Sunday, February 17, 2019

PA Orange rules changes get preliminary approval | Bob Frye

Orange is not appealing to turkey hunters.
Fall turkey hunters might soon no longer have to wear or post orange in Pennsylvania.
Photo: Howard Communications
This is proving the exception so far.
In January, Pennsylvania Game Commissioners preliminarily changed the opening day of the statewide firearms deer season, expanded bear hunting seasons, shortened fall turkey seasons and more.
All generated talk, some of it loud.
But not this.
Commissioners at their last meeting also preliminarily reduced how much fluorescent orange hunters have to wear, and when.
And the response from hunters?
“Crickets,” said commissioner Brian Hoover of Chester County of the silence.
Commissioners have talked about changing the rules for more than a year. Word was out that they were going to do something last month.
Still, they said they received no hunter feedback. Agency staff likewise heard nothing from sportsmen.
Under the proposal adopted — which must get final approval at the board’s April 8-9 meeting to go into effect on July 1 – there are two real changes.
First, archers, whether chasing deer or bear, would not have to wear orange at all, even when moving in or out of the woods. They would not need to post orange around their stand either.
Second, fall turkey hunters wouldn’t have to wear fluorescent orange material either, while moving or when set up.
Commissioner Scott Foradora of Clearfield County said the commission would “highly recommend” that both archers and turkey hunters wear orange while moving, especially at those times when their seasons overlap with others involving firearms.
But the board doesn’t want to require it.
Or, at least, most of the board doesn’t.
The rules changes didn’t pass unanimously. The vote was 7-1, with commissioner Jim Daley of Butler County registering an emphatic “no.”
A long-time hunter education instructor, Daley objected most vociferously to the elimination of orange requirements for fall turkey hunting.
Up until now, fall turkey hunters wore 250 square inches of orange while moving, and placed an orange band around a nearby tree when stationary.
Daley wanted at least some, if not all, of those requirements to remain.
“Why is turkey hunting different? Well, turkey’s different because I sit there and I make turkey sounds with a turkey call. So in many ways I’m imitating the game animal that I’m trying to pursue. The other thing is, while I’m imitating that game animal I may be working a box call so now I’ve added movement to that,” he said.
“That’s what adds danger. That’s why turkey is different.”
He shared the story of 24-year-old widow he met. Her husband was shot in the eye at 24 feet by a 60-year-old hunter. The younger hunter died, and his wife, the cousin he was hunting with, the older hunter who shot him and a 13-year-old accompanying him are all dealing with the consequences,
“Had (the victim) had an orange hat on, that would not have happened,” Daley said.
The majority of the board, though, disagreed.
In explaining their vote, they cited the fact there are fewer hunters in the woods chasing turkeys, and they’re usually using shotguns as opposed to rifles. It’s hard to hunt turkeys while wearing orange, they added, as the birds see color.
Their prime motivation, though, was simplification.
By the commission’s own admission, its rules regarding the wearing of orange are among the most complex anywhere. Even with the changes, the state would still be “one of the most restrictive” in the nation.”
Eleven states require no orange. Ten require it only when hunting big game, and 20 more only when hunting big game with a firearm.
The other nine, including Pennsylvania, “have a mixture of instances in which it is required.”
The commission wants to make things easier for everyone to understand, said commissioner Charlie Fox of Bradford County, who started the whole effort to address the orange rules.
This puts more of an onus on the hunter, he said.
“It’s personal responsibility,” Fox said.
The new rules wouldn’t totally eliminate the need to wear orange.
Hunters in deer, bear, elk firearms seasons, small game season, and those hunting coyotes during daylight hours within open deer, bear or elk firearms seasons, would still need 250 square inches of orange material on the head, chest and back combined, visible from 360 degrees, at all times. Woodchuck hunters would still need an orange hat.
Hunters pursuing deer, bear or elk from an enclosed blind would still be required to post a minimum amount of orange nearby, too.
All of those rules exist now.
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Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-838-5148 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

Thursday, February 14, 2019


HARRISBURG, PA - One of these years, Pennsylvania is going to break the 4,000-bear
barrier for a third time in annual black bear harvests.
There was hope it would in 2018 with a bear population estimated at 20,000 and a fine start to the November firearms season. But unfavorable weather conditions dashed those hopes.
The 2018 bear harvest came in at 3,153 bears, 11th-best all-time, but also the lowest bear harvest in the past 11 years.
“I thought Pennsylvania was capable of producing a 4,000-bear harvest the past two years,” explained Mark Ternent, Game Commission bear biologist. “But we’ve had some bad breaks with weather events during our bear seasons the past two years.
“With better hunting conditions, I do believe hunters would have taken another 1,000 bears in each of the past two seasons,” he said.
A season-by-season breakdown shows hunters took 2,017 bears (1,862 in 2017) in the general firearms season, 699 (1,083) in the extended season, 424 (493) in the archery season, and 12 in the early season.
A rainy bear firearms opener hamstrung the 2017 harvest by hundreds of bears. The same thing happened on the 2018 extended bear season opener, which also is the opening day of firearms deer season.
Opening-day harvests are typically responsible for 50 to 60 percent of the bear harvest during that particular season segment. When weather interferes, the season’s take suffers.
Seventy bears weighing 500 pounds or more, including 20 weighing 600 pounds or more, were part of the 2018 harvest.
Bears were taken in 60 counties and 22 of Pennsylvania’s 23 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs).
Even with new bear-hunting opportunities – including an earlier bear archery season that overlapped with a week of the archery deer season and expanded extended bear seasons – the bear harvest failed to reach management objectives.
That unfulfilled harvest potential has generated interest to further increase bear-hunting opportunities. Proposals to expand the mid-October muzzleloader and special firearms deer seasons to include bears statewide; increase to two weeks the length of the statewide archery bear season and shifting it to the two weeks following the muzzleloader and special firearms bear seasons; and expanding four-day extended bear seasons to six days in most WMUs in the 2019-20 bears seasons could be adopted at the April Board of Game Commissioners meeting.
Pennsylvania’s all-time bear harvest high was recorded in 2011, when 4,350 bears were harvested. Hunters harvested 4,164 in 2005. All other bear harvests have been under 4,000.
While the 2018 harvest was down compared to 2017’s harvest of 3,438, harvest totals increased within the Game Commission’s Northcentral and Northeast regions.
The largest bear harvested in 2018 weighed an estimated 780 pounds. It was taken with a rifle in Howe Township, Forest County, on the second day of the general bear season in WMU 2F by Michael J. Rubeo, of Mercer.
A day later, a 708-pound male was taken by Timothy J. Weaver, of Dallas, Pa., with a rifle in Harvey’s Lake Borough, Luzerne County.
Other large bears taken during the state’s slate of bear seasons – all but one taken with a rifle – include: a 704-pound male taken Nov. 17 in Goshen Township, Clearfield County, by Mickey L. Moore, of Clearfield; a 697-pound male taken Nov. 19 in Chapman Township, Clinton County, by Scott Yorty, of Bloomsburg; a 688-pound male taken in the extended season in Stroud Township, Monroe County, by Phillip R. Counterman, of East Stroudsburg; a 681-pounder taken Nov. 17 in Coal Township, Northumberland County, by Robert L. Britton III, of Coal Township; a 680-pounder taken Nov. 19 in Chest Township, Clearfield County, by Douglas D. Routch, of Curwensville; a 679-pound male taken with a handgun Nov. 17 in Farmington Township, Warren County, by Jordan Tutmaher, of Warren; a 666-pound male taken Nov. 20 in Snyder Township, Jefferson County, by Earl F. Timothy, of Brockway; and a 627-pound male taken Nov. 19 in Snyder Township, Jefferson County, by Wayne C. Kline, of Reynoldsville.
Tioga County finished with 166 bears to take the top county bear harvest. It was followed by Lycoming County with 159. Other top counties for bear harvests in 2018 were: Clinton, 158; Huntingdon, 142; Potter, 109; Luzerne, 105; Pike, 104; and Monroe, 103.
Final county harvests by region (with 2017 figures in parentheses) are:
Northwest – 517 (388): Venango, 96 (61); Crawford, 79 (40); Jefferson, 79 (55); Warren, 72 (109); Forest, 70 (35); Clarion, 52 (51); Erie, 29 (13); Butler, 26 (18); Mercer, 13 (6); and Lawrence, 1 (0).
Southwest – 261 (237): Somerset, 85 (75); Fayette, 58 (66); Indiana, 34 (11); Armstrong, 33 (36); Westmoreland, 26 (26); Cambria, 21 (21); Allegheny, 2 (1); Beaver, 1 (0); and Greene, 1 (1).
Northcentral – 989 (1,187): Tioga, 166 (214); Lycoming, 159 (252); Clinton, 158 (153); Potter 109 (161); Centre, 87 (93); Clearfield, 87 (66); Cameron, 67 (52); McKean, 67 (86); Elk, 54 (72); and Union, 35 (38).
Southcentral – 474 (383): Huntingdon, 142 (91); Bedford, 80 (57); Fulton, 58 (29); Blair, 44 (27); Juniata, 34 (41); Perry, 31 (44); Mifflin, 29 (43); Franklin, 26 (24); Cumberland, 12 (8); Adams, 7 (6); Snyder, 7 (13); and York, 4 (0).
Northeast – 775 (1,112): Pike, 104 (193); Luzerne, 105 (108); Monroe, 103 (82); Bradford, 96 (112); Wayne, 70 (156); Carbon, 60 (57); Sullivan, 53 (156); Susquehanna, 46 (66); Wyoming, 40 (70); Lackawanna, 34 (65); Columbia, 38 (29); Northumberland, 24 (16); and Montour, 2 (2).
Southeast – 137 (131): Schuylkill, 50 (47); Dauphin, 48 (49); Northampton, 17 (19); Lebanon, 10 (8); Berks, 8 (7); and Lehigh, 4 (1).
The final bear harvests by Wildlife Management Unit (with final 2016 figures in parentheses) were: WMU 1A, 23 (17); WMU 1B, 161 (103); WMU 2A, 7 (3) WMU 2B, 4 (4); WMU 2C, 193 (207); WMU 2D, 155 (131); WMU 2E, 75 (39); WMU 2F, 259 (232); WMU 2G, 422 (474); WMU 2H, 73 (87); WMU 3A, 222 (213); WMU 3B, 223 (457); WMU 3C, 134 (262); WMU 3D, 323 (417); WMU 4A, 218 (96); WMU 4B, 114 (130); WMU 4C, 168 (157); WMU 4D, 252 (296); WMU 4E, 105 (94); WMU 5A, 8 (7); WMU 5B, 4 (1); and WMU 5C, 10 (11).
While the overall harvest was down in 2017 and 2018, primarily because of weather events, those light harvests could lead to excellent bear hunting this fall, Ternent said. Prior to the start of the 2017 and 2018 hunting seasons, the statewide bear population was estimated at 20,000. It’s still appears to be holding strong.
Lower-than-expected bear harvests the past two years still produced a combined bear harvest of more than 6,500 bears, including more than a hundred 500-pounders, said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. Just 40 years ago, the agency had closed bear season to protect the resource.
“Just 40 years removed from a time when the Game Commission was closing bear season to safeguard the resource, Pennsylvania has become one of North America’s premier black-bear destinations,” emphasized Burhans. “You probably would have to go back in time more than 100 years to find bear hunting comparable to what Penn’s Woods offers today!”