Sunday, May 31, 2015

Legislation Would Impact Sportsmen In PA

Pennsylvania lawmakers introduce a lot of bills in the House of Representatives and Senate each year. Only a relative handful become law.
So, take these for what they're worth.
But lawmakers already this year have introduced probably two dozen bills that would impact hunters and anglers and, in cases, inject a healthy dose of politics into wildlife management.
Two Senators, Richard Alloway and Sean Wiley, are co-sponsoring one that would allow the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to use proceeds from the sale of Lake Erie stamps in more ways.
Now, the money collected must be used to acquire fishing access or do habitat work within the Lake Erie watershed. Senate Bill 604 would allow the money to be used “for other projects that support public fishing” in that area.
It has the support of the commission and the S.O.N.S. of Lake Erie.
Rep. Neal Goodman is sponsoring House Bill 730, which would make it illegal to call turkeys in the 30 days prior to the opening of the spring gobbler season. That can “educate” turkeys and give some hunters an unfair advantage over others, he said.
The Game Commission has expressed concerns about how enforceable that kind of law would be.
Finally, Rep. Mike Hanna is sponsoring House Bill 671, which would take authority for deciding how many antlerless deer licenses to issue in any given year away from the Game Commission. An “antlerless deer harvest committee” consisting of licensed hunters appointed by the board of commissioners, the president pro tempore and minority leader of the Senate, and the speaker and minority leader of the House would make those decisions.
Waterfowlers have long had to buy a federal duck stamp to hunt ducks and geese, with the money going to support waterfowl habitat and conservation.
Might it be time for an upland bird stamp, one required of people hunting pheasants, grouse, woodcock and the like?
A group known as Ultimate Upland thinks so. It has introduced a petition calling for the creation of the first federal stamp for upland habitat conservation.
Its goal would be put sportsmen in charge of “a new program to reverse the losses of upland habitat and the resulting negative impacts to the numerous species of wildlife that exist in those spaces,” said the group's founder, Brian Koch.
The group plans to survey hunters to get opinions on what a stamp should cost and how revenues generated should be used, while also going to lawmakers to rally support. Details can be found at
Paddle Without Pollution, the volunteer group that uses people in kayaks and canoes to clean area waterways has kicked off its 2015 season.
Volunteers have done cleanups on the Monongahela River, Chartiers, Slippery Rock and Ten Mile creeks and North Park Lake. Through October, the group will tackle cleanups on Pymatuning Lake, Lake Arthur, Lake Erie, the Allegheny River and more.
Volunteers are welcome, and a limited number of boats usually are available for those who preregister. The group's schedule is at
In the meantime, a film the group made about the ongoing development of the Presque Isle Water Trail is available for viewing on demand on
Lawmakers in Maryland, Texas and Tennessee have introduced bills that would create tax-free holidays on one or two weekends a year. At those times, people could buy firearms and hunting supplies without paying taxes.
Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina have similar laws in place.
Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

PA Mentored Youth Hunting Program Might Be Working

By Bob Frye

HARRISBURG — It's the logical question.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission offers a mentored youth hunting program, which lets kids younger than 12 try hunting without first having to get a license. Created in 2005, it's intended to get kids interested in the outdoors before the demands of youth sports and other activities take them away.

Is it working to create hunters?

The answer is: perhaps. Coren Jagnow, of the commission's research and education division, looked at the buying histories of the nearly 99,000 junior hunters — kids ages 12-16 — who had a junior license or junior combo license going into deer season last fall.

One of the things she looked at was whether children who had a mentored permit at least once bought more licenses between the ages of 12 and 16 than those who didn't.

“The answer is absolutely yes, they do,” Jagnow told commissioners at their Monday work group meeting.

The older a junior hunter was, and the more consistent he or she was in buying a license each year, the more likely they were to have come from a mentored background, she added.

She offered one caution with that, though. That results suggest “correlation, but not necessarily causation,” she said.

In other words, it's unclear whether mentored youth hunting alone turned young hunters into sportsmen or if they more likely joined the ranks because they came from a background where their adult mentors made a point of introducing them to hunting, she said.

Commissioner Tim Layton of Windber said the result is the same.
“We're developing hunters to the long-term,” he said.

They are more avid than the average youngster, at least.

Jagnow looked at what kind of licenses the 99,000 junior hunters bought: regular junior licenses, which gave them the right to hunt, or junior combo licenses, which carried extra privileges, allowing to take part in archery, muzzleloader and furtaking seasons.

She discovered that while youngsters with a mentored background accounted for only 45 percent of the overall junior hunter pool, they represented more than half of combo licenses sales.

That benefits juniors by providing extra opportunities, and the commission financially, she said. A regular junior hunting license sells for $6.70, a combo license for $9.70.

Program additions

More mentored hunting is likely on the way.

When they hold their quarterly meeting in June, Game Commissioners will consider adding mourning doves and cottontail rabbits to the list of species that mentored youth can hunt. If preliminary approval is given, final approval could come in September. Hunting would start in the fall of 2016.

To hunt doves, mentored youth would have to buy a migratory bird license for $3.70. Commissioners considered waiving that, but said they want to collect information on the number of youngsters hunting and how many birds they're taking, just as they do with adults.

The mentored rabbit hunt, meanwhile, will come with some restrictions.

The intent is not to have kids “jumping on brush piles” or even to have adult mentors posting a child in one spot and walking around to flush rabbits to them, said commissioner Dave Putnam of Centre County. Adults and mentored youth will have to remain stationary and target rabbits run by them by dogs or by other people.

The commission developed those guidelines in cooperation with beagle clubs, said commission deputy director Rich Palmer.

“I think this will be a positive thing,” Palmer said.

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

Sunday, May 17, 2015

PA Deer License Sales System Debate

By Bob Frye 

This is going to be a fight.

The state House of Representatives game and fisheries committee held a hearing last week on House Bill 231, which would take away the exclusive right to sell doe licenses from county treasurers. Instead, hunters would be able to purchase them online or from any vendor when buying other licenses, all using the automated license system PALS.

Seems logical.

No other state requires hunters to navigate such a torturous paper trail to get a license to kill a deer.
This is the 21st century, right? You can deposit your paycheck instantly by taking a picture of it with your smartphone, but it takes two stamps, a pink envelope filled out in three places, a paper check and as long as four weeks to get a doe tag?

Surely there's a better way. But there are Pennsylvania-style politics to consider.

That was evident from the start. There are 25 lawmakers on the game and fisheries committee. Often, half or fewer attend any particular meeting.

This hearing drew a full house. Some came and went — other voting meetings were going on simultaneously — but in the meantime there was plenty of bickering.
Three people testified.

One, John Kline, director of government affairs for the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, said that group's delegates voted to support the bill by a 2-to-1 margin.

Another, Craig Ebersole, Lancaster County treasurer and chairman of the antlerless license committee for the Pennsylvania County Treasurers Association, said his group opposes the bill. It's unclear how it will benefit hunters, he said.


Rep. Keith Gillespie, the committee chairman, asked how giving hunters the chance to buy all of their licenses at once, in a “one-stop shop” experience, wouldn't be better.

Ebersole said the bill is too vague to know that would be the result. Then he got to the real issue.
County treasurers get $1 for every doe license sold. They typically split $750,000 a year.
Treasurers want that money.

The average county grosses $11,000 in doe license revenues, according to Game Commission executive director Matt Hough, the third presenter. Rep. Gerald Mullery, sponsor of the bill, said treasurers don't net that much and aren't using that to make budgets anyway. Many, seeking votes, use it to hire “political appointees,” he said.

Ebersole denied that, and Rep. Mike Peifer really took exception. Refusing to reference Mullery by name, he said he'd never heard of anything like that.

Mullery countered by saying three lawmakers already told him they won't support the bill because they're getting pushback from treasurers in their districts worried about losing that money. Rep. Dan Moul said he expects county commissioners to raise the same objection.

The bill would not create an all-or-nothing scenario. Hough said treasurers still could make money by selling licenses just like any other vendor.

But some already have said they will quit selling licenses altogether if they lose the exclusive right to sell doe tags, Ebersole said.

And so, a change that seems so obvious faces obstacles.
Only in Pennsylvania.

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

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

As Hunters Focus On Turkeys, PA Game Commission Applauds Partner National Wild Turkey Federation

National Wild Turkey Federation surpasses fundraising milestone in Pennsylvania.

The wind was calm, the air was cool and, as darkness turned to daylight, the woods were silent for as far as the ear could hear.
Soon, the songbird symphony started. Then, a raspy gobble pierced the dawn, so close it could be felt.

And as the sky began to glow with oranges and blues, that big bird became visible and curiously approached the calls coming from the hunter’s direction.

With spring turkey season now open, this might well describe the morning some lucky hunter experienced today. Sometimes everything goes perfectly.

And the Pennsylvania Game Commission would like to recognize the fact that generous contributions by conservation partners like the National Wild Turkey Federation play no small part in these perfect mornings.

Through habitat creation and maintenance, hunter recruitment, education, outreach and wild turkey research, NWTF recently reached an impressive milestone, hitting the $6 million mark in funds it has raised and spent in Pennsylvania.

Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said it’s something to be celebrated.

“Wildlife conservation can’t happen without the cooperation of people who care,” Hough said. “Pennsylvania relies on its hunters and trappers, through the annual purchase of their licenses, to fund for all Pennsylvanians the management of game and nongame species alike, but other revenue still is needed.

“With its contributions over the years, NWTF has helped us to better understand our wild turkeys, restore their population, as well as create the habitat necessary for populations to expand,” Hough said. “The organization is an exemplary partner, the success of which gives all of us reason to celebrate.”

NWTF Regional Biologist Bob Eriksen said $3.1 million of the now more than $6 million total NWTF has spent in Pennsylvania went to wildlife habitat-enhancement projects, about 80 percent of which occurred on state game lands. In 2015 alone, NWTF has raised more than $194,000 for habitat work in Pennsylvania – on both public and private lands.

NWTF over the years also has spent in Pennsylvania about $140,000 for land acquisition – much of which ends up being added to state game lands or other properties open to public hunting; $269,000 for hunter-safety education; $149,000 for wild-turkey research projects led by the Game Commission; more than $500,000 for outreach programs that encourage people to get outdoors and hunt turkeys; and about $450,000 on youth education.

“It’s an investment in the future of our wildlife resources and our hunting tradition,” Eriksen said of the money NWTF continues to raise and spend in Pennsylvania. “It certainly is money well spent.”

Equally valuable is the time NWTF chapter members volunteer within Pennsylvania. Whether it’s putting on an educational program, completing habitat work, helping to trap turkeys or assisting with other research, the organization continuously is working for wild turkeys.

Eriksen said NWTF’s membership in Pennsylvania is more than 13,000 strong. There are 84 local NWTF chapters statewide, and each hosts a major fundraising banquet each year to generate money to be put back into Pennsylvania, benefiting wild turkeys and other wildlife.

Within Pennsylvania in 2014, the banquets raised more than $250,000 to be spent in Pennsylvania, Eriksen said.

Some of the money donated qualifies for matching federal dollars, meaning it’s more valuable than its bottom line suggests. And the Game Commission typically partners on habitat projects NWTF supports on game lands by providing workers and equipment to carry out the projects.

Mary Jo Casalena, the Game Commission’s wild turkey biologist, said that while NWTF’s investment in Pennsylvania has reached the $6 million mark, it’s hard to put a price tag on the amount of good the organization has done for the state’s wild turkeys, especially considering the volunteer hours NWTF donates.

NWTF’s habitat projects helped wild turkey populations expand into new areas, creating more hunting opportunities in more places, she said.

“Partners like NWTF are among the reasons Pennsylvania is a top turkey-hunting state, a leader in wild-turkey research and has the healthy wild-turkey population it does,” Casalena said.

Eriksen said while hitting the $6 million mark is an important milestone, it’s by no means a destination, and the organization continues its efforts to benefit Pennsylvania’s wild turkeys.

“I can assure you we will celebrate many more milestones along the way,” he said.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Pennsylvania Continues Safe-Hunting Trend

Hunting-related shooting incidents nearly match record low number in 2014.

           Pennsylvania again made safe-hunting history in 2014.

For the second time since records have been kept – and for the second year in a row – a year came and went with fewer than 30 hunting-related shooting incidents. 

There were 29 hunting-related shooting incidents (HRSIs) in 2014, according to a newly released report from the Pennsylvania Game Commission. 

The Game Commission has been tracking HRSIs since 1915, and – prior to 2013 – there never had been fewer than 33 incidents reported in a year. Decades ago, hundreds of incidents occurred each year.

           Requirements for hunters to wear orange in many seasons and ongoing hunter-education efforts are essential to the upward safety trend, the report states.

In 2014, 41,462 students received their Basic Hunter-Trapper Education certification in Pennsylvania. 

Those student graduates, their volunteer hunter-education instructors and the hunting public at large all can be proud of the role they have played in making hunting the safest it’s ever been, said Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough.

“The latest report is further proof that Penn’s Woods are safer than ever,” Hough said. “The numbers are encouraging, but there’s still work to do. Even one incident is too many.”

In Pennsylvania, hunting-related shooting incidents have declined by nearly 80 percent since hunter-education training began in 1959.

The latest numbers sustain both long-term and recent trends. During the previous reporting period, a record-low 27 hunting-related shooting incidents were recorded. It was the second straight year a record-low number was realized. In 2012, there were 33 incidents, which tied the previous record-low.

One of the 29 incidents reported in 2014 was fatal. Except for 2012 – the first year without a single reported fatality related to gun handling in hunting and trapping in Pennsylvania – at least one fatality has been reported each year. The number of fatal incidents has declined sharply over the years.

In 2014, six of the 29 incidents with an identified offender resulted from individuals with 10 or fewer years of hunting experience. 

           One incident involved a youth participating in the Mentored Youth Hunting Program. It is important to note, however, that the mentored youth hunter involved was the victim in the incident, not the offender.  

The Mentored Youth Hunting Program, which enables hunters under the age of 12 to harvest certain wildlife species if they are accompanied by a licensed adult, continues to be safe. More than 34,000 Mentored Youth Permits were issued during this time frame.

In its annual reports on HRSIs, the Game Commission establishes an incident rate by computing the number of accidents per 100,000 participants. The 3.07 incident rate reported for 2014 is slightly higher than the 2013 rate of 2.85.

An analysis of offender ages revealed individuals ages 16 and younger had an incident rate of 0.81 incidents per 100,000 participants, which is significantly lower than the 2013 incident rate of 3.26.

The leading cause of hunting-related shooting incidents in 2014 was a victim being in the line of fire, which accounted for 34 percent of the total. Accidental discharge and a victim being shot for game, each accounted for 21 percent of the total. HRSIs caused by accidental discharge decreased compared to the previous year, and incidents caused by victims being shot in mistake for game increased from three in 2013 to six in 2014.

Game Commissioner Timothy Layton, of Windber, said hunter education is instrumental in reducing the number of HRSIs, and the dedicated corps of 2,243 volunteer instructors play a crucial role in improving safety. He thanked those instructors, and the state’s hunters for continuing to put safety first.

“Focused efforts to make certain hunting in Pennsylvania stays safe, and continues to get safer, really are what have led to these record numbers,” said Layton, who chairs the commissioners’ Information & Education committee. “We all can take pride in how far we’ve come as we look forward to many more safe seasons ahead.”

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Cwd Update: Disease Detected In Six More Free-Ranging Deer In PA

Disease Management Area 2 again expanded due to new cases.

           From the start of 2014 through the present, six additional cases of chronic wasting disease have been documented in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced today. 

           All six deer to test positive were killed on highways within Disease Management Area 2 (DMA 2), the only area of the state where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected in free-ranging deer.

           None of the samples collected from deer or elk harvested by hunters anywhere in the state during the 2014-15 hunting seasons tested positive for CWD, and no road-killed deer or elk from outside DMA 2 tested positive. 

           Additionally, no new cases have been detected in captive deer or elk outside the borders of an established Disease Management Area (DMA). 

           However, the boundary of DMA 2 again has been expanded because CWD-positive deer detected within DMA 2 or in Maryland were near previous boundaries. Pennsylvania’s CWD Response Plan requires a 10-mile buffer around sites associated with positive tests. 

           DMA 2 now encompasses parts of Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Huntington, Fulton and Somerset counties.

           CWD is not known to afflict humans, but is always fatal to the deer and elk it infects.

DMA 1 Click to enlarge

Sampling in 2014-15            The Game Commission sampled 4,266 deer statewide during 2014. Of these, 1,701 were from DMAs.
           DMA 1 (York and Adams counties) accounted for 520 samples, 938 samples came from DMA 2, and there were 243 samples from DMA 3 (Clearfield, Indiana and Jefferson counties).
Additionally, the Game Commission sampled 89 elk for CWD in 2014, and no positives were detected.
In Pennsylvania, monitoring for CWD continues year-round and since the start of 2015, 253 additional samples have been collected. One of these tested positive, and is counted among the six additional positives within DMA 2.
The six additional CWD-positive deer brings the total to 11 free-ranging CWD-positive deer detected in Pennsylvania. All of these have been within DMA 2.
Overall, the proportion of deer to test positive remains small.
Since 1998, the Game Commission has collected and submitted more than 52,000 wild deer and elk for CWD testing, with a total of 11 positive tests.

DMA 2 Click to enlarge
DMA 2 expands
While most of the six additional CWD cases were centralized within DMA 2, two of the positive deer came from sites near what previously was DMA 2’s western boundary.
One of them, an 18-month-old male deer, was struck and killed by a vehicle on Route 220 in November in Bedford County. The other, a 30-month-old female, was killed in March on state Route 56, also in Bedford County.
In response to those positives, and in accordance with Pennsylvania’s CWD Response Plan, the boundary of DMA 2 again has been adjusted, and DMA 2 now contains parts of Somerset County, in addition to other counties.
The new DMA 2 boundary is as follows: Beginning in the southeastern extent of the DMA at the intersection of state Route 655 and the Maryland state line, proceed north on Route 655 for approximately 57 miles to the intersection of U.S. Route 22. The DMA boundary follows U.S. Route 22 west for 16.6 miles to state Route 453, then south along state Route 453 for 9 miles to Tyrone. In Tyrone, the boundary follows the western, southbound lane of Interstate 99 for 6.5 miles to state Route 865 at Bellwood. Follow state Route 865 west 2.75 miles to Grandview Road (state Route 4015). Follow Grandview Road south 6.4 miles to Juniata Gap Road in Altoona. Follow Juniata Gap Road 4 miles to Skyline Drive. Follow Skyline Drive approximately 2 miles to state Route 36. Follow state Route 36 west 1.5 miles to Coupon-Gallitzin Road (state Route 1015).  Follow Coupon-Gallitzin Road south 5 ¼ miles to U.S. Route 22. Follow U.S. Route 22 west for approximately 4 miles to state Route 53. Follow state Route 53 south 9.3 miles to state Route 160. Follow state Route 160 south 45.4 miles to the borough of Berlin, take Main Street (state Route 2030) west through downtown Berlin for 0.44 miles, then south along state Route 219 for 20 miles to the Maryland border.
A map of the newly expanded DMA 2 is available on the CWD Information page at the Game Commission’s website, Because the boundaries of DMAs change in response to new positives being detected, the website is always the best source for the most up-to-date DMA maps and descriptions.

DMA 2 Antlerless Deer Permits
The Game Commission in the 2015-16 license year again will issue special permits for taking antlerless deer within DMA 2.
DMA 2 Antlerless Deer Permits will become available at the same time antlerless licenses go on sale.
The DMA 2 permits were created as a way to direct hunting pressure to DMA 2. The permits seek to increase the antlerless deer harvest within DMA 2 by one deer per square mile.
A total of 13,500 permits have been allocated and the permits can be used only within DMA 2, which includes parts of Bedford, Blair, Huntingdon, Cambria, Fulton and Somerset counties.
Hunters may apply for DMA 2 permits in addition regular antlerless deer licenses. Obtaining one or more DMA 2 permits does not reduce the number of antlerless deer licenses for which a hunter may apply.
There are some differences between the application process for a DMA 2 permit and that for an antlerless license.
Only residents and nonresidents ages 12 and older with valid general hunting licenses may apply for permits. Participants in Mentored Youth and Mentored Adult hunting programs are ineligible to apply, and the permits cannot be transferred to participants in those programs.
Each permit costs $6.70, and payments must be made by credit card, check or money order made payable to the “Pennsylvania Game Commission.”
Applications for DMA 2 permits will be accepted in two ways – electronically through the Game Commission’s Outdoor Shop,, or by mail. Those wishing to send applications by mail can obtain an application form at the Game Commission’s website, the agency’s Harrisburg headquarters or any region office.
The application schedule is similar to that for antlerless deer licenses, however, residents and nonresidents can apply on the same dates in all rounds.
Applications will be accepted beginning Monday, July 13. Each eligible applicant may submit one application during this first round, which lasts three weeks.
Beginning Aug. 3, a second round of application begins. Again in the second round, each eligible applicant may submit one application. However, an applicant who did not submit an application during the first round may submit two during the second round.
A third round of applications will begin Aug. 17. Eligible applicants may submit an unlimited number of applications during this round, and the round will continue until all permits have been issued.
A DMA 2 permit can be used to harvest an antlerless deer during any deer season, including the antlered deer season.
Those who are issued DMA 2 permits are required to submit reports, regardless of whether they harvest a deer. Hunters who take a deer with a DMA 2 permit must report within 10 days; those who don’t must report by Feb. 2. Those who fail to report as required are subject to criminal prosecution and may be ineligible to apply for permits if the program is continued the following year.
Through their reports, hunters provide valuable data that plays a crucial role in the Game Commission’s management of CWD.

DMA 3 Click to enlarge
Rules within DMAs
Those who hunt or live within established Disease Management Areas need to be aware of special rules that apply to the hunting, processing and feeding of deer.
Hunters harvesting deer within any DMA are not permitted to remove from the DMA any deer parts with a high risk of transmitting the disease. There are a few exceptions to this rule, including taking a deer to an approved deer processor or taxidermist outside the DMA, or traveling to an approved laboratory for disease testing.
The possession of urine-based deer attractants also is prohibited within any DMA, as is the direct or indirect feeding of deer. The feeding of elk is unlawful everywhere in Pennsylvania.
A complete list of rules applying to DMAs can be found in a Game Commission executive order, which also is available at the agency’s website.
The head and spinal column are among the identified high-risk parts that cannot be removed from a DMA. Meat and antlers can be removed, so long as the backbone is separated from the meat and left behind, and the skull plate attached to the antlers is free of visible brain material.
A complete list of high-risk parts is available at the Game Commission’s website.
Many hunters who harvest deer within DMAs take their deer to processors and taxidermists within those DMAs in order to comply with the law. Those who do their own processing may remove and safely dispose of high-risk parts in dumpsters placed on game lands tracts within the DMA. Sites are identified prior to hunting seasons.

CWD Information
While chronic wasting disease is relatively new to Pennsylvania, it is not a new disease. CWD was discovered in 1967, and it has been researched in great detail since then.
CWD affects members of the cervid, or deer family. It is spread from animal to animal by direct and indirect contact.
There currently is no practical way to test live animals for CWD, nor is there a vaccine. Clinical signs include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling, and, ultimately death. Any animals suspected of having CWD should be reported to the Game Commission.
There currently is no scientific evidence that CWD has or can spread to humans, either through contact with infected animals or by eating the meat of infected animals. As a precaution, however, people are advised not to consume meat from animals infected with CWD.

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

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Gobbler Outlook Good In Region

By Bob Frye, Pittsburgh Tribune review

It's not too late to find a hot spot.

Spring turkey season opened Saturday — it runs through May 30 — but some gobbler hunters have been scouting for weeks. If they didn't kill a bird on the opener, they at least have flocks located and hunting spots in mind.

But that's not everyone. Maybe you're one of those who will be scouting and hunting at the same time, in season. Where should you start looking?

Some areas offer more promise than others, said Mary Jo Casalena, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's turkey biologist. Every year, she puts together a forecast for gobbler season based on past success rates and turkey densities.

This year's outlook is that some of the best turkey hunting will be found in Western Pennsylvania.

Wildlife management unit 1A, which takes in Mercer and Lawrence counties and parts of Beaver, Butler, Crawford and Venango, is the star. The outlook there is “excellent,” 
Casalena said. The spring turkey harvest density — birds killed per square mile — is tops in the state and last year was 39 percent higher than the five-year average.

Casalena said the season there “should be a good one.”

The second-best unit for spring gobblers should be 2B, which takes in most of Allegheny County and parts of Westmoreland, Butler, Beaver, Washington and Fayette, she said. It ranks second statewide for harvest density, up 26 percent above the long-term average each of the past two years.

If you're going to hunt 2B, do it soon. The commission's goal is to decrease turkey populations there to ease conflicts with people in the suburbs, so “populations may again be declining,” she said.

The season should be slightly above average in other nearby wildlife management units.
The situation in unit 2C, which takes in Somerset County and parts of Westmoreland, Fayette, Indiana, Cambria, Bedford and Blair, appears on the upswing, she said, given increases in turkey reproduction in 2012 and '13. In units 2F and 2G in northwestern and northcentral Pennsylvania, turkey populations remain below the statewide average but are on the rise, and hunters should do a bit better this spring than last, Casalena added.

One other unit in this region is holding its own — albeit at a high level — while another is struggling.

Unit 2D, which takes in Armstrong County and parts of Butler, Westmoreland, Indiana, Jefferson, Clarion and Venango, is prime turkey country. It ranks fifth statewide in spring harvest density.

But populations vary within the unit, not just by locations but also by type of gobbler.
Casalena said hunters should expect a “slightly above-average population of the experienced and wary 3- and 4-year-olds, slightly below-average populations of more-easily-called-in 2-year-old gobblers and an above-average population of jakes.”

Things aren't as rosy in unit 2A — once the best of the best — which takes in Greene County and parts of Washington, Westmoreland, Beaver and Fayette. The harvest there should continue to be below average, she said.

Remember that anywhere can be good. Locate some birds and call one — just one — in, and you can fill a tag. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

PA Game Commission Spring Turkey Forecast

Mary Jo Casalena, PGC Turkey Biologist, discusses what hunters can expect for the 2015 spring turkey season in Pennsylvania. She also gives helpful hints specific to hunting turkey in the spring..