Friday, August 30, 2013

Robot Deer Will Be Used To Help Catch Poachers

By Bob Frye, Pittsburgh Tribune Review

That deer you take aim at this fall might not actually be a deer.

Not if you're inclined to do your shooting illegally, anyway.

Regional Pennsylvania Game Commission officers are going to be working with a new robotic deer —– a realistic-looking mechanical decoy whose head and tail move — to catch would-be poachers this year, courtesy of some local sportsmen.

The PA National Pike Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association purchased the $1,650 deer decoy for use by the commission. Members will present it to the agency at their banquet, set for Sept. 13 in Belle Vernon.

It's a way of giving back to the sport while also protecting honest sportsmen and the increasingly large bucks being produced by antler restrictions, said chapter officer Jason Beck of Monessen.

“We're seeing more nice deer out there than ever before. Some people try to take advantage of that the right way, and unfortunately, some feel the need to go about it the wrong way. We don't want honest sportsmen to suffer for that,” Beck said.

The commission has another robo-deer in use. It works when used in specific circumstances, said Tom Fazi, information and education supervisor for the commission in Bolivar.
“Every officer in the region has problem roads where they habitually see a lot of road hunting. That's where these get used,” Fazi said.

Officers can use “facsimiles,” as they're referred to in the law, to nab poachers without fear of anyone crying entrapment, added Doug Bergman, wildlife conservation officer in northern Fayette County. They're set up so that only people looking to take deer illegally end up shooting at them.

“We don't just take them out and stick them in plain view in the middle of a field. Someone has to be looking for them to see them,” he said.

Officers throughout the region will share the robo deer.

“Sometimes, that's how we get that kind of equipment, when a sportsmen's club decides it's had enough and donates something like that,” Bergman said.

Beck said the chapter is always looking to do more for the outdoor sports, whether that be helping with a youth day, signing up cooperators for the Hunters Sharing the Harvest program or doing habitat work on a game lands. That will continue, he said, with plans perhaps to provide the commission with surveillance cameras.

“We're trying to keep being as much of a ball of fire as we can,” Beck said.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Pennsylvania Celebrates Century Of Elk

Events add to excitement during bugling season, 100th anniversary year.

Year after year, Labor Day weekend kicks off a period of increased activity on Pennsylvania’s elk range.
As elk begin ramping up their routines ahead of peak bugling season, visitors flock in greater numbers to areas where they can see the wild spectacle unfold.
In a typical year, an estimated 75,000 to 100,000 people visit Elk County alone during the two-month span between Labor Day and Halloween.
But 2013 isn’t a typical year in regard to Pennsylvania’s elk. Rather, it’s an extraordinary one.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of efforts to restore elk to Pennsylvania, and in commemoration of that landmark anniversary, special events are planned each weekend through Columbus Day at sites on the elk range.
With the added attractions and excitement over the anniversary, it’s hard to say how many people might make Pennsylvania’s elk country a destination this year. But there seems this year to be even more of a buzz than usual surrounding bugling season, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G.  Roe said.
“If you’ve ever made a trip to the elk range in autumn and been a part of those enormous crowds, it’s hard to imagine you could add more excitement to the mix,” Roe said. “But that seems to be the case this year. With the anniversary going on, and events taking place each weekend, things are building to a fever pitch.”   
Those who make weekend trips to the elk range this fall will have an opportunity to take part in several tours of state game lands in hopes of seeing elk or hearing them bugle. Some tours are by vehicle, while others are by bicycle and go farther off the beaten path. There’s also an elk-viewing hike set for Saturday, Sept. 21.
Performances by Van Wagner, an award-winning educator and musician, tell the story of the elk’s comeback in Pennsylvania, and otherwise celebrate the state’s rural heritage.
The corral trap used in the Game Commission’s initiative to capture elk and expand the overall range of the herd will be on display through Columbus Day. And, as always, there’s something for everyone at the Elk Country Visitor Center near Benezette.
Different events are scheduled on different weekends, and at different times. For a full schedule of events, visit the homepage of the Game Commission’s website, and click on the button labeled “100th Anniversary PA Elk Restoration.”
Roe said that while those making the trip to the elk range this year will be treated to something extra with these events, the elk themselves remain the real attraction. There’s really nothing like the display of a bull elk moving in at close range and piercing the brisk morning air with a cloud of vapor and an ear-splitting bugle, he said.
With the herd now containing more than 850 animals living in parts of five northcentral Pennsylvania counties, there’s as broad a chance as ever for visitors to take in those sights and sounds.
It’s a remarkable contrast to the era of more than a century ago, when elk found themselves eliminated from their natural range in Pennsylvania and the rest of the Northeast, Roe said. That turnaround is a reason for celebration, he said.
“One hundred years later, there’s no arguing that elk restoration here in Pennsylvania has been about as successful as could possibly be expected,” Roe said. “It’s something every Pennsylvanian can be proud of.”

Elk in Pennsylvania
Historically, elk inhabited much of Pennsylvania. But as more of the state was settled, the elk population declined.
By the late 1800s, Pennsylvania’s elk were eliminated from their last stronghold in areas around Elk County. And by the time the Pennsylvania Game Commission launched an effort to reintroduce elk to Pennsylvania, the animals had been gone from the state for about 50 years.
Between 1913 and 1926, the Game Commission released 177 elk into Pennsylvania’s wilds. And the elk that live here today are the progeny of those animals.
A three-year trap-and-transfer program launched by the Game Commission in 1998 expanded the elk’s range from 350 to 800 square miles, allowing the herd to grow. And aggressive management of habitat for elk also has helped to boost the number of elk, and steer elk into areas where they are less likely to have conflicts with people.
Today, Pennsylvania’s elk herd contains between 850 and 900 animals living in parts of Elk, Cameron, Clinton, Potter and Clearfield counties in the northcentral part of the state.

And a century after the first reintroduction efforts began, the elk’s restoration represents one of the great successes in wildlife conservation history.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Cwd Impacts Pennsylvanians Who Hunt Out-Of-State

Certain parts from harvested cervids cannot be brought back into Commonwealth.

The thousands of Pennsylvania hunters who soon will be heading off to hunt big game in other states can do their share to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease in the Commonwealth.
Those who hunt out-of-state are reminded that Pennsylvania prohibits importing specific carcass parts from members of the deer family – including mule deer, elk and moose – from 21 states and two Canadian provinces.
The parts ban affects hunters who harvest deer, elk or moose in: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland (only from CWD Management Area), Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York (only from Madison and Oneida counties), North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia (only from CWD Containment Area), West Virginia (only from CWD Containment Area, which includes parts of three counties), Wisconsin and Wyoming; as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. 
Pennsylvania hunters harvesting any deer, elk or moose in those areas, whether the animal was taken from the wild or from a captive, high-fence operation, must comply with rules aimed at slowing the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania.
CWD was detected in Pennsylvania for the first time last year, and those hunting out-of-state must leave behind the carcass parts that have the highest risk for transmitting the disease. Those parts are: the head (including brain, tonsils, eyes and any lymph nodes); spinal cord/backbone; spleen; skull plate with attached antlers, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; cape, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if root structure or other soft tissue is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord tissue; unfinished taxidermy mounts; and brain-tanned hides.
“This is the first time that we’ve entered the fall hunting seasons knowing that we have chronic wasting disease inside Pennsylvania,” Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe said. “But that doesn’t mean we’ve given up the fight to slow the disease’s spread or make its impacts on our deer herd as minimal as possible.
“High-risk parts are classified as such for a reason,” he said. “And while we wish Pennsylvanians luck in all of their out-of-state hunts, we also ask them to make sure they’re following the rules and bringing back home with them only the parts they’re allowed.”
Hunters who are successful in those areas from which the importation of high-risk parts into Pennsylvania is banned are allowed to import meat from any deer, elk, moose, mule deer or caribou, so long as the backbone is not present. Successful hunters also are allowed to bring back cleaned skull plates with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; tanned hide or raw hide with no visible brain or spinal cord tissue present; capes, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft tissue is present; and finished taxidermy mounts.
Roe urged hunters heading to a state with a history of CWD to become familiar with that state’s wildlife regulations and guidelines for the transportation of harvested game animals.
Pennsylvania detected its first case of chronic wasting disease last year in a captive deer kept at an Adams County facility, and another deer that had lived in the same pen later tested positive for the disease. Since that time, the disease was detected in three free-ranging deer harvested by hunters in Bedford and Blair counties during the 2012 firearms deer season.
In response to those cases, the Game Commission has outlined two Disease Management Areas (DMAs) totaling about 1,500 square miles, and special rules regarding deer hunting, the feeding of wildlife and the transport of high-risk deer parts apply within those areas. Maps of the DMAs are available at the Game Commission’s website and are shown on pages 53 and 54 of the 2013-14 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which is presented to each Pennsylvania license buyer.   
The exact rules deer hunters within those areas will need to follow are being finalized and will be announced soon by the Game Commission.
However, those who live in a DMA and are successful in out-of-state hunts should know that – like other Pennsylvanians hunting out-of-state – they are permitted to bring low-risk deer parts back home with them.
Roe said hunters who harvest a deer, elk or moose in a state or province where CWD is known to exist should follow instructions from that state’s wildlife agency on how and where to submit the appropriate samples to have their animal tested.  If, after returning to Pennsylvania, a hunter is notified that his or her game tested positive for CWD, the hunter is encouraged to immediately contact the Game Commission region office that serves the county in which they reside for disposal recommendations and assistance.
A list of region offices and contact information appears on page 5 of the Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest.  The contact information also is available on the agency’s website ( by putting your cursor on “About Us” in the menu bar under the banner, then selecting “Regional Information” in the drop-down menu and then clicking on the region of choice in the map.
First identified in 1967, CWD is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) that affects cervids, including all species of deer, elk and moose. It is a progressive and always fatal disease of the nervous system. Scientists believe CWD is caused by an unknown agent capable of transforming normal brain proteins into an abnormal form.
There currently is no practical way to test live animals for CWD, nor is there a vaccine.  Clinical signs include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling, and, ultimately, death.  There is currently no scientific evidence that CWD has or can spread to humans, either through contact with infected animals or by eating meat of infected animals.
As a precaution, however, humans are advised not to eat the meat of any animal testing positive for the disease.
Much more information on CWD, as well as a video showing hunters how they can process venison for transport and consumption, is available at the Game Commission’s website.

CWD precautions

Wildlife officials have suggested hunters in areas where chronic wasting disease (CWD) is known to exist follow these usual recommendations to prevent the possible spread of disease:
- Do not shoot, handle or consume any animal that appears sick; contact the state wildlife agency if you see or harvest an animal that appears sick.
- Wear rubber or latex gloves when field-dressing carcasses.
- Bone out the meat from your animal.
- Minimize the handling of brain and spinal tissues.
- Wash hands and instruments thoroughly after field-dressing is completed.
- Request that your animal is processed individually, without meat from other animals being added to meat from your animal, or process your own meat if you have the tools and ability to do so.
- Have your animal processed in the endemic area of the state where it was harvested, so that high-risk body parts can be properly disposed of there.  Only bring permitted materials back to Pennsylvania
-  Don’t consume the brain, spinal cord, eyes, spleen, tonsils or lymph nodes of harvested animals. (Normal field-dressing, coupled with boning out a carcass, will remove most, if not all, of these body parts. Cutting away all fatty tissue will help remove remaining lymph nodes.)

- Consider not consuming the meat from any animal that tests positive for the disease.

Monday, August 19, 2013

INFOGRAPHIC: Gun Crimes Plummet Even As Gun Sales Rise

Thanks to club member Vic Wilczynski for submitting...

A majority of Americans say they think gun crime has increased over the past 20 years, even though it has actually fallen dramatically, a recent Pew Research Center survey shows. The info-graphic below provides a closer look at some recent numbers.

Lyme Disease Infects 300,000 A Year, CDC Says

Lyme disease is a “tremendous” public health problem, infecting 10 times more Americans than reports have suggested, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports.
New estimates suggest that 300,000 people are infected with the tickborne illness every year.

“This new preliminary estimate confirms that Lyme disease is a tremendous public health problem in the United States, and clearly highlights the urgent need for prevention,” says Dr. Paul Mead, chief of epidemiology and surveillance for CDC’s Lyme disease program, based in Ft Collins, Colo.

“We know that routine surveillance only gives us part of the picture, and that the true number of illnesses is much greater,” Mead added in a statement.

Lyme disease is caused by bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi, carried by blacklegged ticks. Infection causes fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. The infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system if it’s not treated.

More than 300,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to CDC every year, making it the most commonly reported tick-borne illness in the United States, the CDC says. But some reports have suggested it is far more common than that.

Mead and colleagues looked at several sources, including medical billing records of 22 million people, a 2008 survey of laboratories processing blood tests and a survey of patients asking if they ever had Lyme disease. Taken together, the data indicate that 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease every year, Mead’s team told the International Conference on Lyme Borreliosis and other Tick Borne Diseases being held in Boston this week.

“Not everyone diagnosed or treated for Lyme disease is necessarily infected with Borrelia burgdorferi,” they wrote in a summary submitted to the conference. “Nevertheless, these results are consistent with earlier estimates that Lyme disease cases are underreported by a factor of three- to 12-fold.”

Treatment can be as simple as a single dose of the antibiotic doxycycline or it can involve a three-week to one-month course of antibiotics, depending on how long it takes to diagnose after infection. Infectious disease experts disagree on whether longer courses of treatment are helpful. Up to 20 percent of patients have long-term symptoms, the CDC says.

Lyme disease is most common in the Northeast and Midwest but cases have been reported from all 50 states. It has a complex life cycle involving mice and deer, and it’s usually the small, immature ticks, found on rodents, that are to blame for infecting people.

“That’s why it’s important to carefully check your body and clothing for ticks after being outdoors in woody and grassy areas. If you see a tick, you can lessen the chance of infection by removing it from your body early, even if it’s already begun to feed,” the National Institutes of Health advises.

There used to be a vaccine, but its maker stopped manufacturing it because too few people asked for it. The CDC recommends using an insect repellent that contains DEET, careful checking for ticks after being outdoors, and staying out of bushy, wooded areas.

“We know people can prevent tick bites through steps like using repellents and tick checks. Although these measures are effective, they aren’t fail-proof and people don’t always use them,” the CDC’s Dr. Lyle Petersen said in a statement. “We need to move to a broader approach to tick reduction, involving entire communities, to combat this public health problem.”

This might include killing ticks in back yards, control of rodents that carry the Lyme disease bacteria, and suburban planning involving deer and their interaction with people. Deer carry adult ticks that can carry the disease.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

New Field and Stream Store Now Open In Cranberry Twp, PA

Finally made it over to the new Field and Stream Store (link) that opened yesterday in Cranberry Twp, PA north of Pittsburgh. Very awesome! Had a lot of ammo in stock too. Got a brick of .22 High Velocity (525 shells) for $22.99. A box of bear and deer load .44 mag for $49.99 and a box of .380 HP for $22.99. They had more ammo in one room than I've seen since you know who took office! Great fly-fishing dept too! Click on pictures to enlarge.
Just hours before I went over to the new Field and Stream Store in Cranberry they held a "Duck Dynasty" themed wedding (lots of camo) in the middle of the store. Just after the "I do's" Willie walked over and surprised the bride and groom! How cool is this!

Some walking around pictures...

Pennsylvania Might Delist Bald Eagle

Game Commission considers removing the bird from the state's threatened species list.

          With its numbers in Pennsylvania continuing to soar ever higher, the bald eagle soon could be removed from the state’s list of threatened species.
          The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Management is recommending the bald eagle be upgraded from “threatened”  to “protected” status statewide.
          Doug Gross, a biologist who heads the bureau’s Endangered and Nongame Birds section, addressed the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners at the board’s working group meeting on Monday, saying the bald eagle’s remarkable comeback in Pennsylvania has reached a point where eagles safely can be removed from threatened species list. 
          As of Monday, Gross said, 266 nesting pairs have been confirmed statewide so far this year.  And while that count is not final and the number of confirmed nesting pairs still could rise, the updated figure represents the continuation of an upward trend in Pennsylvania.

Get Image
In 2012, researchers documented 237 nesting pairs statewide. 
          “This year marks just another high point in the spectacular and widespread recovery of bald eagles in Pennsylvania, and it’s clear that the definition of a threatened species no longer describes them accurately,” Gross said. 
          According to Pennsylvania regulations, a threatened species is defined as one that, throughout its range in the Commonwealth, may become endangered in the foreseeable future. 
          The Bureau of Wildlife Management’s recommendation to delist the bald eagle as a state threatened species is based on eagles achieving a number of goals outlined in the state’s bald-eagle management plan. 
          The plan calls for delisting eagles as threatened if all of four criteria are met for five consecutive years. There must be at least 150 active nests statewide; successful pairs in at least 40 counties; at least a 60 percent success rate of known nests; and productivity of at least 1.2 eaglets fledged per successful nest.
          Three of those criteria already have been met for a five-year span, and eagles in 2013 will exceed for a fifth-straight year the requirement of nesting successfully in at least 40 counties, Gross said. Determining nest success is the biggest challenge in eagle monitoring and the agency welcomes information about the success and productivity of nests, Gross said.
          The proposal to delist will be made formally to the Board of Game Commissioners at the board’s regular meeting in September. The board then could choose to vote on the proposal at a subsequent meeting. That process will afford the public with an opportunity to comment on the proposal, Gross noted. 
          Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe noted the proposal to delist comes in the 30th anniversary year of the agency’s first efforts to restore bald-eagle populations statewide. When the Game Commission launched its restoration program in 1983, only three pairs of nesting eagles remained in the state – all of them located in Crawford County, in northwestern Pennsylvania along the Ohio border. At that time, eagle populations had been decimated by the effects of water pollution, persecution and compromised nest success caused by organochlorine pesticides such as DDT.
          Three decades later, Pennsylvania’s booming bald-eagle population represents one of the great success stories in wildlife conservation history, Roe said. 
          “It seems that each passing year writes a new chapter in the story of the bald eagle’s success in Pennsylvania and the latest numbers, and the recommendation to delist the eagle as a state threatened species, is the best news yet,” Roe said. “But the story isn’t over. Pennsylvania has plenty of good bald-eagle habitat that’s not currently being used by eagles. And as the years roll on, I’m sure eagles will give us plenty more to celebrate.”  
          Gross said removing bald eagles from the state threatened species list would neither hinder eagle populations in Pennsylvania nor knock off course the species’ comeback here.
          If the bald eagle is delisted, the bird will continue to be protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (the Eagle Act), the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Lacey Act. Under the Eagle Act, those who harm or disturb eagles are subject to a civil penalty of up to one year in jail or a $5,000 fine for their first offense, and criminal convictions can result in fines as high as $250,000.
          “We will not be abandoning the bald eagle, but giving it less emphasis as we turn to new challenges in bird conservation in the state,” Gross said. 
          The Game Commission, too, will continue to follow its bald-eagle management plan, which calls for the agency to monitor nests, at least through 2017. 
          Likewise, the commission will continue to urge those who encounter eagle nests to keep their distance, and not do anything to frighten the birds. The agency has recommended that people get no closer than 1,000 feet from any eagle nest.
          Any behavior that causes adult eagles to fly from the nest could compromise the success of that nest. They are more likely to abandon a nest disturbed early in the nesting cycle.  Additionally, eaglets can respond to frightening situations by trying to fledge the nest prematurely, and sometimes die as a result. 
          A wealth of information on bald eagles, where to view them and proper nest etiquette is available at the Game Commission’s website, by clicking on the bald eagle viewing icon, Gross said.
          The bald eagle was delisted as a state endangered species and reclassified as a threatened species in 2005, when about 100 nests were confirmed statewide. Especially when considering the sharp jump in eagle populations since then, it might seem hard to believe just how bleak the eagle’s future appeared just 30 years ago, when restoration began. 
          Initially, 12 seven-week-old eaglets were taken from nests in Saskatchewan 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. 
          Today, bald eagles inhabit 56 counties statewide and they continue to push the boundaries of their range. Just this year, three pairs of bald eagles nested in Allegheny County, two of them within the Pittsburgh city limits. 
          Gross said that in addition to nesting along the state’s major rivers and lakes, bald eagles now are nesting along medium-sized high-quality streams with good fishing and alternate foraging areas.
          “They are teaching us that there is a lot more eagle habitat in Pennsylvania than we imagined,” Gross said. “Eagles are adopting the kinds of quality places that outdoors people also enjoy.”  
          And with more habitat to be taken over, Roe predicts further growth will follow. 
          “It’s something of which every Pennsylvanian can be proud,” he said.

Commissioners meeting

          The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners will meet  Monday, Sept. 23 and Tuesday, Sept. 24 in Westmoreland County.
          The meetings will be held at the Lamplighter Restaurant, 6566 William Penn Highway, Delmont, Pa. 
          The board will hear public comment and agency staff reports Sept. 23, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Individuals interested in offering public testimony – limited to five minutes – can begin to register at 7:45 a.m. on a first-come, first-to-speak basis. 
          Then on Sept. 24, the board will take up its prepared agenda at a meeting beginning at 8:30 a.m. 
          A copy of the agenda for the upcoming meeting will be posted at a later date.

Monitoring eagle nests

          The Game Commission has relied on volunteers in its efforts to monitor bald-eagle nests statewide, and the support of volunteers will be needed more than ever as the agency attempts each year to compile an increasingly comprehensive list. 
          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. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

2013/2014 Pennsylvania Waterfowl Seasons Announced

Annual brochure available at Game Commission’s website.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has made its selections for the 2013-14 migratory game bird hunting seasons and bag limits.
Annual waterfowl seasons are selected by states from a framework established by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Game Commission selections were made after reviewing last year’s season results, waterfowl survey data, and input gathered from waterfowl hunters and the public. Final approval from the USFWS is expected by late September.
The agency has posted the annual waterfowl and migratory bird season brochure and zone maps on its website (, making it convenient for hunters to access the information they need.
            Game Commission waterfowl biologist Kevin Jacobs said the outlook is mixed for waterfowl populations important to Pennsylvania.
“Banding studies indicate most of Pennsylvania’s mallard, wood duck, and Canada goose harvests are derived from birds breeding in Pennsylvania and surrounding states,” Jacobs said. “These populations are monitored through the Atlantic Flyway Breeding Waterfowl Survey. At the state level, the estimated number of indicated mallard breeding pairs (69,400) was 24 percent below the 1993-2012 long-term average of 91,000 pairs. Other surveys also indicate that mallard populations in the northeastern U.S. have declined from levels observed in the 1990s. The 59,600 wood duck breeding pairs estimated in Pennsylvania in 2013 is similar to the long-term statewide average of 52,000 pairs.”
“Trends in wood duck abundance have indicated stable to slightly increasing populations across all years of the survey for both Pennsylvania and the northeastern U.S.,” Jacobs said. “The 2013 statewide estimate for American black ducks is 2,137 pairs. Black ducks have been observed at very low and declining densities since the survey was initiated in 1989. However, black duck populations in eastern Canada remain healthy and support open hunting seasons on this historically important species in eastern North America. American black ducks continue to account for about 5 percent of Pennsylvania’s total duck harvest.”
The Pennsylvania estimates of total blue-winged teal (11,100) and total green-winged teal (6,300) are above average in 2013.
“We don’t believe these estimates are indicative of true breeding populations of teal in Pennsylvania as many migrating teal are encountered during the survey period,” Jacobs said. “Estimates of total hooded mergansers (10,700) and common mergansers (28,000) are above average. The trends for both breeding merganser species have increased since 1993.”
Jacobs noted that Pennsylvania’s spring 2013 resident Canada goose population is estimated at 279,000 birds.
“The resident goose population appears to have declined over the past nine years following highly significant population expansion from 1990 to 2004, but it remains well above the Resident Population management plan goal of 150,000 spring birds,” Jacobs said. “We continue efforts to achieve the management plan goal primarily by reducing populations in southeastern and southwestern Pennsylvania.
“Observations during statewide June Canada goose banding indicated gosling recruitment was near average. Hunters should expect an average fall flight of resident geese. For migratory Canada goose populations important to Pennsylvania, the fall flight of Atlantic Population geese is expected to be similar to or slightly below last year, while the Southern James Bay Population is below average and a reduced fall flight from SJBP range is expected. Populations of greater snow geese are generally similar to recent averages. Conditions are favorable for reproduction and a fall flight similar to 2012, but with more juveniles, is expected.”
Jacobs noted that spring population estimates and fall flight forecasts are obtained at large geographic scales, and therefore are not reliable predictors of waterfowl numbers that can be expected during hunting seasons.
“At the local or regional level, hunting pressure, habitat and weather variables most often dictate waterfowl movements, staging and wintering numbers through the hunting seasons.”
In the Atlantic Population Goose Zone, the regular light goose season will be Oct. 1 to Jan. 25, with a light goose conservation season to run from Jan. 27 to April 25.  In the Southern James Bay Population Goose Zone, the regular light goose season will be Oct. 1 to Jan. 24, with a light goose conservation season to run from Jan. 25 to April 25. The Resident Population Goose Zone regular light goose season will run Oct. 28 to Feb. 28, and the light goose conservation season will run March 1 to April 25.
            Young Pennsylvania hunters will have two special days of waterfowl hunting, on Saturday, Sept. 14, and Saturday, Sept. 21. The Junior Waterfowl Days will be open to those 12 to 15 years old who hold a junior hunting license. To participate, a youngster must be accompanied by an adult, who may assist the juniors in calling, duck identification and other aspects of the hunt.  During these two special hunts, juniors can harvest Canada geese, ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens. The daily bag limit for juniors participating in the Junior Waterfowl Days is the same as for the regular season daily limit in the area being hunted. The only exception is when September Canada goose daily bag limits exceed the regular season limit for the area being hunted; juniors then can take the September daily limit.
Waterfowl hunters are reminded that on the junior waterfowl hunting days, Sept. 14 and 21, hunting hours for all waterfowl species closes at sunset. For the remainder of the September 2 to 25 Canada goose season, hunting hours close at one-half hour after sunset.
“Federal frameworks specify that for most migratory game bird seasons, hunting hours must close at sunset,” Jacobs said. “Exceptions currently are in place to allow states to extend hunting hours to one-half hour after sunset for the September Canada goose season and the light goose conservation season to increase harvest of overabundant waterfowl populations. Extended hunting hours can only be in effect when no other waterfowl seasons are open. With the youth days open to other waterfowl, hunting hours for Canada geese must close at sunset on those two days to comply with federal regulations.” 
 The Game Commission again will hold a special junior-only waterfowl hunting day at the controlled hunting blinds at both Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area. The junior day for Middle Creek is Nov. 16; and for Pymatuning it’s, Nov. 30.  A special drawing of applications submitted by junior license holders will be held immediately before the regular drawing for goose blinds.  Interested juniors should use the same application on page 28 of the 2013-14 Digest. Only one application will be accepted per junior hunter.
In addition to a regular Pennsylvania hunting license, persons 16 and older must have a Federal Migratory Bird and Conservation Stamp, commonly referred to as a “Duck Stamp,” signed in ink across its face. All waterfowl hunters, regardless of age, must have a Pennsylvania Migratory Game Bird License to hunt waterfowl and other migratory birds, including doves, woodcock, coots, moorhens, rails and snipe. All migratory game bird hunters in the United States are required to complete a Harvest Information Program survey when they purchase a state migratory game bird license. The survey information is then forwarded to the USFWS.
“By answering the questions on the survey card, hunters will improve survey efficiency and the quality of information used to track the harvest of migratory birds for management purposes,” Jacobs said.
Also, to participate in the light goose conservation hunts, hunters will need to obtain a free conservation hunt permit, in addition to their other required licenses, and file a mandatory report of harvest/participation.  In late 2013, the Light Goose Conservation Hunt website will be available on the Game Commission’s website ( so that hunters can apply for and print out the free conservation permit.
Hunters must use non-toxic shot while hunting ducks, geese or coots in Pennsylvania. The use of decoys powered or operated by batteries or any other source of electricity is unlawful in Pennsylvania, except during the light goose conservation seasons. Also, the use of any sort of artificial substance or product as bait or an attractant is prohibited.
For complete early Canada goose season information, as well as webless migratory game bird seasons, please see News Release #057-13, which the agency issued on Aug. 1.

            In addition to posting the annual waterfowl and migratory game bird brochure on its website, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has posted a synopsis of federal regulations that govern migratory game bird and waterfowl seasons to assist hunters in finding answers to questions.
To review the information, go to the Game Commission’s website (, put your cursor on “Hunt/Trap” in the menu bar at the top of the page, click on “Hunting,” scroll down and click on “Waterfowl Hunting and Conservation,” and then scroll down and click on “Federal Waterfowl Hunting Regulations Synopsis” in the “Waterfowl Hunting Regulations” section.
Additional information can be found on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website (, where a complete version of the federal regulations (50 CFR Part 20) is posted. When state law differs from the federal law, hunters must comply with the more restrictive law.

Migratory game bird hunters are encouraged to report banded ducks, geese, doves and woodcock they harvest online at, or by using the toll-free number (1-800-327-BAND). Hunters will be requested to provide information on where, when and what species of migratory birds were taken, in addition to the band number. This information is crucial to the successful management of migratory birds. 
Kevin Jacobs, Game Commission waterfowl biologist, also stressed that reporting leg-bands helps the Game Commission and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service learn more about migratory bird movements, and survival and harvest rates, which are critical to population management and setting of hunting regulations. Each year, nearly 380,000 ducks and geese and 30,000 mourning doves are banded across the United States and Canada.
“Information provided by hunters is essential in our efforts to manage migratory game bird populations and hunting opportunities,” Jacobs said. “By reporting the recovery of a leg-band, hunters not only assist in managing the resource, but also have an opportunity to learn interesting facts about the bird they harvested.”
Jacobs noted that the online and toll-free reporting systems have produced big dividends. Under the old reporting system, utilized until the late 1990s, about one-third of recovered banded birds were reported by hunters. Now, with the option of using online or toll-free methods, band reporting rates are estimated to have stabilized around 70 percent. This allows more information to be obtained from the program and can reduce costs associated with banding ducks, geese and doves.

The Game Commission recently completed a research project to obtain information on contaminant levels in Lake Erie waterfowl.
“With the assistance of waterfowl hunters and in cooperation with the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, 41 samples were collected from eight species of waterfowl harvested on Lake Erie during the 2011 and 2012 hunting seasons and tested for various contaminants,” said Dr. Walter Cottrell, Game Commission wildlife veterinarian. “Contaminants such as PCBs, DDE, and mercury were found in all mergansers tested, as well as in some buffleheads. These contaminants may also be present in other Pennsylvania waters, and contaminated waterfowl could migrate to other areas of the Commonwealth. As a result, the Game Commission has updated its waterfowl consumption advisory.”
The updated guidelines, applicable statewide, are as follows: 1.) Mergansers should not be eaten; 2.) Other diving ducks if properly prepared should be eaten only occasionally; and 3.) Dabbling ducks and geese can be eaten safely if properly prepared.
Proper preparation includes skinning and removing the fat before cooking; cooking to an internal temperature of 165 F as determined by a meat thermometer; and discarding the stuffing (if prepared in this manner) after cook­ing.
Cottrell noted that the updated consumption advisory groups waterfowl species by the prevalence of fish and invertebrates in their diets.
“The likelihood of contaminants in body tissue is high for species that feed exclusively on fish, moderate for species that occasionally consume fish and invertebrates, and low for species that primarily feed on vegetation. By following the consumption advisory, hunters will minimize potential health impacts.”

Application deadlines are fast approaching for waterfowl hunters interested in being selected for the limited number of goose blinds at the controlled hunting areas at the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Pymatuning or Middle Creek wildlife management areas during the regular Canada goose season. A goose blind application must be submitted using the form found on page 28 of the 2013-14 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest.
Hunters may apply to only one area per year and may submit only one application, which must include the individual’s nine-digit Customer Identification (CID) Number.
The Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area will accept applications through the mail until Sept. 10, at: PGC Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area, P.O. Box 110, Kleinfeltersville, PA 17039-0110. A public drawing will be held at 10 a.m., Sept. 11.
Applications for the Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area will be accepted through the mail until Sept. 14, at: PGC Pymatuning Wildlife Management Area, 9552 Hartstown Road, Hartstown, PA 16131. A public drawing will be held at 10 a.m., Sept. 21.
Blinds at Middle Creek and Pymatuning will not be operational during the September season. During the regular season, shooting days at Middle Creek are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, one-half hour before sunrise to 1:30 p.m. Shooting days at Pymatuning are Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, one-half hour before sunrise to 12:30 p.m.
A separate drawing is held for blinds that accommodate hunters with disabilities. Applicants must submit a current copy of their Disabled Person Permit (to hunt from a vehicle) issued by the Game Commission.
Also, the Game Commission again will hold special junior-only waterfowl hunting days at the controlled goose hunting areas at both Middle Creek (Nov. 16) and Pymatuning (Nov. 30) wildlife management areas. The junior-only restriction applies to the controlled goose hunting areas only; public hunting areas at Middle Creek and Pymatuning, and the Controlled Duck Hunting Areas at Pymatuning, remain open to everyone, including adults, on these dates.
Juniors must hold a junior license and be accompanied by an adult, who may participate in the hunt by calling only. A special drawing of applications submitted by junior license holders will be held immediately before the regular drawing for goose blinds. Interested juniors should use the same application on page 28 of the 2013-14 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest. Only one application will be accepted per junior hunter. Junior license holders not selected in the special drawing will then be entered into the general drawing.
Successful applicants will be mailed a hunting reservation entitling them to be accompanied by up to three guests. On hunting days, hunters also may apply, in person, for a chance at any blinds unclaimed by a reservation holder.
Persons who have previously hunted a controlled goose hunting area at the Game Commission’s Pymatuning or Middle Creek wildlife management areas may apply for unclaimed blinds on the morning of the designated shooting day, but only when there exists an absence of applications for the unclaimed blinds from persons who have not previously hunted a controlled goose hunting area.

Waterfowl hunters – whether hunting from shore or from a boat – are urged to keep safety first and foremost in mind, said Keith Snyder, Pennsylvania Game Commission Hunter-Trapper Education Division chief.
“Basic firearm and hunting safety are critical,” Snyder said. “Treat every firearm as if it is loaded and make sure that the muzzle is always pointed in a safe direction. Never place your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire. Be aware of any companions’ locations at all times and maintain a safe zone-of-fire. Waterfowl action can be exciting, but never swing your barrel toward another hunter.
“Make sure firearms are unloaded prior to reaching your hunting location and immediately after you are done hunting. Also, if you are using a boat, remember state law requires all firearms be unloaded in any boat propelled by motor or sail, and should be cased with actions open.”
Snyder also noted that, in Pennsylvania, all those using a boat are required to have a properly fitted personal flotation device (PFD) readily accessible and, regulations require a PFD to be worn during the cold weather months from Nov. 1 through April 30 while underway or at anchor on boats shorter than 16 feet in length, or in any canoe or kayak. For more information on boating laws and regulations, as well as safety tips, please visit the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s website (  Better yet, take an approved boater’s safety course.
Additionally, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, every year several hunters die from drowning and hypothermia.
“When you have a crew of hunters, with decoys and equipment, and dogs, a boat can easily become unbalanced, especially if the wind comes up,” Snyder said, “Not only is it unsafe to overload a boat, exceeding the limits posted on the capacity plate is also illegal.
“Sudden immersion into cold water is one of the leading causes of boating fatalities in the Commonwealth. It places a severe strain on bodily systems that can lead to hypothermia or, worse, cardiac arrest. Survivors of cold-water accidents have reported their breath driven from them on contact with the water.”
Anyone falling into cold water should immediately ensure that their and any companions’ PFDs are intact, and work to find a way to exit the water or right the watercraft. Cover your mouth and nose – if possible – to prevent inhaling water.
If you can’t get out of the water immediately and the shore is too far, raise your knees and wrap your arms across your chest to help reduce heat loss through the body’s core. Don’t leave your watercraft and attempt to swim to shore. It’s probably farther than you think. Experts recommend you stay with your boat until help arrives. If possible, try to climb back into your boat or on top of it.
“Most important,” Snyder suggests, “get into the routine of making the life jacket part of your hunting equipment, and wear it.”

North Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 12-Nov. 30, and Dec. 24-Jan. 11. 
South Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 19-26, and Nov. 15-Jan. 15.
Northwest Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 12-Dec. 14, and Dec. 27-Jan. 1. 
Lake Erie Zone: Ducks, sea ducks, coots and mergansers, Oct. 28-Jan. 4.

Total Duck Bag Limits: 6 daily, 18 in possession of any species, except for the following restrictions: daily limit may not include more than 4 mallards including 2 hen mallards, 2 scaup, 1 black duck, 3 wood ducks, 2 redheads, 2 canvasbacks, 2 pintails, 1 mottled duck, 1 fulvous whistling duck and 4 scoters.  Possession limits are three times the daily limits.

Mergansers: 5 daily, 15 in possession (not more than 2 hooded mergansers daily, 6 hooded in possession).

Coots: 15 daily, 45 in possession.

REGULAR CANADA GOOSE SEASON & BAG LIMITS (including WHITE-FRONTED GEESE): All of Pennsylvania will have a regular Canada goose season, however, season lengths and bag limits will vary by area as follows:

Resident Population Goose Zone (RP)
All of Pennsylvania except for the Southern James Bay Population and the Atlantic Population zone. The season is Oct. 26-Nov. 30, Dec. 18-Jan. 15, and Feb. 1-28, with a five-goose daily bag limit.

Southern James Bay Population Zone (SJBP)
The area north of I-80 and west of I-79 including in the city of Erie west of Bay Front Parkway to and including the Lake Erie Duck zone (Lake Erie, Presque Isle and the area within 150 yards of Lake Erie Shoreline). The season is Oct. 12-Nov. 30, Dec. 16-Jan. 24, with a three-goose daily limit.

Atlantic Population Zone (AP)
The area east of route SR 97 from Maryland State Line to the intersection of SR 194, east of SR 194 to intersection of US Route 30, south of US Route 30 to SR 441, east of SR 441 to SR 743, east of SR 743 to intersection of I-81, east of I-81 to intersection of I-80, south of I-80 to New Jersey state line. The season is Nov. 15-30 and Dec. 16-Jan. 25, with a three-goose daily limit.
Exception: The controlled hunting areas at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lebanon-Lancaster counties, as well as all of State Game Lands 46 (Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area), has a daily bag limit of one, and possession limit of three during the regular Canada goose season. 

BRANT (All Zones): Oct. 12-Nov. 15, 2 daily, 6 in possession.

LIGHT GEESE (Snow Geese and Ross’ Geese):
            Atlantic Population Zone:
Regular: Oct. 1-Jan. 25, 25 daily, no possession limit.
            Conservation Hunt: Jan. 27 – April 25; 25 daily, no possession limit.
            Southern James Bay Population Zone:
Regular: Oct. 1-Jan. 24; 25 daily, no possession limit.
Conservation Hunt: Jan. 25 – April 25; 25 daily, no possession limit.

Resident Population Zone:
Regular: Oct. 28-Feb. 28; 25 daily, no possession limit.

Conservation Hunt: March 1 – April 25; 25 daily, no possession limit