Now that the major hunting seasons are over and until spring gobbler season gets underway, sportsmen can still pursue probably the toughest, most wary and wily animal in Pennsylvania. We’re talking about the coyote.
While most folks may never see a coyote, they are around and their numbers are growing. They’re even close to the city of Allentown. South Mountain and the wooded tracts off Constitution Drive harbor a few. And a friend trapped a couple behind Cedarbrook Nursing Home in South Whitehall Township. In the northern tier, the woodlands around Leaser Lake and Game Lands 217 off Route 309 hold several. In fact, during a post deer hunting season survey of local venison processing shops, Hartman’s in New Tripoli said that deer hunters in their area saw more coyotes than deer.
Coyotes are hated by sportsmen because they believe coyotes kill fawns, wild turkeys, grouse and stocked pheasants. Rural homeowners detest them because they can make a meal of their pet dog or cat. Farmers in particular often loose livestock due to coyote predation.
As for turkey’s, a few years ago I did a column on a Berks County hunter who shot a spring gobbler, and before his could retrieve it, a coyote grabbed it and ran off.
Seen on a TV show last week, a security camera at a North Carolina doctors’ office captured a coyote following a doctor into the back door of his office. The doctor thought it was a dog, but moments later the video showed the doctor quickly exiting his office with the coyote on his heels. Thanks to a scampering squirrel, the coyote spotted it and ran after it while the doctor made his escape.
Coyotes arrived in our state, says the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), back in the late ‘60s when they migrated from the Catskill Mountains in New York. From there they spread out but the largest population of them was in the Pocono Mountains. By the ‘90s, they occupied the entire state with the highest populations located across the northern half of the state.
Coyotes are often dog size weighing from 35-40 pounds and ranging from 48-60 inches. According to the PGC, their pelage colors range from light blonde, reddish blond, gray to dark brown washed with black and black. Generally though, coyotes are gray to a German shepherd coloration. Their legs are gray, tan and reddish with black markings or lines down the front of their front legs. The cheeks and behind the ears are reddish or chestnut colored. However, the PGC points out that blonde reddish and black coyotes may not have any noticeable black stripes on their front legs. Their ears are erect and their bottle brush tails are usually in a downward position. Normally, their eyes are yellow, but some with brown eyes have been found.
These descriptions easily fit a number of dog species, particularly the shepherd, so it’s easy to mistake a coyote for a dog.
Now that cabin fever has set in with the spring gobbler hunting season still some ways off, hunting coyotes can be challenging and it’s not easy. To seriously hunt them, avid coyote hunters shell out some serious money for electronic calls, lights for night hunting, small caliber centerfire rifles so as to not damage a pelt and other gear that is often needed. And all this for pelts that average $13.87 per the Pennsylvania Trapper’s Association at a recent fur sale. Most sportsmen, says Bob Danenhower from Bob’s Taxidermy in Orefield, have mounts, rugs or just pelts made from them.
As for their table fare, I tasted a piece of their meat and it has a metallic taste, perhaps because their easy meals are of mice and voles when they can’t get deer, rabbits, woodchucks and squirrels. But PGC studies of their scat have shown that birds comprised about 10 percent and insects, 18 of their diets. Plant material occurred in 50 percent with various kinds of fruits during summer months. Regardless, I don’t care to eat it again.
If you’d like to try coyote hunting but aren’t sure you’ll like it, Mike Huff, who operates Master Predator Hunting will take you out to lands he hunts for coyote, fox and bobcat. Check his website at www.masterpredatorhunting.com or call 610-703-5918.
You know the trout fishing season is near when the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission makes the 2017 trout stocking schedule available. And it’s available online as well as on the PFBC’s “Fish BoatPA” free mobile app that’s available for smartphone users from the Apple App and Google Play stores.
To check the schedules for you favorite waters, go to www.fishandboat.com and click on the link “Fish” in the upper right corner, then select Trout Stocking Schedules. Then find you county of choice, enter start and end dates from the calendars then press “Go.”
The PFBC says this year’s stocking lists includes the Keystone Select Trout Waters where 14 waters across the state will be stocked with 4,500 large 14-20-inch trout. And those will be stocked at the rate of 175-225 per mile.
Last year the program was launched with eight waters but this year six new waters are being added. Locally, Section 7 (1.84 miles) of Tulpehocken Creek in Berks County is part of the new waters.
The 2017 season opens March 25 for the Mentored Youth Trout Day program in 18 southeastern counties. It’s intended to encourage adults to take kids fishing. This gives youngsters a chance to catch a trout while the trout are still plentiful and without the hoards that descend upon the streams on the regional opener April 1 in these southeastern counties.
A second Mentored Youth Day will be held on April 8, the Saturday before the April 15 regular opening day of trout season.
To participate in the mentored youth program, adult anglers (16 and older) must have a valid fishing license and trout permit and be accompanied by a youth. Youth anglers must obtain a free PFBC-issued permit, or a voluntary youth fishing license ($2.90 including all fees). Both are available online at www.GoneFishingPA.com or at any of the 900-plus licensing agents across the state.
According to the PFBC, they plan to stock approximately 3.15 million trout that includes 2 million rainbow trout, 640,000 browns and 500,000 brookies with the average size being 11 inches.
In addition, the agency plans to stock about 8,700 trophy golden rainbow trout that weigh an average of 1.5 pounds and measure at least 14 inches long. This will be supplemented by another one million trout from cooperative nurseries like our own Lil-Le-Hi Trout nursery in Lehigh Parkway and sportsman’s clubs across the state.
The PFBC notes that due to weather, water conditions and scheduling logistics, some waters may not be stocked in advance of the mentored days. And they also added that the youth program does not include fishing on special regulation areas like Catch-and-Release Fly Fishing Only or Delayed Artificial Lures Only waters.
There have been some adult trout stocking program changes and locally in Carbon County the Lehigh River near Jim Thorpe will be added to the adult trout stocking program. The area is a 3.1-mile section of the stream extending from 0.3 miles upstream from the railroad bridge at Glen Onoko, downstream to the confluence with Mauch Chunk Creek. Rainbow and brown trout will be stocked here during the preseason stocking period.
Four more waters are added elsewhere in the state so check the PFBC’s website for those areas.
Now there are also four waters that are considered Early Warning Waters of which Minsi Lake in Northampton County is affected. The PFBC says the inseason and fall stockings will be removed from this lake due to a drawdown that is occurring there for dam maintenance. However, a preseason stocking of rainbow trout will be made to provide spring angling prior to the complete drawdown.
On an up-note, the Coldwater Heritage Partnership has announced that over $72,000 in grants have been awarded to local organizations to protect and conserve Pennsylvania’s coldwater streams. The collaborative partnership is between PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Foundation for Pennsylvania Watersheds, PFBC and PA Council of Trout Unlimited.
Here in our area the Lehigh County Conservation District will receive $6,775 to remove invasive plant species from the streambanks of a tributary to the Little Lehigh Creek in Emmaus and replace them with a riparian buffer consisting of native trees and shrubs.
And finally, Lehigh County Wildlands Conservancy will receive $6,800 to restore approximately 250 feet of the Little Lehigh where severe bank erosion has led to increased sedimentation, loss of a mature riparian buffer and negative impacts to fish habitat.
If you missed the Harrisburg sports show, or need to cure cabin fever, there’s still one more outdoors show to go.
The Greater Philadelphia Outdoor Sportshow returns Feb. 23-26 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, PA.
For fishing fans, this year’s show features popular bass fishing pro’s Hank Parker and Joe Thomas. Both will give seminars and demonstrations at the 5,000-gallon Hawg Trough.
Then there’s Capt. Jerry Sersen who will provide tips and techniques on light tackle for Chesapeake Bay stripers.
If you’re a flounder fisherman, Tom Tatum’s seminar on “Floundering Around” will share tricks for fooling these flatfish.
These and several more pro anglers who will present interesting and informative fish catching ideas.
As for hunting speakers, New York State resident Pete Fiduccia and wife Kate, co-hosts of “Woods N Waters” TV show and author of 13 books on deer hunting, will offer seminars teaching field to table techniques for deer hunting. Kate has written several cookbooks and she’ll share her venison preparation dishes.
Noted wildlife biologist C.J. Winand promises to give valuable scientific and biological information on deer hunting strategies.
And like always, there will be a myriad of hunting/fishing guides, outfitters, hunting dog demonstrations and gear for sale.
New this year is Fred’s Shed, where you can learn tips and techniques for do-it-yourself boat maintenance.
The four-day show will feature a fishing simulator, Stihl’s archery range, paintball, birds of prey even a mechanical bull.
And Sunday is Family Day with a scavenger hunt for kids with the first 100 kids (11 and under) coming into the show will receive a free Plano tackle box.
Show hours are Feb. 23, 12 p.m.-8 p.m.; Feb. 24, 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.; Feb. 25, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. and Feb, 26, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission is $12 for adults and $3 for children ages 5-11. Tickets can be purchased in advance by going to the shows’ website at www.SportShows.com/Philadelphia.
The Greater Philadelphia Expo Center is located at 100 Station Avenue, Oaks, PA 19456. For GPS users, plug in 1601 Egypt Road, Phoenixville, Pa 19460.
2017 DUCKS UNLIMITED WINTER DINNER
For you duck lovers, the 2017 DU dinner will once again be held at the Northampton Community Center Banquet Hall, 1601 Laubach Ave., Northampton, PA on Feb. 25. The dinner begins at 7 p.m., with doors opening at 5 p.m.
The dinner will offer a chance to win a 2017 Ducks Unlimited Shotgun of the Year, a six-person striped bass fishing trip with B&D Fishing Charters in Highland, NJ and loads more.
This year’s featured shotgun is a Fausti Select 12-gauge over/under where only 50 tickets will be sold. In addition, the Lehigh Valley Chapter of DU will raffle off a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle with QRC red-dot scope. This is just part of the $10,000 in total prizes and giveaways at the dinner.
Other items include a Sig Sauer and Weatherby gun (you must be present to win the guns), hunting gear, artwork, a ladies table and several fun games.
A live auction will feature several items including a two-day, 4-person guided duck hunt on Maryland’s eastern shore with Chesapeake Goose & Duck Hunting outfitters.
Dinner ticket prices are $65, couple’s tickets $95, and youths (Greenwings) are $30.
Sponsorship packages are available as are Corporate Tables with special deals for both. For ticket information check www.ducks.org/pennsylvania/events and clicking on Lehigh Valley Dinner, or, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pennsylvania’s total bear harvest figures are in and the tally ranks as the fifth all-time highest number.
The total harvest for 2016 was 3,539 bears. Sixty of those weighed 500 pounds or more and 17 exceeded 600 pounds says the Pennsylvania Game Commission. The highest harvest occurred in 2011 when 4,350 bears were taken.
And of the 2016 numbers, bears were taken in 58 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, an increase of one county. The Northwest Region was the only one of PGC’s six regions that experience a harvest increase in 2016.
It’s interesting to note that Pennsylvania has become known as a top bear hunting state because of the huge bears that have been shot. Proof of that was the 740-pound male taken in Rayne Township, Indiana County, on Nov. 18, during the archery bear season by Dustin R. Learn, of Home, PA. His bruin was one of three taken by hunters that exceeded 700 pounds in 2016. And these three were the first to exceed 700 pounds since 2013.
The PGC points out that in 2011, Pennsylvania’s highest harvest, an amazing eight bears exceeding 700 pounds were harvested.
Despite weighing 740 pounds, it wasn’t the heaviest ever taken in Pennsylvania. Back in 2010, David Price, of Cresco, Pa, shot the largest bear ever with bow and arrow. It weighed an estimated 876 pounds and was taken in Middle Smithfield Township, Monroe County on Nov. 15, during the archery bear season opener.
The second largest bear taken in the 2016 season was a 722-pound male shot Dec. 2 in Lehman Township, Pike County by Brian R. Diehl, Northampton, Pa. Other biggies were a 700-pound male taken Nov. 19 in Barrett Township, Monroe County, by Chad D. Nauman, of Cresco, Pa.; a 676-pound male shot Nov. 23 in Dreher Township, Wayne County by Donald W. Boandl, of Lake Ariel, Pa; a 666-pound male taken Nov. 21 in Leidy Township, Clinton County, by Ryan Grieb, of Leesport Pa; a 662-pound male taken Nov. 21 in Homer Township, Potter County by Grant Ruhl, of Lebanon, Pa. Well, you get the PGC’s point. We have some big bear in Penn’s Woods.
The top counties for bear were Lycoming with 243 bears followed by Clinton with 220. Other top counties were: Tioga, 169; Potter 149; Warren, 131; and Somerset, 116.
Interestingly, 691 bears were harvested during the extended seasons while 225 were taken during the archery bear season. An additional 12 bears were taken in the early bear season in WMU’s 2B, 5B and 5C in our area.
Here in the Southeast a total of 113 bears were shot (123 in 2015): Dauphin, 47 (52); Bucks, 4 (1); Berks, 2 (3); and Lehigh, 1 (3).
In the Northeast, where many Lehigh Valley sportsmen hunt, there were a total of 858 (965) bears taken. Surprisingly, many counties totals were lower than the 2015 season: Luzerne, 114 (123); Pike, 109 (180); Wayne, 104 (107); Monroe, 94 (101); Bradford 82 (103); Sullivan, 77 (73); Susquehanna, 73, (59); Carbon, 60 (60); Lackawanna, 51 (41); Wyoming, 49 (60); Columbia, 39 (38); Northumberland, 5 (20); and Montour, 1 (1).
The top harvest region was the Northcentral with a total of 1,287 (1,436): Lycoming 243 (312); Clinton, 220 (265); Tioga, 169 (196); Potter, 149 (97); Centre, 114 (162); McKean, 106 (95); Clearfield, 99 (114); Cameron, 79 (78); Elk, 74 (79); and Union, 34 (38).
If you’re looking to better your odds during the upcoming seasons, you may want to scout out a place to hunt in one of these top counties.
Since the Super Bowl isn’t broadcasted until late Sunday afternoon, you have time to head up to Blue Mountain Resort in Palmerton this weekend to experience some winter fun. And you don’t have to be a skier or boarder to enjoy what “the Blue” has to offer.
Blue Mountain kicks off their annual Winter Fest that’s intended to get folks outside and have some fun, according to Melissa Yingling, Blue Mountain Marketing Specialist.
Yingling goes on to say that they’ve teamed up with Cooper Electric and St. Luke’s University Health Network to bring outdoor, winter fun to anyone looking to relieve their cabin fever.
The activities planned for Saturday (Feb. 4) and Sunday (Feb. 5) include the following:
* USA Olympic Luge Team – try out the track ages 10-and over
* Snowshoe Demo’s with Eastern Mountain Sports
* Ice Carving
* Dog Sledding
* Roaming Magicians
* Snowmaking Tours
* Snowflake search – find the snowflakes on the Mountain and return for prizes
* Snowtubing with Carver
* Carver’s Coloring Contest
* Live Entertainment at Slopeside Pub & Grill and Last Run Lounge
* Fireworks Saturday at 6 p.m.
And the best part. This is all free with loads of free parking.
Winterfest kicks off Sat. from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sun. 10 a.m., - 2 p.m. For more information and directions to the resort check www.skibluemt.com, or call them at 484-523-3864.
At their recent meeting, the Pennsylvania Game Commission Board gave preliminary approval for the use of semi-automatic rifles and shotguns for big game hunting in the state.
Up until now, only semi-auto shotguns could be used for small game, turkey and waterfowl hunting. So this new approval opens the door for such firearms as modern sporting rifles (wrongly termed assault rifles) as well as military M1 Garand and M14, Remington 7400, Browning BAR and similar style rifles. And this includes semi-auto .22’s for small game like squirrels.
In addition, preliminary approval was also given for air rifles for small-game and furbearers.
This brings up the use of air bows like the Airbow from Benjamin. Says Travis Lau, PGC media representative, “I haven’t heard any discussion about them,” when asked if they were considered for legalization. When air bows came on the scene it was speculated that if legalized for big game hunting, they would only be allowed during the rifle seasons.
With the approval for semi-autos for hunting, there are stipulations. Allowed will be a five-round magazine (or clip for top loaders) with a total ammunition capacity limited to six rounds. The new law, however, does not authorize the PGC to regulate the use of semiautomatic handguns.
It was pointed out that Pennsylvania is the only state in the nation that currently (up until final passage) has no hunting seasons during which semiautomatic rifles can be used.
Since the law took effect, the PGC has received hundreds of comments about the use of semi-auto rifles for hunting. And for big game hunting, the comments were about half in favor and half opposed to their use, according to James Daley PGC Board Commissioner. Those opposed cited concerns over compromised safety as their primary reason for their opposition Daley pointed out.
This proposal, says the PGC, did not come without some thorough review of hunter safety in states that allow semiautomatic rifles, including neighboring states and states that closely resemble Pennsylvania in terms of hunter density. Nor has their use led to a decline in hunter safety.
The approval on these semi-autos include .22 caliber or less that propel single-projectile ammo and semi-auto shotguns in 10 gauge or smaller propelling ammo not larger than No. 4 lead - also No. 2 steel or No. 4 composition or alloy – would be legal firearms for small game seasons. Semiautomatic firearms that propel single-projection ammo also would be legal sporting arms for groundhogs and furbearers. There are no caliber restrictions for groundhogs or furbearers.
Semi-autos for deer, bear and elk hunting would be limited to six rounds with magazines that hold no more than five rounds.
As for air-guns, they must be in calibers from .177 to .22 that propel single-projectile pellets or bullets.
For groundhogs and furbearers, air-guns must be at least .22 caliber and propel a single projectile pellet or bullet, BB ammo. BB ammunition is not authorized for small game, furbearers or groundhogs.
This also brings up the subject of the new air guns that propel .45, .357, .308 and other caliber bullets. Their ballistics are similar to their use in rifles/handguns of those calibers. But obviously these rifles fall into the same category as the Airbow as their operating principle uses compressed air.
These powerful air guns can make good topics of conversation compared to .177 pellet rifles. Doug Koenig, pro and champion handgun shooter who represents S&W and Gamo air guns, told me he took a 250-pound hog with a .177 pellet Gamo air gun. Compared to the newer more powerful compressed air guns, it would seem the latter, which propel much larger calibers listed above, would be more effective with longer range for groundhogs and furbearers.
PHEASANT HUNTING PERMIT PRELIMINARILY APPROVED
The PGC Board also gave preliminary approval for a $25 permit to hunt pheasants, which we outlined in a previous column.
All proposals will be voted on for final approval at the boards quarterly meeting March 27 and 28.
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.