Perhaps it’s a coincidence or just good timing but the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) has established three livestream cameras at eagle nests, snow geese at Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area and a bear den, a subject we covered in our column.
According to the PGC, a new 24/7 livestream from a black bear den in Pike County was launched this week and will run into the spring of 2023. This is the first time since 2021 that the PGC has offered an up-close look inside a bear den. The agency says there are few dens in known spots where cameras can be installed and where footage can be streamed to viewers. But the PGC learned of this den for installation that’s located under the deck of a residence in Pike.
PGC Information and Education Director Steve Smith said, “While all of our wildlife livestreams are popular, there’s nothing like watching and listening to bear cubs as they begin to explore their surroundings and ultimately emerge from the den with their mothers to see their new world in Penn’s Woods.
The livestreams are a collaborative effort by the PGC, HDOntap and Comcast Business. HDOntap provides the streaming services and Comcast Business provides the internet connectivity for the two eagle cameras.
“HDOntap is thrilled to partner with the PGC for the return of the bear den cam. Watching the sow raise her cubs is a rare and beautiful experience. The bear cam is a staff favorite as it’s a joy to watch the cubs play, learn and grow every day, and we know viewers will feel the same,” said Kate Alexander of HDOntap.
Pennsylvania’s black bear cubs usually are born in January and begin walking in about eight weeks. They leave their den when 3 months old. During the 2019 run, the PGC said the bears left their den on April 11 and in 2021, their departure date was March 24.
As for the Farm Country Bald Eagle Livestream, the nest cam is located on a long-established nest in a giant sycamore tree overlooking scenic farmland in Hanover Pa. Bald eagles typically lay eggs in mid-February and, if the eggs are viable, they’ll hatch in mid-to late March with young fledging in June. But they do continue to return to the nest.
For the snow geese, who overwinter in Middle Creek, their migration typically peaks there from mid-February to March. It’s a sight to see all the thousands of white geese in the waters of Middle Creek.
To view all of these livestreams, go directly to HDOntap or through www.pgc.pa.gov.
While on the subject of black bears, an interesting story comes from Grand View Outdoors who reported that a male black bear from New York trekked roughly 140 miles from his last known release site before succumbing to injuries sustained in a vehicle collision in Pennsylvania.
As the report goes, on Dec 26, 2022, a bear was recovered after it was struck by a vehicle and killed on SR 11, between Northumberland and Danville in northeast Pennsylvania.
It was learned that this bear was ear-tagged by the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation and was found up a tree in the middle of Albany, NY, on May 31, 2022. It was tranquilized and relocated to Delaware County, NY in the Catskills. Like many people who are moving from NYC to PA, guess this bear wanted to move here as well.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) sent out a point of information on what is occurring in Pennsylvania’s quiet forests right now.
What they speak of is the many female black bears who are in a den and have not had anything to eat, drink or have defecated since fall and are awakening from their winter hibernation to give birth. Their den could be in a cave, an outcropping, underneath a boulder, even in a hole produced by an uprooted tree. Some may even den-up under a deck of a mountain home and often unbeknown to its owner.
According to the PGC, a female bear gives birth to from one to five cubs, with three being the most common. The cubs weigh just eight to ten ounces at birth and with unopened eyes and having almost no fur on their bodies, are typically born the first few weeks in January. The cubs are kept alive by their mother’s warmth and rich milk. Bear milk, says the PGC, has a fat content of nearly 30 percent and may be the highest of any land mammal.
After about six weeks, the cub’s eyes open and in about two more weeks, they walk. They’re able to leave the den when they’re three months old and are weaned by seven months. By fall they usually weigh 60-100 pounds.
Many moons ago I, along with my 9-year old son, had the privilege of accompanying Gary Alt, the PGC’s bear biologist at the time, on a known female bear den site inspection. The purpose was to check the den for the number of cubs inside, weigh and measure the mother and her cubs, plus place ear tags on the female and her cubs.
To do so, Alt, crawled partially into the den and with a poke stick, stuck the female bear with a tranquilizing dart. Waiting a few minutes for the dart to take effect, Alt along with his assistant, pulled the 300-pound plus female out of the den to weigh, measure it and take milk samples from its teats. Alt showed us how thick the milk was that appeared to be the consistency of sour cream.
Before removing the cubs, Alt allowed me to crawl in the den to take some pictures as the three cubs were cuddled together. Alt then crawled in to bring out the cubs to process them.
When the processing was completed, Alt placed the cubs back in the den then pushed the female back in but not before putting Vicks on her nose. The purpose of that was so she didn’t smell human odor on the cubs, which she could reject them if she did. It was a nature experience I nor my son will never forget.
For more information on Pennsylvania’s black bears and their management check https://bit.ly/3CIQdN3.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission is once again asking the public to report any sightings of wild turkeys to them. This is a statewide effort to provide information on annual survival rates, annual spring harvest rates and other dynamics.
The public is asked to provide the date and location of the sightings plus the type of land (public, private or unknown) where the birds were seen.
According to the PGC, crews will visit those sites to assess the flocks reported, to determine the potential to put leg bands on male turkeys statewide. Turkeys, they say, will not be moved as they’ll simply be leg banded and released on site in four Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) and some will also be outfitted with GPS transmitters. Then released back on site to be monitored over time. Trapping turkeys during winter is part of the PGC’s ongoing population monitoring as well as a large-scale turkey study.
According to Mary Jo Casalena, PGC’s turkey biologist, “This data will give us information on annual survival rates and annual spring harvest rates for our population model and provides the person reporting information on when and approximately where it was banded.”
She goes on to explain that just like the last three winters where leg bands were put on male turkeys statewide and when hunters harvest one of these birds or people who find one dead, the PGC asks that they be reported along with the leg band number be either calling the toll-free number or emailing the PGC using the email address on the band. New this year, the leg bands will have a website on them for direct reporting the information into the database.
The PGC will attach GPS transmitters to a sampling of turkeys in WMUs 2D, 3D, 4D and 5C and on approximately 150 hens and 100 males. The four areas have different landscapes, turkey population densities, spring hunter and harvest densities.
Casalena added, “We’re studying turkey population and movement dynamics, disease prevalence and other aspects that may limit populations. And these studies are being done in partnership with Penn State University and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wildlife Futures Program.
The study will also focus on the population and movement portion of the work on how landscape and weather impact hen nest success, poult survival, predation, habitat and movement. The disease portion of the study involves examining how disease prevalence varies on landscape, and how it impacts things like the survival and nesting rates of hens and different ages. This, says the PGC, is accomplished by collecting blood, tracheal and skin from turkeys that receive backpack style transmitters at the time of capture.
This turkey study will continue next winter for both males and females and continue through 2025 for hens, so that in the end, the PGC will monitor more than 400 females and more than 200 males.
Says Casalena, “This is the largest turkey project we have ever conducted with the hope of answering many questions regarding current turkey population dynamics. But finding birds to trap is the key to accomplishing the work. And this is where the public comes in as they even helped with monitoring sites and trapping last year.”
To report sightings between now and March 15 go to http://pgcdatacollection.pa.gov/TurkeyBroodSurvey.
If you still have an unfilled antlered or antlerless deer hunting tag, you get another shot sort of speak when specific seasons open Dec 26.
For firearm hunters, the antlerless deer season runs Dec. 26 – Jan. 28 in Wildlife Management Units (WMU) 2B, 5C and 5D.
If you’re hunting with a flintlock, the season for antlered and antlerless deer runs Dec. 26 – Jan. 16 in WMUs 1A, 1B, 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5A and 5B provided you have a muzzleloader license. The flintlock season is longer if hunting in 2B, 5C, and 5D that runs Dec 26 – Jan. 29.
If you’re a bowhunter, the archery deer season for antlered and antlerless runs Dec. 26 – Jan. 28 in WMUs 2B, 5C, and 5D.
For those bowhunters hunting in WMUs 1A, 1B, 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 5B, the season runs Dec. 26 – Jan. 16.
Now if you’ve already filled your tags but love to hunt possibly with some snow on the ground, the small game season also reopens for Squirrel, Pheasant and rabbits from Dec.26 – Feb. 27.
Waterfowlers can also pursue the resident ducks until Jan. 21, and the resident goose population that runs Dec. 12 – Jan 14 and again from Feb. 3 – Feb. 25.
Snow geese have arrived with a sizable flock spotted in East Allen Township, Northampton County. Their seasons run from now until Jan. 28 and then the Conservation Hunt kicks off Jan. 30 – Apr. 20.
Snow geese do a lot of damage to local farmers winter wheat crops and many would be most happy to have you hunt them, with permission of course.
Recently posted on The Sportsmen Party’s Facebook page was crossbow hunter Dave Kammerdieneer’s new Pennsylvania record bull elk that scored 446 Boone & Crockett Club points that beat the old record of 400 2/8 according to the posting. The majestic elk was taken on 9-15-22 in Pebble Run, Clearfield County and had 11 points on the right antler and seven on the left.
As for the recent deer hunting season, Bob Danenhower, of Bob’s Wildlife Taxidermy in Orefield, has had one of his best seasons with loads of 8-point and better bucks brought in for shoulder mounts. When asked, he said that most of the trophy racks were brought in during the archery season as opposed to firearms season.
While his business in booming, he said it’s also true for deer processors. Danenhower said a lot of butchers have had to turn deer away since they’re inundated with more work that they can handle. And over the year there are less butchers as some retired or just couldn’t get the help. And there’s another season forthcoming.
Now that the rifle deer hunting season has ended, and before it kicks off again Dec. 26 in selected WMUs and for flintlock firearm hunters, there’s still some fishing action if you don’t mind traveling to the Jersey shore.
According to our fishing reporters from On the Water Magazine, there were striper blitzes on the beaches with anglers blind casting to holes and around jetties with fish up to 40 inches being hooked. Bass were hitting metal-lipped swimmers, shads and bucktails. There were also reports of better togging on the reefs and wrecks for boat anglers.
Rick Hebert from Tackle World in Rochelle Park, had good reports of bass in the ocean opposite the Highlands Bridge and from Manasquan Inlet on South. He added that blackfishing has picked up on the local reefs.
Mike Pinto, at Giglio’s Bait and Tackle in Sea Bright, said there were blasts of bass on the beach over the weekend but things have slowed a bit. Anglers are still catching some keepers on shads, swimming plugs and poppers.
Mike Gleason, at TAK Waterman in Long Branch, reported there were blitzes on every beach last Saturday with surfers throwing bass assassins, bucktails and metal-lipped swimmers. He said the fish were a mix of sizes but there were some 30 pounders. He added that stripers had peanuts pinned against the beach in Ocean Grove and Bradley Beach last Friday. One bass looked like it would explode if it ate just one more peanut he surmised.
Bob Matthews, at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar, said stripers are requiring a little more work but they’re still chasing bunker however the bait is not as wide spread as it was a few days ago. He recommends more casting and less looking is the better tactic. Matthews believes Tsunami sand eels fished with a teaser if the smaller fish are around. The better fishing lately, he added, has been on the beaches of Southern Ocean County.
Lloyd Bailey, at the Reel Seat in Brielle, said striper fishing remains good in his area. He and members of the Berkeley Striper Club tagged and released more than 600 stripers over the weekend. The bass were caught from boats and in the surf. The bite was best from the Manasquan Inlet to the south with Mantoloking being a hot spot. He also received good reports on blackfishing with fish 9 to 13 pounds being caught. There were also some bluefin hooked inshore by boat anglers.
Jason Szabo, of Fishermen’s Supply in Point Pleasant Beach, reported striper action remains reliable. There are occasional blitzes but blind casting along the beaches is producing fish he reports. Szabo said there are plenty of bass in Manasquan River and back through the Point Pleasant Canal that are hitting soft plastics. Blackfishing saw an improvement especially in the deeper drops. He also heard of a few bluefin tuna caught in the shipping lanes on popping plugs and RonZ lures.
Scott Thomas, at Grumpy’s Bait & Tackle in Seaside Park, said there were a few bass blitzes for anglers working the holes. Bass up to 40 inches were hooked on bucktails, shads, Mag Darters and SP Minnows.
If you’re an owner of an outboard boat motor and haven’t as yet prepared it for winter storage, don’t wait until the snow flies to do so. The folks at Yamaha offer these winterizing tips that you can do yourself to save the cost of taking it to a boat dealer.
For starters, Yamaha recommends draining any water out of the engine as any water will turn to ice, expand, and likely break something like the powerhead. In case you’ve never attempted this before, simply trim the motor all the way in toward the transom and any water remaining inside will come out.
Next, treat the fuel left in the tank. The ethanol-mix fuel in the tank will be setting there and trying to separate all winter and the water that comes out will sink to the bottom of the tank where the fuel pickup is located. That water will be the first thing that will go into your fuel system when trying to start the engine in spring; The easy way to avoid this is to put fuel stabilizer in the tank like is done in lawn mowers, weed wackers and leaf blowers. The stabilizer, says Yamaha, prevents the fuel from separating so no water goes into the cylinders.
Batteries, if left in the boat, do not like cold weather. If the boat battery gets fully discharged in winter, it can freeze and could crack the housing. If your boat is stored outside, it’s recommended to remove the battery and store it inside where it can’t freeze. Yamaha also suggests putting a trickle charger on it over the winter as it can keep the battery at or near full charge so it will be ready to start the motor in spring.
It’s also a good idea to change your four-stroke outboard oil to get rid of dirt and acids that may have accumulated inside. There are videos on motor company websites showing how to do this job. It’s far from a fun job as you’ll need a collector pan, funnel and filter. Once the oil is drained, the next problem is what to do with the old oil. If there’s not a recycling place that will take the oil, you may want to ask your local service station where you may take your vehicle for a lube and oil change. Or take it to the dealer where you bought the car or truck and ask the service manager.
This may be a good time to also to change the lower unit gear oil. Another unpleasant task. Again, check the website to see how it’s done. West Marine also has a video on this task.
Tis the time for snow sports. And yes, our local ski areas are making snow for your downhill enjoyment.
At Bear Creek Resort in Macungie, Gary Klein, Director of Marketing, said Bear has not yet set an opening date but they are in the process of making snow and are open for Season Pass holder purchase. So, he advises to check Bear’s website for dates and times.
New for this snow season is the Polar Bar, a new outdoor bar located at the base of the mountain. They’ve also added RFID gates on their beginner carpet and their very popular tubing area to make access quicker and easier.
Blue Mountain Resort in Palmerton with the largest vertical and some of the longest runs in the state, opened for limited skiing on Thanksgiving Day. It also has one of the largest snowmaking systems in the state that covers its 171 skiable acres.
In case you haven’t visited Blue in recent years, it has 40 trails that include 14 beginner, six intermediate, 11 expert, four expert only and five terrain parks. In addition, there’s a 46-lane Snow Tubing Park that Blue says is the country’s fastest. It’s also the most popular for families that don’t ski or snowboard.
A new addition for the 2022-23 snow sports season is the Main Street Express lift which replaces two double lifts and improves access to the western part of the mountain. It also connects between Valley Lodge and Summit Lodge. The new lift, according to Marguarite Clark, Blue Public Relations Manager, will transport riders from bottom to top in under five minutes and accommodate 3,000 guest per hour.
Also new at Blue is the all-lit nighttime, after-dark Sonic Tubing with music for its over 1,000-foot-long 46 lanes that’s serviced by three lifts. Tubers can choose between single or double tubes.
Clark added that the first slopes to be opened will include Paradise, Tut’s Lane, Connector, Vista, Burma Road, Shuttle, Homestretch, Frontier Alley, School Hill (terrain park on this trail) and Free Fall. All will be serviced by the Comet or Challenge lifts.
Up at Camelback Resort in the Poconos, they opened their largest in the country snowtubing park this past Saturday with 10 of its 40 snowtubing lanes. The lanes will be open for day and night tubing in solo, double or chained tubes. Two Magic Carpet lifts will service the snowtubing park.
Camelbacks’ all-lit after-dark Galactic Tubing is back and features it’s tubing party slope side that’s complete with music, disco lighting and up to 40 lightning-fast lanes serviced by two magic carpet lifts.
Snowtubing sessions are two hours long and start every hour on the hour. To save time, tickets may be purchased online at www.camelbackresort.com/ski-tube/poconos-pa-snowtubing.
Snowtubing is complimentary Monday-Friday on non-holidays with purchase of an Unlimited Value Season Pass. Riders must be 44 inches tall to ride alone. Riders who are 33-43 inches tall may ride in a double tube or chain with a participating adult.
As for skiing, Camelback is blowing snow on major trails but it’s best to check their website for updates on ski/boarding dates and times.
The most anticipated hunting season is about to open Saturday, Nov. 26 when approximately a million orange-clad hunters take to field and forest for the opening of Pennsylvania’s statewide firearms deer hunting season.
This year the season includes a Sunday, Nov. 27 hunting opportunity for a season that continues on Monday, Nov. 28-Saturday, Dec. 10 and includes both antlered and antlerless deer.
It’s been a long-standing tradition that most schools are closed for the first day of firearms deer season as some teachers take off to hunt as do fathers who take their sons and daughters as the first day was traditionally on a Monday after Thanksgiving. And for veteran hunters who travel to their upstate deer camps on a Friday night, the Sunday date gives them an extra day to get lucky.
As seasoned hunters know, most bucks are taken on the first day of the season, and in the past, it was the first Saturday after the opener as well. So this earlier start should have more hunters in the woods to move the deer.
Not only is Pennsylvania known for large bears, it’s also known for a lot of deer.
Proof of that are the following statewide harvest estimates for the states Wildlife Management Units for the 2021-2022 season for all hunting mediums and with “A” representing Antlered deer, “AL” denoting Antlerless deer, and “T” for totals.
1A, 6,000A, 13,200AL, 19,200T; 1B, 9,300A, 12,600AL, 21,900T; 2A, 6,800A, 10,600AL, 17,400T; 2B, 5,200A, 12,100AL, 17,300T; 2C, 9,300A, 15,400AL, 24,700T; 2D. 11.500A, 19,900AL, 31,400T: 2E, 5,900A, 9,500AL, 15,400T; 2F, 8,900A, 10,200AL, 19,100T; 2G, 6,200A, 4,800AL, 11,000T; 2H, 2,500A, 1,900AL. 4,400T: 3A, 5,400A, 5,400AL, 10,800T; 3B, 6,700A, 7,600AL, 14,300T; 3C, 7,600A, 9,400AL, 17,000T; 3D, 4,700A, 6,300AL, 11,000T; 4A, 4,900A, 10,300AL, 15,200T; 4B, 3,500A, 8,400AL, 11,900T; 4C, 5,700A, 6,400AL, 12,100T; 4D, 7,200A, 10,300AL, 17,500T; 4E, 7,900A, 11,800AL, 19,700T; 5A, 3,100A, 7,200AL, 10,300T; 5B, 7,800A, 17,100AL, 24,900T; 5C, 6,600A, 14,700AL, 21,300T; 5D, 2,600A, 6,300AL, 8,900T; Unk, 20A, 90AL, 110T for a gender total of 145,320A, 231,490AL and an overall total of 376,810 deer taken during last season.
For hunters looking for a more productive hunting area, the top three WMUs were 2D, followed by 5B and 1B.
For our local 5C, there was a 10 percent decrease in the total deer harvest estimate going from 23,600 (combined) in 2020-2021 to 21,300 in 2021-22 season. This is a bit less in comparison to 24,015 (combined) in the 2018-19 season.
But locally, bowhunters in 5C scored a statewide second highest in the overall archery deer hunting season with 4,700A, 6,890AL taken for a total of 11,620. The top WMU was 5B with 5,040A, 7,280AL for a total of 12,320.
It’s been reported that the bucks are generally larger, rack size, compared to some past years. According to Bob Danenhower, of Bob’s Wildlife Taxidermy in Orefield, he has been getting in a lot of thick tined 8-pointers with several 10s and 12-pointers to mount. Bowhunters have been telling him they saw more large racked deer this season than they have in the past. Firearm hunters will likely capitalize on them as they can reach out considerably farther than a bowhunter can on the biggies that were out of range for their bows.
If you’re hunting from an elevated tree stand, don’t forget to wear a safety belt. The PGC points out that this is the time when most falls from tree stands occur.
Pennsylvania’s regular statewide bear hunting season kicks of Saturday, Nov. 19 to 22 and includes a Sunday (Nov. 20) hunt. There’s also an extended season that runs during parts of the firearms deer season. It runs from Nov. 26 – Dec. 3 in WMUs 1B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E and 5A including the Saturday and Sunday that mark the first two days of the season, and from Nov. 26 – Dec. 10 in WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D, which includes the entirety of deer season.
According to Emily Carrollo, PGC’s black bear biologist, “Pennsylvania has lots of bears and lots of big ones. If there’s ever been a great time to be a Pennsylvania bear hunter, this is it.”
And the numbers prove it. Hunters took 3,659 bears on 2021 making it the fifth-best harvest year. It included 672 bears during the archery season and 536 for hunters hunting during the muzzleloader and special firearms season. Those 1,208 bears amounted to about one-third of the 2021 season harvest.
Speaking of big bears, so far during the archery, muzzleloader and special firearms season, hunters already took three bears over 700 pounds.
As of last week, the largest bear taken was a 755-pound bruin from Monroe County; 747-pounder from Lycoming; 705 from Monroe; 693 from Potter; 681 from Bedford; 681 from Clearfield; 610 Centre; and 601 from Monroe. All are estimated live weights. There was also a photo posted on Facebook by a Justin Frey and it shows an estimated live weight 710-pounder.
But the north country isn’t the only place bears roam. Recently a bear was seen in the development above Guthsville R&G Club in Orefield and another was seen on a homeowners’ Ring camera on Mauch Chunk Road. Judging from the photos of those two, it appears they’re 200-pounders.
A friend who recently lived in a gated community in Albrightsville, Carbon County, had a bruin in his back yard last year that he believed weighed around 900 pounds, and the local game warden agreed when he spotted it.
The top 10 harvest counties for the early seasons are Tioga (80); Lycoming (76); Potter (71); Clinton (65); Luzerne (63); Centre (55); Monroe (52); Bradford (50); Clearfield (50) and Carbon (48).
A partial breakdown of the above was 7 in the early archery season in WMUs 2B, 3C, 5D; 1434 in the combined archery/muzzleloader/Spl. Firearms seasons, for a total harvest of 1,441 bear.
The 2021 regular bear season contributed to the biggest portion of the harvest when hunters took 1,314 bears across four days. The extended bear season added 1,127 bears. And during that time, hunters took at least one bear in 59 of the state’s 67 counties, and in 22 of its 23 WMUs.
During the 2021 season, Lycoming County had the largest harvest (211) followed by Potter (180) with Pike (167) third.
The heaviest bear in 2021 was a 722-pound male taken with a shotgun in the extended season in Letterkenny Township, Franklin County.
So far, the record largest bear ever taken in Pennsylvania was an 875-pounder in 2010 from Smithfield Township, Pike County. Since 1922, the PGC says seven black bears weighing at least 800 pounds were lawfully harvested in Pennsylvania’s bear hunting seasons.
For hunters taking one of these 800-pound plus bears, it certainly must be a chore getting it out of the woods and to a PGC check station. Perhaps a roll-back tow truck would be needed if a hunter manages to down that 900-pounder in Albrightsville.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.