Sunday, August 31, 2014

"Unprecedented" Level Of Chronic Wasting Disease Found On Reynoldsville Farm in Jefferson County

Researchers from around the country are getting to study chronic wasting disease because of an “unprecedented” find.

Officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture announced in April that a 5-year-old captive deer on a farm in Reynoldsville, Jefferson County, tested positive for the disease. 

Subsequent testing of the deer on the farm found six more with CWD.

That doubled the number of cases in the state, which now stands at 14.

“This is an unprecedented level of infection in a captive deer herd,” agriculture secretary George Greig said.

Researchers are looking at those deer.

Before those deer were “depopulated” — euthanized — researchers from Kansas State University took samples from them. They were distributed to the United States Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary and Wildlife Services and USDA Agricultural Research Services for additional study.

Neither the first Jefferson County deer detected with CWD nor any of the others subsequently found ill exhibited any clinical signs of wasting disease, said Craig Shultz, Pennsylvania's state veterinarian. They were “non-suspect” animals.

The hope is the research being done on their tissues will provide new information about the disease and how to combat it, he said.

“This has provided an opportunity for some unique research to be done,” Shultz said.
An investigation continues into other deer farms that might have purchased or supplied the Reynoldsville herd with deer, Agriculture spokeswoman Samantha Krepps said. In the meantime, the effects of wasting disease continue to be seen in other states.

In West Virginia, the disease showed up in 2006. It was confined to a 15-square-mile area.
Sampling done after this past hunting season by the Division of Natural Resources showed the disease has been spreading annually and now encompasses a 108-square-mile area. The percentage of deer within that zone that are infected is growing, too, the sampling showed.

Things are worse in Wisconsin, the first state east of the Mississippi to detect CWD. According to its Department of Natural Resources, about 8 percent of adult male deer in the “core” CWD zone had the disease in 2002 when it first showed up. Now, almost 25 percent do, according to the latest sampling.

The incidence of the disease also has climbed in adult females and yearling males, the animal most likely to disperse across the landscape and perhaps spread the disease, officials said.
In Wyoming, meanwhile, about 10 percent of mule deer herds typically are infected with CWD, according to the National Deer Alliance. Some localized herds have seen as many as 25 percent of their total animals infected, though, and in one county, a record-high 57 percent were found to be sick in 2011.

When the number of sick adult animals in a herd hits 30 percent of higher, “Hunters there can expect more than a quarter of their herd will be gone soon,” the NDA said.

“This will directly impact what hunters see when they go afield, the annual harvest and ultimately hunter participation and retention. It will in effect change the hunting tradition locally,” the group said.

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pennsylvania's (and Bull Creek's) Junior Pheasant Hunts Beginning To Fill

Now is the time to register Hunter-Trapper Education graduates for organized hunts.
Only 10 spots remain at this writing for Bull Creek's event Oct 11th
Junior hunters who want to take part in a special pheasant hunt just for them need to make their reservations now, while spots remain open.

          Information on Junior Pheasant Hunt events statewide is available at the Pennsylvania Game Commission's website,, and those looking to participate in an upcoming hunt can register online.

Time is of the essence, however. The events are starting to fill, and some already have waiting lists.

Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said Junior Pheasant Hunts are action-packed and provide a great opportunity to give youngsters a taste of hunting excitement and success. 

"If you're starting out a new hunter and you're looking for a way to show them how much fun hunting can be, it really doesn't get any better than this," Hough said. "But it's an opportunity that could pass you by if you don't take the time to register soon."

Junior Pheasant Hunts are events for youngsters between the ages of 12 and 16 who have successfully completed a Hunter-Trapper Education course. The events are held on Saturdays during the one-week junior pheasant season, which this year runs from Saturday, Oct. 11 to Saturday, Oct. 18.

Junior Pheasant Hunts all are held on lands open to public hunting, and the Game Commission is providing about 3,000 pheasants to be split among 28 conservation groups to stock for the hunts. The commission stocks another 15,000 pheasants statewide ahead of the junior season, and this year plans to release more than 200,000 pheasants across Pennsylvania.

Youngsters taking part in a Junior Pheasant Hunt event are not required to purchase a license, but they must wear the necessary amount of fluorescent orange and be accompanied by an adult as required by law.

Juniors who register to hunt in a special event, or who otherwise hunt pheasants in the junior season, must adhere to Pennsylvania's long-standing daily bag limit of two pheasants. In some of the state's wildlife management units, only cock pheasants may be harvested. 

Those looking to register for events, can click on the Junior Pheasant Hunt button on the home page of the Game Commission's website ( The registration deadline for most events is Sept. 17. 

Information on Junior Pheasant Hunts also can be found by scrolling the cursor over "Education" in the menu bar at the top of the home page, then following this sequence: Click on "Go Hunting and Shooting," then "Youth Programs," then "Junior Pheasant Hunt Program."

A county-by-county list of events follows:  

Allegheny County:

·         Bullcreek Rod and Gun Club will host its junior pheasant hunt at the club for 30 juniors on Oct. 11. Register online at The deadline to register is Sept. 17 or first come first served.  You do not need to be a member of Bull Creek.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Cwd Impacts Pennsylvanians Who Hunt Out-Of-State

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

The thousands of Pennsylvania hunters who soon will be heading off to hunt big game in other states can do their share to slow the spread of chronic wasting disease in the Commonwealth.

Those who hunt out-of-state are reminded that Pennsylvania prohibits importing specific carcass parts from members of the deer family – including mule deer, elk and moose – from 21 states and two Canadian provinces.

The parts ban affects hunters who harvest deer, elk or moose in: Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland (only from CWD Management Area), Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York (only from Madison and Oneida counties), North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia (only from CWD Containment Area), West Virginia (only from CWD Containment Area, which includes parts of three counties), Wisconsin and Wyoming; as well as the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. 

Pennsylvania hunters harvesting any deer, elk or moose in those areas, whether the animal was taken from the wild or from a captive, high-fence operation, must comply with rules aimed at slowing the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania.

Those harvesting deer, elk or other cervids in the identified areas out-of-state must leave behind the carcass parts that have the highest risk for transmitting the disease. Those parts are: the head (including brain, tonsils, eyes and any lymph nodes); spinal cord/backbone; spleen; skull plate with attached antlers, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; cape, if visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if root structure or other soft tissue is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord tissue; unfinished taxidermy mounts; and brain-tanned hides.

“It’s been almost three years since chronic wasting disease first was detected in Pennsylvania , and as new cases crop up in our state, we expand our efforts to manage the disease here and do what we can to slow its spread,” Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said. “The prohibition on importing cervid parts with the highest risk of transmitting CWD is part of that management plan.

“By knowing these rules and following them, Pennsylvanians hunting out of state each can do their part to keep CWD in check in Pennsylvania,” Hough said.

Hunters who are successful in those areas from which the importation of high-risk parts into Pennsylvania is banned are allowed to import meat from any deer, elk, moose, mule deer or caribou, so long as the backbone is not present.

Successful hunters also are allowed to bring back cleaned skull plates with attached antlers, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; tanned hide or raw hide with no visible brain or spinal cord tissue present; capes, if no visible brain or spinal cord tissue is present; upper canine teeth, if no root structure or other soft tissue is present; and finished taxidermy mounts.

Hough urged hunters heading to a state with a history of CWD to become familiar with that state’s wildlife regulations and guidelines for the transportation of harvested game animals.

Pennsylvania detected chronic wasting disease in 2012 at a captive deer facility in Adams County. The disease since has been detected in free-ranging deer in Bedford and Blair counties, and in captive deer at a Jefferson County facility.

In response to these CWD cases, the Game Commission has established three Disease Management Areas (DMAs) within which special rules apply. For instance, those who harvest deer within a DMA are not allowed to transport any high-risk deer parts outside the DMA.

However, those who live in a DMA and are successful in out-of-state hunts should know that – like other Pennsylvanians hunting out-of-state – they are permitted to bring low-risk deer parts back home with them.

Hough said hunters who harvest a deer, elk or moose in a state or province where CWD is known to exist should follow instructions from that state’s wildlife agency on how and where to submit the appropriate samples to have their animal tested.  If, after returning to Pennsylvania, a hunter is notified that his or her game tested positive for CWD, the hunter is encouraged to immediately contact the Game Commission region office that serves the county in which they reside for disposal recommendations and assistance.

A list of region offices and contact information appears on page 5 of the 2014-15 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which is issued to hunters at the time they buy their Pennsylvania hunting licenses.  The contact information also is available on the agency’s website ( by putting your cursor on “About Us” in the menu bar under the banner, then selecting “Regional Information” in the drop-down menu and then clicking on the region of choice in the map.

First identified in 1967, CWD affects members of the cervid family, including all species of deer, elk and moose. There’s no scientific evidence it can be transmitted to humans or traditional livestock, but it is always fatal to the cervids it infects.

There currently is no practical way to test live animals for CWD, nor is there a vaccine. Clinical signs include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling, and, ultimately, death.

Much more information on CWD, as well as a video showing hunters how they can process venison for transport and consumption, is available at the Game Commission’s website.

Pennsylvania’s DMAs

Within Pennsylvania, there are three separate Disease Management Areas (DMAs) within which special rules apply.
DMA 1 comprises about 600 square miles in Adams and York counties; DMA 2 recently was expanded and now encompasses more than 1,600 square miles in Blair, Bedford, Cambria, Huntingdon and Fulton counties; and DMA 3 covers about 350 square miles in Jefferson and Clearfield counties.  
Those harvesting deer within a DMA are not permitted to transport outside the DMA any deer parts with a high-risk of transmitting CWD. These parts include the head and backbone.
The intentional feeding of deer also is prohibited within any DMA, as is the use of urine-based deer attractants.
Maps of each of the DMAs, and detailed descriptions of DMA borders, can be found at the Game Commission’s website, The website also contains a complete list of the rules applying within DMAs, as well as a full definition of high-risk parts.

CWD precautions

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

2014 Bull Creek Yoth Rifle Tournament

On August 10th 35 kids age 8 to 16 took part in this years 5th annual Youth Rifle Tournament.  While teaching and learning range and gun safety and ethics the kids and adult had an amazing time competing and having fun! 

Here's a short video to capture the moment...

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Junior Pheasant Hunts Bring Youngsters Together In Pennsylvania

By Bob Frye  

 Things have come full circle for Samantha Pedder.

The Westmoreland County native hunted pheasants for the first time a handful of years ago when she was 16. The experience took place at Mammoth Park, over birds stocked specifically for teens.

These days, Pedder is coordinating those events.

Hunting outreach coordinator for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, she's in charge of the agency's junior pheasant hunt program.

One of its two components is the organized hunts — the kind Pedder took part in — that are a result of cooperation between the commission and sportsmen's groups around the state. The clubs sign up kids looking to hunt pheasants. The commission gives them two birds for each such student.

The kids show up at a club, take part in some kind of safety program, reviewing things like shoot/don't-shoot scenarios, then shoot a few clay birds to get warmed up before going hunting, usually with a veteran bird hunter and his dog.

Sometimes they get to see live birds before going out, and there's often a free meal involved afterward.
The hunts won't occur until Oct. 11 and Oct. 18. But registration already is underway.

If history holds, they will fill up quickly, drawing about 1,000 youngsters all told, each ready to hit the fields just as Pedder did, looking for the chance to bag a cackling pheasant.

“I'd never hunted pheasants before that day, and now I'm still at it,” Pedder said. “It was a great introduction.”

The program has been around since 2002. Junior hunters don't need a hunting license to participate, though they must have passed a hunter-safety course.

Pedder said she's not aware of any accidents at the hunts.

The hunt organized by Apollo-Spring Church Sportsmen's Club in Armstrong County, which has been involved with the program since the beginning, never has had an accident, club member Rocco Ali said.
That's a credit to the volunteer instructors and mentors who walk with the young hunters, he said.
But it's a testament to the youngsters, too, he added.

“What I've noticed over the years is that the kids often act safer than many adults. There are shots that I might have taken that they won't,” Ali said. “And I'm proud of them for that.”

“They're a little more cautious oftentimes than someone older who's maybe willing to push the boundaries,” said Jeff Uschak of Kingston Veterans and Sportsmen's Club in Latrobe, which has been hosting hunts for at least 10 years.

The hunts serve a specific purpose.

Research in Pennsylvania and across the country shows young people most often stop hunting between ages 17 and 24, Pedder said.

“It's not that they lost interest in hunting necessarily. It's just that they have so much going on in their lives, with college and work and what not, that hunting takes a back seat,” Pedder said.

Research also shows youngsters who try small-game hunting before those ages are more likely to return to the fold later than are those who didn't hunt small game, she added.

“These hunts are an attempt to help span that gap,” she said. “And it's a perfect opportunity if you think about it. Sportsmen from the clubs that host hunts are there to be the role models. We're providing birds, so there's opportunity to enjoy success. And the guides with dogs are showing them the right way to go about it.”

Many of the youngsters who show up come from some kind of hunting background, said Dan Saffer, who runs the junior hunt put on by Rostraver Sportsmen's Association. But there are some real newcomers each year, too.

“For some of these kids, this is their first time out hunting ever. It really is,” Saffer said. “And on rare occasions, when they show up at the trap line, that's the first time they've ever fired a gun.”

The program is growing. Initially, clubs were limited to holding one hunt per year and for no more than 50 kids. That has changed, Pedder said. Clubs can host two hunts and take as many kids as they can handle.
The program has grown by about 30 percent over the last two years as a result, she added.

“It's the best deal out there for any hunters that age,” she said.

The adults who put the hunts on get a lot out of it, too, Saffer said. There's a lot of time involved in putting a hunt on, but it's worth it, he added.

“It's a good time,” Saffer said. “To see them out there and to see their excitement when a bird does flush, that's fun.”

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

2014 PA Game Commission Deer Forecast

Dr. Christopher Rosenberry discusses what hunters can expect for the 2014 deer season, and also gives helpful hints in dealing with specific questions hunters may have this year.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Early Pennsylvania Migratory Bird Seasons Set

Dove hunters to enjoy expanded opportunity in coming seasons.
Pennsylvania’s early migratory bird seasons have been approved, and changes this year give dove hunters about three additional weeks to spend afield. 

            Federal frameworks have increased the total season length for mourning doves from 70 to 90 days.
            In Pennsylvania, that means the first segment of dove season will expand substantially, opening on Monday, Sept. 1 and running through Saturday, Nov. 15. 

            Traditionally, the first segment started and ended in September, and much of October was closed to dove hunting.   

            Ian Gregg, who heads up the Game Commission’s game birds section, said channeling the additional dove-hunting days to the early season segment was done with hunters in mind. 

            “Pennsylvania dove hunters who responded to a recently completed survey indicated they generally prefer as many dove hunting days in early autumn as possible,” Gregg said. “As a result, the additional days have been routed to the early season segment to create 2 ½ months of continuous dove hunting.” 

            Hunting hours during the longer first segment are from noon until sunset from Sept. 1 through Sept. 25. Then beginning on Sept. 26, and through Nov. 15, hunting hours begin at one-half hour before sunrise and end at sunset. 

            Two short-season segments around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays also have been retained. Gregg said this also is in response to the survey results, which showed these later seasons are popular and productive times for the most avid dove hunters to be afield. The later season segments will run from Nov. 22 to Nov. 29 and from Dec. 27 to Jan. 1, with hunting hours during those segments set at one-half hour before sunrise to sunset. 

           The daily bag limit in each dove-hunting segment has been set at 15, with a possession limit of 45.
           The September statewide season for resident Canada geese also will open Sept. 1, and continue through Sept. 25. The September season retains a daily bag limit of eight Canada geese, with a possession limit of 24. 

           Shooting hours during the September goose season are one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset, except when the season overlaps with youth waterfowl hunting days. On those days, shooting hours end at sunset. 

          There are special regulations – including smaller bag limits and possession limits – in a couple of areas of the state.  

          In most of the Southern James Bay Population Goose Zone, and on the Pymatuning Reservoir and the area extending 100 yards inland from the shoreline of the reservoir, excluding the area east of state Route 3011 (Hartstown Road), hunters will have a daily limit of three and a possession limit of nine. 

          Also, in a portion of western Crawford County, the daily bag limit is one goose and possession limit is three geese. That area begins south of state Route 198 from the Ohio state line to intersection of state Route 18, then follows state Route 18 south to state Route 618; follows state Route 618 south to U.S. Route 6; U.S. Route 6 east to U.S. Route 322/state Route 18; U.S. Route 322/state Route 18 west to intersection of state Route 3013; and state Route 3013 south to the Crawford/Mercer County line. The exception to the rules in this area is State Game Lands 214, where September goose hunting is closed. This restriction does not apply to youth participating in the youth waterfowl hunting days, when regular season regulations apply. 

         The controlled hunting areas at the Game Commission’s Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area in Lebanon and Lancaster counties, as well as all of State Game Lands 46, will remain closed to September goose hunting to address the decline in the resident Canada goose flock. 

         And, in the area of Lancaster and Lebanon counties north of the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76) and east of state Route 501 to state Route 419; south of state Route 419 to Lebanon-Berks county line; west of Lebanon-Berks county line to state Route 1053 (also known as Peartown Road and Greenville Road); and west of state Route 1053 to Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 76), the daily bag limit is one goose, with a possession limit of three geese. This restriction does not apply to youth participating in the youth waterfowl hunting days, when regular season regulations apply. 

         Kevin Jacobs, a waterfowl biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, noted that recent liberalizations in Canada goose hunting opportunities, along with control programs being implemented by many municipalities and public and private landowners, appear to be stabilizing the growth of the state’s resident Canada goose population. The 2014 Pennsylvania spring resident Canada goose population was estimated at 241,732, which is statistically similar to the recent 10-year average of 266,306 geese. 

         However, populations remain significantly above the management goal of 150,000. 

         “Hunting remains the most effective and efficient way to manage resident Canada geese, provided hunters can gain access to geese in problem areas,” Jacobs said. 

         The first youth waterfowl hunting day will be held statewide on Sept. 20, and the second day will vary by duck-hunting zone and will be announced when late migratory game bird seasons are selected in mid-August. 

         Youth waterfowl days are open to licensed junior hunters who are 12 to 15 years old. To participate, a youngster must be accompanied by an adult, who may assist the youth in calling, duck identification and other aspects of the hunt. During those hunts, youth can harvest ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens, and both youth and licensed adults can harvest Canada geese. 

         During youth waterfowl days, youth and adults have the same daily limit for Canada geese in the area being hunted. Bag limits for ducks, mergansers, coots and moorhens will be consistent with the limit for the regular season, which will be announced in mid-August, after the annual Waterfowl Symposium on Aug. 8. 
         Pennsylvania’s woodcock season retains its longer format this year, opening on Oct. 18 and closing on Nov. 29. The daily limit remains three, with a possession limit of nine.  

         The season for common snipe also will run from Oct. 18 to Nov. 29, which is the same structure as previous years. The daily limit is 8, and the possession limit is 24. 

         Virginia and sora rail hunting will run from Sept. 1 to Nov. 8. Bag limits, singly or combined, are three daily and nine in possession. The season for king and clapper rails remains closed. 

         Hunting for moorhen and gallinules also runs from Sept. 1 to Nov. 8, and the bag limits are three daily and nine in possession. 

         Migratory game bird hunters, including those afield for doves and woodcock, are required to obtain and carry a Pennsylvania migratory game bird license ($3.70 for residents, $6.70 for nonresidents), as well as a general hunting, combination or lifetime license. All waterfowl hunters age 16 and older also must possess a federal migratory game bird and conservation (duck) stamp. 

         Hunting hours for all migratory birds close at sunset, except for September Canada geese, as noted above, and the snow goose conservation season. 

         Annual migratory bird and waterfowl seasons are selected by states from a framework established by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. 

The “Pennsylvania 2014-15 Guide to Migratory Bird Hunting” brochure will be posted on the Game Commission’s website ( in mid-August. 

         Hunters are encouraged to report leg-banded migratory game bird recoveries online at, or use the toll-free number (1-800-327-BAND). Hunters will be requested to provide information on where, when and what species were taken, in addition to the band number. This information is crucial to the successful management of migratory game birds.