Here’s a call-out to all turkey hunters that it may not too late to get your tickets to attend the 50th Anniversary of the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Jerry Zimmerman’s Memorial Chapter 25th Annual Hunting Superfund banquet set for Friday, March 3 at the Homewood Suites Inn located at 3350 Center Valley Parkway in Center Valley.
Your participation to this plated dinner and raffle enables the chapter to do valuable habitat work in the state, contribute to land acquisition, give disabled hunters an opportunity to hunt through the “Wheelin Sportsman’s” program plus offer the award-winning Jakes Youth Field Days and Women in the Outdoors events.
The annual banquet will once again have a raffle and live auction for wildlife prints, sculptures, home furnishings, jewelry and collectables. A separate gun raffle will feature four guns consisting of one handgun, a rifle, a shotgun and one home defense firearm.
The raffle’s first prize will be a Benelli Super Black Eagle III 12 gauge, 28-inch Barrel-Max 5 Camo or $1,000 in cash.
Second prize: is a Kimber Micro 9mm or $500 in cash
Third prize: a Savage Axis XP .30.06 with scope
Fourth prize: a Mossberg Maverick 88 20-gauge
Fifth prize: a Traditions Muzzleloader Redi-Pak.
There will be added events in addition to these that promise to be a fun and delightful dinner night.
To order tickets go to http://events.nwtf.org/38032110-2023 or call banquet chairman Bruce Dietrich at 610-298-2424 or Scott Richards at 610-393-9761.
The dinner begins with a social hour at 5 p.m. with dinner being served at 7 p.m. The auction kicks off at 8 p.m.
You may have noticed a few road-killed opossum’s on area roadways of late. In fact, there are two deceased ones on Mauch Chunk Road between Grumpy’s Restaurant and the former Gravely shop in South Whitehall Township. The one reason for these sightings is that opossums are on the move because it’s breeding season that runs from late February and March in Pennsylvania. This, plus they’ll also feed on other road-killed animals and may get hit while feasting.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, opossums are basically nocturnal but will forage for food during the day. And since they walk slowly at 0.7 mph and their running speed is 4 mph, their slow shuffle gait makes them a roadway victim.
In case you didn’t know, opossums are the oldest living mammal and the only marsupial on our continent. They are well developed compared to other mammals and continue their growth and development in a pouch on their mother’s abdomen. They didn’t appear in North America until the Pleistocene Epoch, less than a million years ago.
Opossums’ sense of smell and touch are well developed but their hearing is not especially keen and their eyesight is weak. They don’t hibernate, but shelter in hollow logs, woodchuck holes, rock crevices, tree cavities, abandoned squirrel leaf nests, beneath porches and old buildings. They seldom spend two successive nights in the same den and are typically found in farmland, woodlots, brushy woods and in dry or wet terrain. Opossums also inhabit suburbs and edges of towns where food and cover are available, and they can climb trees.
As for breeding season, opossums are solitary. Females, and unweaned offspring, stay together and the sexes only come in contact during breeding. After breeding, the female drives off the male and the male plays no part in raising young.
Females can breed when they’re a year old and may bear a second litter, breeding again from mid-May to early July.
Opossum young grow rapidly in their mothers’ pouch and by eight weeks their eyes open and they let go of the mammaries for the first time. They begin leaving the pouch for short periods, riding atop her back while gripping her fur with their claws.
A few years back I found two dead baby opossums in my back yard. I can only guess that maybe one of the three known feral cats in our area got them, or they died from a disease and the mother abandoned them in my lawn.
Opossum’s main diet consists of terrestrials, aquatic insects, lizards, snakes, toads, the young of small animals, bird eggs, young birds, berries, wild grapes, acorns mushrooms and cultivated plants.
If threatened, and an opossum cannot climb to escape, they’ll feign death, commonly called, “playing possum” by lying motionless, eyes and mouth open, its forefeet clenched, and its breathing becomes shallow plus they emit a musky odor. They do this because some predators ignore dead prey, but they’ll also growl, hiss or click its teeth when annoyed by smaller predators or people.
When food is plentiful, an opossum may range only a few hundred yards in cultivated areas where fencerows, rocky field corners and fields have been cleared for crops. But they can range up to two miles to find food.
So, in this breeding season, be alert when driving, especially at night, because opossums don’t have the speed to get out of a vehicles way that’s moving 55 mph.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, this past elk hunting season was a successful one for 131 out of 178 hunters who won an elk hunting permit during last year’s elk lottery.
“They definitely did well,” said Jeremy Banfield, the PGCs elk biologist. “They did better in the late season (that ended Jan. 7) than in the general season, he added.
In fact, one elk broke the state archery record. Back in 2019, the PGC created an archery-only season and an Armstrong County hunter is now the record holder for a non-typical archery bull.
Dave Kammerdiener of Templeton, arrowed a 7 by 11-point bull in Zone 10 with his crossbow. Its antler measured 446 inches. This compares to largest elk ever taken in Pennsylvania that measured 455 inches on a non-typical bull shot with a rifle in 2020 by Duane Kramer of Bellington, Washington.
As a recap for the archery season, 12 of the 14 bulls and seven of the 15 cow tags were filled. In the general season, 28 of the 31 bull hunters and 43 of the 70 cow hunters were successful. And in the late season, all 15 of the bull elk hunters and 26 of the 33 cow hunters managed to take a trophy animal.
Banfield said it was a typical year as the elk all appeared to be healthy, and the PGC hasn’t received any positive tests for diseases.
The elk biologist is working on a plan that would provide hunters more time to plan their hunts and scout for elk. And this coincides with when the elk licenses are awarded each year at the Elk Expo that’s organized by the Keystone Elk County Alliance, in mid-August. This year, the event is scheduled for July 29-30 which should give the winners of the elk lottery a couple of added weeks to scout and or secure a guide. Back in the 2022 season, the Elk Expo was held Aug. 20-21, less than a month before the elk season opened.
In addition, Banfield has proposed to the Game Commission board of commissioners to move the two-week archery elk season ahead one week. This past year it started on Sept. 10, so he’s proposing it be held Sept. 16-30. The general season where rifles are permitted will be Oct. 30-Nov. 4, and the late season is scheduled for Dec. 30-Jan. 6.
Banfield is also planning to conduct an aerial survey to gauge the elk population that was estimated at 1,300 to 1,400 animals last year. The information from the aerial survey and other data will be used to determine how many hunting tags will be offered this year. Banfield believes the number will be again close to 178 like last year. The seasons are expected to be set in April and at that time the number of tags will be determined for the lottery.
The cost to apply for an elk tag is $11.97, and it can be purchased for all three seasons. Last year, the agency received 104,250 applications for the 178 elk tags. The revenue from the applications was about $1.25 million the past season and the money goes, says the PGC, into the agencies general fund to cover habitat improvements. “The lottery is the main source of revenue for the elk program,” said Banfield.
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.
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.