Sunday, August 28, 2016

New map technology literally in the palm of your hand

Most Pennsylvania hunters will find this scenario all too familiar: You’re hunting on game lands or private property with the owner’s consent. The neighboring landowner isn’t as comfortable with hunters but has not posted the property line.
State law is clear on this. Landowners who want no trespassers are not required to mark their properties as off limits. Hunters have no legal right to enter a property just because they see no “No Hunting” signs.
But where exactly — among Pennsylvania’s 28.605 million acres of mountains, hills, ravines, pastures, corporate holdings and residential plots — is the property line?
Here’s another scenario: You find an unposted property and you’d like to ask for permission to hunt, but who owns it? And who has time to rummage through the prothonotary office?

Now, hunters can always know precisely where they are relative to property lines, political boundaries and the borders of wildlife management units.
“That’s pretty much what we do,” said Zach Sandau, digital marketer for OnXMaps, a Montana company that for about six years has been buying from states, counties, townships and other jurisdictions maps showing lines of land demarcation. That information is uploaded, and overlaid on digital topographic maps with tiles showing additional information. Customers download the maps to their GPS units or apps for iPhones and Android devices.
Now the hunting scenario changes: You glance at your hand-held device and see precisely where you are relative to every unseen border line that matters.
Easy access to digital mapping could be a game changer for users outdoor spaces. Because the new high-tech products do not directly impact fair chase standards, the chip and phone app are legal in all 50 states.
“We’re not a big company,” said Sandau, who has been working for OnXMaps for a year. “When this first started it was just the company president himself putting western states on a chip. Now, we have 50 people. We purchase the information and have 15 GPS specialists check it and put it together.”
Some counties are more efficient, quicker to respond or more accurate than others, he said, sometimes requiring multiple sourcing for accuracy. Every region of the United States is not yet detailed on OnXMaps products, but all of Pennsylvania is covered.
Hunting, hiking, biking or paddling n a remote dead zone? That won’t impact reception by GPS units. Before the trip, download the relevant maps and tiles on a smart phone, and call it up when you need it.
Having all that information literally at your fingertips doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. OnXMaps chips and app downloads cost about $15 to $35.
Find OnXMaps at

Custom Knife Makers Produce Blades Beyond The Norm

A look at two knives in Larry Rosi's Bridgeville shop,
the one at bottom finished, the one at top in the
process of completion.
Bruce Godlseky is sure of at least one thing: Everyone needs a knife.
“If you think you can go through a day without some kind of cutting tool, you're wrong,” he said. “We're always using knives, scissors, something.
“The last 15 years, I don't think there's been one day I've left the house without a knife, at least one.”
His, though, are a little different. Owner of Birdog Forge in Kiski Township, Armstrong County, Godlesky makes his own.
That makes him one of a handful of custom knife makers in the region. But just how many exist is hard to pin down.
There are a couple of national and international organizations that represent these artisans, such as The Knifemakers' Guild and the American Bladesmith Society. None are particularly large.
The Guild, for example, has only about 150 members around the world, said secretary Charlie Mathews of Twin Blades in Statesboro, Ga. That is because becoming a member takes years of being judged by peers, among other criteria.
“It's not something for everybody,” Mathews said.
Pennsylvania doesn't have its own organization like some other states.
Those in the craft often know of one another, though, said Larry Rosi of L.J. Rosi Custom Knives in Bridgeville. Tinkerers by nature and often with a stubborn streak — Rosi won't allow a knife to leave his shop until he is satisfied with it, no matter what the customer thinks — custom knife makers are a tight-knit group willing to share information.
That's because they have one thing in common, he said. They're “knife junkies.”
“It's an addiction. It's a love. It's a passion,” Rosi said. “I don't know of one knife maker who ever quit until he just got to the point where he physically couldn't do it anymore.”
Why should customers like hunters and anglers want their products, though?
That's something many people ask, Rosi said. After all, a custom knife will be more expensive — perhaps significantly so — than a factory blade.
Makers cite two reasons: performance and looks.
Every type of steel has a limit to how hard it can be, Rosi said. Make it too hard, and it will chip.
“Factory knife makers lean toward keeping theirs on the soft side because they know you're going to use it for everything you're not supposed to,” he said. “It's not just going to be a knife. It's going to be a screwdriver, a pry bar and who knows what else.”
He takes his blades to their limits, which gives them better edge retention — meaning they stay sharp — longer and better.
“My thinking is, if you buy a Ferrari, why drive it at 50 mph? Run the heck out of it. It's the same thing,” Rosi said. “If you're buying a piece of high-performance steel, heat treat it to get all out of it you can.”
Custom knives are unique, too, Godlesky said. The blade can be made of Damascus steel with any one of several patterns in the metal, for example. It can be made longer or shorter, thicker or thinner and in various shapes. Handles can be anything from bone to antler to wood, like the chunk of apricot one customer wanted used because it came from a tree planted on the family farm by relatives a century earlier.
“They wanted a touch of home, I guess,” he said. “I do a bunch of stuff like that. Whatever you imagine you can do.”
Large-scale manufacturers can't offer that level of quality and craftsmanship, nor do they really try, Mathews said.
“They're in it to spit out knives by the thousands. We produce a different product,” he said.
That takes time. It can take five hours or more to create a single knife, “and if that's if everything goes right,” Rosi said. That's why most custom makers count the knives made in a year in the hundreds, he said.
There's a satisfaction in crafting each one, though, especially if they get used, Godlesky said. Some don't.
Some custom knife makers build pieces that, while theoretically functional, are made with every intention of being put on a shelf.
“People say what are you going to do with that $10,000 piece of art? Well, the answer is you're going to hang it on the wall and look at it,” Mathews said.
“Sometimes people ask you to build a knife like that just to display it. To me, using the knife, that's part of it. But some people just want to look at them.”
Neither Rosi nor Godlesky cater to that market. They make working knives intended for hunters, anglers, trappers, campers and other outdoorsmen.
Seeing one at work in the field is the ultimate reward, Godlesky said.
“There's nothing better than getting a photo someone's sent me of them with a deer or a bear or an elk and they're holding one of my knives,” Godlesky said. “That makes me smile.
“No matter how pretty a knife is, I don't want it sitting in a safe. I want to see blood on it.”

Anyone interested in learning more about custom knives or seeing the work of local makers, Bruce Godlesky's Birdog Forge can be found at, and Larry Rosi's work can be found
Information on The Knifemakers' Guild can be found The American Bladesmith Society is
Bob Frye is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via@bobfryeoutdoors.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Trail Cameras Offer Information, So Long As They Are Used Wisely


Imagine a little kid at Christmas.
He rushes down the stairs, wide-eyed and crazy with anticipation. And why? He knows there's something under the tree for him. What exactly it might be is a mystery, but he expects it to be good.
That's what it's like with trail cameras.
Hunters — and general wildlife watchers — put them out and then can't wait to get a peak at what wanders by.
“It's pretty exciting to have a trail camera and see what's out there. Many people are interested in knowing what's on their property, what's walking through their neighborhood,” said Hal Korber, photo and video specialist for Pennsylvania Game Commission.
“It's pretty addictive.”
Getting good pictures — and from a hunting perspective, useful ones — requires thought, however.
“Here's the thing. When you get a camera, you have to determine what is your goal?” said Erich Long, owner of Drumming Log Wildlife Management, a wildlife consulting firm.
If it is to survey the deer on a property, now is the time.
C.J. Winand, a wildlife biologist and author in Maryland, runs his cameras in August, when deer families are together. Long prefers to do his mid-September.
Both agree it takes one camera for every 50 to 100 acres. It's critical to leave them there for a long time, too.
“Run your cameras for 10 days, you have a 70 to 90 percent accuracy rate on determining the total number of deer in your area. Bucks, does and fawns,” Winand said.
“Do it for two weeks and it's 90 to 95 percent.”
There is another reason why time is beneficial. Deer will change behavior if humans spend too much of it in an area, Long said. Checking trail cameras too frequently is a mistake hunters often make.
“Us being on a property, that creates stress for the deer. Create too much and you could really be negatively dictating a lot of those deer's movements,” he said. “The best thing is to get in and get out.”
Korber never moves a camera unless he's taking it out of the area permanently. Otherwise, he uses two SD cards. When he visits a camera, he takes one card out, replaces it with the other, then leaves.
“That leaves less scent and there's less disturbance,” he said.
As for where to place cameras, that is tricky in Pennsylvania.
Winand prefers to set up cameras over some type of granular bait. That concentrates deer, he said.
Feeding deer is illegal inside the confines of disease management areas here, though, and discouraged everywhere else, said Brian Singer, law enforcement supervisor in the Game Commission's southwest region office.
Pennsylvania regulations further say a hunter who puts out bait for a trail-camera survey or another purpose has to remove it at least 30 days prior to the start of any hunting season. The earliest of those are fast approaching. Archery season opens Sept. 17 in wildlife management units 2B — which surrounds Pittsburgh — and 5C and 5D in the southeast, and statewide Oct. 1.
What qualifies as having “removed” bait is open to interpretation, too.
It's not as simple as just removing a salt block, for example, Singer said. Minerals can leach into the ground, with deer returning to eat that soil.
How much has to be dug up and taken away before hunting the spot?
“You don't really know. And that's part of the problem,” Singer said.
To avoid problems, Long said hunters should place trail cameras in areas where they might hang a tree stand.
“It's just like deer scouting. If you can find a place where there are two runs coming together, a creek crossing, any kind of high-traffic area, you set up your cameras there,” he said.
Water sources are another good site, Korber said. He also likes fence rows and other travel corridors.
Long offers more advice. Deer and other wildlife invariably will learn of a camera's presence.
“From my experience, they do see something. The animals know something is there and they're always investigating,” Korber said.
How they react varies. Long said some deer, on some properties, will ignore cameras. The results of a study he did said others react differently.
“Does, once they saw the camera, they would have a negative reaction. They would stop. They would walk away. They would never run, but they were very uneasy,” Long said.
“The bucks, it was like someone slapped them on the butt with a 2-by-4. They bugged out.”
Some, he said, never return.
The only way to know how deer in a particular location react is first set to a camera to video, he said. If that reveals a camera doesn't bother them, he leaves it as is. If it makes deer uneasy, he will set it up high and angled down to minimize responses.
Despite obstacles, though, there is a lot of good to be gained from using cameras, Long said.
“They're just one of the greatest management tools we have at our fingertips. They help out with stand locations. They help in figuring out who's on the property, buck-wise,” Long said.
“They can do so much anymore. They're good to use, so long as you use them wisely.”
Bob Frye is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


HARRISBURG, PA - As we close in on a new slate of deer seasons, the Pennsylvania Game Commission is holding a big-buck photo contest to showcase some of the huge whitetails caught on trail cameras this summer and fall in Penn’s Woods.
Submissions should be sent to the Photo submissions – limited to 5 megabytes in size – must be of wild Pennsylvania deer taken with trail cameras. Winners will be selected monthly. The contest runs from Aug. 1 through Nov. 30, 2016 and photos must be taken during the month of submission.
All submissions must include the photographer’s first and last name, hometown, and the county where the deer image was recorded. The Game Commission has the right to use all submitted images. Individuals submitting photos are reminded the use of bait to attract deer to your trail cam is unlawful in Disease Management Areas and discouraged elsewhere.
Game Commission will select a group of “contending” photos for each month on the first Monday of each month starting Sept. 1 and ending Dec. 5. Once assembled, these contending photos will be placed on the Game Commission’s Facebook page in a photo album. Facebook users will determine the winning photo by “liking” the image. The contest will select monthly winners and, at its conclusion, one overall winner. Trail cameras will be awarded to all winners. The contest is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by Facebook.