Friday, October 31, 2014

Drivers Use Caution: Whitetails On Blacktop

With deer activity on the rise, Game Commission cautions motorists to stay alert.

          With deer becoming increasingly active, and daylight saving time about to put more vehicles on the road during the hours when deer move most, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is advising motorists to slow down and stay alert. 

“All motorists should be advised that white-tailed deer have entered a period of increased activity and are crossing roads more frequently as a result,” said Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough. “While drivers should always remain alert and on the lookout for whitetails crossing roads, now more than ever is a time to pay particular attention while behind the wheel.”

          Deer become more active in autumn with the lead up to their fall breeding season, commonly referred to as the “rut.” Around this time, many yearling bucks disperse from the areas in which they were born and travel sometimes several dozen miles to find new ranges. Meanwhile, adult bucks more often are cruising their home ranges in search of does, and they sometimes chase the does they encounter. 

          Add to this the fact autumn sees a number of people taking part in outdoor activities that might flush deer from forested areas or briar thickets, and that deer are more active feeding to store energy for winter months, and it quickly becomes evident why motorists might be more likely to encounter deer on roads.

          The start of daylight saving time also increases vehicular traffic between dusk and dawn – the peak hours for deer activity.

          Drivers can reduce their chances of collisions with deer by staying alert and better understanding deer behavior. Motorists are urged to pay particular attention while driving on stretches marked with “Deer Crossing” signs.

          For example, deer often travel in family groups and walk single file. So even if one deer successfully crosses the road in front of a driver, it doesn’t mean the threat is over. Another could be right behind it.

          A driver who hits a deer with vehicle is not required to report the accident to the Game Commission. If the deer dies, only Pennsylvania residents may claim the carcass. To do so, they must call the Game Commission region office representing the county where the accident occurred and an agency dispatcher will collect the information needed to provide a free permit number, which the caller should write down.

A resident must call within 24 hours of taking possession of the deer. A passing Pennsylvania motorist also may claim the deer, if the person whose vehicle hit it doesn’t want it.

Antlers from bucks killed in vehicle collisions either must be turned over to the Game Commission, or purchased for $10 per point by the person who claims the deer. Also, removing antlers from road-killed bucks is illegal. 

If a deer is struck by a vehicle, but not killed, drivers are urged to maintain their distance because some deer might recover and move on. However, if a deer does not move on, or poses a public safety risk, drivers are encouraged to report the incident to a Game Commission regional office or other local law enforcement agency. If the deer must be put down, the Game Commission will direct the proper person to do so. 

To report a dead deer for removal from state roads, motorists can call the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation at 1-800-FIX-ROAD.

Tips for motorists

• Don’t count on deer whistles or deer fences to deter deer from crossing roads in front of you. Stay alert.
• Watch for the reflection of deer eyes and for deer silhouettes on the shoulder of the road. If anything looks slightly suspicious, slow down.
• Slow down in areas known to have a large deer population; where deer-crossing signs are posted; places where deer commonly cross roads; areas where roads divide agricultural fields from woods; and whenever in forested areas between dusk and dawn.

• Deer do unpredictable things. Sometimes they stop in the middle of the road when crossing. Sometimes they cross and quickly re-cross back from where they came. Sometimes they move toward an approaching vehicle. Assume nothing. Slow down; blow your horn to urge the deer to leave the road. Stop if the deer stays on the road; don’t try to go around it.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pennsylvania Hunters Ready To Talk Turkey

Fall season begins Nov. 1 in most parts of state; season lengths vary by WMU.

          One of Pennsylvania’s most exciting seasons will begin this Saturday as hunters head afield in pursuit of one of fall’s most coveted game animals, the wild turkey. But hunters really need to focus on the varying season starts and lengths throughout the state’s 23 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs). Hunter compliance protects the resource and ensures better turkey hunting in coming years.
While season lengths in most WMUs remain unchanged from last year, the first season segment has been shortened from three weeks to two in WMUs 3A, 3B and 3C – all of which are in northern Pennsylvania – to help those populations rebound from declining trends. And while a three-day season remains intact in WMU 5A, the timing of the season has changed to a Thursday-through-Saturday format to provide greater opportunity for hunters whose schedules do not allow for a weekday hunt.
Hunters who didn’t participate in the fall turkey season last year still might be unaware of season length changes put in place in 2013 in some WMUs, due to an ongoing study to determine how the length of the fall season affects the female turkey harvest.
And, as usual, fall turkey hunting remains closed in WMUs 5B, 5C and 5D in southern Pennsylvania.
Now is the time to check the dates of when seasons open and close, Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said.
“As is typically the case for the fall turkey season, different season lengths apply in different units, and the seasons in a handful of WMUs have been shortened this year, or are starting on a different day of the week,” Hough said. “The changes are easy to follow, though, and are laid out clearly in the Hunting & Trapping Digest issued to all buyers of hunting and furtaker licenses.
“With the digest as your guide, you’ll be well on your way to a successful season,” Hough said.              Information on turkey seasons, bag limits and other regulations can be found on Page 32 of the 2014-15 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest.          In most of the state, the fall turkey season opens Saturday, Nov. 1. The seasons are as follows: WMU 1B – Nov. 1 to 8, and Nov. 27 to 29; WMU 2B (shotgun and archery only) – Nov. 1 to 21, and Nov. 27 to 29; WMUs 1A, 2A, 2D, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B and 3C – Nov. 1 to 15, and Nov. 27 to 29; WMUs 2C, 2E, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D and 4E – Nov. 1 to 21, and Nov. 27 to 29; and WMU 5A – Nov. 6 to 8.
The two-week season in WMUs 3A, 3B and 3C was adopted by the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners earlier this year in response to decreasing turkey populations in those units.
The two-week seasons in WMUs 2F, 2G and 2H, as well as the three-week seasons in WMUs 2C, 2E, 4A, 4B and 4D are the result of the ongoing hen study, which is in its fourth of four years. At the end of the four-year study, the two separate study areas each will have had two consecutive years with a two-week season and two consecutive years with a three-week season.
Game Commission wild turkey biologist Mary Jo Casalena explained the changes.
“By switching season lengths between study areas, we can attempt to answer the question of whether the harvest gained by adding an extra week to a two-week season exceeds a sustainable level of harvest,” Casalena said. “Ultimately, results from this study will allow us to provide the longest fall seasons without overharvesting hen wild turkeys.”
In WMU 5A, where the framework was switched to provide more hunting opportunity, monitoring has indicated a stable wild turkey population. Fall turkey harvests have been minimal in WMU 5A in recent years, when the three-day season has occurred Tuesday through Thursday.
“Continued monitoring over the next several years will allow us to determine if this new framework is sustainable.”

Fall turkey forecast
          Casalena is hoping for similar hunting participation as last fall, when the number of fall turkey hunters increased to 199,000, an increase of 70,000.
Casalena said fall turkey hunting remains a strong tradition in Pennsylvania, with more than 483,000 hunters participating in the fall season during the peak year in 1980. There were 16,755 fall turkey harvests in 2013, and number of harvests and hunters in Pennsylvania remain, by far, the highest in the Northeast, she said.
Casalena said fall hunter success depends on several factors:
·         Summer turkey reproduction – Larger flocks translate to larger harvests;
·         Food availability – The better the soft- and hard-mast production, the more nomadic flocks become and the more difficult it is to harvest birds;
·         Weather during the season - Weather affects hunter participation, and;
·         Overall hunter participation – More hunters in the woods keep flocks dispersed making it easier for hunters to call in lost birds.
          “Although turkey reproduction this summer was below average in many WMUs, translating to smaller flocks this fall in those units, reproduction did vary and many hens simply nested later than normal due to the harsh winter, and these poults may still be growing when the season opens,” Casalena said.
          Casalena said acorn, cherry and hickory-nut production also varied across the state, with red-oak acorn production and soft mast, like apples and grapes, seeing average to above-average production in many areas. That abundance of food might make turkeys harder to locate, she said.
          “Abundant natural food tends to keep turkey flocks on the move as there is no need to concentrate on one food source,” Casalena said. “Therefore, hunters have the opportunity for plenty of exercise as it might take several miles, or several days, of searching to find flocks.
          “So don’t get discouraged if flocks aren’t in their normal locations,” Casalena said. “This might be the year to explore more, or new, areas in search of your quarry.”  
          Casalena said the fall season is a great time to introduce a novice turkey hunter to turkey hunting.
          “It’s not only a great time to be in the woods, but novice turkey callers can be just as successful as a pro when mimicking a lost turkey poult,” she said. “And once a flock is located, I remind hunters that turkeys are tipped off more by movement and a hunter’s outline than fluorescent orange.”
          Overall, Casalena said she anticipates similar turkey-hunter success rates to last year,  when about 8 to 10 percent of hunters were successful. Last year’s  success rate was a slight decrease from the previous three years. Hunter success was as high as 21 percent in 2001, a year with excellent recruitment, and as low as 4 percent in 1979.
          Casalena said spring-season harvests (including harvests from the special turkey license that allows hunters to harvest a second bird) totaled 41,260, an increase from 2013 and also higher than the previous long-term average of 38,756. Hunter success, 18 percent, was slightly higher than 2013 and the previous long-term average, both 17 percent.
          Pennsylvania hunters have consistently maintained spring harvests above 30,000 bearded turkeys since 1995, exceeding most other states in the nation.

Leg-banded turkeys
          Casalena also reminds hunters to report any leg-banded or satellite-transmittered turkeys they harvest or find.
          Leg bands and transmitters are stamped with a toll-free number to call, and provide important information for the research project being conducted in partnership with the Pennsylvania Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at Penn State University, with funding from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Pennsylvania Chapter of NWTF, she said.
          “These turkeys are legal to harvest and the information provided will help determine turkey survival and harvest rates,” Casalena said.
          Rewards for reporting marked turkeys are made possible by donations from the National Wild Turkey Federation, she said.

Fluorescent orange requirements
          In most parts of the state, hunters participating in the fall turkey season are required, while moving, to wear at least 250 inches of fluorescent orange on the head, chest and back combined. Orange must be visible from 360 degrees.
          Hunters may remove their orange once in a stationary location, providing that a minimum of 100 square inches of fluorescent orange is posted within 15 feet of the location and is visible from 360 degrees.
          In WMU 2B, which is open to shotgun and archery hunting only during the fall turkey season, turkey hunters, while moving, must wear a hat containing at least 100 square inches of solid fluorescent orange material, visible from 360 degrees. While fluorescent orange is not required at stationary locations in WMU 2B, it is strongly recommended.
          Archery hunters who are hunting either deer or bear during the overlap with fall turkey season also must wear a fluorescent orange hat at all times when moving. The hat must contain at least 100 square inches of solid, fluorescent orange, visible from 360 degrees, and may be removed once in a stationary location.
          Illustrations and a chart listing fluorescent orange requirements for different hunting seasons can be found on pages 63 to 65 of the 2014-15 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest.
          Since fluorescent orange requirements have been in place for the fall-turkey season, fall turkey hunting shooting incidents have decreased from 38, three of them fatal, in 1990, to none in 2012. Last year there was one nonfatal incident.

Mentored Hunters
          Pennsylvania’s fall turkey season is among those open to Mentored Youth and Mentored Adult hunters.
          The Mentored Youth Hunting Program sets out to introduce those under the age of 12 to hunting. Mentored Youth must obtain a $2.70 permit, and must be accompanied at all times by a licensed mentor over the age of 21.
          The Mentored Adult Hunting Program is new this year, and seeks to remove an obstacle for adults who have an interest in hunting and the opportunity to go hunting with a licensed mentor. The cost of a resident Mentored Adult permit is $20.70 – the same as the cost of a resident hunting license.
          Mentored Youth and Mentored Adults can participate only in approved hunting seasons, and the seasons that have been approved for Mentored Youth are different from those for Mentored Adults. Different sets of regulations apply to Mentored Youth and Mentored Adults, as well.
          A full description of the programs can be found on pages 15 and 16 of the 2014-15 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest.

          During the fall turkey season, a mentor may transfer his or her fall turkey tag to a Mentored Youth or Mentored Adult hunter.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

PA Game Commission To Release Nearly 220,000 Pheasants For This Year's Hunting Season

Opportunity awaits Pennsylvania hunters with Saturday opener of small-game season.

          With small-game hunting seasons set to kick off this weekend, Pennsylvania’s state game lands are being stocked with pheasants in a year what Game Commission officials describe as an excellent year for pheasant production.   

          Nearly 220,000 pheasants will be produced this year by the Game Commission’s game farms to be stocked on game lands and other public lands to provide hunting opportunities for Pennsylvania hunters. 

          About 17,000 pheasants were released ahead of the weeklong junior-only season, which ended Oct. 18, and beginning this week, there will be several consecutive weekly releases of pheasants, as well as a late-season release of hen pheasants. In all, 103,540 roosters and 82,190 hens have been allocated for release statewide ahead of and within the early small-game season, with an additional 6,620 hens allocated for release for the late season. The best pheasant-hunting habitat and hunter access occur on more than 230 tracts of state game lands and other public lands under cooperative management with the Game Commission, and about 75 percent of the pheasants are stocked there. 

          The remaining 25 percent are released on private lands enrolled in the Game Commission’s Hunter Access Program. 

          But Robert C. Boyd, who oversees the Game Commission’s pheasant propagation program, said a yet undetermined number of surplus birds also will be released this year, driving the total number released toward 220,000. 

          “This has been a very good year for pheasant production, and it’s Pennsylvania’s pheasant hunters who will reap the rewards,” said Boyd, who heads the Wildlife Services Division, within the Game Commission’s Bureau of Wildlife Management. “Our survey work has shown that Pennsylvania’s hunters strongly support our pheasant propagation program and the hunting opportunities it provides and this should be a banner year for pheasant hunting.” 

          Pennsylvania’s small-game season, which includes pheasant and rabbit seasons, kicks off on Saturday. Saturday also marks the opener for fox, raccoon and bobwhite quail hunting, and the trapping seasons for foxes, raccoons, coyotes, opossums, striped skunks and weasels kick off on Sunday. 

          Meanwhile, seasons for squirrels and ruffed grouse, as well as the archery deer season have already begun. And the fall turkey season opener in many Wildlife Management Units begins Nov. 1.
          It’s that magical time of year when all of Pennsylvania’s hunters and trappers have something to get excited about, said Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough.
          “By this weekend, prime time for Pennsylvania hunting will have certainly arrived,” Hough said. “At no other time of year do so many opportunities await hunters and trappers, and I hope they make the time to get out there and enjoy all that fall has to offer.” 

          Hough said pheasant hunting is a great way to introduce young people to hunting. Through stocking efforts, many birds await hunters, and the hunts often are action-packed. 

          Game Commissioner James J. Delaney Jr., who represents several northeastern counties on the Board of Game Commissioners, said the opening of the small-game season is something to which avid bird hunters like himself look forward for most of the year. 

          “It doesn’t get any better than spending a day hunting pheasants with your trusty bird dog, and I’d encourage any hunter to give it a try,” Delaney said. “Tracts all across Pennsylvania hold numbers of pheasants just waiting to be flushed. It’s exciting just thinking about it.” 

          A wealth of information on ring-necked pheasants, the Game Commission’s pheasant management program, and stockings statewide can be found at the Game Commission’s website, by placing the cursor over the “Hunt/Trap” tab, then selecting “Hunting,” then “Ring-necked Pheasant.” 

          The general pheasant hunting season closes on Nov. 29, and the late season opens on Dec. 15. Only roosters may be hunted in many WMUs, check Page 20 of the 2014-15 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest for details. 

          The digest is issued to all hunters at the times they buy their licenses, and also is available online through the Game Commission’s home page. 

          Hunters also should note that pheasant hunting is closed in all Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas, where the Game Commission is attempting to restore self-sustaining wild pheasant populations. Maps of Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas begin on Page 21 of the digest. 

          As of this release, all hunting and trapping activity remained closed on all lands public and private within Price, Barrett and Paradise townships, Monroe County, due to the ongoing search for a fugitive wanted in the ambush-shooting death of a state trooper. 

          Information on the closures will be updated regularly at the Game Commission’s website..

Saturday, October 18, 2014

PA Game Commission Thanks State Senate For Support On Safety Measure

Amended legislation to allow Wildlife Conservation Officers to use body cameras sent back to House.

          Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough today thanked state senators for their unanimous support on an initiative to improve safety for Wildlife Conservation Officers.  

          The Senate on Wednesday voted 48-0 in favor of House Bill 2178, which 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 performance of their official duties. 

          Because the bill was amended, it now heads back to the state House of Representatives for approval. The House approved the original bill by a vote of 191-5. 

          While Wednesday was the final day of the House’s session, representatives have added an extra day to the session in order to approve bills requiring a final vote. They are scheduled to meet Monday. 

          Hough applauded the support the state’s legislators have demonstrated.  

          “With Wednesday’s vote by the Senate, both branches of the General Assembly have shown overwhelming support for this initiative, which will make the jobs of Wildlife Conservation Officers safer,” Hough said. “I thank them for their consideration and the votes they so thoughtfully cast, as the legislation takes yet another step toward final approval.” 

          House Bill 2178 was sponsored by state Rep. Dan Moul, R-Adams County, 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. Moul said he sponsored the legislation as a way to increase officer safety. 

          The use of body cameras already has been expressly approved by the state Legislature for other police agencies statewide. The devices, which can be clipped onto an officer’s uniform, are similar to the dashboard cameras installed in most law-enforcement vehicles. The mobile cameras are considered especially suitable for Wildlife Conservation Officers, who often patrol while on foot.   

          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.  

          The Game Commission in 2012 purchased body cameras for its officers, and officers used them briefly in the field before the law was changed to provide that only state and municipal police officers could use body cameras. 

          The agency would be ready to equip its officers with cameras as soon as the approval process is complete.

Friday, October 17, 2014

It's Hunting Time!

Many seasons await Pennsylvanians.

A crisp autumn day, spent outdoors among the changing colors.

It’s what tens of thousands of Pennsylvania hunters have to look forward to in the coming weeks. 

While hunting opportunities exist throughout the year in Pennsylvania, and some fall hunting seasons already are underway, the majority of seasons are entering their stretch runs toward opening day.

This weekend hosts four awaited openers – the first day of the regular squirrel hunting season, the opening day of the one-week muzzleloader season for antlerless deer, and the first day of the seasons for ruffed grouse and woodcock. Saturday also is the first day of duck season in southern portions of Pennsylvania.

These openers lead the way for the Oct. 25 opening day of a small-game season for pheasants and cottontail rabbits, as well as the opening days for foxes and other species. Several big-game seasons lie just beyond.

All of this means hunters will become a more common sight throughout the Commonwealth.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission reminds hunters that all hunting and trapping seasons remain temporarily closed within portions of northeastern Pennsylvania, where the search continues for a fugitive wanted in the killing of a state trooper. And in some of the areas nearby, where hunting is now open, special requirements apply. Up-to-date information on these closures and restrictions – all of which are within portions of Wildlife Management Unit 3D – is available at the Game Commission’s website,

Statewide, hunters are reminded that hunting with a firearm is not permitted within 150 yards of any occupied structure, school, farm building or playground unless prior permission is obtained from the building’s occupants or property owners. This perimeter is known as a “safety zone,” and possessing a loaded sporting arm within a safety zone is considered hunting and a violation of the law. Trapping furbearers, and chasing or disturbing wildlife also are prohibited within a safety zone, unless permission is given.

A similar law applies to hunters using bows or crossbows, but the safety-zone perimeter is smaller in some circumstances. Archers and hunters using crossbows must remain at least 50 yards from any occupied structure or farm building unless they receive permission from the building occupants or property owners to hunt at closer distances. The safety zone around schools and playgrounds remains 150 yards for archers, however.

Hunters also are reminded that the fluorescent orange requirements vary depending on the species being hunted. Illustrations depicting the requirements that apply in different seasons can be found in the 2014-15 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest issued to hunters at the time they purchase hunting licenses. The digest also is available online at the Game Commission’s website.

Each hunter taking part in the upcoming early muzzleloader season for antlerless deer needs to wear a minimum of 250 square inches of fluorescent orange on the head, chest and back, combined. The orange each hunter wears must be visible from all directions (360 degrees) and must be worn at all times while hunting. This requirement applies to hunters who participate simultaneously in the muzzleloader and archery deer seasons.

During the one-week early muzzleloader season, properly licensed hunters are permitted to carry both a muzzleloader and a bow or crossbow. A hunter would need both archery and muzzleloader stamps, plus a general hunting and an appropriate antlerless deer license or Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) permit.

While hunters who are taking part strictly in the archery season are required during the early muzzleloader overlap to wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange while moving, they are permitted to remove their orange once settled into a stationary position. Archery hunters who remove orange clothing are required to post 100 square inches of orange within 15 feet of their locations, and the posted orange must be visible from all directions. Again, the requirements temporarily are different in certain parts of northeastern Pennsylvania.

Archery hunters who are simultaneously participating in the early muzzleloader season, however, must follow the orange requirements for early muzzleloader. 

To participate in the early muzzleloader season, a hunter must have a valid Pennsylvania general hunting license, a muzzleloader stamp and valid antlerless deer license or DMAP permit. 

Antlerless deer licenses in Pennsylvania are valid only within the Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) they are issued. Likewise, DMAP permits are issued for certain properties and are valid only on those properties. Maps showing the locations of WMUs are available in the Hunting & Trapping Digest.

Hunters during the early season may use in-line, percussion and flintlock muzzleloaders, and sporting arms may be equipped with scopes, peep-sights and other lawful sighting devices.          

The one-week early muzzleloader season includes a three-day overlap with a special firearms season for antlerless deer. |

During that season, which runs from Oct. 23 to Oct. 25, junior hunters (ages 12 to 16), senior hunters (ages 65 and older), mentored youth (hunters who are younger than 12, but who obtain a permit to hunt), mentored adults (hunters 18 or older who obtain a permit to hunt), hunters who are on active military duty, and certain disabled hunters are able to use a variety of sporting arms to harvest antlerless deer. 

Permitted sporting arms include manually operated centerfire rifles, handguns and shotguns; .44-caliber or larger muzzleloading long guns; .50-caliber or larger muzzleloading handguns; long, recurve or compound bows; and crossbows.

To take part in the special firearms season, hunters must meet participation qualifications and possess a general hunting license and valid antlerless deer license or DMAP permit. Hunters also must wear a minimum of 250 square inches of fluorescent orange at all times. 

Each mentored youth or mentored adult hunter taking part in the special firearms season must possess a valid permit, and the mentor who accompanies a mentored youth or mentored adult afield must possess a valid antlerless deer license or DMAP permit. The antlerless deer license or DMAP permit can be transferred upon harvest by a mentored youth or mentored adult, and each mentored youth or mentored adult hunter may receive only one antlerless deer license and one DMAP permit by transfer during a license year.  

For a more detailed look at the regulations pertaining to these and other seasons, or to view hunting season start and end dates, as well as bag limits, visit to the Game Commission’s website.

There’s a lot of hunting in store.

“Autumn is an absolutely beautiful time of year to get out and enjoy the Pennsylvania outdoors, and there’s no better way to spend a fall day than by going hunting,” said Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough. “In the coming weeks, hunters will have an increasing number of opportunities as more and more seasons see their opening days. 

“Many of them will be successful in harvesting game, but all of them can consider themselves fortunate for the rewards they receive just by being out there,” Hough said. “In that regard, all hunters are lucky.”

Venison care
          While hunting in October often offers pleasant days afield, the warm weather also presents challenges for successful deer hunters in assuring harvests result in high-quality venison.
Especially in warm weather, harvested deer should be field dressed quickly, then taken from the field and cooled down as soon as possible. While hanging a deer carcass in a shady area might be fine in cooler temperatures, if the air temperature is above 50 degrees, hunters should refrigerate the carcass as soon as possible.
          Information on warm-weather venison care, as well as instructions on deer processing and other tips, are available on the white-tailed deer page on the Game Commission’s website,

Reporting harvests
          Hunters are required to report deer harvests, and they are encouraged to do so soon after their successful hunts, so they don’t forget.
          There are three ways to report harvests. Harvests can be reported online at the Game Commission’s website by clicking on the “Report a Harvest” button on the homepage. Reports also can be phoned in to 1-855-PAHUNT1 (1-855-724-8681), or mailed in using the harvest report cards that are inserted in the Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest hunters receive when they purchase a license.
          Hunters who call should have their hunting license numbers handy, as well as additional information that’s required to be reported.

   Mistake kills
            Hunters participating in the early muzzleloader season to begin Saturday or the special firearms season to begin Oct. 23 may harvest antlerless deer only.
Any hunter in any season who, by accident or mistake, kills an illegal deer is required to deliver the carcass – entrails removed – within 24 hours to any Game Commission officer in the county where the deer was killed.
            A written statement must be provided to the officer, explaining when, where and how the accident or mistake occurred. The deer must be tagged with the appropriate deer harvest tag.

Rifle deer season
          As it has traditionally, the two-week firearms season for deer will open statewide on the Monday following Thanksgiving.
          The statewide season this year runs from Dec. 1 to Dec. 13.
          Hunters in different parts of the state are required to observe different rules regarding the number of points an antlered deer must have and when during the season hunters may harvest an antlerless deer.
          Information is available at the Game Commission’s website.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Bull Creek's Annual Youth Pheasant Hunt A Tremendous Success!

A special thanks to all who came out to help with Bull Creek's annual Youth Pheasant Hunt.  Kids age 12 to 16 participated and took 20 birds in a weather perfect day at Bull Creek's club grounds. 

An extra special shout out to those who brought their hunting dogs to help make this day a great success and to the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Dan Pahala for their participation and accreditation! Here is a video to help capture the day...

New Map Aims To Put Pennsylvania Hunters On Right Track

Every hunter has heard the same advice: Preseason scouting is key to success in the field. Now some of that work has been done.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has created an online, interactive map designed to help hunters find everything from aspen thickets, thermal cover stands and clearcuts to forest openings, concentrations of oaks and food plots on state forest lands. It lists which normally gated roads are open, weather forecasts, the locations of bear check stations, and more.

“The website is geared to be an invaluable tool for hunters seeking prime locations for a variety of game, but others will find useful information when planning a visit to any of our 20 state forest districts,” said Dan Devlin, the department's deputy secretary of state parks and forests.

Individual state forest districts have been creating their own maps in printed form for a few years. Forbes State Forest, for example, has had hunting maps for its 60,000 acres.

“We had grouse hunters calling all the time asking about where we had done any cutting, and we were answering the same questions year after year, so we decided to come out with the maps,” said Cory Wentzel, forest assistant supervisor in the Forbes' Laughlintown office.

Printed maps show the locations of things such as clear cuts, where most of the trees have been removed, and shelterwood cuts, where more timber is left behind, and the years the cuts were made. They've proven “very, very successful and very, very popular” not just with grouse hunters but those seeking deer, turkeys and other species, too, he said.

Other forest district offices were putting together similar maps, said Emily Just, a wildlife biologist with the department.

“It's a great tool if you're a hunter,” she said.

Scott Miller, chief of the Department's silviculture section and a hunter, agreed. The bureau of forestry is full of hunters, he said, and many offered suggestions on what to include in the map.
“The map will be great for someone looking to explore new places. It will tell you an awful lot about what an area is like before you ever get there,” Miller said.

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

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Preparing For Unexpected Key To Woods Survival

Creek Stewart, standing, host of The Weather Channel's
“Fat Guys in the Woods,” said hunters can prepare for an
unexpected night in the woods by focusing on fire
and shelter first, with water and food the next considerations,
in that order.
The potential is there every time you step into the woods.

You're out hunting, maybe for deer, and start following a buck, one you've seen or even shot and are trying to recover. You walk a long way — how far and in which direction, you're not entirely sure, focused on the animal in front of you more than the surroundings — when it hits you. You're lost.
It's getting dark, it's getting colder, and you're facing an unexpected night in the woods.

Could you survive?

That's a question a handful of hunters in Pennsylvania have to answer every year.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources handles search and rescue missions on state park and forest land. It had to find 143 lost people between 2010-13.

Statistics show October, November and December are the busiest for searches — accounting for up to 40 percent in some years — with hunters and hikers the most likely in need of rescue.

“It's not excessive, but it does seem to be pretty consistent,” said Jason Hall, forest program manager for the department.

Those who get turned around don't have to worry about being out there long term, like the deer hunter who spent 23 winter days alone in the woods of Manitoba in 2012.

“We have some remote areas in Pennsylvania, but we also have so many roads and streams, it's kind of hard actually to get lost to the point where you're going to be out there for days,” said Cory Wentzel, forest assistant manager for Forbes State Forest in Laughlintown.
But being lost overnight isn't out of the question.

There's a time lag between when someone fails to return to their camp or vehicle and when a rescue mission begins, Hall said.

Someone has to notice they're overdue and call for help, then search crews have to be assembled, reach the site and get organized. They might go out immediately, depending on age and health of the lost person and weather and terrain conditions.

Some “hasty search” rescues can be wrapped up in eight hours.Others can take 24 hours or more, he said.
So what can you do to be prepared?

Survival experts say honing a few particular skills and carrying a handful of tools is enough to get through a night or two.

Creek Stewart, host of the Weather Channel's “Fat Guys in the Woods” and owner and of Willow Haven Outdoor in Anderson, Ind., talks about the “core four:” shelter, water, fire and food. Dave Canterbury, owner of Self Reliance Outfitters and the Pathfinder School in Jackson, Ohio, and former co-host of “Dual Survival,” suggests providing for those needs by focusing on the “five Cs:” cutting tools, combustion devices, containers, cover elements and cordage.

“It's pretty simple, really,” Stewart said. “If you've got some basic needs covered, you're easily good to go for a 24- to 36-hour period.”

Being able to make shelter and fire are top priorities, both agreed.

For shelter, a reusable space blanket is OK for emergency purposes, Canterbury said, though he suggested spending a little more to get a good one. A couple of 55-gallon trash bags can be used to make a shelter, sleeping bag or impromptu poncho, and having an extra wool sweater never hurts, he said.

Carrying a good knife and some cordage can turn those items into a shelter, he added.

As for creating fire, that often is one of the hardest skills for his students to master, Canterbury said.
“Anyone can build you a fire if you give them all of the materials and a flame,” Canterbury said. “If you send them into the woods and tell them to collect all of their own materials and turn that into a fire, that's another story.”

He suggests carrying three fire-starting tools: a lighter, a “ferro” rod — a firesteel that produces sparks when scraped with a metal striker—and a magnifying glass.

Stewart suggests adding what he calls “PET” balls to your kit. They are cotton balls smeared with petroleum jelly and carried in a plastic bag. They light easily and burn for five to 10 minutes.
“It's the best fire starting tinder you can make,” he said.

When it comes to hydration, Canterbury recommends a metal bottle capable of purifying water by boiling. Stewart also suggests one of the straw-type filters available commercially. Small enough to fit in a pack, he said they allow you to drink directly “from a creek or pond or puddle.”

Food is not the highest priority, Stewart said, but having some high-calorie, high-protein energy bars can boost energy levels and morale.

That's not a lot to carry, the experts said. Each tool is indispensable, though.

“Our survival needs are pretty simple,” Stewart said. “But it's a crapshoot if you don't have a few critical items on hand.”

Canterbury agreed, while offering one last caution.

Filling a pack with gear isn't enough, he said. You have got to practice with it before going into the woods.

“If you're not very familiar with your gear, if you don't know the ins and outs of it and the processes involved, you could be in trouble,” Canterbury said.

Survival resources

• Dave Canterbury just published a book titled “Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival” ($16.99, Adams Media Co.).
It offers a lot more detail than what's necessary for an overnighter in the woods, focusing on everything from knots to cooking to trapping. But if you want to learn primitive skills, it's a treasure trove of information.
Canterbury, owner of The Pathfinder School, rated by some as one of the top 12 survival schools in the country, also has instructional videos on his website,, and on YouTube and Facebook.
• Creek Stewart also has a couple of books, including “Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag” ($16.99, F+W Media). It's geared toward packing a bag for disasters, but there's lots of helpful information about fire starting tools, shelter and the like.
He's on Youtube and Facebook, too, and has a website. Find it at
• The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has a section of its website devoted to “staying safe in the forest.”
It offers advice on planning trips, avoiding hypothermia, maps, and what to do if lost. Visit
• The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has a free 72-page download titled “You Alone in the Maine Woods: The Lost Hunter's Guide” available at
Much of the information within it is applicable to outdoorsmen everywhere.
— Bob Frye

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