Sportsmen spend millions of dollars on hunting and recreational shooting equipment, but which brands are they buying? Southwick Associates surveyed more than 20,000 hunters and recreational shooters in 2018 through their online HunterSurvey.com and ShooterSurvey.com consumer panels to identify the top brands in the market. Compare these to see if you’re using some of following that were purchased in 2018:
• Top rimfire rifle brand: Ruger/Sturm Ruger
• Top handgun brand: Smith & Wesson
• Top handgun ammunition brand: Federal (including Fusion)
• Top reflex/red dot sight brand: Vortex
• Top laser rangefinder brand: Nikon
• Top laser sight brand: Crimson Trace
• Top scope mount brand: Leupold
• Top propellant/powder brand: Triple Seven
• Top crossbow brand: Barnett
• Top arrow brand: Easton
• Top broadhead brand: Rage
• Top archery sight brand: Trophy Ridge
• Top reloading dies brand: Lee Precision
• Top reloading powder brand: Hodgdon
• Top reloading bullets brand: Hornady
• Top decoy brand: Zink/Avian-X
• Top game call brand: Primos
• Top lure scent brand: Tink’s
• Top hunting knife brand: Gerber
• Top gun cleaning brand: Hoppes
• Top holster/ammo belt brand: Uncle Mikes
• Top choke tube brand: Carlson
In the sportfishing category, these were the most frequently purchased brands in 2018:
• Top combo brand: Shakespeare
• Top fluorocarbon fishing line brand: Seaguar
• Top monofilament fishing line brand: Berkley Trilene
• Top soft bait brand: Zoom
• Top spinner bait brand: Strike King
• Top leader brand: Ande
• Top fly line brand: Scientific Angler (3M)
• Top fly brand: Umpqua
• Top fish finder/sonar brand: Humminbird
• Top fishing clothing brand: Columbia
• Top waders/wade boots/chest wader brand: Frogg Toggs
• Top tackle box brand: Plano
• Top bait bucket/aerator brand: Frabill
• Top scale, grip, measuring device brand: Rapala
• Top trolling motor brand: Minn Kota
• Top cooler brand: Coleman
Southwick’s in-depth survey illustrates sportsmen’s participation and shopping behaviors, including the percentage of sales occurring across different retail channels, brand purchased, price paid, and demographics for hunters and shooters buying specific products. Additional information tracked includes total days spent per activity, type of hunting / shooting activity, preferred species and where they hunt.
In the sportfishing area, a variety of key fishing products were examined by Southwick Associates. Their survey illustrates angler participation and shopping behaviors, including the percentage of sales occurring across different retail channels, brand purchased, price paid, and demographics for anglers buying specific products. Additional information tracked includes total days spent per activity, type of fishing, and targeted species.
With up and down temperatures and weekly rain, ice thickness is dangerously thin in local waters.
According to local bait and tackle shops, the best bet is to head north to the Poconos.
Mike, from Mike’s Bait & Tackle in Nazareth, said Promised Land Lake was fishing pretty good for panfish. Over at Shohola Lake, tip-ups were working on sizable bass and pickerel. Mike said the water there has been unusually high, but it’s still productive. As for Leaser Lake, he had no reports but two weeks ago it had areas of some safe ice but keep in mind, only trout may be kept there.
Hidden Lake, near Shawnee, was producing well last week for a variety of fish including a few pickerel. Jules Fruhwirth, of Emmaus, connected with a pair of 24 inchers that he pulled through six inches of ice on tip-ups tipped with fathead minnows. Later, he fished Little Mud Pond in the Poconos and with 10 tip-ups, only managed to pull up a single 23.5-inch pickerel through 7 inches of ice.
Chris from Chris’ Bait & Tackle in Mertztown, was out of town last week, but said Ontelaunee Reservoir the week before had 10 inches of ice and locals were picking up crappies, yellow perch and largemouth bass. And Leaser Lake was producing catch-and-release muskies.
He also reported that Antietam Dam in Berks County was producing good numbers of trout. And open water anglers are taking sizable walleye from the spillway at Blue Marsh Lake.
In case you didn’t know, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s website has statewide lake maps that show submerged habitat to help locate fish holding structure. Look for it under the heading of “Fish Habitat Improvements.”
With uncertain ice conditions due to varying air temperatures, the PB&BC advises to use extreme caution on all waters and in particular, listen for loud cracks or booms coming from the ice as it’s an indicator of deteriorating ice conditions. And never walk on ice that has formed over moving water such as a stream or river. Adhere to these and other signs before attempting to walk on water, or you’ll be in the water.
DONORS HAVE PRESERVED 340 ACRES ALONG POCONO’S FAMED BRODHEAD CREEK
According to the Natural Lands and Pocono Heritage Land Trust, 340 acres of land near Monroe County’s wild trout inhabited Brodhead Creek, has been preserved thanks to two families.
Forty acres belonging to Alego “Bart” Bartolacci, that borders the Brodhead on one side and Stony Run on the other, was donated by him in memory of his late wife Vivian.
Another 300 acres owned by the Ferenbach family-owned corporation, was also donated as preservation land so it would not be developed. This tract includes 3,500 feet along the Brodhead.
Easement funding was supported by these families, from the William Penn Foundation and Open Space Institute’s Delaware River Watershed Protection Fund.
Named after Scottish immigrant Daniel Brodhead, he purchased 600 acres bordering the 22-mile stream in 1737. As history has it, Brodhead, was an avid fly fisherman who brought his fly rod with him when he came to America. Since that time, this famed wild trout fishery has been considered the birthplace of trout fishing in America.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Pennsylvania will eventually 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!”
LIL-LE-HI TROUT NURSERY SUFFERED ANOTHER TROUT LOSS
The Lil-Le-Hi trout hatchery on Fish Hatchery Road in Allentown, has been dealt another blow.
After having to kill thousands of stock-able trout due to a disease, the hatchery just suffered another loss Friday night.
According to Herb Gottschall, President of Lehigh County Fish & Protective Association, and one of many club members who volunteer at the hatchery, someone pulled up the protective nets over Pond 11 and stole 50-plus brown trout, most of which averaged 20-inches in length.
“And these trout would be part of the stockings we make over the spring and summer,” said Gottschall.
Gottschall reported the theft to police.
If you’re an avid bird watcher and maintain feeders at your residence, it’s likely your major complaint are feeder robbers. Yes, those grey, furry, bushy-tailed thieves can, in jiffy, wipe out your feeders stocked with sunflower seeds, peanut hearts, corn or bird seed. But oftentimes squirrels can provide hilarious moments as they attempt to figure out how to rob so-called squirrel-proof feeders, and when they perform other antics. And sometimes they even lose their grip and fall.
When sitting 12 feet up in a treestand while bowhunting, I watched in amusement while one squirrel chased another out on a limb that was about 14 feet above ground. The one being chased lost its grip and fell. It hit the ground in a bounce then scampered off, apparently unscathed. They’re Teflon.
When it’s snowing hard with freezing temperatures and ice, you may wonder what these critters do. Well like many of us, we den-up in our residences. For squirrels they snuggle up in their tree nests also called dreys, or in a hollow of a tree provided the hole is no more than three inches in diameter to prevent raccoons and other raiders from dropping in.
Tree nests, that look like a big lump of leaves high up in a tree, are more visible now that trees are void of leaves. Some lazy squirrels find refuge in home attics or exterior walls. Then they become a serious problem, especially if they chew on wires.
But most squirrels inhabit tree nests that are comprised of twigs, dry leaves, grass, moss even paper that they weave together using their feet, mouth and head to bend the twigs. Leaves are gathered before autumn while they’re still green and damp as they’re more pliable and adhere better to each other and the twigs. When the leaves dry and turn brown, they’re more fortified, although a strong wind may blow them apart. The nests are constructed in the fork of a tree and have entrance/exit holes close to the bottom and face the trunk of the tree.
Folks may presume that squirrels merely slip into the leaves like we do under blankets to stay warm. And for them, to ward off rain, snow and wind. But the nests actually have a 6-8-inch diameter hollow opening inside the nest that could be lined with finer materials such as shredded bark, grass, moss, leaves or pine needles. In winter males and females may share the nest to stay warm and also during breeding season that occurs in June and sometimes in January. However, females nest alone when pregnant.
Squirrels may often build more than one nest in a season, in case one is destroyed by a predator or become infested with fleas or lice, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Some nests can be used by several generations or even abandoned after a season of use.
So if your residence has a tree within view with a nest in it, grab a pair of binoculars, sit back and watch this interesting acrobatic busy-tail.
SENATE PASSES SUNDAY HUNTING BAN REPEAL
The Pennsylvania Senate Committee sent Senate Bill 147 to the floor for consideration on repealing the Sunday hunting ban in the state.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, the state is only one of two others in the country that doesn’t allow Sunday hunting except for crows, foxes and coyotes. The PGC says this law in antiquated and its prohibition is an old blue law that’s left on the books.
The agency contends that many hunters are prevented from introducing their children or friends to hunting because they’re competing against organized sports and other activities on Saturday. And Sunday hunting would allow an extra day afield to enjoy the hunting heritage. They added that Sunday hunting will invigorate essential hunter recruitment and retention efforts.
The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau is against Sunday hunting and it’s likely Amish and Mennonite farmers would not allow it on their lands as they hold that day as very sacred.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission just changed their minds. Since we just wrote that the use of semi-auto rifles for the 2019-20 rifle hunting season would be proposed at the April 9, 2019 board meeting, the proposal will not be discussed nor voted upon.
The PGC sent out this latest press release on the topic:
Semiautomatic centerfire rifles will not become lawful for hunting big game in the 2019-20 seasons.
After receiving input from the public and key members of the General Assembly, and noting the board already is considering several significant proposed changes, Pennsylvania Game Commissioner Brian Hoover today rescinded his direction to staff to develop language through which semiautomatic centerfire rifles could be included as lawful sporting arms in big-game seasons.
No proposal will be drawn up, and no vote will be taken.
Semiautomatic rifles that meet specific criteria have been permitted for hunting small game and furbearers for the past two years, and semiautomatic shotguns, which long have been permitted for deer hunting within the state’s Special Regulations Areas, were approved for use statewide for the 2018-19 seasons.
With these opportunities now available, there was reason to believe opinions on using semiautomatic rifles for big-game hunting in Pennsylvania might have changed, but it quickly was clear they have not, said Hoover.
“While many states allow the use of semiautomatic rifles for hunting big game, and evidence suggests these firearms actually can be safer than their manually operated counterparts, it’s clear we haven’t yet arrived at the time when the majority of Pennsylvania hunters favor they be approved for big-game use,” Hoover said. “As opinions change, we will consider future changes to provide for the needs of our hunters.”
If the Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners approves it at their April 9 meeting, deer hunters in Pennsylvania may see a major change in the start of the rifle deer season.
The major change is moving the traditional Monday after Thanksgiving Day start of the rifle deer season to Saturday after turkey day. This proposal will surely bring about conversation among sportsmen.
For some, starting on a Saturday is nice for hunters who can’t take off from work on a Monday. For youth hunters, it means missing a day of school in districts who no longer have off that day. For others, it may mess up their hunting camp departure plans. Moving the start of the season creates a 13-day season that includes three Saturdays says the PGC.
Other proposals include: shortening to two days the late November turkey seasons to accommodate a Saturday firearms deer opener; expanding the mid-October muzzleloader and special firearms deer seasons to include bears statewide; increasing 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; expanding four-day extended bear seasons to six days in most wildlife management units (WMUs) where they are held; establishing a September archery season and a January antlerless season for elk hunters.
But that’s not all.
Another proposal would eliminate the requirement to wear fluorescent orange at any time while archery hunting for deer or bear. This would eliminate all overlap periods when archery hunters are required to wear varying amounts of fluorescent orange while moving or posting orange material while in a fixed position.
The proposal also would eliminate the requirement for fall turkey hunters to wear fluorescent orange material.
After it was voted down last year, the PGC Board will again entertain a proposal to allow semi-automatic rifles for big game in the 2019-20 license year.
In its press release, the PGC Board says that in the stretch run of its first hunting season in which semi-auto shotguns were permitted for big game hunting, and semi-auto rifles were permitted for small game and furbearers, semi-auto rifles may also be considered but only after accepting public comment on the matter before their April meeting. If voted upon and given preliminary approval, the measure could be considered for final adoption in July and put into place for the 2019-20 license year.
This proposal doesn’t necessarily mean just modern sporting rifles (mistakenly referred to as assault rifles), as most major firearms makers also offer semi-autos in the form traditional centerfire rifles.
As for semi-auto rifle magazine capacity, and according to Travis Lau, PGC media relations manger, the PGC has not yet written a proposal on their maximum capacity, but points out that two years ago a 10-round limit was proposed.
The PGC Board also gave preliminary approval to fall turkey seasons and spring gobbler dates for 2020.
With final approval, the fall season in WMUs 1A, 2A, 4A and 4B would be one week (Nov. 2-9), plus a two-day Thanksgiving season (Nov. 28-29). In WMU 1B, the season would remain one week ((No. 2-9) with no Thanksgiving season.
In WMU 2B (shotgun and bow only), the season would run Nov. 2-22 and Nov. 28-29. In WMU 2C, the season would be Nov. 2-22 and Nov. 28-29.
Elsewhere in WMUs 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H,3A, 3C, 4C, 4D and 4E, the season would run Nov. 2-16 and Nov. 28-29.
In WMU 5A, the season runs Nov. 7-9; WMU 5B, Nov. 5-7; and in local WMU 5C and 5D, the season remains closed for the fall seasons as it has in the past.
The Board of Game Commissioners adopted a slate of deer seasons for 2019-20, proposing a split, six-day antlered deer season (Nov. 30-Dec. 6) and seven-day concurrent season (Dec. 7-14) in 20 Wildlife Management Units. The list includes WMUs 1A, 1B, 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5A and 5B. The package also retains the full-season (Nov. 30-Dec. 14) concurrent, antlered and antlerless deer season in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D.
Hunters with Deer Management Assistance Program (DMAP) antlerless deer permits may use the permits on the lands for which they were issued during any established deer season, and would continue to be allowed to harvest antlerless deer from Nov. 30-Dec. 6 in 1A, 1B, 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5A and 5B. Fees for DMAP permits are $10.90 for residents and $35.90 for nonresidents.
DMAP permits also may be transferred to Mentored Hunting Program participants.
The board retained the antler restrictions that have been in place for adult and senior license holders since the 2011-12 seasons. It remains the “three-up” on one side, not counting a brow tine, provision for the western Wildlife Management Units of 1A, 1B, 2A, 2B and 2D, and the three points on one side in all other WMUs. Those exempt from these antler restrictions are mentored youth hunters, junior license holders, disabled hunters with a permit to use a vehicle as a blind and resident active-duty military on leave.
Once again this year, the commissioners gave tentative approval to concurrent hunting of antlered and antlerless deer in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D during most seasons, with the first segment of the archery season to run from Sept. 21 to Nov. 29 in those WMUs.
All preliminarily approved seasons and bag limits will be brought back to the April meeting for a final vote.
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.