Sunday, March 30, 2014

Newborn Bald Eaglet Comes Out Of Its Shell

It's a ... bird. A bald eagle chick hatched Friday afternoon from an egg laid five weeks ago in the nest overlooking the Monongahela River in Hays.
It's unclear if the hatched egg was the first one laid, and the eaglet's sex has not been determined. Two additional eggs are expected to hatch in coming days. Watch it happen live at

Viewed on live video from a wildlife camera focused on the nest, the egg began showing signs of pipping -- pecking from inside the shell -- at 11:05 a.m. Friday. Hatching began at 2:36 p.m.

"We have a hatch," said Bill Powers of PixController, which provided the camera.

By about 4:30 p.m. the baseball-sized eaglet was clearly visible when the mother stood or moved around the nest, the cracked egg still lying near the other two eggs. The male eagle roosted nearby or brought fish to the nest while the female continued incubating the remaining eggs and warming the eaglet with her body.

The hatching marks the Hays eagles' second consecutive reproductive success. They fledged an eaglet in 2013. Eagles enter into "extended partnerships," often until something happens to one of the mates.

The average incubation period for bald eagle eggs is 35 days. This egg hatched in 37 days.

Ornithologist Bob Mulvihill of the National Aviary said while prolonged cold weather could have lengthened the incubation period, it's more likely the hatching occurred at the furthest point of the normal incubation range.

Jim Bonner, executive director of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, said he isn't so sure. The egg that hatched Friday might not be the first laid. The late timing could indicate that the first egg didn't survive, and it was the second egg that hatched.

"It's right on the cusp. I wouldn't deny that this is the first egg, but I have a tough time saying that definitively," he said.
Eventually more evidence will be available.

"If in time we see two eggs have hatched and one didn't make it, it could be that what we're witnessing now is actually the hatching of the second egg," said Mr. Bonner. "This could be due to the fact that the [first] egg was infertile from the start or that the eaglet died while still in the shell. It's impossible to know without actually physically inspecting the egg."

Audubon communication director Rachel Handel said Friday's hatching occurred quickly, but can take as long as 48 hours from the first signs of pipping to when the eaglet wobbles free of the shell.

"Before the eaglets actually break through the main shell, they break through an inner membrane, and it is possible for the parents to hear the chick from outside the egg," she said. "After the eaglet hatches, it will be wet. It will dry quickly, will be a light gray color, and will appear to be very fuzzy. Its eyes will be brown; skin, legs and lining of its beak will be pink."

The male, slightly smaller than the female and with a distinctive white feather on his right side, will occasionally warm the eggs and the eaglet when the mother temporarily leaves the nest.

"Once all hatching is complete, the young will develop relatively quickly, especially in size," Mr. Bonner said. "They will develop their second down around 10 days old. During the first few weeks one parent, usually the female, will always be at the nest."

The young remain vulnerable. There's a 50 percent mortality rate in the first year for eaglets, which should be ready to leave the nest by the Fourth of July, said Gary Fujak, state Game Commission wildlife conservation officer.

Having protected the nest from a raccoon attack and at least one avian predator, the eagle parents thwarted another attack Wednesday.
"Around 2:30 p.m. a red-tail hawk took several swipes at the male bald eagle while he was on the nest," Mr. Powers said. "The female was quick to respond and chased the hawk away."

Newly hatched chicks are totally defenseless, giving predators the best opportunity to raid. A crow, owl or hawk could snatch a chick and fly off before the eagle parent could react. A raccoon or other predator could take an eaglet easier than it could an eagle egg. When the weather warms, snakes will be a constant threat.

"People should understand this is all totally normal -- it's what happens in every bird nest everywhere all the time," Mr. Bonner said. "It's just that usually we don't have the luxury of looking into the nest with a video camera."

Human interest in the unfolding eagle drama has been high. People from as far away as Holland are watching the live video of the nest provided by the PixController security camera company and state Game Commission, which handled more than 10,000 page views during the hatching. High use resulted in a temporary disruption of the video feed as the chick began to peck through the shell.

The camera will remain in place as long as there is activity in the nest, Mr. Fujak said, adding that the Game Commission hopes to expand the use of such cameras.

Someday, it could live-stream cubs at a bear den, he said.

Kathy Hartos of Dravosburg said her daughter, a teacher, has been regularly showing her fourth-grade class in Delaware the video.
"That camera is like watching National Geographic or Animal Planet," she said.

Early Friday evening she and other eagles' fans -- no, not those Eagles, put your Terrible Towel away -- flocked to the Great Allegheny Passage near Sandcastle to get a different vantage point of the nest perched high on the hilltop. Just visible from the trail, the nest appeared still, save for the moment when an eagle would swoop in.

Mr. Fujak said he cleared his plans Friday night to be there -- separated from the nest by hill, highway, scrap yard and train tracks. The noise and human presence doesn't seem to bother the nest residents, he said.

"Wildlife changes and makes adjustments," Mr. Fujak said. "... With the exception of the trains, cars and humans, this is a good habitat for eagles."
The eagles could continue returning to this nest for years to come, he said.

The nearby river provides the eagles with fish, though eagles will eat ducks, rabbits and squirrels, too. Hopefully, he said, a stray cat doesn't wander too near the nest.

"There could be some things happening in the nest that aren't warm and fuzzy," he said.

Trout see more than humans, but anglers who know what trout see have the advantage

By John Hayes / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

20140327Trout Trout eyes have a similar physiology to the eyes of humans, but they don't perceive baits and lures the same as anglers.Sometimes it's easy to see trout, easy to image they see the bait the way the angler intends it to be seen.

Not so. For decades it's been known that trout eyes contain the same type of rod and cone structures that enable humans to distinguish among colors and shades of light. During periods of a trout's life, it sees a broader spectrum of color than humans can perceive, and new research suggests that some colors, unseen by older fish, can be used to attract young hatchery trout.

Understanding what trout actually see in and out of the water can give anglers a practical advantage.

"Trout eyes are somewhat similar to human eyes," said Mike Depew, a fisheries biologist for the state Fish and Boat Commission and fly angler. "But there are differences in what they see that you should take into consideration when choosing a bait or moving around near the water."

Human eyes have three types of color receptors. Specialized cones responding to light frequencies of 565 nanometers allow us to see reds. Other cones set for 535 let us see greens, and blues are detected at 440 nanometers.

Trout have four color receptors. They see the reds, greens and blues seen by humans but with some differences -- what an angler sees as a dark red lure is perceived as bright red by the trout. But with the fourth set of color receptors, trout can sometimes detect ultra-violet frequencies as low as 355 nanometers, below the spectrum visible to humans.

"Those ultra-violet cones are only active when the trout is young and during spawning runs. Science doesn't quite understand that," said Depew. "Maybe it helps them track really small prey when they're young, up to about 2 years old. It reappears when trout mature. It's unclear if that occurs [throughout the trout family], but it seems to be there in salmon, steelhead and possibly rainbow trout."

Pennsylvania stocked trout grow quickly, leaving the hatcheries when they're 1 year old. Depew said it's believed that stocked trout still possess the ultra-violet cones enabling them to see low color frequencies, while older hatchery-raised trophy trout, holdovers and pre-spawn native trout of the same size do not see those colors.

With that in mind, color selection can be crucial to anglers. Colors that seem unnaturally bright to native and older trout can spook them, both in and out of the water -- a big yellow lure, an orange hat. But the new research suggests that flecks of vivid colors in the fluorescent range can pique a young trout's interest.

"Small bits of fluorescent color don't imitate anything natural," said Depew, "but they can create a hot spot. A bit of fluorescent orange, yellow or pink absorbs UV rays and projects that back into the visible spectrum. It's not really visible to them on the surface or just under the water, but it gets more visible the deeper you get."

Sparkle materials in flies, and gold or silver spinner blades, can have a similar effect, sending glimmers of hot light through the water, often triggering an instinctive strike response among stocked trout.

With the optical rod structures, trout are believed to see degrees of light about the same as humans. A broad change in light at dusk and dawn, or even cloud cover, can trigger feeding. A a narrow change of brightness -- a shadow passing overhead -- can send a trout scurrying.

Trout have both monocular and binocular vision. With eyes on each side of its head it can look out to one side with a single eye, or focus both eyes on a single point above or in front. Optimal focus is at about 2 inches, which might explain why they mistake hooks for legs.

"Essentially, the fish can be facing forward in the current and still see slightly behind and to the side," said Depew. "They see through the surface of the water in a sort of inverted cone-shaped area, with the point of the cone at the fish's eyes. The deeper it is in the water, the broader the base of the cone and the more they can see above the surface."
Anglers can take advantage of a 30 degree blind spot behind the fish. But when a trout breaks its forward-facing position and turns slightly, it may be looking back at you.

Conditions change what trout can see. When cloudy water obscures vision, larger whiter presentations can help the fish to notice the bait. A choppy surface from wind or riffles refracts light, altering colors, brightness and even the lure's position. If possible, go deep beneath the chop to give the trout a better opportunity to size up the bait.

Some lures stimulate multiple trout senses. Sparkle materials in paste baits can trigger visual and smell responses. Flies and spinners of particular colors and shapes can cause vibrations in the water that pique a trout's visual and lateral-line senses, which detect vibration.

Dress to blend into the surroundings, and move slowly and quietly. Be aware of the position of the sun relative to you and the spot where you're fishing -- don't be conspicuous on the horizon. Avoid casting a shadow across the water -- sometimes even the passing of a fly line can spook fish.

And when you see a trout well enough that you're looking at its head and eyes, you're busted -- it's probably looking right back at you.

John Hayes:

Sunday, March 23, 2014

New PA Game Commission Website To Go Live In Mid-April

Marketing hunting in Pennsylvania

By Bob Frye

The Pennsylvania Game Commission's new website is about to go live. Its new marketing campaign will follow close behind and be focused largely here in western Pennsylvania.

The website, an addition to the existing one, is called It will debut in mid-April, right after the agency gives final approval to hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits for 2014-15.
The intent is to make it a streamlined version of the agency's regular website, with information only on hunting-specific topics like seasons, places to hunt, pheasant stockings and where to buy a license, said Keith Snyder, the agency's outreach and education division chief.

The marketing campaign will begin in September with a series of radio and print ads and billboards encouraging people who hunt periodically, but not every year — “fringe” hunters, Snyder called them — to come back to the sport and stay. The outreach effort will focus on the nine Pennsylvania counties with the most hunters. Allegheny leads that list by a large margin and will see much of the advertising along with Erie, Westmoreland, York, Lancaster, Butler, Cambria, Berks and Cumberland counties.

The advertising effort will continue through November, he said. There will be a heavy emphasis on deer hunting, given that the whitetail attracts more hunters than any other species in Pennsylvania.
“There is no close second,” Snyder said.

The goal of the campaign is to get the commission back to selling one million hunting licenses a year by 2018-19. It sold about 944,000 general licenses — not including specialty tags like those for muzzleloader, bear and archery hunting — in 2012. The commission hasn't hit the one million mark in licenses sold since 2004.

The cost of the marketing program is about $450,000 annually. Federal grant money covers that.
“I can hardly wait to see the results,” commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County said.

Report: Pa. Could Save $5M By Merging Game, Fish and Boat Commissions

By Brad Bumsted

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania is the only state with separate game and fish commissions, and it's likely to stay that way, says a leading proponent of merging the agencies.

“The chances are minimal, at best,” said Rep. Robert Godshall, R-Montgomery County, a wildlife and hunting enthusiast who believes the agencies should merge.

Consolidating the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission would save about $5 million annually, according to a detailed report released on Wednesday by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. It's an issue that has been debated periodically for 60 years.

“It's common sense,” Godshall said of a merger. Despite the odds against legislative approval, “I still want my voice to be heard,” he said.

Officials of both agencies told committee staff they worry about the possible “dilution” of their agencies' missions, according to the report.

“The question is, why take two very efficient agencies and combine them into one that is less efficient?” said John Arway, executive director of the fish and boat commission. “Simply put, we do a lot with a little.”

Matt Hough, executive director of the game commission, told the committee that he believes a merger would result in “minimal savings.”

The committee report suggested taxpayer savings could be less than $5 million depending on factors such as building renovations, “bumping rights” of employees for jobs and coordination of computer services.

“It's a source of pride for Pennsylvania (that) we have resisted trends to move to a single agency like other states,” Hough told the committee.

“I don't think there's much interest in merging them,” said Sen. John Eichelberger, R-Altoona. “We don't put any (state) tax money into those agencies.”

Hough said other states' officials have told him they wish they had separate agencies like Pennsylvania. Godshall, a lifelong hunter, challenged that assertion.

After a similar study 10 years ago, Godshall said he wrote to officials in other states to assess their preference on single or separate agencies. He said the game commission tried to sabotage his survey by telling out-of-state agencies not to respond, but Godshall said he got 25 responses showing states with consolidated agencies prefer it.

The game commission effort to interfere with his survey was “a little bit unethical,” Godshall said.

“I agree,” said Hough, who was not director at the time.

“It's time we start looking at what's going on in other states,” Godshall said. There's no reason officers of each agency couldn't learn to enforce fish and game laws, he said.
“I think it still needs to be done,” said Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, R-Cranberry, adding the state would be better able to oversee one agency.

“We're the only state that hasn't (consolidated),” Metcalfe said. “Both independent agencies have thumbed their noses at the public again and again.”

Brad Bumsted is Trib Total Media's state Capitol reporter. He can be reached at 717-787-1405

Increase in poaching could restrict spotlighting

By Bob Frye 

If there's a downside to success, this is what it looks like.

Since the advent of antler restrictions in 2002, Pennsylvania has been producing more big bucks that ever. At the very least, hunters have been shooting more big bucks than ever.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission's official record book shows that hunters have entered more trophy deer in the last 10 years than during any other decade in history.
Don't think the bad guys haven't noticed.

“I think it is valid to say we have experienced an increase in poaching numbers over the last couple of years,” said Rich Palmer, head of the commission's bureau of wildlife protection.

A “fairly significant” number of those deer are being taken illegally at night by poachers using spotlights, he said.
That's not a surprise to Jay Delaney.
A member of the Game Commission board from Luzerne County, he said, with so many hunters using trail cameras these days, more people are aware of the deer out there.
It doesn't take long for word of a big buck to spread, he said. Then, everyone wants to get a glimpse of him.
“If there's a big buck in the neighborhood, the lights are out there every night looking for that guy,” Delaney said.
That had commissioners debating last week whether it might be time to expand the state's prohibition on spotlighting, or “spotting,” as it's commonly called.
Currently, spotlighting is legal far more often than not.
You can't do it during the statewide firearms deer season that runs for two weeks starting the Monday after Thanksgiving or during the extended firearms deer season in “special regulations” counties, including Allegheny, that runs from the day after Christmas through the last Saturday in January.
You can't have a firearm, bow or “other device capable of killing wildlife” in the vehicle when spotlighting, and you can't shine your light on any buildings, farm animals or photoelectric cells.
Otherwise, it's legal year-round from sunrise to 11 p.m.
Lots of people do it, too, and not only hunters. There are many people, especially in rural areas, for whom spotlighting is a longstanding family activity, said commissioner Ron Weaner of Adams County.
Changing the rules in such a way as to put an end to that would be “a really hard decision,” he said.
“There are a lot of really legitimate reasons to allow recreational spotlighting,” Weaner said.
Poaching is a real concern, especially among sportsmen, though, added commissioner Ralph Martone of New Castle.
Delaney agreed and said he might support banning spotlighting during all big-game hunting seasons, which, in parts of the state, begin as early as September and run through the end of January.
Palmer suggested if the board moves to expand the time period when spotlighting is illegal, it move away from thinking in terms of hunters only and take a broader approach based on a “specific date range,” he said.
“You have a lot of people who spotlight but don't hunt, who don't know wildlife management unit boundaries. If you want to expand this, we should look at going with a specific date range,” Palmer said.
Some commissioners aren't ready to act just yet, though.
Commissioner Brian Hoover of Delaware County said before he would support any kind of “drastic change” in spotlighting rules, he'd like to see some statistics.
He would like to know how many deer are being killed using lights at night, whether that's changed significantly over time and, just as importantly, whether changing the rules might address the problem.
He asked, “can we effectively make a difference” by further limiting spotlighting?
No one had an answer at the board's working group meeting this past week in Harrisburg, so the commission plans to debate the issue further before taking any action.
“I think we need more discussion before we lay anything on the table,” Delaney said.

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

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Big trout to be found in certain waters at certain times

By Bob Frye Pittsburgh Tribune Review

There's rare, then there's really, really rare.

State record-size fish fall into the latter category. Few anglers will ever hook one, let alone land one, in their lifetime.

It is possible to tie into a really nice fish on occasion, though. That's never truer than in trout season.

The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will stock 3.2 million trout this year, most of them of the 11-inch variety. But it also will release tens of thousands of hefty brook, brown, rainbow and golden rainbow trout.

“They're definitely important for us, we feel,” said Rick Lorson, area 8 fisheries manager in the commission's southwest region office in Somerset. “They create a lot of excitement, a lot of enthusiasm, so we're glad to provide them.”

The goal is to stock about 8,500 “trophy goldens” — averaging 14 inches and 1.5 pounds — and 20,000 brook, brown and rainbow brooders. Those are fish 21⁄2 years old in the case of males, and 31⁄2 years old in the case of females.

If it's “unlikely” any of those fish will be record size when released, there will certainly be lots of big ones, with rainbows often the biggest of all, said Tom Cochran, fish production manager for the agency's southern hatcheries.

“You can get some of the bigger rainbows to go 6 to 8 pounds,” Cochran said. “And occasionally, they get even bigger than that.”

So where should you fish to have a chance to hook one of those bruisers?
That depends on what you're looking for.

If you want to catch a trophy golden trout, get out early in waters close to lots of people.
The commission stocks all of its goldens before opening day, Lorson said, so early is better than later. They only go into selected waters, too.

You won't find any in streams considered “low yield,” in that they attract few fishermen and consequently get just one in-season stocking. Streams managed under delayed harvest, fly fishing only and catch and release only rules don't get goldens either.

All other stocked waters managed under statewide regulations get at least a few, but some get more than others, based on things like the recreational use potential of the water and the surrounding human density, Lorson said.
What that means is, all other things being equal, a stocked stream in Allegheny County, like Pine Creek, will get more trophy golden trout per mile than a similar-sized stream in rural Somerset County, just because there are more people fishing it, he said. Likewise, an urban lake will get more goldens per acre than a similarly sized lake in a rural area, he said.
Things are a little different when it comes to rainbow, brown and brook brood trout. They get stocked on a per-mile or per-acre basis, too, with metro lakes getting more than rural ones.
But they're released into all stocked waters, regardless of regulation, Lorson said. They get sprinkled in throughout the pre- and in-season stocking period, too.

“That's essentially a numbers thing,” Lorson said. “We have more of them, so we get them in as many places as possible so that people have a chance to hook that big one.”

At least some of those big fish get caught. The Fish and Boat Commission runs an “angler awards” program, which allows fishermen to get certificates for catching big fish.

A brown trout qualifies for a certificate if it weighs at least 5 pounds, 8 ounces. The standard is 5 pounds, 3 ounces for rainbows and golden rainbows and 4 pounds for brook trout.

Junior anglers can get an award for smaller fish. There are catch and release categories for adults and kids for fish of certain lengths, too.

A look at the awards handed out last year shows big trout came from a number of area waters, including Deer and Turtle creeks and Deer Creek Lake in Allegheny County; Buffalo Creek in Armstrong; Traverse Creek and Bradys Run Lake in Beaver; Yellow and Evitts creeks in Bedford; Bull Creek in Butler; Chess Creek and Laurel Run in Cambria; Yough River and Virgin Run Lake in Fayette; Little Mahoning Creek in Indiana; Laurel Hill and Bens creeks and Stonycreek River in Somerset; Pike Run and Miller Run in Washington; and Fourmile Run, Linn Run, Loyalhanna Creek and Twin Lake in Westmoreland.

Your chances to get into a few of those fish are here already, too.

The trout harvest season doesn't start until April 12 in Western Pennsylvania, but anglers can fish for trout on a strictly catch and release basis right up to opening day on “approved trout waters open to year-round fishing.”

The list of local waters in that program is long. They're identified in the fishing summary book issued with each license.

That's relatively new. The rules allowing for year-round fishing for stocked trout just went into effect last year.

Not everyone likes it, admitted Tom Qualters, law enforcement supervisor in the commission's southwest region office. Some worry about hooking mortality leading to dead trout before anglers are allowed to keep them, he said.

But the program is popular overall, he said.

“There were quite a few people who took advantage of that last spring,” Qualters said. “Probably not as many up this way, in the mountains, and that may be tied to the weather and when there was open water. But it seemed like once you got down off the mountains, in the lowland areas, there were a lot of people fishing these lakes through March and into April.”

The big fish will be there, Cochran promised.

“Our fisheries managers put in their requests, and we fill them,” he said.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Pennsylvania Game Commission Enrolls 30th Class Of WCO Cadets

Thirty-one begin their training at Ross Leffler School of Conservation.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s 30th Class of Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO) Cadets recently took up residence at the agency’s Ross Leffler School of Conservation, which adjoins the headquarters building along Elmerton Avenue in Harrisburg.

The class, comprising 29 men and two women, will undergo 50 weeks of exhaustive training, including field duty with veteran officers, before graduation in March 2015.

Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough, who graduated with the 18th Class of the Ross Leffler School of Conservation and served for years as a WCO, said the cadets who successfully complete their training will join a proud team of Wildlife Conservation Officers that’s been entrusted by the public to protect and conserve Pennsylvania’s wildlife resources and habitats and enforce the state’s hunting and trapping laws.

It’s an intensive training program and many challenges lie ahead for the cadets, he said. The training covers a wide range of topics that will test the cadets both physically and mentally.

“In addition to learning the curriculum, they will spend many months away from their families during this nearly yearlong training, which shows the commitment they are making to protecting and managing Pennsylvania’s wildlife resources,” Hough said. “But the rewards of the profession last a lifetime, and after 33 years with the Game Commission, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.”

Hough noted that the individuals who comprise the 30th Class were chosen from a field of 622 applications, and were selected through a series of written and oral tests, interview boards and physical examinations.

Cadet training includes subjects such as: wildlife management; physical fitness; firearms proficiency; unarmed self-defense; law enforcement; legal procedures; conservation education; land-management practices; computer skills; and public relations. Cadets are evaluated regularly and required to meet stringent standards to continue.

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

Of the 31 individuals enrolled in this class, 26 have college degrees or professional certifications; four have served as Deputy WCOs for the Game Commission; and two are Game Commission employees in other capacities. Seventeen are veterans, five were in the Army, three in the Marine Corps, two in the Air Force, two in the Navy, and five in the National Guard.
Other previous careers include police officer, corrections officer, probation/parole officer, dispatcher, teacher, physical therapist, nurse’s aide, bartender and biologist aide.
The minimum age for enrollment is 21 years, the maximum is 48 years and the average age is 30 years.
Cadets and their hometowns are: Blake Barth, Lock Haven, Clinton County; Jeremy Brunst, Richeyville, Washington County; Steven Brussese, Newport, Perry County; Richard Buha II, Harmony, Butler County;  
Michael College, Altoona, Blair County; Zachary Edwards, Nanty Glo, Cambria County; Jeremy Febinger, Kittanning, Armstrong County; Joel Gibble, Lebanon, Lebanon County; Skyler Gibble, Coudersport, Potter County; Michael Goodenow Jr., Athens, Bradford County; Ryan Guth, Mohnton, Berks County; Andrew Harvey, Friedens, Somerset County; Ellyn Lindenmuth, Emmaus, Lehigh County; Matthew Johnson, Lansdale, Montgomery County; Eric Kelly, Clifton Township, Lackawanna County; Thomas Kline, Reading, Berks County; William Kreider, Stroudsburg, Monroe County; Charles Macunas, Auburn, Schuylkill County; Eric McBride, Clearfield, Clearfield County; Jonathan Mummert, Spring Grove, York County; Jeffrey Orwig, Felton, York County; Brandon Pfister, Duncansville, Blair County; Amanda Powell, Huntingdon, Huntingdon County; Benjamin Rebuck, Sunbury, Northumberland County; Justin Ritter, Boiling Springs, Cumberland County; Matthew Savinda, Tarentum, Allegheny County; Michael Stutts Jr., Meadville, Crawford County; Jared Turner, Bristol, Bucks County; Jason Wagner, Elizabethtown, Lancaster County; Matthew Ward, Pleasant Gap, Centre County.

The Game Commission has budgeted nearly $2 million to train these 31 individuals, who will fill vacant districts throughout the state. The agency anticipates that all vacant districts will be filled when this class graduates in March 2015.

The 30th WCO class follows the 29th class, which graduated in March 2013. For years, the Game Commission has been one of the top ranking agencies in terms of employee longevity, but an increasing number of employees reaching retirement in recent years, especially within the ranks of our WCOs, has made it necessary for more frequent classes with even more cadets.

While the training represents a sacrifice for the cadets, it’s one Hough said is well worth it.

“Upon completion of the training, they will be among the most-qualified, best-trained officers in wildlife management,” he said.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pennsylvania Game Commission Releases Deer Harvest Estimates

Harvests up 3 percent statewide in 2013-14, report shows.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission today reported that, in the state’s 2013-14 seasons, hunters harvested an estimated 352,920 deer – an increase of about 3 percent compared to the previous seasons’ harvest of 343,110.
Hunters took 134,280 antlered deer in the 2013-14 seasons – a harvest similar to the previous license year when an estimated 133,860 bucks were taken. Also, hunters harvested 218,640 antlerless deer in 2013-14, which represents an about 4 percent increase compared to the 209,250 antlerless deer taken in 2012-13.
Harvest estimates are based on more than 25,000 deer checked by Game Commission personnel and more than 110,000 harvest reports submitted by successful hunters. Because only about one-third of hunters report their deer harvests, the Game Commission uses data from deer checked in the field and hunter reports to estimate the total harvest.
The age structure of the 2013-14 antlered deer harvest was 47 percent 1½-year-old bucks, with the remaining 53 percent of harvested bucks being 2½ years old or older.
The antlerless harvest included nearly 62 percent adult females, about 21 percent button bucks and almost 18 percent doe fawns. The rates are similar to long-term averages.
The antlerless success rate remained about 25 percent for the licenses issued. 
Bureau of Wildlife Management personnel currently are working to develop 2014-15 antlerless deer license allocation recommendations for the April meeting of the Board of Game Commissioners. Calvin W. DuBrock, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management director, said that in addition to harvest data, staff will be looking at deer health measures, forest regeneration and deer-human conflicts for each WMU.
Total deer harvest estimates by WMU for 2013-14 (with 2012-13 figures in parentheses) are as follows:

WMU 1A: 6,400 (6,100) antlered, 13,900 (11,900) antlerless;
WMU 1B: 6,800 (7,000) antlered, 10,800 (11,100) antlerless;
WMU 2A: 6,800 (6,700) antlered, 13,200 (12,700) antlerless;
WMU 2B: 5,600 (4,800) antlered, 14,000 (16,000) antlerless;
WMU 2C: 7,200 (7,600) antlered, 11,000 (10,800) antlerless;
WMU 2D: 13,700 (13,700) antlered, 21,600 (20,800) antlerless;
WMU 2E: 4,900 (4,800) antlered, 8,000 (5,600) antlerless;
WMU 2F: 6,600 (7,100) antlered, 8,000 (6,100) antlerless;
WMU 2G: 5,000 (5,000) antlered, 6,900 (5,000) antlerless;
WMU 2H: 1,500 (1,700) antlered, 1,700 (1,400) antlerless;
WMU 3A: 4,200 (4,300) antlered, 5,400 (6,700) antlerless;
WMU 3B: 6,200 (5,800) antlered, 8,700 (8,700) antlerless;
WMU 3C: 7,000 (7,900) antlered, 12,700 (10,500) antlerless;
WMU 3D: 3,400 (4,000) antlered, 5,000 (6,000) antlerless;
WMU 4A: 5,000 (4,200) antlered, 6,000 (6,500) antlerless;
WMU 4B: 5,300 (5,600) antlered, 5,800 (5,600) antlerless;
WMU 4C: 5,200 (5,300) antlered, 6,900 (7,800) antlerless;
WMU 4D: 7,200 (6,900) antlered, 8,200 (6,300) antlerless;
WMU 4E: 6,300 (5,000) antlered, 7,700 (6,100) antlerless;
WMU 5A: 2,800 (2,800) antlered, 4,100 (3,600) antlerless;
WMU 5B: 7,400 (8,500) antlered, 12,800 (12,500) antlerless;
WMU 5C: 8,100 (7,800) antlered, 21,700 (23,600) antlerless;
WMU 5D: 1,600 (1,300) antlered, 4,500 (3,800) antlerless; and
Unknown WMU: 80 (60) antlered, 40 (50) antlerless.

Season-specific 2013-14 deer harvest estimates (with 2012-13 harvest estimates in parentheses) are as follows:
WMU 1A: archery, 2,730 (2,300) antlered, 2,450 (2,220) antlerless; and muzzleloader, 70 (100) antlered, 1,250 (1,380) antlerless.
WMU 1B: archery, 2,380 (2,250) antlered, 1,530 (1,480) antlerless; muzzleloader, 20 (50) antlered, 670 (920) antlerless.
WMU 2A: archery, 2,160 (1,970) antlered, 2,060 (2,320) antlerless; muzzleloader, 40 (30) antlered, 1,640 (2,080) antlerless.
WMU 2B: archery, 3,740 (2,800) antlered, 6,010 (7,040) antlerless; muzzleloader, 60 (100) antlered, 990 (1,060) antlerless.
WMU 2C: archery, 2,730 (2,220) antlered, 2,150 (2,160) antlerless; muzzleloader, 70 (80) antlered, 1,550 (1,640) antlerless.
WMU 2D: archery, 4,960 (4,480) antlered, 2,940 (2,910) antlerless; muzzleloader, 140 (120) antlered, 2,660 (3,290) antlerless.
WMU 2E: archery, 1,570 (1,160) antlered, 1,010 (740) antlerless; muzzleloader, 30 (40) antlered, 1,190 (960) antlerless.
WMU 2F: archery, 1,660 (1,550) antlered, 1,070 (790) antlerless; muzzleloader, 40 (50) antlered, 1,230 (1,110) antlerless.
WMU 2G: archery, 1,180 (970) antlered, 1,170 (880) antlerless; muzzleloader, 20 (30) antlered, 1,430 (1,120) antlerless.
WMU 2H: archery, 290 (290) antlered, 290 (160) antlerless; muzzleloader, 10 (10) antlered, 310 (240) antlerless.
WMU 3A: archery, 1,080 (880) antlered, 620 (750) antlerless; muzzleloader, 20 (20) antlered, 680 (850) antlerless.
WMU 3B: archery, 2,040 (1,450) antlered, 1,820 (1,530) antlerless; muzzleloader, 60 (50) antlered, 1,490 (1,670) antlerless.
WMU 3C: archery, 1,950 (1,840) antlered, 2,230 (1,660) antlerless; muzzleloader, 50 (60) antlered, 1,970 (1,940) antlerless.
WMU 3D: archery, 1,170 (1,080) antlered, 1,130 (1,170) antlerless; muzzleloader, 30 (20) antlered, 670 (730) antlerless.
WMU 4A: archery, 900 (660) antlered, 600 (650) antlerless; muzzleloader, 100 (40) antlered, 800 (750) antlerless.
WMU 4B: archery, 1,650 (1,480) antlered, 1,080 (1,110) antlerless; muzzleloader, 50 (20) antlered, 820 (890) antlerless.
WMU 4C: archery, 2,250 (1,850) antlered, 1,540 (1,490) antlerless; muzzleloader, 50 (50) antlered, 860 (810) antlerless.
WMU 4D: archery, 1,950 (1,450) antlered, 1,660 (1,190) antlerless; muzzleloader, 50 (50) antlered, 1,140 (1,010) antlerless.
WMU 4E: archery, 2,240 (1,550) antlered, 1,650 (1,200) antlerless; muzzleloader, 60 (50) antlered, 1,050 (1,000) antlerless.
WMU 5A: archery, 970 (780) antlered, 850 (630) antlerless; muzzleloader, 30 (20) antlered, 550 (370) antlerless.
WMU 5B: archery, 4,030 (4,020) antlered, 3,730 (3,700) antlerless; muzzleloader, 70 (80) antlered, 1,270 (1,300) antlerless.
WMU 5C: archery, 5,110 (4,170) antlered, 9,840 (9,370) antlerless; muzzleloader, 90 (130) antlered, 1,760 (1,430) antlerless.
WMU 5D: archery, 1,300 (970) antlered, 3,140 (2,520) antlerless; muzzleloader, 0 (30) antlered, 160 (80) antlerless.
Unknown WMU: archery, 80 (60) antlered, 10 (10) antlerless; muzzleloader, 0 (0) antlered, 0 (20) antlerless.

For additional information on Pennsylvania’s 2013-14 deer harvest, please go to the agency’s website – – and click on “White-Tailed Deer” on the homepage, and then select 2013-14 Deer Harvest Estimates under “Deer Management.”

Montana Pheasants Released Into Pennsylvania

With Franklin County release, all of state’s Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas 
now have received birds.

            Pheasants aren’t known to fly long distances.

            But 58 Montana ringnecks recently took flight to Pennsylvania, albeit by airplane, and were among the first wild pheasants ever released into what is known as the Franklin County Wild Pheasant Recovery Area.

            Four Pennsylvania-born pheasant roosters, which were trapped in and transferred from the Central Susquehanna Wild Pheasant Recovery Area, were released alongside the Montana birds to provide for a balanced sex ratio of the birds released.

            Prior to Sunday’s release, it had been three years since Pennsylvania had placed wild pheasants into any of the state’s Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas, which aim to restore to the state self-sustaining populations of wild ring-necked pheasants that eventually can be hunted. 

States like South Dakota, which initially provided wild ringnecks to Pennsylvania as part of the restoration program, have been reluctant to part with their own wild stock because of overall declines in their wild pheasant populations. 

Until recently, it looked as if 2014 would mark another year in which the trend would continue.
However, the Pennsylvania Game Commission in late January received permission from a Native American tribe in Montana to trap and transport wild pheasants as part of the program. 

In addition to the 58 Montana pheasants that have been released, about 10 more Montana pheasants have been trapped and are slated to be shipped to Pennsylvania and released within the Franklin County WPRA in the coming days.

            Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough acknowledged the difficulty in recent years of securing wild pheasants from other states for release into Pennsylvania’s WPRAs. He thanked those involved in this year’s wild-pheasant stocking for their dedication and cooperation in the effort.

            “Organizations like Pheasants Forever deserve much thanks, as does the Crow Indian Reservation, the trapping crew that traveled to Montana to secure the birds, and Game Commission staff and our Board of Game Commissioners for their resolve to locate wild pheasants that could be brought here for release,” Hough said. “With the release into the Franklin County WPRA, all four of Pennsylvania’s WPRAs now have received wild birds at least once. Hopefully these Montana birds will find their new home to their liking.”

            The Franklin County WPRA was established in 2011, and was initially slated to receive wild pheasants in early 2012. The WPRA is located in the southwestern part of Franklin County and centers roughly on the borough of Mercersburg. U.S. Route 30 forms the WPRA’s northern border, and the WPRA runs south to the Mason-Dixon Line. 

            The Franklin County WPRA is among four that have been established in Pennsylvania. Pheasants previously have been released into the Central Susquehanna WPRA, which is located in parts of Northumberland, Montour, Columbia and Lycoming counties; the Somerset WPRA in Somerset County; and the Hegins-Gratz Valley WPRA in Schuylkill and Dauphin counties.

            Only trapped-and-transferred wild pheasants are introduced into a WPRA, given their heightened chances for survival in the wild, compared to propagated birds.

There is no open season for taking pheasants in any Wild Pheasant Recovery Area, and releases of propagated pheasants also are prohibited there. Training dogs and hunting small game other than woodchucks, waterfowl and crows are prohibited within a WPRA from the first Sunday in February to July 31.

The Game Commission seeks the public’s help in making WPRAs more successful. Pheasant success within any WPRA relies on the availability of adequate nesting and wintering habitat, and privately held land accounts for most of the acreage within the WPRAs. Those who are interested in creating or enhancing pheasant habitat on land they own can contact the Game Commission’s WPRA biologist Colleen DeLong at 570-380-0833, or contact their local Pheasants Forever chapter.

The public also can help to monitor the success of WPRAs by calling the Game Commission if they see pheasants – especially hens or chicks – within a WPRA, or calling the phone number on leg bands of any dead pheasants they might find within a WPRA.

People also are asked to leave pheasant nests within WPRAs undisturbed and to avoid mowing grassy or brushy habitat there.

For more information on WPRAS, visit the Game Commission’s website,, and select, “Hunting under the “Hunt/Trap” tab, then select “Pheasant” under the “Small Game” header. Maps and other information on Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas are available