Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2015 Winter Trap League Starts January 4th!

Fight the Winter blues by coming out for the Winter trap league every Sunday starting January 4th 2015.  

This league rotates between Frazer Sportsman, West View Sportsmen and Bull Creek Rod and Gun Club. Sign-ups are from 10:00AM to 3:00PM.  League fee is $10.00 per week to shoot 50 targets from 16 yards.  Practice is $7.00 and and junior shooters (under 18) are $7.00! To be eligible for the banquet you must make 9 of 12 shoots. The top 7 scores will be counted each week.

2015 Schedule:
January 4th at Bull Creek

January 11th at Frazier

January 18th at West View

January 25th at Bull Creek

February 1st at Frazier (Super Bowl)

February 8th at West View

February 15th at Bull Creek

February 22nd at Frazier

March 1st at Bull Creek

March 8th at West View

March 15th at Frazier

March 22nd at West View

March 28th (Saturday) Banquet at West View

Monday, December 29, 2014

Picture It: Your PA Hunting Photo On Tv

Hunters can visit GoHuntPA.org to submit photos that could selected for a television commercial.

You’ve seen the GoHuntPA ads on TV.  Now is your chance to be in one.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission is inviting hunters to submit photos of their favorite hunting moments for a chance to star in the next GoHuntPA TV commercial.

Photos can be submitted through the GoHuntPA website – www.gohuntpa.org. The initiative, called #MyGoHuntPAMoment, launched on Dec. 15 and will be live through January 2015.

Photos can be trophy shots from this season, or depict other scenes afield, including enjoying time with friends and family.

To enter, participants simply submit their photos by visiting GoHuntPA.org and following the easy instructions. To help spread the word, the Game Commission has launched an integrated #MyGoHuntPAMoment social media campaign that incorporates Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter in addition to a radio campaign and eBlasts.

In conjunction with its advertising agency, Top Flight Media, the Pennsylvania Game Commission will review submissions and choose photos to incorporate into its fall 2015 statewide television commercial. Winners will be selected in early 2015.

Additionally, at the upcoming Great American Outdoor Show, the Game Commission will be unveiling its new, free GoHuntPA ToolKit application that features detailed maps that show available hunting land, weather alerts, an Augmented Reality browser, a social media share button, a tracker tool, and much more.

About GoHuntPA

GoHuntPA is a customer-centric, research-anchored initiative that includes a microsite, TV, augmented reality, radio, print & billboard ads, and trade show banners that drive hunters to a streamlined, online resource – GoHuntPA.org. GoHuntPA.org is a website for hunters, by hunters. There, hunters will learn more about hunting opportunities near them, what’s in season, how to become a better hunter, where to conveniently buy a hunting license, and more. To learn more, visit GoHuntPA.org.

#MyGoHuntPAMoment /MyGoHuntPAMoment @GoHuntPAMoment /PennsylvaniaGameCommission.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Frye: Flintlock Hunt Tough But Fun

There are different ways of keeping score in the outdoors.

Not all are good. If you get hooked up with a guy who's loud about how many more trout he has caught or pheasants he has shot, who crows about his successes and revels in your defeats, that can ruin an otherwise good time in a hurry.

But there are fun ways.

A group of flintlock hunters I spent time with back in the day used to count clicks, bangs and hits.

We'd split up, put on drives, move some deer around, then take a tally. Clicks were the times someone had pulled a trigger without getting their gun to fire, either because their powder was wet or the pan powder had fallen out or something else had gone wrong. Bangs were when the rifle fired without doing damage to the local deer population. Hits were when someone killed a deer.

It was an awful lot of fun, even if there were a lot more clicks and bangs than hits.

Some of that should have been expected. There may not be a tougher game than trying to tag a deer in the post-Christmas flintlock hunt. It started Dec. 26 and runs through Jan. 10.
Deer populations are at their lowest point of the year, the weather — always an issue when you're shooting blackpowder — is often dicey, and there are few hunters in the woods to move game.

The result is a small harvest.

That's despite a rule that, in theory, makes things easier. Hunters with a flintlock license can shoot a buck with an unused back tag, provided it has the right number of points, or a doe with a doe tag, of course. But they can shoot a doe with an unused back tag, too.

Still, according to information from Pennsylvania Game Commission spokesman Travis Lau, hunters took just 1,800 bucks and 8,000 does last flintlock season. That was up over the previous year but still represented less than 3 percent of the total deer harvest for 2012-13.
Bucks are especially tough to come by.

Wildlife management unit 2D gave up 140 antlered deer to flintlock hunters last year — and still led the state by a wide margin. Only one other unit even gave up as many as 100.

Units 1A and 2C gave up 70 each, unit 1B 50, units 2A and 2F 40 each, unit 2E 30 and units 2B and 2G each. A couple of units, including 2H, gave up as few as 10.

That's likely a bit misleading. Hunters sometimes shoot a deer with a bald head, only to find out that it's indeed a buck but one that's dropped its antlers.

Jeannine Fleegle, a biologist with the commission, said biologists every year check bucks that lost their antlers by the regular rifle season. They continue dropping them thereafter.
“Natural variation and general health (which relates to nutrition) of a buck contribute to the timing of antler drop which occurs any time from December through March,” Fleegle said.
But maybe that's another way to keep score.

Finding a buck sporting legal antlers is one thing. Getting a shot at it is another. Actually bagging it something else altogether.

The odds aren't in your favor. But what fun it will be playing the game.

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

Thursday, December 25, 2014

PA Game Commissioners Debate Trail Users Permit, Cost

What the Pennsylvania Game Commission isn't sure it wants to sell may require people to take for free.

The agency has been wrestling for months with the idea of requiring horseback riders, mountain bikers and snowmobilers who use state game lands to buy an access permit. The idea has split staff, board members and hunters.

Some have said they want a permit, with the money going to pay for damage those groups are causing to roads, bridges and trails. Others have said they don't want a permit, fearing that taking their money will give them a stake in game lands management.

A mandatory free permit — which would provide information on who those users are, without giving them a financial stake — might be the answer, some now believe.

“I don't know, maybe that's the way to go,” said executive director Matt Hough. “I kind of like that idea.”

The idea seemed to gain some traction at the board's recent work group session.

Bryan Burhans, deputy executive director of administration, said the commission already has begun addressing the issue of “secondary use” of game lands in some ways.

It's working to standardize the signs it puts up, identifying where trail riders can and can't go — even though many of those signs are stolen, sometimes within 24 hours of being posted, he said. It's also ramped up law enforcement efforts to keep people on designated trails, started shutting down unauthorized trails where appropriate, and begun looking at ways to educate the public about where it can and can't go on game lands — and when.

That last initiative involves updating the commission's website. It lists trails open to things such as snowmobiles, but some of that information is outdated, said Steve Smith, acting director of the commission's bureau of information and education.

“We don't want an individual to have to be an expert on the game lands to know where to go to get to a trail,” Smith said.

Brian Hoover, commissioner from Delaware County and the loudest proponent of a permit, said making one mandatory, even if free, would at least give the commission the opportunity to provide trail users with rules and regulations regarding their use. That's key, he said.
“It's just about information, for me,” said commissioner Tim Layton of Windber.

However, commissioner Ron Weaner of Adams County wondered how the commission planned to make sure trail users on game lands had a permit. If wildlife conservation officers in the field aren't going to spend more time checking those people than they do now, no permit will likely make much difference, he said.

Commissioners ultimately asked staff to come back with some specific recommendation in writing on whether to offer a permit at all, and if so, whether it be made free. They are expected to provide that by the board's next meeting in January.

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Are Predators Hurting Our Deer Herd?

Biologists from within the Game Commission and across the country are talking about it.

          If you want to start a lively discussion on Pennsylvania wildlife, just mention coyotes.

There might be no other animal that so intrigues the state’s residents, and it’s easy to explain why. 

The coyote is surrounded by mystery. It’s inhabited some parts of the state since the 1930s, but it’s a relative newcomer in others. Game Commission biologists are finding indications the coyote population is increasing in some areas of the state, yet even those who log endless hours in the Pennsylvania outdoors might go their lives without seeing one in the wild.

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          Add to that the false, recurring rumors coyotes were stocked by insurance companies, and the idea that coyotes ravage the deer populations so important to Pennsylvania hunters, and the reasons for coyote’s mystique become even clearer. 

Wildlife biologists with the Pennsylvania Game Commission have met with leading biologists from across the country in an effort to better understand the influence of predators on deer populations. 

“There are several predators in Pennsylvania that absolutely do kill deer, specifically young fawns,” said Chris Rosenberry, who heads the Game Commission’s deer and elk section. “Coyotes and bears top the list.” 

In managing Pennsylvania’s deer populations, Rosenberry said, the agency annually monitors fawn production and has the ability to compensate for fawns lost to predators and other causes by controlling the number of antlerless deer licenses allocated.  

Game Commissioner David Putnam, of Centre Hall, said adjusting the allocation is an effective tool. 

“However, this does not answer what is on the minds of Pennsylvania’s hunters; what impact are predators actually having on the state’s deer herd?” Putnam said. 

The Game Commission studied the effects of fawn predation back in 2001. The study found about half of all fawns born each spring survived to see the fall hunting seasons. Predators including coyotes, bears, bobcats and fishers were responsible for killing about 22 percent of the fawns that died. 

Game Commissioner James J. Delaney Jr., of Wilkes-Barre, said deer and predator populations, as well as habitat conditions, all have changed since the last study. 

“For most of my seven years as commissioner, I have heard the concerns of many sportsmen across the state with regard to the effects of predators on white-tailed deer,” Delaney said. “We’ve done some good research work on this subject in the past, but opinions about predator impacts on deer still vary. By pulling together some of the top researchers in the country, we’ve entered into a conversation that will yield even more valuable input on the matter.” 

Leading biologists from the U.S. Forest Service, Penn State, the University of Georgia, Mississippi State University, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the University of Alberta, and the Quality Deer Management Association were among those who provided input on evaluating the impact of predators on the state’s deer. 

“These biologists have led research throughout the eastern United States looking at the impact of predation on deer,” said Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough. “Their experience and insight from their past and current research is of great interest to the agency, and to our hunters.”

One common opinion offered by some hunters is to use predator control to reduce predation on fawns. However, large-scale predator control repeatedly has been found not to work. For example, U.S. Forest Service researcher John Kilgo conducted research in South Carolina, which found that even when coyotes were taken in higher numbers, other coyotes quickly filled the void created by their absence. 

“There is no doubt that predators such as bears and coyotes do prey on fawns,” Kilgo said. “Although some researchers have been able to find instances where increased coyote removal has improved fawn survival at a very local level, coyote removal on a large scale is impossible.” 

Mark Ternent, the Game Commission’s bear biologist, said while the Game Commission’s last study on fawn mortality showed differences between separate areas that were studied, how those areas differed in terms of predator abundance was a great unknown. 

“When the results suggested fawn predation was different in the two study areas, an explanation was difficult to tease out,” Ternent said. “We knew habitat was different, and bear abundance within those particular wildlife management units was different, but we knew little about the predator communities at a scale as small as the study areas because monitoring predator species was not part of the study.” 

The previous study showed fawns might die for any number of reasons. Some die of natural causes, some are struck by vehicles, and one fawn in the study even fell down a well. 

Of the fawns taken by predators, nearly equal proportions were taken by coyotes, bobcats and bears.           

Ternent noted that Pennsylvania’s bear population is thriving. 

“We know we have not seen the statewide population of bears decrease since the last study,” said Ternent. 

And Matt Lovallo, who supervises the Game Commission’s game mammals section, noted population changes among other predators, as well. 

“Predator communities in Pennsylvania have changed during the past several decades due to increased coyote populations, fisher reintroductions and fishers dispersing in Pennsylvania from West Virginia,” Lovallo said. “Management programs for bobcats and fishers also have targeted conservative harvests, allowing for growth in those populations.  

“One area of interest biologists from the Game Commission and other agencies discussed is better understanding the community structure and relative abundance of forest predators in several areas of the state to provide insight on how these species compete for and partition prey resources,” Lovallo said. 

Biologists also are evaluating techniques to allow them to estimate abundance of bears, coyotes, bobcats and fishers. In addition, advanced technologies now are available to help biologists gain more insight into fawn mortality. 

“We know fawns are more vulnerable to mortality in the first week of life,” said Kip Adams, a wildlife biologist for the Quality Deer Management Association. “However, there are now small transmitters that can be implanted into captured does, and when a fawn is born, a signal is sent alerting researchers and leading them to the exact location, improving monitoring.” 

The window within which fawns are preyed upon is relatively short. In actuality, the chances of fawns being preyed upon shrink with each passing day as fawns grow older and are more capable of fleeing from predators. Pennsylvania’s coyotes rarely take healthy adult deer, and ongoing monitoring has indicated predators have had a consistent rather than growing impact on fawns. 

As a hunter, Hough said he understands the public’s interest in predators and the importance of tracking predator impacts on fawns. To hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians, deer hunting isn’t just a form of recreation, but a passion and a way of life, Hough said. And, like the Game Commission, those hunters want to ensure Pennsylvania’s important deer resource is managed to ensure healthy deer, healthy habitat and hunting opportunity. 

“Like the saying goes, knowledge is power,” Hough said. “And the more we know about predator impacts on deer populations, the more empowered we are to comfortably manage deer populations to benefit all Pennsylvanians.” 

To that end, the Game Commission is launching a new study into predator impacts on fawns. 

The new study is a bit different than its predecessor. It will be conducted in conjunction with ongoing deer research, which, among other things, has helped to reduce costs. But, importantly, the connection to existing projects will help researchers to more efficiently and effectively carry out their work. 

For example, the study calls for capturing does this winter to implant the transmitters that signal when fawns are born. The job is made easier by the fact that some of those does already are fitted with GPS collars as part of a separate study on deer movements. 

Likewise, the implanted transmitters will make fawns easier to find and equip with collars. 

The new study differs from the original in a second way, too. 

The new study will measure the types of predators present in the study areas and their relative abundance, which will be useful for interpreting any differences in survival noted during the study. 

Hough touted the strengths in scope of the new study and noted the changes in predator populations and wildlife habitat that have occurred more recently. 

“The time has come for new research into predator impacts on deer, and we stand to learn much from this study our staff has worked hard to develop,” Hough said. “Hunters have made it clear: The question of how many fawns are lost to predators is on the minds of many, and this study could well help answer that question.”

Sunday, December 21, 2014


Landowners can help wildlife by planting trees and shrubs.

While it might be winter, landowners can begin making plans to help wildlife this spring – and beyond – by planting tree and shrub seedlings offered by the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Howard Nursery.

The 2015 seedling order form soon will be available online, and sales are set to begin Jan. 5.

Most seedlings are sold in units of 25, but 100-seedling bundles also are available in mixes to benefit deer, game birds and songbirds, as well as to improve riparian and winter-thermal habitats.

The 2015 order form contains a wide selection of evergreens, shrubs and fruit- and nut-bearing trees. Most species are native to Pennsylvania, and with the exception of black locust, all of the available hardwoods are grown from seed collected from Pennsylvania sources and processed by Game Commission personnel.

This year’s order form features three species that have not been offered regularly in the past. Nannyberry, a native large shrub or small tree, produces fruits that are an important food source for many birds and mammals in the fall and winter. Another shrub, northern bayberry, can grow to 12-foot heights and produces berries important to birds. And wild plum can grow up to 20 feet tall, with roots that can form excellent wildlife thickets in bottomlands, woodlots and other areas.

For both northern bayberry and wild plum, units of 25 1-year-old seedlings are available for $12.50. Nannyberry is sold in 25-seedling units priced at $8.75, but – like many of the seedlings offered for sale – can be purchased at a discounted price.

Although a discount is not offered for all species or habitat bundles, orders of 12 or more total units qualify for applicable discounted pricing. With the discount, prices are as low as $3.75 per bundle, or 15 cents per seedling.

The mixed-oak bundle costs $6.25 with the discount.

Species that qualify for the discount are marked on the order form.

Annetta Ayers, superintendent at Howard Nursery, said there is a very limited supply of some of the seedlings for sale, wild plum included. Those who are interested might want to call Howard Nursery at 814-355-4434. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Orders can be placed by telephone, as well.

The order form and information about the seedlings for sale will be available at the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us. Place your cursor over “General Store” in the menu bar at the top of the homepage, then scroll down to “Howard Nursery” and select “2015 Seedling Order Form” from the drop-down menu. The form usually is posted to the website shortly before sales begin.

If you have problems downloading the order form, you likely need to install the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader, which can be found by doing an Internet search and downloaded for free.

The order form can be completed and submitted online, or printed out and faxed or mailed. Payments are not due until the order is confirmed by Howard Nursery. For those without Internet access, order forms can be obtained at Game Commission offices or various displays or booths at shows in which the agency participates through the spring or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Howard Nursery, 197 Nursery Road, Howard, PA 16841.

While the order form provides a brief description of the tree species available and their benefits to birds and wildlife, more information is available on the website under “Tree Seedling Index.”

The preferred method of delivery is by United Parcel Service (UPS). Shipping and handling charges do apply.

Orders are shipped only Monday through Wednesday to assure delivery for weekend planting. However, orders also may be picked up in person at the nursery once buyers are notified the order is ready.

Generally, seedlings ship in the month of April.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Trophy PA Buck Enters Records Book

Allegheny County buck ranks as No. 13 in archery category.

          The hunters who top Pennsylvania’s all-time list for largest bucks harvested will remain there a while longer. 

The Pennsylvania Game Commission today took official measurements on an exceptionally large rack from a whitetail buck taken in Allegheny County two months ago, during the statewide archery season.

Jeff Lenzi, of Fayette County, holds the 10-point rack of the buck he harvested Oct. 11 in Allegheny County. The buck is the 13th-largest taken with archery equipment in Pennsylvania.
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Many believed the buck held the potential to be a new state record, but the final score fell short of the leaders. 

The typical 10-point buck taken with a crossbow Oct. 10 by Fayette County hunter Jeff Lenzi netted a score of 166 inches, based on Boone & Crockett Club standards for scoring big-game animals. 

The score places the buck at No. 13 in the typical archery category in the Pennsylvania Big Game Records book.  

The top buck in that category, taken in Allegheny County in 2004 by Michael Nicola Sr., of Waterford, scores 178 2/8 inches. The largest typical buck on record in Pennsylvania, taken in Bradford County by Fritz Janowsky, of Wellsburg, N.Y, way back in 1943, scores 189 inches. That buck tops the typical firearms category. 

Bob D’Angelo, an official Boone & Crockett Club scorer who heads Pennsylvania’s Big Game Records Program, measured the rack of Lenzi’s buck. 

D’Angelo explained the scoring system rewards symmetrical racks and calls for deductions when a rack’s points are abnormal or points on one side of a rack that don’t exactly match the other side. Racks also will typically shrink over time.  

A rack classified as typical cannot have many abnormal points. Lenzi’s buck had a gross score of 175 1/8 inches. 

Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough congratulated Lenzi on his record-book buck, which is large enough to qualify for entry into the Boone & Crockett Club, as well as the state records program. While it doesn’t top the all-time list, the huge buck still is the trophy of a lifetime and a fine example of the caliber of deer Pennsylvania is capable of producing. 

“Each year, we have hundreds of whitetail hunters enter the state record books, and many of the top bucks on record were taken in the last 10 years,” Hough said. “And any hunter is hard-pressed to match Jeff Lenzi’s feat.  

“Lenzi’s buck is an extraordinary animal, and I’d like to congratulate him on his living out every Pennsylvania deer hunter’s dream,” Hough said.

Big-game scoring session scheduled 

          Successful hunters who are looking to have their trophies officially scored can do so at a public, big-game scoring session to be held on Feb. 14, 2015, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s headquarters in Harrisburg.

          Deer, bear and elk that have been harvested in Pennsylvania are eligible for entry into the Pennsylvania Big Game Records book. 

Deer and elk racks cannot be measured until after a 60-day drying period from when the skull plate was removed from the animal. For bears, the 60-day drying period begins after the skull is thoroughly cleaned by boiling or from the use of beetles.

Deer racks to be scored should have at least eight measurable points, and hunters need to register by Feb. 9, 2015. To register, call Patty Monk at 717-787-4250, ext. 3312. For more information on the session, contact Bob D’Angelo at 717-787-4250, ext. 3311. 

All are welcome to attend. 

The Game Commission’s headquarters is located at 2001 Elmerton Ave. in Harrisburg, just off the Progress Avenue exit of Interstate 81.

Big Game Records Book 

Each year, the Pennsylvania Big Game Records book grows by about 200 entries across all categories. 

The book includes big-game records for typical and nontypical white-tailed deer, black bears and elk taken with either firearms or archery equipment. 

All entries into the book must be scored by an official Boone & Crockett Club scorer. For information on having a trophy animal scored, call Pennsylvania Big Game Records Program coordinator Bob D’Angelo at 717-787-4250, ext. 3311. 

The Pennsylvania Big Game Records book is published each year in September. The 2014 edition can be purchased at the Game Commission’s Harrisburg headquarters, or online through The Outdoor Shop at the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us. Orders also can be placed to 1-888-888-3459. 

The full-color 86-page book includes dozens of photos of new entries and sells for $6. Shipping and handling charges apply to online and telephone orders, and Pennsylvania residents must pay sales tax on purchases.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Rain Hampers Bear, Deer Seasons; Fishing Interest Increases

By Bob FryeTrib Total Media

It's been a busy fall, if not the most productive one.

Bear season, while still good, failed to live up to its largest possibilities, while a good portion of the deer season locally appears to have been — in large part thanks to weather — a washout. Only on the fishing front has there been anything out of the ordinary good, though it's early.

Bear season

Going into the statewide bear season, the Pennsylvania Game Commission laid out the possibility of this being a record-breaking year.

Bear numbers were at an all-time high, as was the number of bear hunters. Food supplies, critical to keeping bears out of their dens and active, were good in most places.
The one variable that could screw things up, cautioned biologist Mark Ternent, was the weather.

He called that one.

Facing conditions ranging from icy to foggy to rainy to unusually warm, hunters killed 2,444 bears as of the end of the four-day statewide season. That was down slightly from 2013's pace, when hunters took 2,473 by the same time.

That's not terrible by any means — the 2014 harvest still will rank in the top 10, if not the top five —– but it's not close to a record pace, either.

The state record harvest occurred in 2011, when hunters took 4,350 bears. They bagged 3,154 by the end of the regular statewide season.

Still to be added to this year's harvest figures are the bears taken during the extended portion of the hunt. It overlapped with a portion of deer season in places. This year, for the first time, properly licensed hunters could take a bear from Wednesday through Saturday of the first week of deer season in wildlife management unit 2C, for example.

A good many tried, said Tom Fazi, a supervisor in the commission's southwest region office. But they took only 35 to 40 bears or so, likely because of bad weather, he said.

“We did have groups of guys out looking for them. They were pushing for them,” Fazi said. “They just weren't having much luck.”

A final bear harvest figure will be available after the first of the year.

Deer season

It will take even longer for the commission to release an estimate of how many deer were killed during the 2014-15 seasons. That usually occurs around March.

But the regular firearms season appears to have been slow locally, again at least partly due to poor weather on key days, such as the first Saturday of the season, according to reports.
A spokesman at Espy's Meat Markets in East Huntingdon said the number of deer brought in on that first Saturday — typically a busy day as doe season opens everywhere — was down.

Fazi said he patrolled in Cambria and Indiana counties that day and checked just one hunter with a deer all day.

Pat Snickles, another supervisor in the southwest region office, said he experienced similar things. He recounted a conversation with one hunter, who said he would rather wait for better weather than hunt in a downpour. That seems to be the attitude a lot of hunters took, Snickles said.

Things picked up a bit this past week, especially given some areas had snow, he added.
“But I think that when it's all said and done, this is going to have been just an average season,” Snickles said.

Even that would top what's been seen in some other places.

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources this past week announced the buck harvest during the two-week firearms deer season, which concluded Dec. 6, was down 34 percent compared to last year. Officials with the Ohio Division of Wildlife likewise said the deer harvest in the seven-day firearms season was down 13 percent.
Fishing licenses

It's early, but fishing license sales are running ahead of last year's pace.

License for the 2015 year went on sale Dec. 1. There hasn't been a rush to get them, but that's not unusual. In a typical year, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission will sell about two percent of the 800,000-plus licenses in December.

But as of Friday, sales were up about 1.6 percent this year over last, commission spokesman Rick Levis said.

Agency leaders are hoping that's because anglers are taking advantage of a price break.
The commission reduced the price of a general license for 2015 by $1; that break is good all year. For this month only, though, anglers can buy three- and five-year licenses and get $1 off each, a savings of $3 to $5.

“Every time we raise license fees, we lose anglers. We're hoping that by cutting fees we'll bring a few back,” executive director John Arway said.

Whether the “catch the value” campaign will bring back anglers is an unknown. Arway admits it's an experiment.

But the potential to bring new or lapsed anglers back to the sport make it worth the risk, he added.

At least one other state is now trying something similar.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott recently ordered a drop in the cost of the state's lifetime hunting and fishing licenses. The price break is only good until Dec. 31, and it's only open to state residents 21 and younger.

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

Low Harvest During The Rainy Rifle Deer Season May Benefit Late-Season Hunters

 By John Hayes / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

White-tail deer are the masters of energy conservation. With their insulating hollow hairs and other weather-mitigating features, they're comfortable in snow and seasonably cold temperatures. * But in a miserable combination of rain, wind and cold, they're likely to bed down under cover and wait it out.

■ ■ ■ ■
Hunters also don't like rain, wind and cold. In miserable weather, they're likely to bundle up and hunt from a stationary post, leave early or just stay home.

When hunters don't push bedded deer, there's not a lot of shooting. Throughout Pennsylvania, that was the state of deer hunting during much of the two-week firearm season.

Many skilled hunters -- some who didn't see a deer during those cold, rainy days -- wonder how the probable low harvest will impact the late-season hunts and next year's doe tag allocations.

"I've been out every day. There's been less pressure from what I've seen," said Tom Fazi, education supervisor for the state Game Commission's southwest region. "I anticipate more deer being available during the late flintlock muzzleloader and archery seasons."

Fazi says his assessment is anecdotal -- deer processors he's spoken with say business was down during the rifle season, but overall it's comparable to previous years because of increased archery kills.

Game Commission deer harvest estimates won't be ready until spring. But several data points are worth considering:

■ More than half of the antlered deer killed during the two-week rifle season are taken on opening day. During the 2013-14 seasons 134,280 bucks were harvested.

■ Most hunting hours during the two-week firearm season are logged on the opening day and two Saturdays. Inclement weather Dec. 1 and Dec. 6 reduced hunting pressure, and it's almost certain that fewer deer were killed on those days.

■ In recent years, crossbow use has greatly increased the archery harvest. In 2013-14, 100,700 deer were killed by archers (the buck-to-doe ratio was about 50-50). This year, 7,600 more resident archery licenses were sold than in 2013.

■ Successful hunters are required by state law to submit harvest reports, but reporting has dropped to 25 percent. Harvest estimates are largely determined using other less accurate means.

■ Each year, Game Commission biologists submit to the board a harvest estimate, deer population estimate and recommendations for antlerless allocations and permits for the Deer Management Assistance Program, or DMAP, for each wildlife management unit. The recommendations are based on multiyear trends. Commissioners weigh that data against other considerations -- including the interests of other deer-population stakeholders -- and set seasons, allocations and permits.

Game Commission spokesman Travis Lau said harvest estimates from a single season, or even a single year, usually have little impact on allocations. A bad weather hunting season, he said, would most likely not impact doe allocations.
"Our deer team will tell you it's not necessarily important to have an accurate estimate of the population in one given year," he said. "What is important in management decisions is that you have an accurate understanding of population trends."
Council president Robert Schlemmer of Export said the board may consider a re-examination of antlerless allocations in some WMUs in 2015, but it's not related to weather's impact on the 2014-15 harvest.
Lau said a bigger concern is the increasing failure of hunters to file harvest reports, the most accurate data on deer killed in each WMU.
"I believe people get busy and forget, and there's an intimidation issue," he said. "It's around the holidays, they have a lot going on, and once they remember to report they realize they're beyond the 10 days the law requires and they're afraid they're going to get busted for it."
In fact, said Lau, in most cases the Game Commission does not enforce that state law. It's far more beneficial to get the harvest report, even if it's late.
"There's no talk of changing the law at this time among legislators," he said. "But last year when it came out that reporting was at 25 percent and dropping, there was some talk on the board of making the harvest report mandatory."