said, noting it was lawmakers who legalized the hunting of crows, foxes and coyotes on Sundays previously.

First doesn't disagree. But if the courts say the commission can roll Sundays into hunting seasons, the legislature likely will get involved and come up with guidelines, he said.
Families will be the main beneficiaries, Gehman said.

“Hunting is a family-building recreation,” Gehman said. “That's why we're doing this. We want to let kids get out and hunt when it fits their schedules. That's what this is all about.”

Ten other states ban Sunday hunting, but those rules are being contested, too. Safari Club International is looking into challenging the ban in Virginia.

All those laws ultimately will fall, First predicted, and that will help secure hunting's future.
“This is about having enough people who hunt, shoot and trap in the future so that we have a political presence,” he said

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Dick’s To Open Field & Stream Store In Cranberry Twp, PA

By John D. Oravecz, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Dick's Sporting Goods said its first specialty Field & Stream retail store will open on Aug. 16 in Cranberry. The outdoor and camping focused store is Dick's latest spinoff idea.

The Findlay-based retailer, which ventured into golf- and running-themed stores in recent years, converted its former Dick's location in Cranberry Square at 1000 Cranberry Square Drive to a store based on the classic outdoors brand, that will offer equipment, accessories and services in hunting, fishing, archery, and camping.

Dick's moved its Cranberry store in October to a larger, two-story space at Cranberry
Crossroads on Route 228. A similar, bigger-format store opened about that time at South Hills Village in Upper St. Clair.

Field & Stream Licenses announced in September it would sell intellectual property rights to trademarks for its hunting, fishing, camping and paddle categories to Dick's. It did not disclose financial terms.

Dick's, the largest full-line sporting goods retailer nationwide with 511 stores, set a goal to reach 900 or more stores.

True Runner, the company's first specialty gear store for running enthusiasts, opened last summer in Shadyside. A second store opened in St. Louis.

Dick's tried The Golf Shop, an equipment store with swing simulators and indoor putting area, in Robinson before acquiring the Golf Galaxy chain in 2007 for $225 million. Golf Galaxy has 81 stores, including The Golf Shop's former location.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Not-so-smooth criminals: Outdoors has its share of strange, outrageous illegal activity -these all from southwest PA!

By Bob Frye

Let's call them legendary in a criminally stupid kind of way.

They're particularly dumb crooks. You know, like the guy who robs a convenience store but picks the one next door to the police station.
Well, the wildlife and waterways conservation officers who handle fish and wildlife crimes run across their fair share of crazy desperados, too.
Ask Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife conservation officer Jason Farabaugh in Fayette County. He can tell you about the man who poached a deer, then tried to hide the partially butchered carcass behind his bed. If the leg sticking up over the mattress wasn't a giveaway, that the man answered the door in a shirt covered in deer hair and blood probably was.
Have a conversation with Fish and Boat Commission officer Bruce Gundlach in Armstrong County. He can tell you about the time he arrested a man for fishing without a license one year, then caught him fishing with his identical twin brother's license a year later. That resulted in fines for both.
Then there's the poacher — a felon no less, who claimed to have been unfairly convicted when police mistook his tomato plants for marijuana — arrested by Game Commission's Rich Joyce in Washington County. He shot at a deer decoy.
Where? Just down the road from where he'd met Joyce the night before, after Joyce rescued the man's son, lost on the game lands.
Or talk to the Game Commission's Gary Toward. One of his deputies last deer season caught two men shooting a deer from the edge of the road. The driver, upon seeing the officer, floored it, leaving his partner, smoke still curling from his rifle barrel, standing there.
Did we mention they were related?
Here are a few more stories.
Droopy pants
Rod Burns, then the Pennsylvania Game Commission's wildlife conservation officer in Greene County, once received a tip about a hard-core poacher shooting deer without a license and over bait. He found the man on the bait site.
“He took off running, and I was chasing him, yelling: ‘Stop! State officer!' But he kept running, and he could run pretty fast,” said Burns, now working in Armstrong County. “We had run a ways when, all of a sudden, he just stopped dead. I wondered why when I noticed that his pants had dropped to his ankles. He didn't have a belt. He'd been holding his pants up with binder twine, and it let go. That's how I caught him.”
The poacher was fined. Then things almost got really interesting.
The poacher kept insisting he knew who had ratted him out. It had to be an old-timer who hung out at the same country store, he said, and swore he would kill the man.
Burns told the poacher he was wrong but decided to warn his tipster anyway.
“Well, this informant, he was an old Marine. He thought about the threats, then the next day he put on his sidearm and walked into the store where they all hung out and said, ‘OK, where's the (person) who said he was going to kill me the next time he saw me?'
“It was just like the Old West,” Burns said. “He strapped on and went to town.”
The Marine and poacher never shot it out. In fact, a few days later, Burns said he drove by the store and both men were sitting on the porch drinking coffee together.
“I guess they came to some kind of agreement,” he said.
Poor parking
Given the popularity of steelhead fishing, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission officers routinely patrol Lake Erie's tributary streams each fall. They look for people fishing without a license, keeping more fish than allowed, littering, snagging fish and the like.
They also run into other issues.
“One night we were on patrol and we saw a couple of guys in a car that looked suspicious, so we went over to talk to them,” said Tom Edwards, assistant law enforcement supervisor in the commission's northwest region office. “It turns out they were snorting cocaine.
“What was really funny was that they hadn't noticed they had parked in the one spot with a big sign that said ‘reserved for law enforcement only.' ”
Who's your daddy?
Wildlife conservation officers prosecute their own cases at the district justice level, and Dan Puhala always tries to anticipate what arguments defendants will use.
In this case Puhala, in Allegheny County, had charged an Altoona man with shooting a deer out of season and over bait in Boyce Park. A hiker had spotted the man's vehicle and gotten a license plate number; a visit to the man's home by an officer in Blair County turned up the deer, from which DNA samples were collected.
Puhala offered the poacher three chances to confess his crime and pay his fines. Otherwise he'd also be on the hook for the costs of the officers and DNA expert who would testify against him, Puhala warned.
The man declined; a hearing followed. After Puhala presented his case, the defendant questioned the lab expert about how he could be sure the DNA he'd examined came from the exact deer found in his garage.
“I'm thinking, OK, that's a reasonable question. I'm confident our guy has the answer, but I could see where someone would ask the question,” Puhala said.
The reason he wanted to know, the poacher said, was because he and his brother had recently been having sexual relations with the same woman. When she turned up pregnant, doctors told them DNA couldn't prove for sure which man was the father, just that the baby would be related to both.
“I looked around and thought, did he just say that?” Puhala said.
The defense didn't work. The poacher ultimately paid not just the $900 in fines he faced originally, but $2,000 in court costs.
Proud man
Mike Walsh's first arrest of a man for boating under the influence contained a math lesson and some pride.
Walsh, a Fish and Boat Commission officer in Allegheny County, was checking boaters on Raystown Lake in Huntingdon County when he found one who smelled of beer. He asked the man how many he'd had. Two, the man said, holding up a 64-ounce plastic cup from a convenience store.
“I looked at the guy and said, ‘You mean to tell me you drank a gallon of beer?' He told me no, he'd just had two cups. I told him his cup held 64 ounces, and there are 128 ounces in a gallon, so unless my math was wrong, he'd had a gallon of beer,” Walsh said.
“He got this very strange look on his face, then broke out in a huge smile. He went from being this uncooperative guy to one who was so proud of himself. Even when we took him to the hospital, he couldn't quit bragging about drinking a gallon of beer, even as he was being arrested.”
Bad vision
Fish and Boat Commission officers often work undercover, dressed as fishermen. They watch for violations and relay word of them to officers in uniform hidden nearby.
Somerset County officer Pat Ferko worked one such detail on Twelve Mile Creek in Erie. He was fishing in plainclothes when he struck up a conversation with another angler. Ferko told the man he was a carpet layer from Pittsburgh named Pat who'd traveled to Erie in hopes of taking a few fish home.
The man, with a wink, told Ferko that if he stuck around after dark he'd get him fish.
“He started giving me a lesson in poaching. He was telling me about how the commission uses undercover officers to trick guys, and about how they use night vision to spot them,” Ferko said. “He even got pretty paranoid about another fisherman we saw coming up the stream. He said we needed to keep an eye on him.”
As dusk approached, the man said he needed to tie a big treble hook and weights to his line so that he could snag fish, but couldn't see to do so because he'd forgotten his reading glasses. He asked Ferko to tie the hook on for him.
Ferko did, then, after the man illegally snagged more than a limit of fish, led him to the parking area where a uniformed officer was waiting.
“When I pulled out my badge and put it on, the guy about had a heart attack,” Ferko said. “By the time we were all done, he asked me if my name was really even Pat.”
TV stars
Traveling a road near New Castle a few seasons back, wildlife conservation officer Randy Pilarcik of Butler County saw the truck immediately in front of him slow down. A rifle barrel appeared out the passenger window.
“I began to think, no way are they going to shoot a deer out of the truck window with me coming up behind them,” Pilarcik said.
When they did, Pilarcik immediately flipped on the red light atop his vehicle. The driver looked back once, then twice, then dropped his head and pulled over.
Pilarcik asked why they'd shot with him right on their tail.
“The passenger said he asked his brother if there was anybody behind them and his brother said it was only a green truck. Well, that green truck was me in a marked state vehicle with a red light on top of it,” Pilarcik said.
“The first thing they asked me was whether I had a dashboard camera in the vehicle. I ask why and they said it was because they figured if there was, they would be on the dumbest criminals show on television.”
No, but at least they made the paper.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

PA Doe License Updates Available Online!

Hunters can check how many tags remain, and see if they got one.
Updated WMU Map For 2013/2014
Hunters who are anxious to know if they've been issued an antlerless deer license can track the status of their applications online.
Antlerless licenses for the 2013-14 season went on sale July 8, and as county treasurers process applications and allocate licenses, the information immediately is updated within the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS).
Hunters also can check the latest information on the number of licenses that have been allocated, and how many remain for sale in each wildlife-management unit.
To check on the status of an application, go to the Game Commission’s website (, and click on the blue “Buy a License” box in the upper right corner of the homepage.
That click will take you to The Outdoor Shop, where the first option on the page begins “Purchase Fishing and/or Hunting License Permit and or Application.” Click on that option, then scroll down to the bottom of the page and click “Start Here.”
You then will need to enter identifying information, and click “Continue.” Next, verify whether you are a resident or nonresident, then scroll to the end of your personal information and choose “Check on the status of an Antlerless Deer or Elk Application.” Click “Continue,” and any licenses that have been allocated to you will appear.
Many hunters report they appreciate the ability to check the status of antlerless licenses online. Before the updates were available electronically through PALS, hunters curious about an application’s status needed to contact their banks to see if checks were cashed by a county treasurer.
Hunters also can use PALS to verify their applications for the elk-license drawing are recorded accurately. The hunters whose names are drawn also can see their status information online.
The application period for antlerless deer licenses started July 8, when county treasurers began accepting applications from residents. Nonresident applications for regular antlerless deer licenses will be accepted beginning on July 29. After that, residents and nonresidents may apply for the first round of unsold antlerless deer licenses on Aug. 5, then a second round of unsold antlerless deer licenses on Aug. 19. 
Beginning Aug. 5, for WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D only, there is no limit to the number of unsold antlerless deer license applications an individual can submit until the allocations are exhausted. This must be done by mail only, and there is a limit of three applications per pink envelope.
Beginning Aug. 26, county treasurers will accept applications over-the-counter for WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, and may immediately issue antlerless deer licenses. Hunters may apply over-the-counter to county treasurers for any other WMU with antlerless licenses for sale on Oct. 7.

Updated allocation totals for antlerless deer licenses also are available at the Game Commission’s website. Select “Doe License Update” from the “Quick Clicks” box along the right side of the homepage. This update provides a real-time status of antlerless license allocations and availability by WMU, and helps license applicants to determine which WMUs to list as their first, second and third preferences when they submit applications.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ticks, Lyme disease warrant caution but not panic during summer

Bob Frye, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Dr. William Hope (left) visits with Brandon Kniha, of
North Huntingdon, and his dog Cole on July 5, 2013, at
Hope Veterinary Hospital in West Newton
These are different times for William Hope.
A veterinarian at Hope Veterinary Clinic in West Newton, he has seen new technologies become a part of medicine, new vaccines hit the market and new generations of patients. But it's something else that really stands out.
That's the prevalence of ticks.

“When I started this practice I never saw a tick,” said Hope, who began his career in the 1970s. “I didn't know a dog tick from a deer tick. I didn't have to play with them then.

“Now, literally, I see them almost every day.” Especially at this time of year. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the months of April through July are prime time for ticks in the nymphal stage to look for new hosts — i.e. you and your hunting dog — to latch on to.

Whether that's just irritating or something worse can vary.

Some ticks, though not all, carry Lyme disease, an inflammatory disease that most typically causes a bull's-eye rash that's followed by fevers, chills, headaches, muscle aches and joint pain. Get bit by a tick that latches on to your skin and goes undetected for a period of two days or so, and you can contract Lyme disease.
Bull's Eye rash from Lyme Disease

About 20,000 to 30,000 people contract the disease annually, according to the National Centers for Disease Control. Confirmed cases of Lyme have ranged from a low of 19,804 in 2004 to a high of 29,959 in 2009.

About 96 percent of all cases nationally were confined to 13 states in 2011. Pennsylvania was one of those, and actually had the most cases, with 4,739.

A couple of southeastern Pennsylvania counties are worst for the disease. Chester, Bucks and Montgomery counties had 759, 586 and 415, respectively, in 2011, the most recent year for which final statistics are available.

Locally, the disease appears in a hit-and-miss, almost random way.

There were 52 cases of Lyme disease in Armstrong County in 2009, according to the Department of Health. That rose to 73 cases in 2010 and 146 in 2011. In Butler County, cases totaled 189 in 2009, dropped to 152 in 2010 and rose to 224 in 2011.

In Indiana cases have gone from 19 to 34 to 78, and in Westmoreland from 13 to 15 to 44, over that same time.

In Allegheny County, though, the number of cases has actually gone down over time, from 27 in 2009 to 18 in 2010 to fewer than three last year. Neither Somerset nor Fayette counties have ever had more than four cases reported in a year's time. Greene County hasn't had a single reported case in the last three years.

“It can vary from even valley to valley in my experience,” Hope said. “Ticks might be bad in Sutersville but not in West Newton. They might be bad in Donora but not in Webster.”
Of course, none of that matters if you're the one person to contract Lyme, or if your favorite hunting dog gets it.

That's why “prevention is key,” said Kait Gillis, spokeswoman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

“As the weather becomes nicer, residents spend more time outdoors and don't wear layers and layers of clothing — leaving them open to be being bitten by an infected tick,” she said.
Outdoors people — hunters, anglers, hikers, campers and the like — are among the highest risk groups for getting bitten by a tick and contracting Lyme, simply because of where they go to play.

But that doesn't mean you should be afraid to go outside, or worry incessantly while outdoors, said Phillip Baker, executive director of the American Lyme Disease Foundation.
“If you go into the outdoors a lot, it is something to consider. But there's no need to panic,” Baker said.

Even if you do get bitten by an infected tick, it has to remain attached to you for 36 to 48 hours to spread the disease, he said.

“It's not like if you don't get the tick out right away all is lost. Forget that,” Baker said.
If caught in its early stages, the disease is easily combated with oral antibiotics, he added.
Still, it makes sense to minimize your risk when outdoors. Apply repellents with DEET — the same kind you would use to keep mosquitoes at bay — to your skin when going outside, Baker said. Spray products containing permethrin on your clothes. Wear long sleeves and pants.

Do a full-body check to look for ticks after a day afield, Gillis added.

Do all those things, but don't shy away from getting outdoors because of fear about ticks.
“There's a lot of hysteria out there, a lot of hooey,” Baker said. “But people who live in areas with a lot of Lyme disease still do just fine.”

Opportunities abound on Pittsburgh's 3 rivers

Bob Frye, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Your local hardware store may be the best place to shop for plywood and screws, but you wouldn't go there for office supplies. The pie shop is great for baked goods, not so hot for auto parts.

It's the same with Pittsburgh's three rivers.

The Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio all hold good numbers of game fish. But some are better than others for certain species.

That's the situation right now anyway, based on survey work done by biologists from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

They examined the fisheries in the tailwaters of lock 3 on the Allegheny at Harmarville, lock 4 on the Monongahela at Charleroi and the Montgomery lock on the Ohio, down river from Beaver. All three locations held smallmouth bass, walleyes and sauger.

Where you might want to go, though, depends on whether you want to catch lots of smaller fish or a few bigger ones.

The Allegheny, for example, produced 121 smallmouths, more by far than the Ohio's 70 or the Monongahela's 53. But just 21 of those Allegheny smallmouths — one in six — were legal-sized. On the Monongahela and Ohio, one of every two bass checked were more than 12 inches.

The situation with walleyes showed similar variation.

“Remarkably, a greater-than-average number of legal length walleye were collected at all three lock and dam sites,” said Bob Ventorini, the commission's three rivers biologist, wrote in a report of the survey.

But catch rates exceeded two fish per hour — the minimum for a water to qualify as a good walleye fishery, according to the state's management plan — on only the Allegheny and Ohio.
The Allegheny further separated itself when it comes to sheer numbers. Biologists collected 26 walleyes at lock 3, compared with 12 from the Monongahela and eight from the Ohio.
The situation is somewhat reversed when it comes to sauger.

Catch rates of legal-sized fish — those 12 inches and up — were well above average on the Allegheny, compared with average on the Monongahela and Ohio, so that's where you'd go for keepers.

But if you just want lots of action? Then the Ohio River is your place. Biologists collected 122 sauger total below Montgomery, compared with 46 below lock 3 and 36 below lock 4.
When it comes to white bass, the number seen by biologists were “not remarkable” on either the Allegheny or Monongahela, Ventorini said. But enough were seen on the Ohio to exceed the long-term mean and “some of these were really nice fish,” Ventorini added.

The largest reached 15 inches, he said.

The Monongahela, though, is the place to go if you want to catch hard-fighting drum.
Biologists saw about three times as many there as on the Allegheny, and 10 times as many as on the Ohio. The biggest on the Monongahela stretched 19 inches, though the other two rivers did give up drum of 21 inches.

So where to go and what to seek?

That's up to you to decide, mixing and matching to make some fun

Here is a link to the complete study!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Pennsylvania Doe Licenses To Go On Sale This Monday

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania deer hunters who want to better their chances of obtaining an antlerless license will want to send in applications during the first round of sales set to kick off on Monday, July 8.
During the first three weeks applications are accepted, only Pennsylvania residents may apply. Nonresidents may apply beginning Monday, July 29. Then beginning on Monday, Aug. 5, residents and nonresidents alike may apply for any unsold licenses that remain. The second round of unsold license sales is set to begin on Monday, Aug. 19.
Applications received before the Monday start of any round will be returned to sender.
While applications won’t be accepted before a given sales period begins, Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe said it’s a good idea for hunters to send in their applications as early as they’re permitted.
“The number of tags allocated for each wildlife-management unit is different, and in  some units, licenses traditionally have sold out fairly quickly,” Roe said. “The sooner you send your application in, the better your chance of coming away with a license in the management unit that’s your top choice.”
Hunters applying for 2013-14 antlerless deer licenses will follow the same process that has been in place during recent years. License fees also remain unchanged.
Antlerless deer license applications must be mailed directly to a county treasurer’s office, with the exception of the Philadelphia and Lehigh county treasurer offices, which no longer issue antlerless deer licenses. Treasurers across the state will accept applications for antlerless licenses covering any wildlife-management unit (WMU), but hunters should note that only county treasurers issue tags. The Pennsylvania Game Commission does not accept applications.
A list of participating treasurers and their mailing addresses, as well as the number of licenses allocated for each WMU, appear in the 2013-14 Hunting & Trapping Digest, which hunters can pick up from a licensing agent.
Applications must be mailed in the official pink envelope issued to hunters at the time they purchase their general hunting licenses.
Hunters who are Pennsylvania residents need to submit with each application a check or money order to cover the $6.70 license fee. The license fee for nonresidents is $26.70.  If an application is rejected due to licenses being sold out, the uncashed check or money order will be returned to the hunter by mail.
For most management units, hunters may apply for only one license in each round. However, hunters are allowed during each round to select their top three WMU preferences. If antlerless licenses are sold out for the WMU that is the hunter’s top choice, for example, a license for the second choice will be issued if available.
Applications from up to three separate hunters may be submitted in the same envelope. If the WMU preferences for all applications mailed in the same envelope are exactly the same, payment may be made with a single check or money order. If the applicants have different WMU preferences, payment by separate checks or money orders is strongly recommended.
Applying early during the first round of sales also helps to ensure hunters will get their antlerless licenses by the start of archery season. Archery season begins Sept. 21 in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D. Statewide, the season begins Oct. 5.
A hunter, except for in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, can purchase no more than three antlerless licenses – including “unsold licenses” – per license year. In WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D, there is no antlerless license limit for hunters, and beginning Aug. 5 in these three WMUs, hunters can apply for up to three licenses per mailing until the allocation is exhausted. Antlerless licenses for WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D also are sold over the counter beginning Aug. 26.
Over-the-counter sales for licenses covering other WMUs begin Oct. 7. Hunters may apply over the counter to county treasurers for any other WMU with antlerless licenses remaining.
A listing of antlerless licenses allocated by WMU, as well as the remaining allocation, can be viewed on the Game Commission’s website (, by clicking on “Doe License Update” in the “Quick Clicks” box in the right-hand column of the homepage.

Permits do not impact hunters’ ability to obtain antlerless licenses. 

The licenses county treasurers will place on sale Monday aren’t the only option hunters have for tags to harvest antlerless deer.
Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe reminds hunters that antlerless permits through the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) remain available for some properties, and can be purchased through the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS).
DMAP is a Game Commission program designed to help landowners manage deer numbers on their properties. Eligible landowners include those owning: public lands; private lands where no fee is charged for hunting; and hunting clubs established prior to Jan. 1, 2000 that are owned in fee title and have provided a club charter and list of current members to the agency.
Hunters may obtain up to two DMAP antlerless deer permits per property, and DMAP permits do not impact a hunter’s eligibility to apply for and receive antlerless deer licenses issued for Wildlife Management Units (WMUs).
DMAP permits went on sale June 10, along with general hunting licenses, and are sold out for some properties. Hunters purchasing the remaining permits may do so at any time and do not have to follow the regular antlerless license schedule.
DMAP permit fees are $10.70 for resident hunters; and $35.70 for nonresident hunters.  The permit can be used to harvest one antlerless deer on the specific DMAP area. Maps for the properties are to be provided to hunters by the landowners. Landowners may not charge or accept any contribution from a hunter for DMAP permits or coupons.
Hunters may not use DMAP permits to harvest an antlered deer. Hunters may use DMAP permits to harvest an antlerless deer anytime antlerless deer are legal, including during the entire statewide two-week firearms deer season (Dec. 2-14).  However, WMU-specific antlerless deer licenses may only be used only during the last seven days of the season (Dec. 7-14) in WMUs 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E.
All DMAP permits are available through PALS. For DMAP unit numbers, the Game Commission has posted a listing of all public landowners and those private landowners who did not request DMAP coupons. 
Those private landowners who requested DMAP coupons to present to hunters to redeem for DMAP permits will not appear on the website. However, these landowners generally have a limited number of coupons available and already have identified a sufficient number of hunters to receive their allotted coupons.
The website provides an alphabetical listing of DMAP properties for each county in which DMAP properties are located. Each listing will provide the following information: DMAP property number; contact information, including name, address, telephone number and e-mail address (when available); total number of acres for the property; and total number of coupons issued for the property. 

Bald Eagle Numbers Soar In Pennsylvania

With more than 250 nests counted statewide, population showing big gains.

          A bald eagle soaring high on the Fourth of July.
          It’s about as American an image as one could conjure.  
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          And for Pennsylvanians this Independence Day, the opportunity to witness such a sight firsthand is greater than at any other time in recent memory. 
          In the 30th anniversary year of efforts to restore bald-eagle populations in the Commonwealth, the bird – a national symbol of strength and freedom – not only is continuing its remarkable comeback, but is taking it to new heights.           The Pennsylvania Game Commission this week released its preliminary count of bald eagle nests statewide, and the numbers chart yet another high point in an impressive upward trend.           So far this year, 252 eagle nests have been confirmed throughout the state, with nesting eagles present in 56 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties.            That’s a sharp increase from the previous mid-year report, which the Game Commission typically releases just before the Fourth of July.           A year ago, there were 206 confirmed eagle nests in 51 counties.           Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe said that as eye-popping as the latest numbers might be, they’re far from surprising.           “We’re to the point in Pennsylvania where the bald eagle’s success is something that’s expected,” Roe said. “Year after year, their numbers grow. Year after year, their range grows broader.|           “It truly is a remarkable story,” he said. “And remarkably, it’s a true story, and one that continually builds up to a better and better ending.”           Just 30 years ago, the bald eagle’s future in Pennsylvania looked bleak. Its population decimated by the effects of water pollution, persecution and compromised nest success caused by organochlorine pesticides such as DDT, only three pairs of nesting eagles remained in the state – all of them located in Crawford County, in northwestern Pennsylvania along the Ohio border.  
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          But in 1983, the Game Commission launched what would become a seven-year bald eagle restoration program. The agency, as part of a federal restoration initiative, sent employees to Saskatchewan to obtain eaglets from wild nests.           Initially, 12 seven-week-old eaglets were taken from nests in Canada’s Churchill River valley and brought to specially constructed towers at two sites. At these towers – at Haldeman Island on the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, and at Shohola Lake in Pike County – the birds were “hacked,” a process by which the eaglets essentially are raised by humans, but without knowing it, then released gradually into the wild.           In all, 88 bald eaglets from Canada were released from the sites as part of the program, which was funded in part by the Richard King Mellon Foundation of Pittsburgh and the federal Endangered Species Fund.           This reintroduction jump-started the recovery.           By 1998, Pennsylvania was home to 25 pairs of nesting bald eagles. Within the next three years, the number of nesting pairs doubled. Eagles continued to thrive, and in 2005, the Game Commission took the bald eagle off the state’s endangered list and reclassified it as a threatened species.           A year later, more than 100 nests were confirmed statewide. And now, the number stands at 252.            It’s not likely to stop there, either, said Patti Barber, a biologist with the Game Commission’s Endangered and Nongame Birds section. While the mid-year update on nests provides a good indicator of how bald eagles are doing statewide, Barber said it’s a preliminary number and additional nests typically are confirmed as the year goes on.            In 2012, for instance, 206 nests were reported preliminarily, but the year-end total was 237 statewide. It was a showing similar to 2011, when the preliminary total of 203 nests increased to 217 by year’s end.            But with a lofty 252 nests at mid-year, how many more could really be out there?           “It’s hard to say, but in all likelihood more remain to be counted,” Barber said. “Our tally was 249 just a week or two ago, and three more were reported since that time, so I’d be surprised if the preliminary number doesn’t grow.”
          Perhaps the easiest way to report a nest is to contact the Game Commission through its public comments email address:, and use the words “Eagle Nest Information” in the subject field. Reports also can be phoned in to a Game Commission Region Office or the Harrisburg headquarters.            Barber said discovering a new eagle nest can be exciting, but people need to keep their wits about them, and make sure they’re not doing anything to frighten the birds.           Those encountering nests are asked to keep a safe distance. Disturbing eagles is illegal under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Some pairs are tolerant of human activity, while others are sensitive. Their reaction often depends on the activity and approach of the individual, the nesting cycle stage, and if the eagles are used to seeing people.            “Where there is regular public access and established viewing areas, some pairs can be very tolerant if visitors are predictable and nonthreatening,” Barber said. “But when someone sneaks to the base of a nest tree, most eagles become alarmed.”            Barber said there have been cases where people purposely flushed eagles from nests in attempts to get pictures of them in flight. Such behavior not only is illegal, but runs the risk of killing unhatched or recently hatched birds, she said.           Adults that are scared from a nest could abandon it, or might not return in time to keep unhatched eggs at the proper incubating temperature. Frightened eaglets also could jump from the safety of the nest, then have no way to return, Barber said.           “There are all types of problems associated with getting too close to a nest,” Barber said. “For the sake of eagles, use you binoculars or a spotting scope. They are after all, still on the comeback trail from being an endangered species.”           While the bald eagle population grows stronger each year in Pennsylvania, the birds remain classified as a threatened species statewide.           Their rebound, however, continues to astonish and provide those who love wildlife with reason to celebrate. Just this year, 41 pairs of eagles – believed to be first-time nesters – nested at new sites.            It goes to show you the extent of the bald eagle’s success. In Pennsylvania, and the nation as a whole, this magnificent raptor truly is living up to its iconic image of enduring American strength and freedom.  
          “There’s no better story to tell and retell every Fourth of July,” Roe said.

For more information
To learn more about bald eagles, check out the Game Commission’s “Bald Eagle Watching in Pennsylvania” page, which can be accessed from the agency’s website ( On this page, you will find “Bald Eagle Nest Etiquette” tips, as well as information on where to go to see bald eagles in every region of the state, helpful tips on how to distinguish bald eagles from other flying birds, historical background and nesting behavior observations. Pennsylvania Game News magazine also offers a feature documenting the eagle’s return to prominence in the Commonwealth. Titled “The Bald Eagle’s Unparalleled Return,” it can be accessed through the agency’s website in the Game News link in the right column on the homepage.

Osprey nest survey
          In addition to keeping a tally on eagle nests, the Game Commission this year is performing an extensive survey of osprey nests statewide.
          It’s an initiative that’s not possible without the help of volunteers, and those who are interested in taking part can find out more at the Game Commission’s website, Information on the nest survey is available on the Endangered Species page under the Wildlife tab. 
          Osprey nest survey forms and protocols are available for download, and when completed, the forms can be submitted by email to
          The survey seeks to uncover the location of each active nest, and, if possible, the number of chicks in each nest, along with basic information about what the nest was built on and what type of water body the nest is near.