“The Pennsylvania Game Commission derails the use of semi-auto rifles for big game hunting,” reads the press release from the NRA/ILA. Their attached statement says that the PGC chose not to respect the rich hunting heritage of Pennsylvania gun owners by rejecting the rule which would have allowed hunters to use semi-automatic rifles in some of the most popular seasons throughout the state. By excluding the use of semi-automatic rifles for big game season, they have essentially eradicated the efforts and progress made last session with the passage and enactment of House Bill 236.
Yes, the PGC at their recent board meeting approved semi-auto rifles in .22 caliber or less that propel single-projectile ammunition and semi-automatic shotguns 10 gauge or smaller propelling ammunition not larger than No. 4 lead –also No. 2 steel or No. 4 composition or alloy – for small game seasons in the 2017-18 license year, that begins July 1.
You’re probably wondering why semi-auto shotguns are included since they’ve always been legal for small game, waterfowl and turkey. Well, according to Travis Lau, PGC media representative, that wording was included because of areas like Bucks County’s Special Regulations Area where only manual shotguns are legal for big game with buckshot or slugs.
The new ruling goes on to include semi-automatic firearms that propel single-projectile ammo which will be legal sporting arms for woodchucks and furbearers, with no caliber restrictions for both of those.
PGC also included the use of air guns for hunting small game and furbearers. Air guns will be legal for small game in calibers from .177 to .22 that propel single-projectile pellets or bullets.
For woodchucks and furbearers, air guns must be at least .22 caliber and propel a single-projectile pellet or bullet. However, BB ammunition is not authorized for small game, furbearers or woodchucks.
The PGC decided on these new rules because of a survey they sent out to 4,000 state hunters of which 2,000 of whom responded. Those survey results showed clear support for hunting furbearers (55 percent support or strongly support), woodchucks (51 percent support or strongly support) and small game (42 percent support or strongly support, and 12 percent neither support nor oppose) with semi-automatic rifles.
For big game hunting, 28 percent of survey respondents expressed support or strong support for semi-auto rifles, 64 percent said they opposed or strongly opposed semi-auto rifles for big game hunting, with 52 percent saying they were strongly opposed.
Based on these survey results, the PGC Board decided against their use for big game hunting by saying a clear majority of Pennsylvania hunters voiced opposition to the use of semi-auto's for big game hunting.
Following their vote, the commissioners said if growing support for hunting big game with semi-automatic rifles emerges at some point in the future, they will give consideration to further regulatory changes.
Interestingly, the survey on hunting with semi-automatic rifles showed greater support among younger age groups, including the use of semi-auto rifles to hunt big game.
PHEASANT PERMIT NEEDED IN 2017-18
The other new ruling from the commissioners meeting was that hunters pursuing pheasants will now need to purchase a pheasant permit in addition to a general hunting license in the 2017-18 license year. The permit would cost $25 for adults and seniors, including senior lifetime license holders. Junior hunters would not need a permit to hunt pheasants.
The PGC says it costs them $4.7 million a year to raise pheasants for stocking. And without this permit money, there’s no funding mechanism in place to help sustain the program.
ANTLERLESS DEER ALLOCATIONS FOR 2017-18
The PGC Board allocated 804,000 antlerless deer licenses statewide, which is up from 748,000 in 2016. The following are the allocations for local Wildlife Management Units with last years’ allocation in parenthesis.
WMU 4C: 29,000 (25,000); WMU 5B: 57,000 (50,000);
WMU 5C: 70,000 (70,000); WMU 5D: 30,000 (30,000).
The banks of local streams and creeks will be lined with anglers come Saturday, April 1, when the regional trout fishing opener kicks off in 18 southeastern counties. The crowds will resemble a celebration of sorts as anglers, many with families young and old, try their luck to catch a few recently stocked trout.
If you have a boat, canoe, kayak or float tube, you may want to join the bank fishermen at Leaser Lake as it too has been stocked and is the only fish species in the lake that can legally be kept.
For little kids, and to avoid the crowds if you want to teach your youngsters the fun of fishing, drift over to Union Terrace Pond in Allentown that was stocked with trout from the Queen City Trout Hatchery for the Mentored Youth Trout Day this past Saturday. In addition, there were some huge palomino trout put in there from Cabela’s in Hamburg.
If you prefer less crowds, the Lehigh River was stocked Saturday by the Lehigh River Stocking Association. They stocked it from the pavilion on Canal Park in Northampton upriver to points up to Bowmanstown. The upper part of the river will receive fish for the traditional trout opener on April 15.
As happens every year, far too many angler’s wait to the last minute to buy a fishing license, check their rods, reels and line only to find maintenance and new line is needed. This makes it doubly tough on shop owners, when in the process of selling bait, lures and gear, have to take valuable selling time to spool new line on reels, do the computer work for licenses and if they can, replace a broken or burred line guide.
If you haven’t checked the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission’s website, the following are the inseason stocking dates for local waters. Keep in mind not all sections of streams are stocked on a given date.
Jordan Creek: 4-3, 4-5, 4-13, 4-19, 4-25
Little Lehigh Creek: 4-18, 4-27, 5-2, 10-16
Ontelaunee Creek: 4-3
Switzer Creek: 4-24
Trout Creek: 4-18
Lehigh Canal: 4-7
Monocacy Creek: 5-9
Bushkill Creek: 4-17, 4-26, 5-17,
Hokendauqua Creek: 4-12, 4-25, 5-2
Indian Creek: 4-12
Jacoby Creek: 4-5
Lehigh Canal: 4-20
Little Bushkill Creek: 4-26, 5-17
Martins Creek: 4-5
Monocacy Creek: 4-19, 5-9
Saucon Creek: 4-19, 5-9
Allegheny Creek: 4-5
Antietam Creek: 4-13, 5-5
Antietam Reservoir: 4-13, 5-5, 11-15
Furnace Creek: 4-19
Hay Creek: 4-5, 5-5
Kaercher Creek Dam: 12-11
Little Swatara Creek: 5-1
Maiden Creek: 4-17
Manatawny Creek: 4-10, 4-27
Mill Creek: 4-4, 4-18, 4-21
Pine Creek: 4-17
Saucony Creek: 4-21
Scotts Run Lake: 4-19, 10-16
Swamp Creek: 4-5
Tulpehocken Creek: 4-4, 4-7, 4-19, 4-24, 10-17
Willow Creek: 4-13
Ontelaunee Creek: 4-17
Swabia Creek: 4-5, 5-1
Perkiomen Creek: 4-25
What is surprising in all of these is that Leaser Lake is only receiving one stocking. In the past it would get a fall stocking in time for ice fishing season. As a comeback lake it seems it would receive more inseason stockings as it’s the only keeper species.
Also, shad have been showing up in the lower Bucks County stretch of the Delaware River. Spoons have been taking most.
The official total estimated deer harvest numbers for the 2016-17 season are in and they reflect a buck harvest increase of nine percent. This makes it the largest antlered deer harvest since 2002.
In addition, the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) reports hunters took an estimated 333,254 deer during the 2016-17 seasons, which represents an overall harvest increase of 6 percent.
Of that total, 149,460 were antlered deer - an increase of about 9 percent compared to last season when 137,580 bucks were taken. The percentage of older bucks in the harvest remained high, says the PGC, with 56 percent of them taken during the 2016-17 season being 2.5 years old or older. In the 2015-16 seasons, 59 percent of bucks harvested were 2.5 years old or older.
The PGC also noted that there were 183,794 antlerless deer taken, which represents about 3 percent increase compared to 178,233 antlerless taken in the 2015-16 seasons. The antlerless harvest included about 64 percent adult females, about 20 percent button bucks and about 16 percent doe fawns. All of which are similar to long-term averages concludes the PGC.
Bowhunters it was pointed out, accounted for nearly 33 percent of the overall deer harvest, taking 109,250 deer (59,550 bucks and 49,700 does) with archery gear.
While not as popular as bowhunting, there were 20,409 deer (1,350 bucks and 19,059 does) harvested during the muzzleloader seasons.
According to PGC Executive Director R. Matthew Hough, “This has been quite a year for Pennsylvania deer hunting. Not only was there an increased deer harvest and a significantly higher buck harvest, I saw hundreds of photos from hunters who took their buck-of-a-lifetime this past season. Among them was a hunter whose Clearfield County harvest shattered the state record for nontypical bucks taken with archery gear.
These harvest estimates, says the PGC, were based on more than 24,000 deer checked by PGC personnel and more than 100,000 harvest reports submitted by successful hunters. And because some harvests go unreported, these estimates are a more accurate picture of hunter success.
As for the harvest numbers per Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) and the closest to the Lehigh Valley, they are as follows with 2015-16 numbers in parentheses:
WMU 4C: 6,400 (5,400) antlered; 5,300 (5,000) antlerless
WMU 5C: 8,300 (7,400) antlered; 15,600 (13,600) antlerless
WMU 5D: 2,900 (2,200) antlered; 6,500 (5,200) antlerless
Unknown WMU: 60 (80) antlered; 70 (30) antlerless
Even more interesting to hunters are the season-specific harvests for the above management units.
WMU 4C: archery, 2,570 (2,150) antlered; 1,380 (1,380) antlerless; muzzleloader, 30 (50 antlered; 620 (620) antlerless
WMU 5C: archery, 5,300 (4,880) antlered; 6,990 (6.310) antlerless; muzzleloader, 100 (120) antlered; 1,010 (1,090) antlerless
WMU 5D: archery, 2,280 (1,770) antlered; 4,180 (3,440) antlerless; muzzleloader, 20 (30) antlered, 220 (160) antlerless.
Unknown WMU: archery, 0 (0) antlered; 10 (10) antlerless; muzzleloader, 0 (0) antlered; 10 (0) antlerless.
MENTOURED YOUTH TROUT DAYS
To encourage youngsters to get involved in fishing, the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission (PFBC) is again allowing two Mentored Youth Trout Days. The first is this Sat., March 25, in 18 southeastern counties, the other on April 15 before the statewide trout opener.
On these days, participants can fish any PFBC stocked trout waters. Kids can keep two trout, measuring at least seven inches while mentors must have a fishing license and trout stamp. Mentors fishing with kids must release their catch to the water unharmed.
Last year, over 25,600 kids signed up for the program, either by buying a $1 voluntary youth fishing license or by acquiring a free mentored youth fishing permit.
According to the PFBC, a majority of trout waters will be stocked in advance of the mentored youth days.
If you’re an avid saltwater fishing fan, you have to attend the only saltwater fishing show in the northeast. It serves as a primer to the upcoming saltwater season, and until you can wet a line in the suds.
The annual Saltwater Fishing Expo kicks off its three-day run on Friday, March 17. The show features the latest in saltwater tackle, boats, watercraft gear and seminars that cover the gamut of saltwater angling.
This years featured headliner is Capt. Paul Hebert, star of the popular TV show “Wicked Tuna.” He’s joined by a dozen saltwater experts like Capt. Al Ristori, saltwater editor of the Star Ledger who will explain how to catch big stripers; Keefe Vallaro, on techniques he developed to bucktail doormat fluke; Capt. Pete Meyers on East Coast fishing; Capt. Frank Crescitelli, who has guided along the NY/NJ coast will cover light tackle techniques; Capt. Frank Tenore on Raritan Bay fishing; Bill Carson, Marketing Manger for Humminbird will show how to maximize fishing electronics; Shimano’s Roy Leyva will present tips to sharpen surf casting techniques; Jack Houghton delves into vertical jigging and swimbait techniques; and several more seminar speakers that can be found on the shows’ www.sportshows.com/somerset website.
For the kids, Sunday’s show brings a scavenger hunt and for the first 100 kids (11 and under) coming into the show, they’ll get a free Plano tackle box.
Show hours are Friday, March 17, 12 p.m. – 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 18, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday, March 19, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Ticket prices are $12 for adults and $3 for children ages 5-11. Children under 5 are free with a paying adult. Tickets can also be purchased online at the above website.
The Garden State Exhibition Center is located off I-287 at Exit 10. From there, follow the signs to the shows’ free parking areas. For GPS users, the center is located at 50 Atrium Drive, Somerset, NJ 08873.
With camping season upcoming, campers who like to rough it a bit and do it the old fashioned cooking way (no microwave), they owe it to themselves to check out cooking with a Dutch oven.
This tried and true method can prepare a variety of meals and desserts with simple cookware. And to get ideas on how to proceed, my friend and award winning outdoor writer, book publisher and former editor of Progressive Farmer magazine, J. Wayne Fears has authored a book specifically for cooking with a Dutch oven.
“The Dutch Oven, says Fears, is the one cooking pot that does it all: It bakes bread, streams vegetables, boils seafood, fries eggs, stews wild game and broils meat. Dutch ovens produce great-tasting food with a small amount of effort and a lot of fun.”
In his book, “The Lodge Book of Dutch Oven Cooking,” Fears produced a comprehensive guide for not only preparing meals in a Dutch oven, but details the in-depth look into cleaning and maintenance, how Dutch ovens are crafted and what to look for when you’re purchasing your first Dutch oven. You’ll even learn about handy accessories. It’s a one appliance that can prepare a multitude of meals, such as the following:
* Sourdough biscuits
* Stews and soups
* Baked salmon
* Hearty meatloaf
* Peach cobbler
* French coconut pie
* Apple pie and many more delightful dishes.
So whether you’re camping or throwing a party for friends, Dutch ovens will make cooking, simple and enjoyable. And clean-up is easy.
J. Wayne is prolific outdoor writer, Explorer’s Club member, member of the International Dutch Oven Society, author of various outdoor cookbooks and has served as judge at many cook-offs including the National Cornbread Cook-Off, so you can trust his advice and his tested and delicious recipes.
Fears’ book is available in paperback from Skyhorse Publishing and is also available an an eBook.
With the fishing season upcoming, angler’s may be interested to know what the top selling fishing tackle brands are. To find out, we went to Southwick Associates, a company who performs a yearly survey of fishing, hunting and firearms top sellers from around the country.
The following Southwick list was compiled from the internet-based surveys completed in 2016 by AnglerSurvey.com panels.
In 2016, according to Southwick, these were the most frequently purchased tackle brands.
* Top combo brand: Shakespeare
* Top spinner bait: Strike King
* Top swivel brand: Eagle Claw
* Top leader brand: Seaguar
* Top fly tying material brand: Hareline Dubbin
* Top fish finder brand: Humminbird
* Top clothing brand: Columbia
* Top rain gear brand: Frogg Toggs
* Top fishing net brand: Frabill
* Top knives brand: Rapala
This list, says Southwick, is only a fraction of all fishing products tracked in their bi-monthly consumer panel surveys. Aside from brand purchased, information also includes the percentage of product purchases across different retail channels, total spending and average price paid by product, and demographics for anglers buying specific products.
FLY FISHING TOUR RETURNS TO STEELSTACKS
If you’re an avid fly fisherman, and dream of fishing some exotic angling destinations, the acclaimed Fly Fishing Film Tour returns to Bethlehem’s Steelstacks on March 28 and 29, for its third year.
“A sell-out in each of its first two years, the Fly Fishing Film Tour (FFFT) has expanded in 2017 from one to two nights due to popular demand,” said Mark Demko, ArtsQuest spokesperson.
He goes on to say that during each evening, guests will enjoy a variety of beautiful short film focused on amazing angling destinations around the globe. Highlights include anglers chasing monster rainbows and Pacific salmon on the Kamchatka Peninsula of Eastern Russia; battling giant tarpon off the coast of Florida; conservation efforts to protect trout and their habitat in Idaho and Montana; and even the pursuit of the Russian Nelma, a giant predatory fish that’s never been caught on the fly. And ArtsQuest has the only screenings of the film in the region. A list of films and trailers can be seen at www.flyfilmtour.com.
Prior to the film, guests are invited to see fly tying demonstrations by Trout Unlimited members and enjoy food and beverages. Doors open at 6 p.m. both evenings. The show concludes with a fundraising raffle featuring float trips, fly fishing gear and more.
Tickets to the event are $15 in advance or $20 at the door. They may be purchased by going to www.steelstacks.org or calling 610-332-3378. Proceeds from the two screenings will benefit the Monocacy Chapter of Trout Unlimited and ArtsQuest.
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.