Sunday, February 23, 2014

Changes To Deer Harvest Reporting Possible In Pennsylvania

By Bob Frye

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania hunters may see a new system for reporting a deer harvest.

Any change can't some soon enough for some.

Currently, when a hunter kills a deer, he is required to report it to the commission within 10 days. Reporting can be done using a mail-in paper card, by phone or online.

Few comply using any means. Commission estimates are that fewer than 40 percent of successful hunters report their deer.

Hunters who take a deer using a deer management assistance program, or DMAP, permit, aren't much better. Hunters with a DMAP tag are required to file a report whether they killed a deer or not. Only 47 percent do, Matt Hough, executive director of the commission, told members of the state House of Representatives game and fisheries committee Tuesday at the capital.

Hough was delivering the commission's annual report to lawmakers.
Rep. Joe Emrick, a Northampton County Republican, said the result is few hunters believe the commission's annual deer kill estimates.

Hough, for example, said hunters killed an estimated 343,110 deer in 2012-13. Emrick wasn't buying it, not after having what he described as his worst deer season in a decade last year.

“If I told (that number) to the guys I know and hunt with, they'd think that you were joking. They would laugh,” Emrick said.

Commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County defended the agency's harvest estimates after the meeting, saying that the deer reported, combined with information collected by visiting deer processing shops around the state, yields a harvest estimate with a 97 percent confidence interval.

“This is not a guess. It's a scientific estimate with some precision to it,” Putnam said.
Emrick thinks the commission can and should do better, though, and suggested it try to get better data by more aggressively fining hunters who don't report their deer.

“I can drive past 80 police officers running radar, and if they're not going to enforce the law, nothing's going to change. People aren't going to slow down,” he said.

Hunters who don't report their deer harvest can be fined $25, said Rich Palmer, chief law enforcement officer for the commission as head of its bureau of wildlife protection. A few such people are cited each year, he added.

But cases are hard to win given that hunters have “almost a built-in defense,” he said.
“They say, ‘Hey, I mailed it in. It must have gotten lost.' How do I prove that he didn't?” Palmer said.

Still, the commission is looking into possible changes. Some states require a hunter to call a toll-free number within 24 hours of taking a deer, Putnam said. They're given a number that must be written on their harvest tag. Only when they have that number is their deer officially “legal,” he said.

Board members will be discussing that idea and maybe others at their next meeting, he said.

Emrick said something needs to be done.

“I'm becoming more and more a proponent of radically changing our harvest reporting rate,” he said

Bald Eagles Lay An Egg! Get A ‘Bird’s-Eye View’ Of Pittsburgh's Bald Eagle Nest Online

Streaming video of Pittsburgh nest available at Game Commission’s website.

          Last year, a young bald eagle fledged from a nest within the city limits of Pittsburgh for the first time in perhaps 200 years or more.  

          And in the months that led up to that moment, hundreds looked on from a distance. 

          This year, a pair of eagles is nesting near the same site and countless more onlookers can follow along – this time with a bird’s-eye view, and from within the comfort of their own homes. 

          The Pennsylvania Game Commission, in cooperation with Pix Controller Inc., has installed a video camera high above a nest two bald eagles have built along the Monongahela River in what is known as the Hays section of Pittsburgh.

A pair of bald eagles has nested in the Hays section of Pittsburgh and on Wednesday, the nest received its first egg. In the coming weeks and months, viewers can watch the action unfold. Footage from a camera positioned on the nest is being live-streamed on the Pennsylvania Game Commission's website by Pix Controller Inc. Photos courtesy of Pix Controller Inc. and the Pennsylvania Game Commission
Get Image

          Live footage from the camera is being streamed on the Game Commission’s website. The eagle pair’s appearances at the nest have become more and more frequent since the live-streaming began in late December. And on late Wednesday afternoon, something else appeared – a freshly laid egg. 

          The hope, of course, is that a healthy eaglet will fledge the nest, and the camera will capture every second of it.
          There are no guarantees the story will have a happy ending. But the live stream offers a rare, real-life look at an unfolding natural wonder.  

          Streaming footage is available on the homepage of the Game Commission’s website, Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the “Play” icon to see real-time footage of the nest. 

          In good weather conditions, the live stream will be available round-the-clock. In colder temperatures, the video equipment must be shut down for brief periods, so if you have trouble accessing the live stream, just check back later. 

          The nest featured on the live stream was built new in recent months after a branch gave way under the nest used in the same area last year. 

          Last year’s nest didn’t offer as up-close a view, though many people would congregate regularly along a nearby bicycle trail to view the nest through binoculars. Because there wasn’t a good vantage point inside the nest, however, eagle-watchers could only judge from the mating pair’s changed behavior that an eaglet had been hatched. It took weeks to confirm suspicions. 

          With the camera in place, however, online viewers were able to verify the exact moment an egg was laid.  

          Video of the egg being laid has been posted to YouTube, and can be found easily by searching “Hays eagles egg.” Other highlights from the nesting attempt so far also have been posted to the site.

Nest etiquette

          While viewers always are welcome online, those making trips to view bald-eagle nests in person are reminded to keep their distance.  

          Different pairs of eagles have different levels of tolerance for human activity near nests. Nests like the one in Hays, which are built in spots with a lot of surrounding bustle, often offer opportunities to view from a distance without invading the eagles’ comfort zone.  

          But federal safeguards exist to protect nesting eagles, and persons encroaching a 660-foot perimeter around a nest are in violation of federal law. 

          Signs are posted around many known nest sites, but the rules apply regardless of whether signs are posted.

Get Image

          Approaching an eagle nest too closely could frighten off the adults and cause them to abandon the nest or prevent them from keeping eggs at the proper incubating temperature. Frightened eaglets might also jump from the safety of a nest, then have no way to return.  

          More tips on nest-viewing etiquette can be found on the bald-eagle page of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website,

Bald eagles in Pennsylvania

          The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners at its January meeting gave final approval to a proposal to remove the bald eagle from the state’s list of threatened species.

          Game Commission staff in September recommended the change based on the bald eagle’s remarkable recovery in Pennsylvania, and the fact that the commission’s bald-eagle management plan calls for upgrading the bald eagle to “protected” status when all of four criteria measuring the health of the state’s bald-eagle population have been met for a five-year period.  

          Removing bald eagles from the state threatened species list neither hinders eagle populations in Pennsylvania nor knocks off course the species’ comeback here, said Game Commission endangered-bird biologist Patti Barber. 

          The bird continues to be protected under the federal Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (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.  

          Additionally, state penalties for disturbing protected wildlife include fines of up to $1,500 and bolster protection for Pennsylvania eagles. 

          Bald eagles have come a long way in the 30-plus years since the Game Commission first began efforts to restore them to Pennsylvania. In 1983, when the Game Commission launched what would become a seven-year restoration program, only three pairs of nesting bald eagles remained in Pennsylvania – all of them in Crawford County in the northwestern part of the state along the Ohio border.  

          This year, there were more than 270 known bald-eagle nests statewide.
          A 22-minute film celebrating the bald eagle’s success is available at the Game Commission’s website. From the homepage, click on the icon title “PA Eagles 30 Years of Restoration.”

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Trout stockings getting underway in PA, even as trouble looms

By Bob Frye

Local anglers are going to have a few more trout to fish this year than last, at least in a couple of places.

Appreciate them. Those fish are becoming more expensive to raise all the time and for reasons you might not expect.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission rolled out its 2014 trout stocking list. It breaks down, by county, which waters will get fish and when. Stocking details for a number of regional counties also will appear at each week starting Feb. 23.
The commission's plan this year, as last, is to stock about 3.2 million adult trout averaging 11 inches long, said Dave Miko, chief of the division of fisheries management. About 2.01 million will be rainbows Another 647,000 will be browns and 527,000 will be brookies.
An additional 8,500 golden rainbows — or “palominos” — averaging 14 inches long and 1.5 pounds will be sprinkled in.

About 53 percent of all those fish will be stocked prior to opening day, which is March 29 in 18 southeastern Pennsylvania counties and April 12 everywhere else, Miko said. Another 43 percent will be stocked between those opening days and the end of May. The remaining 4 percent will be released between October and February.

The fish will be distributed to 124 lakes and 731 streams. Those can change year to year based on a number of factors.

This year, for example, a 4.55-mile section of the Bennett Branch Sinnemahoning Creek in Elk County is being added to the stocking list because of water quality improvements. A 1.5-mile section of Shobers Run in Bedford County and 3.2-mile section of Yellow Creek in Mercer County are coming off the list because of landowner posting.

A couple of local waters, meanwhile, are getting more fish.

The commission determines how many trout to put in a lake or stream based on a number of factors, said Tom Greene, coldwater unit leader for the agency. One of those is expected use. A 100-acre lake in an urban setting gets more fish per acre than a similar-sized lake in a rural one because it will see more fishermen more often, he said.

That's why, this year, Laurel Hill Lake in Somerset County and Cloe Lake in Jefferson County are among about a dozen statewide that will get more trout than previously.

“The higher the human density the more fish stocked. We update our records based on the most recent census data, and when we looked at it this year we decided it was time to make a change and stock more fish in those places,” Greene said.

The commission also has extended the length of Jones Mill Run in Somerset getting stocked. Now a full 4.8 miles, from the first bridge downstream of Becks Spring downstream to the backwaters of Laurel Hill Lake, will get brook and brown trout.
Getting those fish to the water is becoming more costly, though, and that could lead to cutbacks in other fishing and boating programs down the line, according to commission officials.
The commission has been trying to trim hatchery expenses, changing stocking truck delivery routes to increase efficiency, limiting overtime for employees and shaving electricity costs, said Brian Wisner, its chief of fish production. But fish feed costs continue to climb. The commission spent $1.4 million on feed in 2012. It expects to need $2.5 million by 2018, he said.

Limited supply is the reason.

The food fed to species like catfish and tilapia can contain a fair bit of vegetable matter, said Leroy Young, director of the commission's bureau of fisheries. Trout foods must contain more protein if you want to get good growth rates, he said.

That protein traditionally has come from ocean-going species like herring and menhaden. But supplies of those fish are shrinking, and demand is growing.

Populations of menhaden in particular are thought to be at an all-time low. That's why the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission — a 15-state collective which Pennsylvania is a part of— agreed to reduce the allowable harvest by 20 percent in 2012. That limit remained in effect through last year and will be up for review this one.

With lots of people — from fish food producers to those who manufacture the fish oils pills taken by health-conscious people — wanting a share of that harvest, prices have increased, Wisner said.

The result could be changes down the road if more money isn't found, said commission executive director John Arway. The commission is using money from its reserve fund to cover increased feed costs this year, but that won't last forever, he said. The agency may have to “dip into” the money for other programs in time, he said.

“Those are some hard decisions to make. But it's becoming a very expensive proposition to raise fish in today's environment,” Arway said.

Indoor Shooting Range Proposed For Cranberry Twp, PA

By Bill Vidonic Pittsburgh Tribune Review

Keith Pindroh said he doesn't have major safety or noise concerns with a proposed indoor shooting range that would go next to his Route 19 vehicle repair business in Cranberry.
“I'm not anti-gun,” said Pindroh, an owner of Pindroh Bros. Auto Body. “I don't have a problem with this. It looks like it'll be top-notch stuff.”

Representatives of the Ellwand Shooting Sports Academy are scheduled to present plans to the Cranberry Planning Commission on Feb. 24 for a $14 million indoor shooting range and outdoor archery range.

Dave Gemperle, 56, of Cranberry, one of the project developers through Diversified Productivity Group, said the basement shooting range would be quieter than the constant drone of traffic along Route 19.

“There's really no place for the average joe if they don't belong to a sportsman's club to practice shooting sports,” said Gemperle, a pilot with FedEx. “On weekends, every gun facility in the area is packed.”

The closest indoor ranges are in New Stanton and West Mifflin, he said.

Plans for the proposed academy show a nearly 143,000-square-foot building with the shooting range in the basement. The academy would have a retail area for a sporting goods store and space for education and safety classrooms, social events and other amenities.

The building would have sound-dampening materials, Gemperle said, and a ventilation system that would clear smoke from fired weapons and remove pollutants before it leaves the building.

“If we can lower the noise, people have a better experience,” Gemperle said.
A National Rifle Association-certified trainer, Gemperle said people using the shooting range would first have to complete an instructional orientation so they know the safety rules.

He said his group will use mesh netting to keep arrows from the outdoor archery range from flying off property.

If Cranberry's planning commission and township supervisors approve the complex, the ranges could open in a year, Gemperle added.

Gemperle said his group has been working with township officials to avoid the problems experienced by a proposed indoor shooting range in nearby Jackson that resulted in years of litigation.

The project ultimately didn't materialize.

Gemperle said Rick Everly of Butler, a retired Marine, will be the academy's vice president of operations, while Ross architect Fritz Baehr, who is working on the academy design, will be vice president for range development.

There are few properties adjacent to the proposed site on the southbound side of Route 19. One home, which sits between the property and Cranberry's fire and EMS stations, has been up for sale. It's nearly 200 feet from the proposed shooting range.

Several buildings and residences are within 500 feet of the range, though the residences are separated from the property by the auto body shop and foliage. Cranberry also has maintenance facilities on the hillside just above the 22-acre site.

Ron Henshaw, Cranberry's community development director, said no complaints have come from the community about the project so far. He noted the township has an outdoor police training shooting range located near its maintenance facility.

He said developers have been talking with township officials about the project for several months.

“We like the project,” Henshaw said. “It's a unique use. People are a very interested in this use. As long as it complies with the ordinances, we're fine with it.”

Seminar speakers spread the word at Cabin Fever fly fishing expo

In the late 1980s, holding a fly on a Lake Erie tributary, Jeff Blood noticed how different it looked when it got wet.

Experimenting at the tying bench -- dunking prototypes in a glass of water -- the Cranberry fly fisherman came up with an easy-to-tie translucent egg pattern that is equally hard to resist for steelhead and anglers.

He'll talk about the creation of the Blood Dot egg and tactics for successful steelhead fishing at Cabin Fever, Western Pennsylvania's biggest fly fishing expo. Casting and tying demonstrations, dozens of exhibitors, a fly gear flea market and additional seminars are among the events scheduled at the annual fund-raiser for Penn's Woods West Trout Unlimited.

"I started experimenting with materials and then fishing the fly, and I don't want to tell you how many fish I was catching," said Blood, once a part-owner of International Angler. "I walked into the shop and said, 'I want to show you guys something, but we're not going to sell this fly. It's too effective.' "

In time, Blood's conservation ethic came into balance with his desire to share what he'd learned with other anglers. And as Steelhead Alley discovered the Blood Dot and its appeal spread nationwide, the fly's inventor conceded that no fly can ever catch all the fish.

"Commercial tiers started selling it, and guides started calling it Blood's Dot. That morphed into Blood Dot," he said. "People misconstrue what the dot is. It's not supposed to be blood. The dot is the yolk, like in a chicken egg."

Simple but effective, the Blood Dot is generally tied on No. 14-18 hooks. For the body, Blood uses Glo-Bug yarn (pulled apart to be thin). The dot is a contrasting color of the yarn (trimmed shorter than the body material). Colors can vary; Blood recommends natural tones. The body is ruffled over the dot, and when wet it looks remarkably like a darker yolk inside a translucent egg. Blood fishes it deep, larger sizes in cloudy waters, and says it's particularly effective during spring runs.
Despite the popularity of the fly that bears his name, Blood doesn't cash in on the Dot.

"I tried tying and selling them for a while, but I learned something from one of my major mentors, Lefty Kreh. He told me, 'Don't demonstrate your knowledge, share your knowledge,' " said Blood. "That's part of the intrigue for me -- no matter how much you know, you can't know enough to catch them all."

Eric Stroup doesn't catch them all, either, but the Central Pennsylvania angler says it's particularly gratifying to catch them when conditions are tough. That's among the topics at his two Cabin Fever seminars.

"When the fishing's good, everybody's catching fish," said Stroup. "But when it's low and clear, or high and muddy, or there's sun or so many other conditions that make it tough, it can be really difficult to move fish."

Catching trout in tough conditions is the topic of his new book, due in the fall from Stackpole.
"It's about strategies on approaching the water, evaluating conditions and food availability to determine the trout's location," he said. "All of those variables change depending on the time of year. It's about observation. We have a tendency to over-think things. Look past the obvious. Use your eyes, not your intellect."

Too often, said Stroup, fly anglers make their first mistake soon after leaving the car.
"They barge into the water. They fish too quickly," he said. "Sometimes I see guys who fish a place for 10 minutes and leave, when they should spend an hour or more there. ... Other times, they stay on a spot where there's no fish."

To avoid rushing, Stroup recommends focusing on habitat and season.

"When I get to the water, I'm not fishing. I'm in a searching mode," he said. "I'm looking for the habitat where the trout are likely to be in a given season at that time of day. Sometimes the fish are on the edges of the current, not in the main current. There are a few hatches where the nymphs swim to the edge of the stream, and you'll find fish near the banks picking those things off. You have to know that and be there."

Stroup's seminars will also draw from his first book "Common Sense Fly Fishing" (Headwater, 2009), and include casting to set up the subsequent drift, and practical lessons from his "Face Time Fly Fishing" video series posted on his website,

WHEN: Feb. 23
WHERE: Four Points by Sheraton, Cranberry
TIME: 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
FEE: $10, free for 12 and younger.
10 a.m. Eric Stroup, Common sense fly fishing
11 a.m. Scott Loughner, Fly casting
1 p.m. Jeff Blood, Steelhead tools, tactics, techniques
2 p.m. Eric Stroup, Casting for the drift
3 p.m. Scott Loughner, Fly casting

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Pennsylvania Game commissioners reject earlier squirrel opener

By Bob Frye

There will be no extra time for hunters to pursue squirrels this fall.

Fear of accidents that never occur and population stresses never seen apparently are the reasons why.

When Pennsylvania Game Commissioners recently met in Harrisburg to discuss seasons and bag limits for the 2014-15 hunting season, the package before them called for a youth squirrel season that would run from Oct. 11 to 17 and an opening day for everyone else of Oct. 18. Those got preliminary approval. A vote on final approval is set for the board's next meeting in April.

Commissioner Ralph Martone of New Castle proposed a change, however. He suggested opening squirrel season statewide for everyone on Sept. 13. That would bring Pennsylvania into line with other states, he noted.

This past year, Ohio and New York opened their squirrel hunting seasons on Sept. 1, Maryland its on Sept. 7, Delaware and West Virginia theirs Sept. 14 and New Jersey its Sept. 28.

An earlier opener would give people more opportunity to chase a species that's “underutilized,” Martone said.

Children in particular might benefit from the extra time, he said, when few other seasons are open.
“This is one of those opportunities where we can extend the calendar and offer that opportunity,” he said, noting that commissioners had received letters of support for the idea from the public.

The board rejected the idea by 6-2 vote, with only commissioner Charles Fox of Bradford County joining Martone.

A couple of commissioners who voted against the idea said they did so for safety reasons, worried about the possibility of squirrel hunters shooting camo-clad archers at a time when the leaves are still on the trees.

Brian Hoover of Delaware County, said that's “a significant enough safety issue at this time” for him to reject the idea.

Statistics provided by the commission's hunter safety division show there has not been a case of a squirrel hunter shooting anyone between at least 2003 and 2012. Spokesmen from Ohio, New York, Maryland and West Virginia said last summer they never have had a squirrel hunter shoot an archer, so far as anyone knows.

Still, commissioner Jay Delaney of Luzerne County said he was worried about safety, too, as well as with the possibility that hunters might shoot nursing squirrels.

Commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County said that's not a real worry because the timing of the season “doesn't make any difference biologically,” even as he voted against a September opener.

“It's just a social issue,” he said.

Don't mess with the nest: 2 men fined for violating eagles' privacy

A bald eagle along the hillside above East Carson Street near Hays
While the public has a new way to watch Pittsburgh's eagles from afar, two men who got too close were cited Monday for separately trespassing on a state-imposed privacy zone surrounding the nest.
A revolutionary new Web camera has generated thousands of views of the birds nesting on a hillside overlooking the Monongahela River in Hays.

Neither man was trying to see the eagles. On Dec. 28, Richard Seddon, 48, of Overbrook was legally hunting on property above the nest co-managed by the state Game Commission. According to the citation, he failed to obey signs banning entrance to a state-imposed 660-foot privacy zone surrounding the nest. He also was charged with two unrelated hunting violations. Mr. Seddon couldn't be reached for comment.

On Jan. 4, Thomas Kesten, 61, of Parker, Armstrong County, also trespassed on the privacy zone while hunting on the hill.

"We came up from the back side and didn't know we weren't supposed to be there," Mr. Kesten said. "They need to put some more signs up there."

The maximum fine for failure to observe a Game Commission sign is $200. Neither man was charged with violating more serious federal laws banning the intentional harassment of an active bald eagle nest.

Since the installation of the new robotic camera, it has been accessed more than 20,000 times without harassing Hays' most prominent residents.

The camera project was conceived and managed by PixController, a Murrysville company that builds custom outdoor security cameras for law enforcement organizations, including the Game Commission. The camera is equipped with tilt, pan, zoom, night vision and audio capability, and can be viewed by the public for free on the Internet.

"There's no other camera like this in the world on an active eagle nest," said Game Commission spokesman Tom Fazi. The agency is a partner in the project. "The opportunity it provides for research is probably unprecedented."

PixController donated the equipment, installation and daily upkeep -- a $5,000 investment, said company president Bill Powers. Interstate Batteries of Penn Hills donated solar receptors and batteries, and the Sierra Wireless and Verizon Wireless companies provided equipment and links to free 24-hour access to the Internet.

Mr. Powers approached the Game Commission several years ago about aiming a camera at one of the state's 260 active eagle nests.

"When the Pittsburgh site came up, that was the best story, showing people the fantastic way the city has recovered," he said. "Nature has taken back what we took away from it."

Plans for the camera include Internet chats with eagle experts; an archive of active moments on the nest; public access to the zoom, pan and tilt controls; and engaging schools in the eagle-cam project.

Last year, the state Game Commission voted to officially remove the bald eagle from Pennsylvania's threatened species list. That action was officially taken last week. The bird remains protected under state and federal law.

After fledging one chick last year, the Hays eagles remained in town when temperatures dropped.
In recent days, webcam viewers watched as the birds engaged in their first mating activity of 2014.
Two other Allegheny County eagle nests are active. A pair that has nested on private property in Crescent since 2010 was seen on the site last month. Another pair, which last year failed to steal a nest from red-tailed hawks in Harmar, has taken the site and is making home renovations.

Read more about the eagle-cam at the Post-Gazette Rod & Gun Club blog at

Sunday, February 2, 2014

2014 Bull Creek 3-D Archery Schedule Is Announced

Here is the schedule for the 2014 season. 

April 27
May 18
June 15
July 20
August 17
September 21

Registration 9AM to 2 PM
Adults, $10.00
Youth under 16, $5.00

Kitchen will be open

As always, we encourage all ages and skill levels to come out and participate. And yes, cross bows are welcome. 

Teaming With National Rifle Maker Good Move For Rostraver Businesses

By Bob Frye

Receivers are manufactured at Lesleh Precision Inc. 
on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014, in Rostraver Township. 
Lesleh Precision Inc. manufactures and supplies rifle 
parts to the Henry Repeating Arms Company
Photo by Sean Stipp | Tribune-Review
Ron Helsel wasn't exactly sure what he was getting himself into.

He's president of Lesleh Precision Inc., a precision machine shop. He was operating out of a 10,000-square-foot building in Lower Speers, making parts and pieces for various industries, when an opportunity arose.

He got a call from Holger Schweisthal, president and CEO of PIAD Precision Casting Corp. in Greensburg. The company is the largest permanent mold foundry in the nation, Schweisthal said.

Schweisthal was casting the distinctive “high-strength nickel bronze” receivers and buttplates used in making Big Boy lever-action rifles for Henry Repeating Arms Co. A machine shop in New Jersey was finishing them.

That shop wasn't meeting the standards Henry had in mind, though, so the company asked Schweisthal if he knew of anyone else who might be able to do the job.
Enter Helsel. With at least some trepidation.

He figured he could make the Big Boy parts. But he also knew — as did Schweisthal — that if he was going to take over the job of being the only maker of Big Boy receivers in the country, he was going to have to greatly expand his operation.

“I told him this is either going to work for you or you're going to go bankrupt,” Schweisthal said.

“That's exactly what he said,” Helsel remembered. “He said, ‘I'm not sure if I'm helping you or hurting you.' ”

It sure seems like it's helped him so far.

Helsel has gone all in. He's spent $2.5 million to buy new equipment in the past six months, and another $2 million to buy the 35,000-square-foot building in Rostraver he moved into a month ago. He's become PIAD's second-largest of 300 customers along the way, having gone from ordering $40,000 in materials a year to $2 million last year. He expects to top that in 2014.

At the same time, he's looking to grow his work force from 35 to 50 people, all so that he can manufacture rifle parts full-time.

And still that's not too much.

When he began working with Henry, the goal was to produce parts for a couple of hundred Big Boys a month, Helsel said. Now, he said he's trying to create 1,000 guns a week.

“We've been shipping from empty shelves for three to four years now, which means that as soon as a rifle gets packaged, it's out the door,” said Henry president and owner Anthony Imperato.

“I have to order their guns a year ahead of time, and even then they trickle in. I have to, or I'd never get any,” said Tim Brown, owner of John Brown's Armory in Rochester, a “gold level” Henry dealer. “They can sell every gun they make.”

Big Boy rifles came to be in 2003 based on the popularity of Henry's “Golden Boy,” a .22-caliber lever action, Imperato said. They come in three brush-busting calibers, .44 magnum, .45 Colt and .357 magnum. Some people hunt with them. Others use them in cowboy action shooting competition.

They are not the dominant rifle in those competitions, in large part because they are “a replica of nothing, it's a total new design” in a game where authenticity counts for much, said Matt Mastorovich of Export, and a cowboy shooter himself. But Henry is made up of “good people” and their rifles do have dedicated fans, he added.

Kristopher Kniha of Washington is one. He typically competes in two cowboy shoots a month from April through October, putting 60 rounds through his .45 Colt Big Boy each time. He's found the gun to be reliable and fun, he said.

“It seems to shoot pretty strong and where I want it to go. And the action's really smooth,” Kniha said. “So I'm really happy with it.”

It takes a lot of people to make a Big Boy, Imperato said. Perhaps as many as 15 suppliers are involved.

“Making a gun, it's quite complicated. Besides all of the parts involved, and all of the processes, you're taking a typical gun that contains 50, 60, 70 pieces and you've got to make it feed, you've got to make it so that it can handle the explosion of a round, you've got to make it accurate. It's not like making salt shakers,” Imperato said.

But “the Big Boy starts right here,” Helsel said.

That's been good for PIAD, which operates 26 furnaces in its Greensburg plant. Two of them — each manned by two men at a time and operating two eight-hour shifts per day — are dedicated solely to making Henry parts, Schweisthal said.

It's been good for Helsel, too. He's now making not only the Big Boys, but all of Henry's centerfire rifles, including the new Henry Original, a replica of the lever action built and patented by Benjamin Tyler Henry in 1860.

That's been great, he said. But the enormity of his expansion still sometimes gives him pause, he admitted.

“When you start, it's pretty intimidating. When you're in the middle, you're too scared to quit, and at the end you think it wasn't so bad,” Helsel said. “But I'm not ready to say that yet.”

Back in action

Anthony Imperato
Henry Repeating Arms Co. is based in Bayonne, N.J. Its plant there was pummeled by Hurricane Sandy in the fall of 2012, with the storm damaging more than 100 pieces of machinery, said president Anthony Imperato.

The company has long since returned to full production, however, and is churning out rifles faster than ever.
In the company's first year in 1997, it sold about 10,000 to 12,000 rifles, all of them .22-calibers, Imperato said. Those continue to be made in Wisconsin.

Last year, counting all makes and models, it sold 305,000 rifles. Its goal this year is to produce 360,000.
The Big Boy and other rifles born here are a big part of that, he said.
“We think we're doing good for Western Pennsylvania,” Imperato said.

Thousands Of Acres Added To PA Game Lands Across The State

Purchases add more than 16,000 acres to game lands system.

          The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners on Tuesday approved a purchase that will add nearly 13,000 acres to State Game Lands 25 in Jones Township, Elk County.
          The nearly $12.2 million purchase does not include timber rights for many tree species on the property. The property’s seller, The Conservation Fund, will reserve the timber for 25 years with the right to harvest, cut, remove and otherwise manage and use all timber, except conifer, white oak, walnut and apple trees.
          The 12,911-acre acquisition is mainly forested with mixed northern hardwoods, with a small component of mixed conifers in locations, interspersed with forest openings. Streams and tributaries – many of them containing wild trout – as well as upland wetland areas, are located on the acquired tracts. These lands are bisected by U.S. Route 219, and have multiple access points from township roads.
          The acquisition is divided into three parcels, and while the eastern border of the eastern-most parcel borders State Game Lands 25, the property also adjoins Allegheny National Forest to the west.
          The enormity of the acquisition can’t be understated, said William Capouillez, who directs the Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management.
          It’s one of the biggest purchases in decades, and links one of the biggest game lands in the Commonwealth to the Allegheny National Forest – one of the largest forested public resources in the state.
          With the acquisition, a huge contiguous block of protected habitat has been created, Capouillez said. But the deal does more than that, he said.
          The deal calls for payment to The Conservation Fund to be made either in one lump sum, or in not more than six annual installment payments. Under the agreement, the Game Commission may make the payments in cash, or transfer to The Conservation Fund timber revenue the commission generates on other state game lands tracts.
          Being able to provide the value from timber is an important part of the deal, Capouillez said. It will encourage greater timber harvest in other parts of the state, and the result will be the creation of more early-successional habitat, a component that is severely lacking throughout the state, he said.
          “This is a commitment by the agency to increase our timber harvest and habitat creation on game lands through a partnership with The Conservation Fund,” Capouillez said.
          The acquisition creates more than 20 square miles of additional game lands.
          Other land acquisitions approved by the board on Tuesday include:
·                      More than 2,100 acres to state game lands in Jefferson County.
Under the contract, the commission will purchase from Green Hills Land Co. LLC a 1,967-acre tract adjacent to State Game Lands 87 in Gaskill and Henderson townships, Jefferson County, as well as a 26-acre interior tract into State Game Lands 54 in Snyder Township, Jefferson County.
Additionally, the commission will purchase from Hanak Limited Partnership more than 163 acres north of State Game Lands 195 in Snyder Township, Jefferson County.
Again, the scale of the acquisition is notable, Capouillez said. It’s yet another addition to State Game Lands 87, which now tops 15,000 acres but just a few years ago was an 1,100-acre tract. Also, the acquisition creates a contiguous block westward to State Game Lands 195.
“How often can you say you’ve connected two game lands?” Capouillez asked.
More than 1,000 acres of the 1,967-acre tract is made up of northern hardwoods, while about 955 acres consist of shrub land and reverting fields associated with previous surface mining activity. Small wetlands and mining-related water impoundments also are present on the property.
The 26-acre interior tract is forested with northern hardwoods, with ironwood, mountain laurel and grapes in the understory. The 163-acre parcel also is forested with northern hardwoods.
The option price for the three properties is a $2.4 million lump sum, to be paid with funds from third-party commitments as compensation for habitat and recreational losses that occurred on state game lands from previously approved projects.
·                       A nearly 54-acre tract in Springfield Township, Erie County, south of State Game Lands 314.
The tract is forested mostly with northern hardwoods with an oak component, and there are at least three species of special concern plants on the property.
In making the $47,525 lump sum purchase from Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Inc., the Game Commission has agreed no use of the surface for oil and gas exploration, production, removal or sale will be allowed.
Funds for the purchase come from third-party commitments as compensation for habitat and recreational losses from previously approved projects on game lands.
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is working in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire the property through funding available through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative’s Joint Venture Habitat Restoration and Protection grant program.
·                      A tract of more than 81 acres adjacent to State Game Lands 311 in Benezette Township, Elk County. The property is being purchased from Richard and Michele Vollmer for $399,000 lump sum to be paid with funds from third-party commitments as compensation for habitat and recreational losses that occurred on state game lands from previously approved projects. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation also has pledged $100,000 toward the purchase of the property, which is a mixture of woodlots and shrub lands with grass fields.
The property is located in the center of the range of the largest elk subpopulation in Pennsylvania, and creates a prime elk-viewing opportunity. Winslow Hill Road bisects the property. 
The Vollmers will retain the oil and gas rights on the property.  
·                       A more than 642-acre tract in Frankstown Township, Blair County, adjacent to State Game Lands 147.
The option price is $1,150,000 to be funded by habitat mitigation commitments for impacts to state and federally listed species. The Eastern small-footed myotis, a Pennsylvania threatened species, and the Indiana bat, are the impetus for the mitigation funding. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must give its approval before the property can be purchased.
The property is forested with about 72 percent in mixed oak and the remainder in mixed hardwoods. There are two forest openings on the property, each less than an acre in size, and several intermittent streams cross the property.
The property is being sold by Paul Good.
·                        A more than 175-acre tract in Athens and Smithfield townships, Bradford County, adjacent to State Game Lands 239.
The option price is $451,000 and will be paid with funds from third-party commitments as compensation for habitat and recreational losses that occurred on state game lands from previously approved projects.
About half of the property is comprised of mixed hardwoods with the remainder in grassland and reverting fields; some sections contain various evergreens originally planted to sell as Christmas trees.
The property is being sold by Evergreen Land Development LLC, which will reserve the oil and gas rights.
          Capouillez said the purchases approved Tuesday, when added to other lands newly approved to be acquired through other methods total nearly 18,000 acres, or 30 square miles.
          The acquisitions also represent an opportunity to create more early-successional forestland statewide, Capouillez noted.

Pair donates more than 42 acres in Allegheny County.

          A land donation and two land transfers brought on by the issuance of right of way licenses have added more than 600 acres to the state game lands system.
          The board approved the actions at its meeting on Tuesday.
          Anthony Gagliardi and Carol Lund donated to the Game Commission a more than 42-acre tract in Springfield Township, Allegheny County. The tract, which is 16 miles southeast of State Game Lands 203, is comprised of mixed northern hardwoods, with the remainder in reverting old fields and small forest openings.
          Gagliardi and Lund will retain the oil and gas rights on the property, which is bisected by Crone Hollow Road, and can be accessed also from High Street.
          Meanwhile, the Game Commission acquired more than 650 acres in exchange for providing surface access to companies performing work above or below the surface.
          Iron Mountain Information Management LLC will convey to the Game Commission 278 acres in Cherry and Washington townships, Butler County. The property connects two parcels of State Game Lands 95.
          The property is mostly forested, with about 6 acres in shrub land and reverting old fields. Thirty acres of the property are agricultural lands, 20 acres of which is tillable.
          A tributary to the South Branch of the Slippery Rock Creek, and associated riparian areas, are on the property. The presence of the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake, a Pennsylvania endangered species has been noted on the property.
          The property comes in exchange for rights that will allow Iron Mountain to construct two boreholes and a water pipeline in order to access and use the groundwater and void space located in a previously excavated limestone deep mine located beneath State Game Lands 95.
          Additionally, Consolidation Coal Co., also known as Consol, has agreed to convey to the Game Commission five properties totaling more than 215 acres.
          Two of the properties – one about 26 acres, the other more than 14 acres – are in Jackson Township, Greene County, adjacent to State Game Lands 179. The tracts are mostly forested with mixed hardwoods, and there also are reverting old fields.
          The other three properties adjoin State Game Lands 245. Two of the properties – a more than 5-acre indenture, and a more than 21-acre tract – are in Morris Township, Washington County. The smaller tract is forested with mixed hardwoods and there’s a 1-acre open field. The larger tract includes 17 acres of woodland in pole-size timber, 2 acres in tillable agricultural fields, and 2 acres in grassland.
          The land conveyed by Consol is in exchange for rights of way across State Game Lands 179 for 69 kV electric transmission line, and across State Game Lands 245 for a 16-inch water pipeline. The value of the land offsets the value of 12 years of right-of-way license fees for the transmission lines, and 25 years of license fees for the water pipeline.

Game Commission getting 246 acres in Blair County.

          The Game Commission will exchange timber it had offered for sale for a more than 246-acre tract that is an interior into State Game Lands 198 in Blair County.
          The Board of Game Commissioners approved the deal on Tuesday.
          The timber is associated with the “Blue Knob Removal” timber sale in Blair and Bedford counties, located on State Game Lands 26. The “Blue Knob Removal” sale involves three blocks of timber. Two blocks will be credited against the entire value of the land exchanged, with the remaining block to be purchased for more than $90,622 by E&E Logging and Sons Timber.
          The property being conveyed is forested with mixed oak, maple and birch and currently is being timbered by E&E Logging, creating early-successional forestland.
          Acquiring the tract will provide better access to existing portions of State Game Lands 198.

Former school building to become new Southcentral Region Office.

          William Capouillez, the director of the Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management, on Tuesday announced the commission purchased properties at auction in 2013 that will be added to the state game lands system.
          Pennsylvania Code authorizes land purchases at auction and requires purchases be made known to the general public at the next regularly scheduled meeting of the Board of Commissioners.
          The commission in October purchased three tracts totaling nearly 144 acres in Frankstown Township, Blair County, paying for the land with escrowed funds totaling $294,000. The funds come from a prior land exchange with Penn State University on State Game Lands 176.
          The tracts purchased at auction are adjacent to State Game Lands 147 and are within 5 miles of the Hartman Mine Hibernacula, which is known to be used by Indiana bats, a state and federally listed endangered species. The tracts are forested with mixed hardwoods with an understory of witch hazel at higher elevations.
          The Game Commission also purchased at auction a 27,000-square-foot school building in Huntingdon County that it plans to turn into a new headquarters for the Southcentral Region.
          The property sits on 9 acres in Brady Township, Huntingdon County, and is known as the Brady Henderson Elementary School property.
          The property was purchased for $200,000 as the result of an auction scheduled to occur on June 15.

A reduction in propagation area buffer zones is warranted.

          The Board of Game Commissioners approved changing the boundaries for propagation areas at two state game lands in Butler County.
          The boundary changes will reduce the size of the propagation areas the Game Commission has determined no longer need to be so big.
          Propagation Area 108 at Moraine Cooperative Management Area 406 will be reduced from 386 to 161 acres. The area was established as a waterfowl propagation area through cooperation between the Game Commission and Moraine State Park. The initial focus was to provide a resting and nesting area for geese. Given their population increases, though, geese have become a nuisance issue at the park.
          The change in boundary will increase public access, while maintaining a buffer for migrating waterfowl, especially ducks. The new boundary also is more user-friendly because it is established along roads, field edges and already-cleared portions of the existing boundary line.
          Meanwhile, Propagation Area 111 on State Game Lands 95 will be reduced from 308 to 201 acres. The area initially was established as a stopover and resting habitat for waterfowl, mainly geese.
          The reduction will maintain a buffer around the lake to prevent harassment of nesting waterfowl, while opening access on 107 additional acres that previously were restricted.
          The new boundary at this area also will be easier to identify because most of it will run along roads and field edges as opposed to running through wooded areas.

Oil and gas reserve to be developed beneath portion of State Game Lands 298.

          The Board of Game Commissioners Tuesday approved a deal that will allow for the development of the commissions’ oil and gas reserve under State Game Lands 298 in Eldred and Gamble townships, Lycoming County. The development will be conducted with no surface impact to the game lands. 
          Two bids were received in November 2013, but one company later withdrew the bid. With the bid offered by FyreRok Reservoir Consulting withdrawn, the board approved the bid submitted by the only other bidder, Inflection Energy LLC, of Denver, Colo.

          Inflection has agreed to pay the commission 20 percent in royalties from the oil, gas and liquid hydrocarbons produced and sold from under the tract. Inflection also will pay the commission a one-time bonus payment of $4,560,840