Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bull Creek To Host Advanced Turkey Hunting Class March 14th, 2015

On March 14th 2015 from 8 AM to 5 PM Bull Creek Rod and Gun Club will host a PA Game Commission sanctioned advanced turkey hunting course. You MUST register in advance online.  To register, click here

Only 20 seats are available first come first served so don't wait!

Whether you are new to tur­key hunting and want to gain many seasons’ worth of knowledge and skills in one day or an experienced tur­key hunter wanting to learn new skills and concepts to help you increase your chances of success in the turkey woods, this course is your ticket. Successful Turkey Hunting will make sure you really enjoy your next turkey hunting experience.

Even before you attend a class, you’ll discover a lot about the wild tur­key and turkey hunting by reviewing the online student guide. A printed copy is yours to keep at the end of the course and can be mailed ahead of time if you prefer it to the online guide. During the day in the “classroom,” you’ll learn orienteering skills to help you navigate the back country in search of wary birds; scouting methods and hunting techniques, including the effective use of decoys; shot selection methods to increase your success rate, enhance your hunting experience, and keep you safe; proven distance estimation techniques to fine tune both your eye and your shotgun to consistently bag more birds; and calling techniques using most of the popular call types available today. You may even bring your own turkey gun (12- or 20-gauge) to class to learn how to maximize its effectiveness by practicing on the range. Ammunition is provided, and if you don’t have a shotgun, one will be available for you to use.

Successful Turkey Hunting is a new voluntary, advanced, one-day hunter education training program. Prior to attending, you should complete the independent study part of this program online or by using a printed copy of the student guide. The independent study part of the training should take about six to eight hours. To receive a training certificate recognized by other states (Delaware requires one to hunt turkeys) or provinces, you must pass an open-book, written exam at the conclusion of this class.

The course fee of $15 includes a diaphragm call that is yours to take home as well as the ammo and targets used during the class. A printed copy of the 144-page Successful Turkey Hunting Student Manual includes information on turkey biology and behav­ior, scouting, sporting implements, safety, hunting techniques, field care and recipes, and is yours to keep!

This advanced hunter education oppor­tunity fulfills an objective of the agency’s Strategic Plan to provide advanced train­ing courses. The National Wild Turkey Federation assisted in the development of this course by providing training DVD’s, many conceptual ideas and much of the content for the student manual. Funding to support it comes from the Federal As­sistance Program



Do you want to learn how to be a successful turkey hunter, both spring and fall? Then this advanced training class is for you! Our Successful Turkey Hunting program will give you the skills and knowledge you need to really enjoy your next turkey-hunting experience. Even before you attend a class, you’ll discover a lot about the wild turkey and turkey hunting by reviewing our online student guide. A printed copy is yours to keep at the end of the course!


In our classroom, we’ll teach you the orienteering skills needed to navigate the back country in search of wary birds, plus shot selection methods to increase your success rate, enhance your hunting experience, and keep you safe. Next, you’ll learn both basic and advanced calling techniques using most of the popular call types available today. We’ll even give you a turkey call to take home after the class!
Moving outside, you’ll learn scouting methods and hunting techniques, including the effective use of decoys. Then we’ll show you how to fine-tune both your eye and your shotgun to consistently bag more birds.
Bring your 12-gauge or 20-gauge shotgun to the class! On our range, we’ll show you how to maximize its effectiveness. No ammunition is required – we’ll provide it. If you don’t have a shotgun, we’ve got one for you.

More Information

IMPORTANT: This is a voluntary, advanced, one-day hunter education training program. To receive a training certificate recognized by other states or provinces, you must pass an open-book, written exam at the conclusion of this class.
Prior to attending, you should complete the independent study part of this program by clicking on the link below. If you don’t want to study online, please telephone the PGC Hunter-Trapper Education Division at 717-787-7015 (M-F from 8:00am to 4:00pm) to request a printed version of our Successful Turkey Hunting! Student Manual. The independent-study part of the training will take about 6 to 8 hours to complete.

Link to Student Manual

Feeding Of Elk In PA Is Illegal, Potentially Deadly

Spreading feed can spread disease.

       The Pennsylvania Game Commission wants to remind people living in and visiting the elk range that feeding elk is illegal.

Each year, Wildlife Conservation Officers encounter individuals illegally feeding elk. In most cases, they believe feeding the elk will help them, and don’t realize their actions could harm the elk or even kill them.

          Artificial feeding of elk can lead to rumen acidosis, which is a known source of mortality in wild elk.

          Elk are ruminants, or cud-chewers. And their rumens, or paunches, contain certain microorganisms, such as bacteria and protozoa, required to digest their natural diet.

          When elk suddenly have access to large quantities of artificial food sources, particularly readily digestible carbohydrates such as corn, the abrupt change in diet can lead to a cascade of events that ultimately results in the death of the animal. Over the past several winters, the Game Commission has confirmed rumen acidosis, which also affects deer, as a cause of death in several Pennsylvania elk.

          Following a cold snap last January, a trophy 6- by 7-point bull elk died from rumen acidosis that likely was caused by illegal feeding.

          Artificial feeding also can result in animals becoming habituated to humans, and can contribute to the transmission of several infectious diseases in deer and elk.

          When deer and elk congregate around an artificial food source, the high density of animals consistently visiting the same location can facilitate the spread of infectious diseases, particularly those that are transmitted by close contact between animals or through the environment. This is now increasingly important with the detection of chronic wasting disease (CWD) at two Jefferson County captive-deer facilities located just to the southwest of the elk range. 

          CWD is fatal to deer and elk. The infectious agent of CWD is contained in the feces, urine and saliva of infected cervids and is passed through direct and indirect contact. The agent persists for years in the environment, and congregating deer and elk around an artificial food source could increase the likelihood of spreading CWD.

          Elk are well adapted to enduring the winter months building their fat reserves through summer and fall to carry them through the winter. Their winter coats, which start growing in mid-September, provide excellent insulation and the habitats they seek out during the winter offer additional protection.

          Over the past five winters less than 1 percent of Pennsylvania’s radio-collared animals have died from malnutrition, and artificial feeding does little to improve survival during the winter months.

          Quality habitat is far more important to the long-term survival of Pennsylvania’s elk population.  Landowners interested in improving habitat for elk or deer are encouraged to contact the Game Commission’s private lands biologist for advice or consultation. 

          The Game Commission urges instances of feeding elk be reported by calling 570-398-4744 or sending email or text information to

Nationwide and locally, more women are going fishing and hunting

After years of target practice, 24-year-old Kelly Hancock finally decided that it was time to go hunting.

Last summer, the Indiana County woman and her 18-year-old sister, Andrea, bought themselves deer rifles - each bought a .243 Savage - and joined the family tradition, going "red tag" hunting for destructive deer with their father on family farms outside Clarksburg.
Hancock hunted with her boyfriend last fall, too, and although she hasn't harvested any deer yet she's looking forward to returning to hunting with her sister and other family members.

"We walked a lot, we sat a lot," she said with a laugh, between checking out exhibits with her boyfriend last week at the Allegheny Sport, Travel and Outdoor Show at the Monroeville Convention Center, which runs through today. "Mostly we liked just being out in the woods."
Like Hancock and her sister, an increasing number of women are taking to the state's - and nation's - fields, forests and streams to enjoy hunting and angling opportunities once embraced almost entirely by men.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife data, collected in part by Florida research firm Southwick Associates, shows that in 2001, 26.1 percent of freshwater anglers and 9.2 percent of hunters were female. In 2011, women comprised nearly 27 percent of all inland anglers and 11 percent of hunters.

While the increase seems incremental on a national scale, it signals a significant rise in the actual numbers of female hunters and anglers, according to researchers. In Pennsylvania, the number of hunting licenses for women and girls increased from 67,165 in the entire 2009-10 season to 90,778 for the first half of the 2014-15 hunting season that began last June, with more expected to be issued in the remainder of the season, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Among anglers, a decrease of more than 25,300 fishing licenses issued to men between 2010 and 2014 was almost exactly offset by an increase of more than 25,500 fishing licenses issued to women in the same period, according to data from the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

Fish and Boat educator and longtime fly fishing angler Amidea Daniel said she has seen a steady and enthusiastic response among women to the private fly fishing classes for women that she offers through Trout Unlimited, including one at 2 p.m. today at the Cabin Fever fly fishing expo at Four Points by Sheraton Pittsburgh North in Cranberry.

Many women learning to fish welcome a chance to try the basics of taking apart a reel, selecting a fly and casting without worrying about being judged by men whom they feel are more skilled or experienced, Daniel said. They also get a chance to familiarize themselves with gear and the technical aspects of fishing that can seem intimidating to beginners, regardless of gender.

Once those barriers are pulled down, she said, most new female anglers she teaches no longer fear making mistakes, and often find endless opportunities to connect to the outdoors, to find camaraderie with each other, and to share good times with the men in their lives who love to fish.

 A fund-raiser for Penn's Woods West Trout Unlimited, Cabin Fever runs 9 a.m.-4 p.m. today at Four Points by Sheraton Pittsburgh North, Cranberry, 724-776-6900.
10 a.m. Jon Hooper, Fly Fishing Tailwaters
11 a.m. Mike Schmidt, Tying and Fishing for Apex Predators Noon Fly casting demonstration
1 p.m. George Daniel, Streamer Fishing: Tools, Tactics and Techniques
2 p.m. Amedia Daniel, Fly Fishing for Women
3 p.m. Fly casting demonstration All day raffles, fly fishing flea market, fly tying, exhibitors.
"You can fish any time of day, any time of year, any place in the world, for any kind of fish," said Daniel. "It can take you to any place in the world, but you can also do it on your own level."

It doesn't hurt women's interest in fishing, she said, that gear and clothing manufacturers such as Orvis and Patagonia have begun designing more clothing for them. Waders and boots for women are more fitted to the female frame, and some also include an "escape hatch" with a snap in the back of the waders so that women don't have to reveal all in order to relieve themselves in the field, Daniel said.

Some female hunters such as Hancock say they struggle to find functional gloves and coats that fit, and resort to wearing small sizes of men's clothing or extra-large sizes of youth clothing. Other female hunters - especially young ones - might find the pink camo that has become commonplace at sporting goods stores to at least look more attractive, eliminating another potential barrier to joining the hunt, several exhibitors said.

The growing interest among women in hunting trips has made itself felt at Downeast Hunts, a hunting camp, outfitter and sports show exhibitor from Orrington, Maine, said saleswoman Diane Jordan. Although the company hasn't compiled any statistics on the number of its female clients, Jordan said she has noticed a definite trend toward couples coming to hunt, and away from the all-male "buddy trips" of old.

"If they find a woman that likes to do that, it makes sense to bring her," she said. "It's increasing all the time."

At the Wildlife Leadership Academy in Union County, about a quarter of the teenagers who attend the program's week-long summer camps to study conservation of whitetail deer, brook trout, ruffed grouse and black bears are female, said Michele Kittell, executive director of the Pennsylvania Institute for Conservation Education and a sports show exhibitor.

Of those 15 to 20 girls, about half are "passionate" about hunting, said Kittell, who learned to hunt from her father beginning at age 13.

"It's not about harvesting a deer, per se," said Kittell, who grew up in Cambria County and remembers sitting with her father in the woods, watching the sun rise and waiting for a deer to cross their path. "It's about spending time in the woods, first and foremost, and it molds you for the rest of your life."

Amy McConnell Schaarsmith:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New Pennsylvania License Plate Celebrates Hunting Heritage

Proceeds from sales to be used for conservation initiatives statewide

         Hunters are known for putting on drives. 

            And drivers now can make known the pride they take in being Pennsylvania hunters. 

Pennsylvania’s new Hunting Heritage license plate – an official plate issued by the state Department of Transportation – is available to order from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

Get Image

            Each plate costs $56, of which $25 goes to the Game Commission to be used for conservation initiatives. 

Commemorative patches and decals featuring the Hunting Heritage logo also are being sold, for $5.66 and $2.83, respectively.

Those looking to order a license plate can most easily do so by visiting the Game Commission’s website,

Order forms for license plates, patches and decals, as well as the PennDOT application form that’s needed to get a plate, all can be printed from the website. To find these forms, simply click on the Hunting Heritage License Plate icon pictured on the website’s homepage. 

Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said the license plate is a great way for Pennsylvanians to show the pride they take in perpetuating the state’s rich hunting heritage. Moreover, Hough said, purchases of the plate stand to benefit many worthy causes. 

One-third of each $25 payment the Game Commission receives for each plate sold goes to programs that distribute venison donated by hunters to a network of food banks statewide. Meanwhile, the other two-thirds will be awarded through grants to sportsmen’s clubs to conduct activities that promote sport hunting, youth hunter education, or the conservation and enhancement of game species for current and future generations. 

“Pennsylvania always has been a leader in conservation, and hunters have been the key to it all,” Hough said. “By purchasing their Hunting Heritage license plates, hunters have the chance to further contribute to conservation and, at the same time, show their pride in Pennsylvania’s hunting tradition and what it represents. 

“I can’t wait to put one on my vehicle,” Hough said.

 Hunting Heritage license plate

            Pennsylvania’s new Hunting Heritage license plate is now available to order for $56, $25 of which goes to the Game Commission to help fund conservation initiatives. 

            The plates are issued in sequential order only, and cannot be personalized in any manner. 

Specialty license plates, such as the Hunting Heritage license plate, also cannot be customized to add a disability insignia; however, use of the hanging disability placard affords vehicle operators the same privileges as a disability plate. 

Those purchasing Hunting Heritage license plates should not let their vehicle registrations lapse, and should renew as normal. Purchasing the plate does not automatically renew registration. You will not be paying twice for this specialty plate, as the $56 fee for the plate does not affect your registration. 

When your new plate arrives, it will have a new registration card and sticker with your expiration date. It does not matter when in the registration cycle you get this plate. 

Because the plates are made in consecutive order as applications are submitted, it takes about six weeks from the time PennDOT receives an application for the plate to arrive in your mailbox.

Specialty plates are not duplicated if lost.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Go Online, Get Certified For A PA Hunting License

Option allows new hunters to complete Hunter-Trapper Education anywhere, anytime.

          Many first-time buyers of Pennsylvania hunting or furtaker licenses have a new, convenient option for completing the required certification course.

          A new, online-only Hunter-Trapper Education course is available from the Pennsylvania Game Commission. 

          The course, which can be completed online in about six to eight hours, is available to students ages 16 and older. Students can use any computer, smartphone, tablet or e-reader to take the course, providing flexibility to take it anywhere at any time, said Andy Hueser, a hunter-education specialist for the Game Commission.

          “People live increasingly busy lives these days,” Hueser said. “In recent years we’ve upped the number of traditional, classroom courses we offer and have offered many more courses at peak times in the fall when more people are thinking about hunting and hunter education, and record numbers of new hunters have become certified as a result.  

“But demand still exists, and some folks simply can’t make the time to attend a traditional course,” Hueser said. “For them, this new, online option removes a hurdle that might have previously stood in the way of their obtaining a hunting license.”

          The curriculum for the online course is identical to that taught in the traditional classroom course. Topics such as tree-stand safety, lawful trapping of furbearers, firearms safety, Lyme-disease prevention, state game lands regulations, and other programs all are covered. 

          Students move through the material a page at a time, making their way through 11 units. They must spend a certain amount of time on each page to make sure they’re not glossing over the material. There’s a quiz at the end of each unit, which must be passed before moving on to the next. And a test covering all material in the course is completed at the end. 

          After passing the test, a temporary certification card can be printed, and a license purchased immediately.

          The online course is available through Kalkomey, a Texas-based company that specializes in hunter education and has been an important partner in the Game Commission’s programs for years.

          There is a fee, currently set at $19.50, for the online course, which is wholly retained by Kalkomey to offset their costs of providing the course.

          The course can be taken through Kalkomey’s website,

Hueser said a full slate of traditional, classroom Hunter-Trapper Education courses will continue to be offered statewide in Pennsylvania to meet what has been a growing demand for this in-person option, and those courses will continue to be free of charge. 

          “We expect most students, as well as the parents of young hunters, will continue to prefer the traditional courses,” Hueser said. “They like the opportunity to interact with an instructor and to see safe hunting and trapping practices demonstrated right before their eyes.

          “We will continue to work to offer as many of these courses as we can to keep up with the very high demand for them,” Hueser said. “At the same time, though, this new option is going to be a better fit for some, and we’re happy to provide it, so they can get their license and the information they need to be safe before they get out there and hunt.”

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Pennsylvania Bear Harvest Impressive Again In 2014

With the totals now official, the top seven harvests in state history all have occurred in the past decade.

          It’s official: The trend of recent bear seasons taking their place in the Pennsylvania record books continues.

          Pennsylvania hunters harvested a total of 3,366 bears in 2014, the seventh-highest tally in state history, the Pennsylvania Game Commission reported today.

          With 2014 totals now official, the seven largest bear harvests all have occurred in the past decade.

          The all-time high was recorded in 2011, when 4,350 bears were harvested. Hunters harvested 3,510 bears in 2013 – the third-largest harvest on record.

          Hunters in 2014 harvested bears in 56 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, an increase compared to 2013, when bears were taken in 53 counties. Likewise, bears were taken in 21 of the state’s 23 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs), which also is an increase compared to 2013, when bears were taken in 20 WMUs.

          Forty-one bears harvested by hunters in 2014 weighed 500 pounds or more.

          The heaviest bear in the harvest, taken in Pittsfield Township, Warren County, by James M. Hultberg, of Pittsfield, weighed an estimated 677 pounds.
          Two other bears topped the 600-pound mark.

          Leon J. Graham, of Morris, harvested a 630-pounder in Pine Township, Lycoming County during the bear archery season, and Fred F. Stoltzfus, of Lewisburg, took a 623-pound bear in West Buffalo Township, Union County, while hunting in the general season.

          The remaining bears on the list of the 10 heaviest from 2014 include: a 598-pounder harvested in Muddy Creek Township , Butler County, by Jeffrey McClymonds, of Slippery Rock, during the general season; a 597-pounder taken in Delmar Township, Tioga County by John L. Thrush, of Boiling Springs, during the general season; a 596-pounder harvested in Forks Township, Sullivan County, by Gary L. Heinsey, of Denver, during the extended season; a 584-pounder taken in Washington Township, Jefferson County, by Daniel J. Whaling, of Falls Creek, during the bear archery season; a 579-pounder taken in Armstrong Township, Indiana County by Gabriel J. Heckman, of Shelocta, during the general season; a 574-pounder harvested in Tyrone Township, Blair County, by Ray E. Golden Jr., of Tyrone, during the general season; and a 561-pounder taken in Sugarcreek Township, Venango County, by Heath M. Bromley, of Oil City, during the bear archery season. 

          Lycoming County, perennially among the top counties for bear harvests again led the way with 286 harvests in 2014, up from 234 the previous year. Among other top counties for bear harvests in 2014 were: Tioga, 274 (286 in 2013); Clinton, 179 (133); Potter 157 (196); and Centre, 117 (96).

          The four-day general season again set the pace for the overall harvest, with 2,447 bears being taken during that season. But the extended seasons and the archery bear season also contributed to the totals. 

          Statewide, 740 bears were harvested in extended seasons while 170 were taken during the archery bear season. 

          Tioga County claimed the highest harvest in extended seasons, with 71 bears taken after the close of the general statewide bear season. Other top counties, and their harvest totals during the extended seasons, were: Lycoming, 59; Wayne, 52; Bradford, 49; and Potter, 46. 

          Final county harvests by region (with 2013 figures in parentheses) are:

          Northwest – 394: Warren, 100 (148); Venango, 71 (70); Jefferson, 56 (70); Clarion, 54 (59);  Forest, 41 (50); Butler, 28 (24); Crawford, 26 (36); Erie, 13 (6); and Mercer, 5 (3). 

Southwest – 311: Somerset, 108 (106); Fayette, 103 (67); Armstrong, 35 (43); Westmoreland, 29 (41); Indiana, 19 (49); Cambria, 15 (26); and Allegheny, 2 (3). 

Northcentral – 1,382: Lycoming, 286 (234); Tioga, 274 (286); Clinton, 179 (133); Potter 157 (196); Centre, 117 (96); McKean, 100 (108); Elk, 79 (103); Cameron, 76 (108); Clearfield, 72 (125); and Union, 42 (41).

Southcentral – 390: Huntingdon, 88 (67); Bedford, 70 (55); Perry, 55 (16); Mifflin, 42 (31); Blair, 41 (29); Fulton, 28 (19); Juniata, 28 (28); Franklin, 19 (9); Snyder, 14 (18); Cumberland, 4 (1); and Adams, 1 (0). 

Northeast – 794: Pike, 111 (150); Bradford, 108 (96); Wayne, 87 (127); Monroe, 79 (79); Sullivan, 76 (105); Luzerne, 74 (98); Susquehanna, 74 (56); Wyoming, 55 (66); Lackawanna, 51 (48); Carbon, 47 (57); Columbia, 23 (24); Northumberland, 8 (14); and Montour, 1 (0). 

Southeast – 95: Schuylkill, 39 (35); Dauphin, 35 (23); Northampton, 9 (18); Berks, 6 (4); Lehigh 4 (0); and Lebanon, 2 (7).

The final bear harvests by Wildlife Management Unit (with final 2013 figures in parentheses) were: WMU 1A, 12 (16); WMU 1B, 90 (94); WMU 2A, 1 (0) WMU 2B, 3 (4); WMU 2C, 290 (247); WMU 2D, 148 (171); WMU 2E, 48 (93); WMU 2F, 262 (309); WMU 2G, 622 (575); WMU 2H, 68 (87); WMU 3A, 286 (362); WMU 3B, 366 (364); WMU 3C, 168 (196); WMU 3D, 296 (393); WMU 4A, 106 (80); WMU 4B, 141 (67); WMU 4C, 120 (93); WMU 4D, 260 (275); WMU 4E, 63 (68); WMU 5A, 4 (0); WMU 5B, 0 (1); and WMU 5C, 12 (16).

          Impressive as the 2014 bear harvest is, it’s worth noting the potential for an even bigger harvest certainly was. 

          A record number of hunters – 173,523 – bought Pennsylvania bear licenses in 2014. The previous record – 167,438 – was set in 2013. It also was a bumper year for mast crops throughout much of the state’s core bear-hunting area. 

          When little food is available, bears tend to enter dens early. But in years when food is abundant, they remain more active during hunting seasons. 

          But the weather was less than ideal through portions of the bear seasons. The archery season was much colder, and wetter, than it had been in years. Still, 170 bears were taken during the statewide archery season, but the total was down slightly from 2013 when 197 were harvested.

          The 2014 general season began on a high note, with the opening day harvest up 21 percent compared to 2013. And that increase came despite an ice storm that affected hunters throughout northcentral Pennsylvania during the afternoon of the opening day.
          The weather would continue to have an impact on the general season, and the Monday harvest was down 40 percent compared to 2013. 

Still, it’s difficult to consider the seventh-largest harvest on record anything but a success.
          And the prospects for the trend to continue again next year already are good, said Mark Ternent, the Game Commission’s bear biologist. 

          The statewide bear population has remained stable over the past seven years now, with the population estimated most recently at 18,100 bears, Ternent said. Interest in bear hunting has remained high, as verified by license sales. And the opportunities to hunt bears are as plentiful as ever.

          “It’s always difficult to predict exactly how good bear hunting will be in a given year,” Ternent said. “But it clear we’ve had several banner years in the past decade, and there’s nothing to indicate fantastic bear hunting won’t continue in 2015 and beyond.”

What a decade for bear hunting

The 2014 Pennsylvania bear harvest, the seventh-largest in state history, joined other recent seasons near the top of the record books. With the totals now official, the seven top harvests all have occurred in the last decade. Here’s a look:

Top Pennsylvania bear harvests

1.      4,350 – 2011
2.      4,164 – 2005
3.      3,623 – 2012
4.      3,512 – 2009
5.      3,510 – 2013
6.      3,458 – 2008

7.      3,366 – 2014

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Congress Revives Sportsmen's Act

Despite Washington gridlock, some senate Republicans and Democrats have agreed for three years on at least one thing.

Last week a wide-ranging coalition introduced the Sportsmen's Act of 2015, sort of an expanded reprise of similar bills introduced -- and defeated -- in each of the past three congresses. The bill is designed to improve conditions for hunting, fishing, target shooting and other outdoor recreation.

Written with bipartisan support, the current Sportsmen's Act would permanently strip the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating lead shot and other ammunition under the Toxic Substances Control Act, and add lead sinkers and other fishing gear to the existing exemption.

Regulatory authority would be transferred to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state fish and wildlife agencies.

Among the bill's 14 provisions are mandates to allow gun owners to carry firearms on lands managed by the Army Corps of Engineers, and permit archers to carry bows across national parks.

The bill would direct up to $10 million annually toward improving access to landlocked public lands, allocate a larger proportion of existing federal funding to building and maintaining shooting ranges on federal and non-federal lands, and require federal land managers to consider how their plans may impact hunting, fishing and recreational shooting.

Remaining from previous versions of the bill is a provision that would allow the importation of polar bear trophies harvested legally in Canada. The bill was introduced by senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Ark., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M. with original sponsorship by Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Jim Risch, R-Ind., Deb Fischer, R-Neb., and Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

"This comprehensive package will boost opportunities for hunters, anglers, outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists alike, improve access to federal lands and strengthen the overall outdoor recreation industry," Sen. Manchin said in a written statement.

"As co-chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus and an avid sportsman, it makes me so proud that we can come together as Democrats and Republicans to preserve America's beloved outdoor traditions."

The bill is supported by outdoors groups including the National Wild Turkey Federation, National Rifle Association, Trout Unlimited and Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership.
Efforts are underway to both block the bill -- again -- and to introduce a similar measure in the House.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Frye: Chronic Wasting Disease Creeping Closer To SW Pennsylvania

By Bob Frye 

The “smoldering brush fire” is inching closer to Southwestern Pennsylvania.
In fact, hunters might feel its heat this fall.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission has been trying to keep tabs on chronic wasting disease for a while. It tests all of the elk taken by hunters each year and a collection of deer — killed by hunters, hit by vehicles or otherwise found dead or sick — from around the state.

No elk have been found to have the disease. That includes those taken in November. Samples for all 89 animals came back as “not detected,” said Justin Brown, the commission's wildlife veterinarian.

The story is not so good with deer.

Tests on tissue samples taken from deer within the state's three disease management areas — places where the disease already has been found — still are being conducted.
So far, five deer have come back as positive for CWD. All were roadkills collected within disease management area 2, in the south-central part of the state. It is the one of three disease areas where CWD has been found in the wild herd.

Four of those deer were found close to where previous CWD-positive deer were discovered. That is not surprising, Brown said.

“We are starting to see some clustering of positives,” he said.

The fifth deer was found along Route 220 in southern Bedford County. That still is within the disease management area but relatively far from where the other sick deer were confirmed.
It is possible, Brown said, the deer ranged up into Pennsylvania from Maryland, which has seen its own CWD cases in recent years.

No matter where it came from, it will have the most impact of any positives found this year.
The deer's proximity to the western edge of the disease area likely will cause the commission to expand disease management area 2 westward, Brown said.

How far west is to be determined. Brown said a recommendation to the Game Commission board probably is still a month or two away. He wants to wait until all of the deer samples collected are tested for CWD samples before deciding what needs to be done.

But Somerset County isn't that far away. If the boundary is changed to take in a part of it, more hunters in this region will be dealing with CWD.

A disease management area carries with it certain rules, such as a ban on the movement of “high risk” deer parts — hunters have to have deer butchered within the area's boundaries — and a ban on using deer urine attractants.

Perhaps it is inevitable more hunters will have to deal with those rules. Some Game Commissioners have said they expect the entire state to be a disease management area in time.

That won't happen overnight, Brown said. Chronic wasting disease does not spread quickly, via “explosive outbreaks.” It is more like a “smoldering brush fire.”

“It tends to be this slow, smoldering infection that gets worse over time,” he said.
Unfortunately, it's smoldering closer to home all the time.

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

PA Game Commission Deals With Tree Stands, Blinds Left Behind

By Bob Frye 

If it can be carried into the woods, it can be carried out.

And it will be, if the Pennsylvania Game Commission has anything to say about it.

It looks as if, starting this fall, hunters who use a tree stand or ground blind on state game lands or private properties enrolled in the commission's various access programs are going to have to identify it as theirs and take it into and out of the woods on time.

This past week, Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to a proposal that would require all stands and blinds to be labeled, either with the owner's name and address, the “CID” number on their hunting license or with a free permit that will be available online from the commission, said Tom Grohol, director of the agency's bureau of wildlife protection.

Hunters who seek the free permit will be issued a unique number, but only the commission, courtesy of a database maintained in Harrisburg, will have the personal information attached to it, he said.
That should address privacy concerns some had raised, commission president Dave Putnam of Centre County said.

“People will have three options to pick from,” he said.

The need for identification springs from people not following the rules.

Under existing regulations, tree stands and portable blinds may be set up on game lands and other commission-managed properties two weeks before the earliest deer season in a particular wildlife management unit. They can stay up until two weeks past the close of the latest deer season.
After that, they must come down.

Increasingly, commission officials say, they are not coming down, and that causes problems.

“Some of these are becoming permanent fixtures,” Grohol said. “We would like to hold those people who leave tree stands on game lands responsible.”

Wildlife conservation officers usually cannot do that now, he said. They confiscate stands and blinds on occasion but have no way of knowing who they belong to unless a hunter comes looking for it.
The idea of including private lands enrolled in the commission's public access programs — such as the farm-game program — met with the approval of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau for similar reasons.

Jeff Grove, director of government affairs for that group, representing nearly 60,000 farm and rural families, said private landowners often encounter tree stands that have been put up on their lands. Sometimes the hunters using them do not have permission to be there, he added.

“By not knowing the owner, it is very difficult to stop the trespass or to legally remove, confiscate or sell the tree stand to recover damages to trees or property caused by the stand's owner,” Grove said.
The proposal is not a done deal. Commissioners have to give it final approval at their next meeting, set for April 9 and 10 in Harrisburg. But given that it was approved unanimously by the board this past week and has the support of staff, that likely is a formality.

Also up for consideration will be a change to the state's elk hunting zones.

Right now, the commission manages elk hunting in 12 “zones.” The elk herd is growing and moving, however.

Elk biologist Jeremy Bandfield said the state had 515 elk in 2008. That had grown to a minimum of 881 by last January. Work to determine how many are out there right now is underway.

Some of those animals have moved south and east, setting up residence on state game land 100 and parts of Sproul State Forest, Banfield said. The first elk was spotted there in 2012. Nine, all bulls, had moved in by 2013, and 40 consistently were hanging out there this past fall.

To minimize human conflicts, Banfield said he'd like commissioners to create a 13th hunt zone there. It would be a big one, taking in 278 square miles, 61 percent of which is public land.

A vote on the new zone will be discussed in April, which is when the board also will decide how many elk hunting licenses to award for this fall.

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

Of myths and marmots: Groundhog Day

Monday is all about celebrating an overgrown ground squirrel's survival of winter.

It's Groundhog Day, a triumph of spring over winter, just as the contemporaneous Candlemas Day celebrates the victory of light over darkness.

February 2 is about halfway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. The day is noticeably longer than it was on the solstice. Likewise, Candlemas Day, a European tradition, is the day when a year's supply of candles is blessed. Hence light over darkness.
It may not seem a big deal today when the flick of a switch gives us all the light we need.
But before electricity, the halfway point through winter was worth celebrating. Longer days and a new growing season are coming.

In Europe, the custom was to predict the arrival of spring by watching for a hedgehog's shadow on Feb. 2. Since North America has no hedgehogs, early Americans adopted as a substitute harbinger the groundhog, also known as the woodchuck, lowland marmot and whistle pig. Apparently settlers were unaware most groundhogs are still hibernating in early February.

What I've never understood is why bright sunshine means six more weeks of winter, and no shadow means an early spring. Of course, the groundhog's ability to forecast the arrival of spring is hogwash.

But groundhogs themselves are worth celebrating. They've survived a long winter's sleep and are gaunt and hungry. They search almost immediately for a mate and forage furiously for the next eight or nine months. Breeding so early gives the next generation of groundhogs the head start needed to fatten up for the following winter.

Scott Shalaway:,