Sunday, June 29, 2014

Redbank Valley Trail, Located North Of Pittsburgh, Receives Big Honors

Angela Burtner said the Redbank Valley Trail selection as the Trail of the Year fits right in with Outdoor Adventures 2014 on Aug. 9, a full day of activities, including bicycling, organized by the Clarion County Trails Association.

"The timing was perfect," said Burtner, an association director. She said the Trail of the Year designation by the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the first time the agency has bestowed that title, "is well-deserved."

The 42 mile all-seasons trail extends from Brookville in Jefferson County to the point where Redbank Creek flows into the Allegheny River, just below East Brady in Armstrong County. It also includes a nine-mile branch trail from Lawson ham to Sligo in Clarion County.

The plans for Outdoor Adventures 2014 were announced Wednesday by the Clarion County Commissioners, the Redbank Valley Trails Association and its Clarion County counterpart at a news conference in New Bethlehem.

The event will include a fishing tournament, a kayak poker run, geocaching, a Chinese auction, wine tasting and wine sales, food and beverages and a community-wide yard sale.

There also will be a round-trip hike to the Climax Tunnel. The tunnel, currently closed, marks the end of a 17-mile cinder-surface segment of the main trail that begins at the Allegheny River and the 25-mile segment that has a crushed limestone surface. The Allegheny Valley Land Trust owns the trail.

In announcing the Trail of the Year, DCNR Secretary Ellen Ferretti said the Redbank Valley Trail stood out "because of the dedicated work of tremendous volunteers; its scenic beauty; connection to other trail systems; and quick and efficient pace of development."

She cited the trail's parallel proximity to Redbank Creek, its many bridges and beautiful stone arches. She said it serves as a connection to schools and soccer fields and also links rural areas to commercial and residential centers.

The Redbank Valley Trail connects to the Armstrong Trail, the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail and the Great Allegheny Passage to Washington, D.C. "It is also part of an initiative to connect Pittsburgh to Ridgway in the heart of the Pennsylvania Wilds," Ferretti said.

Darla Kirkpatrick, president of the Redbank Valley Trails Association, said the trail's award "belongs to all of our amazing, dedicated volunteers and our community, local government and business supporters who have committed so much of their time, energy, equipment and money.
"The Trail of the Year designation will help us garner more support so we can improve and open the Climax Tunnel; finish surfacing more miles; add amenities; attract more businesses for needed economic development in the region and make more people aware of this truly beautiful recreational asset."


Click image to enlarge

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Push On To Legalize Semiautomatic Rifles For Hunting In Pennsylvania

By Bob Frye
Emily Harger | Tribune-Review
Wes Morosky, president and owner of Duke's Sport Shop, 
poses for a portrait with a Scar FNH 308 caliber semi-automatic rifle, 
which is one of the many rifles that could be used for hunting if 
House Bill 2333 passes, allowing use of AR 15-style guns into the woods. 
Currently 48 states in the United States allow semiautomatic rifles 
for the use of hunting
Might a change be coming to Pennsylvania's woods?  Nate Jacoby hopes so.

The resident of Franklin in Venango County is a hunter and a shooter. He can't always use the same rifles for both activities, though.

Semiautomatic rifles — including “modern sporting rifles,” such as the AR-15-style ones he prefers — are illegal for hunting.

“We have a lot of money tied up in these guns, and it kind of stinks that all we can do with them is target shoot and plink at the range all day,” Jacoby said. “We're really behind a lot of other states on this thing.”

Indeed, Pennsylvania is one of just two states nationwide — Delaware is the other — that completely prohibits semiautomatic rifles for hunting.

Several state lawmakers, all Republicans from western Pennsylvania, are trying to change that.
House Bill 2333, introduced by Rep. Rick Saccone of Allegheny County, would legalize semiautomatics for all hunting, provided the guns were limited to carrying 10 rounds. House Bill 2230, sponsored by Rep. Greg Lucas of Crawford County, would legalize the rifles for hunting coyotes, foxes and woodchucks but limit the guns to calibers no bigger than .223 and to magazines containing no more than six rounds.

Senate Bill 1402, sponsored by Sen. Scott Hutchinson of Butler County, would allow semiautomatics to be used for hunting coyotes and woodchucks. It makes no mention of caliber or magazine capacity but would prohibit use of the guns when varmint seasons overlap with those for deer, bear and turkey.

“Pennsylvania's the anomaly on this issue,” said Justin Leventry, chief of staff for Hutchinson, who introduced his bill after hearing from Jacoby. “This would provide some additional options for hunters.”

“To me, it's a no-brainer,” added Saccone. “Even the most liberal states in the country, California, New York, Hawaii, Oregon, allow these. But Pennsylvania doesn't. That doesn't make any sense.”

The Pennsylvania Game Commission supports Hutchinson's bill. It's the only one whose language gives the agency some leeway in determining when and how the rifles are used, said Steve Smith, its legislative liaison.

“It really goes down to the three or four words (in the bill) that would allow the board to adopt additional regulations, if needed,” Smith said.

The commission might, for example, want to limit their use by wildlife management unit, or time of year, or prohibit them from being used at night, he said.

Legislation to legalize semiautomatic rifles has popped up on the state level in years past. This latest flurry is a reflection of how popular the guns have become, said Jake McGuigan, director of state affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association representing firearms manufacturers.

The modern sporting rifle boom began after the 2008 presidential election, when some feared an “assault weapons” ban, he said. They accounted for 40 percent of sales for some retailers then, he said.

While that's slowed a bit, the rifles have remained popular, both with returning servicemen looking to hunt with the guns they know and those who like guns used by law enforcement, he added.

Despite some misconceptions, modern sporting rifles are not to be feared more than others, he said.

“They are not more lethal than other kinds of guns. They do not make the woods any less safe,” McGuigan said, noting that many states — including Pennsylvania — have seen record-low numbers of hunting accidents in recent years.

That's true with one qualifier, said Rich Palmer, deputy director for field operations for the Game Commission.

“You can't point to other states and say they've had more accidents (with semiautomatics) because no one measures it. I can tell you down to the time of day, the vegetation, almost the barometric pressure, when an accident occurred, but no one records the kind of action of the firearm,” he said.

Debating whether to legalize semiautomatics for hunting is “tricky,” said Lowell Graybill, president of the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Club, the state's largest hunter group. While a lot of traditionalists don't see the need for them, they don't want to align themselves with those restricting gun use either, he said.
“It's a tough call,” Graybill added.

Ultimately, the Federation would prefer the commission be given some say in how and when they're used, rather than legislators mandating anything, he said.

Brian Allison, an employee of Gun World in Harrisville, Butler County, said he'd rather not see the rifles in the woods.

“As far as I'm concerned, I'm happy with what we have now,” he said.

Wes Morosky, owner of Duke's Sport Shop in New Castle, feels differently. He would like to be able to hunt with them. That might not include deer season, when 750,000 orange-clad hunters make the woods look like a “pumpkin patch” on opening day, he said.

“But if they did it for varmint and small game, I think that would be OK,” Morosky said.
The Saccone and Lucas bills have been referred to the House of Representatives game and fisheries committee for consideration. Hutchinson's bill already has been unanimously voted out of the Senate's version of that, and moved to the full Senate on first consideration.
Leventry said the hope is it can become law before year's end.

Jacoby would like that. But he expects an “uphill battle.”

“There are a lot of old stereotypes and opinions to break down,” he said. “But these are just rifles, like any other one you'd pull out of your safe.”\

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

Survey Suggests Successful Fish Administration at Lake Arthur and Pymatuning

PORTERSVILLE -- Lurking among acres of bottom-hugging hydrilla, Lake Arthur muskellunge approaching 50 inches lie in wait to ambush any prey that passes.

And at Pymatuning Reservoir, a record number of walleye congregate near dozens of submerged habitat improvements.

Results from April trapnet surveys conducted by the state Fish and Boat Commission suggest that fish management strategies have paid off at two of western Pennsylvania's most popular lakes.

Tim Wilson, a fisheries biologist for the state Fish and Boat Commission, said anglers willing to adapt to changing conditions at Lake Arthur and Pymatuning could see better results.

"Like everything, lakes change," he said. "Sometimes anglers will figure out a strategy that works for them and they'll stick with it for years. But these lakes have changed over the years and it's necessary to adapt to those changes."

At 3,225-acre Lake Arthur, Butler County, the survey was part of an ongoing trapnet study to evaluate the impacts of 2007 changes to muskellunge size and creel limits. In subsequent years muskie anglers complained about declining catches, and in 2011 Fish and Boat documented the absence of entire year classes of muskies, fish ranging from 26 to 32 inches.
PG graphic: Trap surveys
At the time, Wilson deduced the muskie problem was the result of habitat changes and a cyclical population trend. 

Encroachment of the invasive hydrilla verticillata weed, which grows in dense mats, had displaced the previously dominant Eurasian watermilfoil that commonly grew in tangled floating beds, providing great cover for fish. Spikes in Lake Arthur's muskie population in 2004 and 2007, he said, could have resulted in massive cannibalization of some 3,300 young muskies averaging 6 inches stocked those years by PFBC. That, coupled with other predation, could have resulted in the loss of muskie year classes noticed by anglers. Wilson recommended doubling the stockings.

This year's trapnet capture and release of 39 muskellunge was down a bit from 2013 (53 captured) and about equal to 2011 (41 captured), indicating relative stability in the lake's muskie population. Wilson said anglers who have learned to fish the new hydrilla habitat are doing better than those still trolling past the remaining milfoil.

"There's no lack of vegetation in Lake Arthur," said Wilson. "A lot of bays still have the classic milfoil beds, lily and coontail, but hydrilla is still very prevalent. And it's still a very good muskie lake. Anglers weren't wrong about the decline in number of muskies, but they were comparing [2011 populations] to the very best it's ever been, which was an abnormal period. What we have now [a trapnet catch rate of 0.054 per hour] is very proportional."

Additional trapnet captures show Lake Arthur is fast becoming a catfish haven, locating 559 channel cats up to 29 inches, and 34 brown bullheads.

Last month the nationwide nonprofit Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation rated Moraine State Park, which includes Lake Arthur, the 15th best family fishing location in the United States. The criteria included "public water containing plenty of common game species." The trapnet survey logged 524 bluegills, 92 black crappies and 44 white crappies, as well as hybrid striped bass and yellow perch.

Walleye numbers were up significantly at Lake Arthur. The survey found 66 walleye as large as 28 inches. Wilson said many more could have been missed -- weather delays forced the survey to be held after the walleye spawn.

"A few degrees of water temperature that impacted fish movement could have had an effect," he said.

Sixty miles north at Pymatuning, which straddles the Ohio-Pennsylvania line in Crawford County, the trapnets were set primarily for walleye. The long cold winter helped researchers, who were able to survey Pennsylvania's best walleye fishery at the height of spawning. What they found surprised them.

From 2001 to 2007, said Wilson, Pymatuning walleye fishing was "really lousy" despite robust stocking by Ohio and Pennsylvania wildlife agencies. In 2008, after several consecutive years of very low trapnet catch rates and gripes from anglers, biologists stopped stocking fry (three to four days old, 1/3 to 1/2 inch) and switched to fingerlings (35 to 40 days old, 1 to 1 1/4 inches). The larger fish were significantly more expensive to raise, but the survival rate was higher.
Those year classes have now come of age. The 2014 trapnet capture rates, said Wilson, were "exceptional."

"The population of legal walleye in Pymatuning is better than ever," he wrote in the report. "Very large year classes that started as fingerlings stocked in 2009, 2010 and 2011 have reached legal length [15 inches] and now comprise the vast majority of the walleye population in Pymatuning Reservoir."

The trapnet catch spiked from fewer than 1.5 fish per hour in 2013 to five fish per hour this year. The nets collected 4,585 walleye -- 3,900 measuring 15 to 20 inches. More than 1,000 were in the 17-inch range; 92 percent were 15 inches or larger.

Wilson said the impoundment is particularly conducive to the needs of walleye.

"It's just a really good combination of habitat, the shape of the lake basin, water quality and size. It's a 14,000-acre lake. Just the sheer size has a huge effect on walleye," he said.
Pymatuning Reservoir is jointly regulated and managed by both states, which have in recent years teamed up on habitat improvements designed to concentrate walleye and other fish at points recognized by anglers.

Last week, a partnership including Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Ohio State Parks, the Pymatuning Lake Association, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat, the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and volunteers sank more than 150 wooden cribs in 8 feet on the lake's north end, and rock reefs in 6 feet in the south.

"All of the state agencies are determined to make fishing better on Pymatuning," said DNR fisheries biologist Matt Wolfe, in a written statement. "The goal of this project is to introduce structures into the waters of northeastern Ohio in order to recruit the next generation of anglers and retain the anglers who already enjoy the sport of fishing."

Additional captures found a good number of muskellunge, 37 in the 25- to 48-inch range. But a third of the fish showed signs of current or past infection from the often-fatal redspot disease (epizootic ulcerative syndrome).

The survey logged 1,366 yellow perch as large as 13 inches, more than 500 catfish (bullheads and channel cats up to 28 inches), 582 black crappies as large as 15 inches and 471 bluegills. The capture included 700 common carp -- famous for being fed in masses by wildlife watchers at Linesville.

Substantial numbers of baitfish were found, including more than 2,200 alewifes and nearly 700 golden and spottail shiners. And while some nearby lakes have been overwhelmed by gizzard shad, the Pymatuning trapnet survey turned up only 61.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The PA Game Commission wants your best game recipes!

Back by popular demand: The Pennsylvania Game Commission is compiling information for a new Pennsylvania Game Cookbook. The last one was published in 1979.
Send us your favorite Pennsylvania big game, small game and migratory game bird recipes.
Please include:
  • Recipe title
  • Ingredients and measurements
  • Preparation instructions
  • Number of servings
  • Photo of the meal (optional)
  • Name or initials
  • Hometown
Do you use a trusty recipe from the Pennsylvania Game Cookbook that was published in 1979? Send us the title and we may include it in a "Tried, True and Tasty" section.
Please note that not all recipes will be included in the book. Recipes will not be returned and may be edited. Senders freely offer the recipe to the Game Commission for this use.
Email recipes to or mail to
The Pennsylvania Game Commission
2001 Elmerton Avenue
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797

Deadline for submissions is June 30, 2014.

Pennsylvania Game Commission Applauds Vote To Increase Officer Safety

The state House of Representative has overwhelmingly approved legislation on body cameras.

          Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough today offered his praise to the state House of Representatives for its overwhelming and bipartisan support of House Bill 2178.

          Sponsored by state Rep. Dan Moul, R-Adams County, the bill would allow Wildlife Conservation Officers working for the Game Commission and Waterways Conservation Officers working for the state Fish and Boat Commission to wear body cameras in the performance of their official duties.

          Hough thanked Moul for recognizing the need for the cameras, and for making officer safety an issue of high priority.

          “There simply is no question that these mobile video-recording devices play a key role in improving safety for law-enforcement officers,” Hough said. “The mere presence of cameras can quickly defuse what might otherwise become hostile situations, and cameras often capture valuable evidence that increases the chances of successful prosecutions. 

          “With its thoughtful consideration and its vote to send Representative Moul’s legislation to the Senate, the House of Representatives has stepped up to increase protection for our Wildlife Conservation Officers, and for Pennsylvania’s sportsmen and sportswomen,” Hough said. “We’re hopeful the Senate will give the bill swift consideration so it can be set in place in time for the upcoming hunting seasons,”

          Body cameras are mobile video-recording devices that can be clipped onto an officer’s uniform. They’re similar to the dashboard cameras installed in most law-enforcement vehicles, but can be considered more suitable for Wildlife Conservation Officers who often patrol while on foot.  

          The use of body cameras already has been expressly approved by the state Legislature for other police agencies statewide.

          The bill to allow Wildlife Conservation Officers and Waterways Conservation Officers to use the cameras passed the House by a 191-5 vote. 

          Moul, whose legislative district includes the area of Adams County where Wildlife Conservation Officer David L. Grove was shot and killed by a poacher in 2010, said he sponsored the legislation as a way to increase officer safety. 

          “Wildlife and Waterways Conservation Officers routinely encounter dangerous situations on the job,” Moul said. “Tragically, Adams County Wildlife Conservation Officer David Grove was shot and killed while attempting to apprehend a felon in illegal possession of a firearm in 2010. I believe the presence of body cameras may help to deter such crimes and would aid law enforcement in their investigations.”

Monday, June 16, 2014

PA Game, Fish and Boat commissions merger takes a hit

By Bob Frye

Is anyone surprised, really?

The General Assembly spent about $100,000 of taxpayer money to examine the pros and cons of merging the Pennsylvania Game and Fish and Boat commissions. It was the third such study done in the past 20 years.

It's looking like the latest examination was, as some suspected, as much a political ploy as the first two.
The Legislative Budget and Finance Committee released its merger study report March 19. It said such a move could bring about $5 million in savings annually.

That was reiterated this past week.

Patricia Berger, chief counsel for the committee, told lawmakers at a meeting of the House of Representatives game and fisheries committee in Harrisburg that combining the agencies wouldn't necessarily bring about a financial windfall.

“Although the management of these (natural) resources by a single entity is certainly feasible, the combined expenditure per license of both the Fish and Boat Commission and the Game Commission is already lower than the average of other states, suggesting there may be limited opportunities for significant savings,” Berger said.

We can debate whether $4.8 million is “significant.” But it appears this merger idea never had a chance, and lawmakers knew it.

Several were quoted here and elsewhere as far back as March saying there wasn't much chance of a deal getting done. The political will doesn't exist, they said.

Nothing seems to have changed since.

One of the handful of lawmakers to attend this past week's game and fisheries committee meeting was Rep. David Maloney, a Berks County Republican.

He's been as tough as anyone in recent years on the Game and Fish and Boat commissions, often charging that they've lost their connection to sportsmen over deer management and fish stockings, among other things. He was at it again this past week, saying both agencies have caused a lot of controversy by “straying from their missions.”

Frustration resulting from all that is what led to the merger study being done, he said.
Specifically, the inability of lawmakers to convince the agencies to change direction is what “creates the push to look at other options.”

Still, Maloney said he doesn't support a merger, in part, because no one's asked sportsmen what they think.
Rep. Gary Haluska, a Cambria County Democrat and one of the few other lawmakers to attend and stay until it was over, said he opposes a merger, too, fearing that any cost savings would be more than offset by a diminished “product” for hunters and anglers.

In fact, no one except Potter County Republican Martin Causer — who chairs the committee and sponsored the merger study — said he supported it.

He promised the committee will continue to study the idea. But even he conceded that changing anything will be difficult.

“Anybody who works in this building for any significant period of time knows that change occurs very slowly here,” Causer said.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

4 Million Rounds Per Day - From Just 1 Factory

Submitted by club member Jim Martin

4 Million rounds of .22 caliber rimfire ammunition every day!  This from just 1 factory.  Why is there such a shortage of .22 cal?

Here's an interesting video of how the CCI factory in Iowa makes 4 million rounds per day!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Pennsylvania Hunting Licenses To Go On Sale This Monday June 9th

Hunters, trappers can purchase new tags beginning June 9.

Hunting and furtaker licenses for Pennsylvania’s 2014-15 seasons go on sale Monday, June 9,  and there are good reasons to get them sooner rather than later.

            Applications for elk licenses must be submitted earlier this year and, while a hunting license is not required to apply for an elk license, many hunters don’t apply until they purchase their general hunting licenses. 

            Additionally, changes made earlier this year to the schedule for landowners to enroll properties in the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) should result in all DMAP permits being available when licenses first go on sale. 

            Once again in the 2014-15 license year, all license fees remain unchanged since 1999.
            Licenses can be purchased online through the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS) website,

            Licenses also can be purchased over the counter at all Game Commission region offices and the Harrisburg headquarters, as well as through more than 600 in-state and out-of-state issuing agents. 

            A list of issuing agents is available at the Game Commission’s website,

            The 2014-15 hunting and furtaker licenses are effective July 1, when the licenses that now are valid expire. The new licenses are valid through June 30, 2015. 

            The launch of license sales for the upcoming seasons also serves as a reminder for Pennsylvania hunters who hold senior lifetime hunting or furtaker licenses, or combinations of those licenses. While those hunters need not pay a license or transaction fee, they must pick up new licenses and harvest tags.

            Additionally, those who hold range permits that allow them to use shooting ranges at state game lands are reminded that now-valid permits also expire on June 30, and that new permits will need to be purchased for range use on and after July 1. 

            Permits are $30 and must be purchased by credit card through The Outdoor Shop on the Game Commission’s website, or at any of the Game Commission’s region offices or the Harrisburg headquarters.

            Licenses purchased through PALS are subject to a 70-cent transaction fee for each license or permit, and that fee is paid directly to the Nashville-based company that runs PALS.

            Through PALS, hunters can purchase not only their general hunting and furtaker licenses, but add-on licenses needed for archery or muzzleloader hunting, specialty licenses to hunt bears or set out after a second spring gobbler, permits to hunt and trap bobcats and fishers, and more.

            In short, what can be purchased from an issuing agent, can be purchased online.
            Hunters also can use PALS to apply for the elk-license drawing or purchase Deer Management Assistance Program permits. 

            Many specialty licenses or permits have application or purchase deadlines, or launch dates for sales. See the 2014-15 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest for a complete list.

            Fast approaching is the start of antlerless deer license sales. Applications for antlerless deer licenses must be sent by mail using official pink envelopes available from issuing agents or Game Commission offices.

            County treasurers statewide on July 14 will begin accepting antlerless license applications from Pennsylvania residents. Nonresidents can apply starting July 28. Beginning Aug. 4, treasurers will begin selling the remaining unsold licenses for any wildlife-management unit for which licenses remain available. A second round of unsold license sales will begin Aug. 18.

            Except in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 2B, 5C and 5D, hunters may only apply for one license during each application period. In those WMUs, hunters may apply for an unlimited number of licenses. Only one license for WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D can be purchased during the initial round of sales, then beginning Aug. 4, up to three applications may be sent per envelope and licenses will continue to be sold until the allocation is expended.

            Over-the-counter antlerless license sales in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D begin Aug. 25.
            Meanwhile, the deadline to apply for a 2014 elk license is July 31.
            That’s about a month earlier compared to last year. 

            The drawing for elk licenses will be held earlier, too, and will be held as part of the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Elk Expo. The drawing is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. on Aug. 16, and will be held at the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette.

            A bear license is required to hunt bears, and bear-hunting opportunities in some areas of the state begin as early as Sept. 20.

            Bear licenses go on sale at the same time general hunting licenses do, but hunters should note bear licenses are not sold during the statewide general bear season. Hunters must purchase bear licenses by Nov. 21 to participate in the statewide season. Bear licenses then go back on sale from Nov. 27 to 30, when hunters may purchase them to use during extended bear seasons that overlap with portions of deer seasons.

            The deadline to purchase a bobcat or fisher permit is Dec. 19. And those wishing to purchase a second spring gobbler license must do so by May 1, 2015. 

            Harvest permits through the Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) will be available for sale beginning June 9.

            Changes were made this year to the landowner application schedule in an effort to ensure permits for all DMAP properties are available for purchase when the new license year begins. 

            Also, new this year is the Mentored Adult Hunting Program, which is modeled after the Mentored Youth Hunting Program that’s been in place for several years. 

            The Mentored Adult Hunting Program offers an opportunity to first-time hunters ages 18 and older who have never before held a hunting license in Pennsylvania or any other state or nation. The cost of the Mentored Adult permit is the same as the cost of an adult general hunting license – $ 20.70 for residents, $101.70 for nonresident.

            Mentored Adult hunters only are permitted to hunt certain species and are not allowed to hunt antlered deer. Mentored Adult hunters are permitted to hunt antlerless deer, and can receive from a mentor one antlerless deer license and/or DMAP permit to tag a harvested antlerless deer.

            A full description of the Mentored Adult Hunting Program can be found on Page 16 of the 2014-15 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest.

            Hunters purchasing their licenses early also might not be able to immediately get a copy of the 2014-15 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest regulations booklet. Some issuing agents won’t receive the booklets until late June. A complete version of the publication is posted on the agency’s website.  And hunters who don’t receive a printed copy of the booklet initially may return to the issuing agent and pick one up after the booklets are delivered

Thursday, June 5, 2014

New Pennsylvania Hunting Permit Part Of Cwd Response

Game Commission to issue 13,000 permits for antlerless deer 
within Disease Management Area 2.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is enlisting assistance from hunters in an effort to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease.
          The Game Commission has developed a permit that can be used to hunt antlerless deer, but can be used only within the boundaries of what is known as Disease Management Area 2 – the lone area of the state where chronic wasting disease has been detected in free-ranging deer.
          A total of 13,000 permits will be made available with the intention of reducing the deer population by one deer per square mile in DMA 2.
          Responding to a need identified by the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners, the permits seek to focus hunting pressure inside the Disease Management Area (DMA), where deer numbers must be kept in check to slow the potential spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD). At the same time, the permit system enables the Game Commission to avoid a reduction in the deer herd in the area surrounding DMA 2 – where CWD has not been detected.
          DMA 2 includes parts of Bedford, Blair, Huntingdon, Cambria and Fulton counties. The DMA lies within Wildlife Management Units 4A, 4D and 2C (WMUs 4A, 4D and 2C).
          “We hope the creation of this permit will better help to satisfy objectives of addressing the deer population within the DMA and outside it,” said Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough. “Our appointed Game Commissioners continually seek input from the hunters and trappers in their respective regions, and hunters in WMU 4A – a large portion of which is within the DMA – have been requesting an increase in deer numbers.
          “While our CWD Management Plan guides us to increase the antlerless deer harvest in areas where CWD has been detected in free-ranging deer, it doesn’t mean we have to decrease the deer population throughout an entire WMU, or as in this case, a number of WMUs,” Hough said. “The permits allow us to more precisely direct hunting pressure into the area that most needs additional deer harvests.”
          There are some differences between the application process for a DMA 2 permit and that for an antlerless license.
          Only residents and nonresidents ages 12 and older with valid general hunting licenses may apply for permits. Participants in Mentored Youth and Mentored Adult hunting programs are ineligible to make application, and the permits cannot be transferred to participants in those programs.
          Each permit costs $6.70, and payments must be made by credit card, or check or money order made payable to the “Pennsylvania Game Commission.”
          Applications for DMA 2 permits will be accepted in two ways – electronically through the Game Commission’s Outdoor Shop, or by mail. The Outdoor Shop can be accessed at Those wishing to send applications by mail can obtain an application form at the Game Commission’s website, the agency’s Harrisburg headquarters or any region office.
          The application schedule is similar to that for antlerless deer licenses, however, residents and nonresidents can apply on the same dates in all rounds.
          Applications will be accepted beginning July 14. Each eligible applicant may submit one application during this first round, which lasts three weeks.
          Beginning Aug. 4, a second round of application begins. Again in the second round, each eligible applicant may submit one application. However, an applicant who did not submit an application during the first round may submit two during the second round.
          A third round of applications will begin Aug. 18. Eligible applicants may submit an unlimited number of applications during this round, and the round will continue until all permits have been issued.
          DMA 2 permits must be used within DMA 2. These antlerless deer permits can be used during any deer season, including the antlered deer season.
          Those who are issued DMA 2 permits are required to submit reports, regardless of whether they harvest a deer. Harvests must be reported within 10 days. Nonharvests must be reported by Feb. 5. Those who fail to report as required are subject to criminal prosecution and may be ineligible to apply for permits if the program is continued the following year.
          Through their reports, hunters provide valuable data that plays a crucial role in the Game Commission’s management of CWD.

Disease Management Area 2
          DMA 2 was established in 2013 after three hunter-harvested deer in Blair and Bedford counties tested positive for CWD. The DMA was expanded earlier this year in response to two additional deer killed on highways in Bedford County, and a hunter-harvested deer nearby in Maryland, tested positive.
          DMA 2 now extends south to the Maryland border. South of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the western boundary of DMA 2 is state Route 96. The new boundary extends east to state routes 829 and 915, and Interstate 70. The DMA extends as far north as the intersection of state Route 453 and Interstate 99.
          A map of the newly expanded DMA 2 is available on the CWD Information page at the Game Commission’s website, A detailed description of the exact boundary, which includes roads other than those listed, is provided on Page 51 of the 2014-15 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest issued to hunters at the time they purchase their 2014-15 licenses.
          Hunters harvesting deer within any DMA are not permitted to remove from the DMA any deer parts with a high risk of transmitting the disease. There are a few exceptions to this rule, including taking a deer to an approved deer processor or taxidermist outside the DMA, or traveling to an approved laboratory for disease testing.
The use of urine-based deer attractants also is prohibited within any DMA, as is the direct or indirect feeding of deer. A complete list of rules applying to DMAs can be found in a Game Commission executive order, which also is available at the agency’s website.

CWD Information
          While chronic wasting disease is relatively new to Pennsylvania, it is not a new disease. CWD was discovered in 1967, and it has spread to 22 states and two Canadian provinces. Scientists believe CWD is caused by an agent capable of transforming normal brain proteins into an abnormal form.
          CWD affects members of the cervid, or deer family. It is spread from animal to animal by direct and indirect contact.
          There currently is no practical way to test live animals for CWD, nor is there an approved vaccine to prevent infection. CWD is a slow-progressing disease and clinical signs do not develop until later stages of disease, often two years or more after infection. Clinical signs include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling, and, ultimately death. Any animals suspected of having CWD should be reported to the Game Commission.
          There currently is no scientific evidence that CWD has or can spread to humans, either through contact with infected animals or by eating the meat of infected animals. As a precaution, however, people are advised not to consume meat from animals that test positive for CWD.

          During 2013, the Game Commission collected and tested samples from 5,120 deer statewide. Only the two from Bedford County tested positive for CWD.  Since 1998, the Game Commission has gathered and submitted more than 48,000 samples from wild deer and elk for CWD testing. A total of five free-ranging deer have tested positive – all of them within DMA 2.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Whitetail Disease (CWD) Brings New Rules To Pennsylvania

By Bob Frye

All this needs is a sinister sound track.

First, chronic wasting disease (CWD) — an always-fatal malady that affects deer, elk and other cervids, for which there is no treatment and no cure — was something confined to the American West. Discovered in Colorado in 1967, it stayed there, within a research facility, before finally making the jump to wild elk in 1981.

Still, it was a non-factor among most hunters.

Then — to everyone's alarm and panic — in 2002 CWD showed up in white-tailed deer in Wisconsin, its first appearance east of the Mississippi River.

It's been spreading far and fast since.

New Mexico, Minnesota, Illinois, South Dakota, Saskatchewan and Alberta all discovered their first cases of the disease later that same year, according to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance. Utah joined the list of CWD-positive areas in 2003, New York and West Virginia in 2005, Kansas in 2006, Michigan in 2008, Virginia, Missouri and North Dakota in 2009, Maryland in 2011 and Texas, Iowa and Pennsylvania in 2012.
Get ready for the new reality that might bring.

Whenever and wherever the disease shows up, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, acting in accordance with the state's CWD response plan, establishes a disease management area, or DMA, around the infection site. DMA 3, for example — the newest and first in Western Pennsylvania — takes in about 350 square miles in Jefferson and Clearfield counties as well as a small piece of Indiana County. A map of it can be found at It's bordered by I-80 to the north, Route 36 to the south and west and routes 219 and 322 to the east.

A DMA designation brings with it new rules.

Hunters can't move any “high risk” deer parts — brains, tonsils, eyes, lymph nodes and backbones/spinal columns — from the area. They can take processed meat and finished taxidermy mounts home, but that's it.
Those urine-based scents so popular among hunters and archers in particular? You can't use them, or even have them in your possession, in a DMA. No one can feed deer, directly or indirectly, or take road-killed deer or deer parts out of the area either.

There likely will be extra doe permits issued in DMAs when the disease is found in the wild herd. That's what's happening in DMA 2 in Bedford and Blair counties this fall. After a lot of haggling among staff and board members, the Game Commission is likely to issue roughly 13,000 “DMA 2 antlerless deer permits” this fall in what will be a model for the rest of the state.

That's for deer. If and when the disease shows up in the state's elk herd, “the scale changes because those animals move a lot more than whitetails,” said commission veterinarian Justin Brown.

In such a scenario, the state's entire elk range — rather than just a portion around the infected animal — might be turned into its own disease management area, he said.

The world will be different, either way. Cue the scary music.

Pennsylvania Plans To Boost Number Of Hunter Education Classes

By Bob Frye

HARRISBURG — Paid hunter education instructors might be coming to Pennsylvania, starting in Allegheny County.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is looking into hiring instructors on a contractual basis to help meet the need for offering more classes in key areas.

Keith Snyder, chief of the agency's hunter education and outreach division, told board members at their work group meeting Monday that the classes — required of all first-time hunters and trappers — have, at times, been a barrier to getting people into the sport. Students weren't able to find classes to get the training needed, he said.

The commission has tried to address that using “strategic scheduling,” offering more classes at those times when, according to visitors to the commission's website, people are seeking them, he said. That's borne some fruit. The commission certified about 41,000 students last year, its most in years, he said.
But more needs to be done, he added.

Last year, for example, Pittsburgh ranked first among all cities in terms of where people were located when getting online to seek out a hunter safety course. Based on those visits, the commission should have offered 131 hunter education classes in Allegheny County last year, Snyder said. It offered only 45. That's the most it could handle with its 91 volunteer instructors, he said.

Likewise, in Philadelphia, the commission should have offered 70 classes. It offered 12, using 15 instructors.
“Those two areas have a significant gap where the volunteer instructor system is just not getting it done,” Snyder said.

To correct that, the commission will look into paying two-man instructor teams to teach more classes. They will earn $150 each per class, but be required to teach at times of the commission's choosing, likely during periods of peak demand between September and November, in venues that can hold at least 100 students at a time, Snyder said.

The commission isn't relying on paid instructors entirely, though. Snyder said it's looking to recruit more volunteer instructors and make it easier for them to get trained.

That might pay dividends, commissioner Brian Hoover of Delaware County said.

“If we can make it more convenient for them, I think that will be an improvement,” Hoover said.

Another change might be coming, too. Increasing the number of classes offered will likely necessitate the end of requirements that a wildlife conservation officer be present at every one, commissioner Tim Layton of Windber said. How long might it be after that until all hunter education training is offered online, he wondered?

Not long, Snyder said. Pennsylvania offers online training now, though students must still take their test in person.

Six states last year went to the kind of online training that can be done start to finish. That's a trend that will only grow, Snyder predicted.

“We're starting those discussions already,” he said. “It could be another tool in our toolbox to reduce barriers.”


Top spots

Pittsburgh is the No. 1 city from which people most often search for hunter education classes. Rounding out the top 10 are: Philadelphia, State College, Altoona, New York, Lancaster, Harrisburg, Erie, Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.
The presence of New York on the list seemed odd until the Pa. Game Commission did some more research, said Keith Snyder, chief of the agency's hunter education and outreach division. Most of those New York hunting class-seekers are Pennsylvania residents who work across the border.

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