The Pennsylvania Game Commission has released the final tally for the 2017 bear harvest, showing it was the ninth-best-of-all-time bear take. And this, despite having one of the worst opening days due to rain and in some areas sleet and fog which drove hunters out of the woods and into their vehicles.
According to the PGC, hunters took 3,438 bears in the 2017 hunting seasons. Within that, there were 493 in archery season and 1,083 during the extended season. All setting records for those seasons. The all-time bear harvest of 4,350 bears occurred in 2011.
Of these totals, there were 48 bears weighing 500 pounds or more and two tipped the scales at 700 pounds or more.
Interestingly, only 694 hunters were successful on opening day compared to the usual 1,500 hunters, said PGC bear biologist Mark Tenant. He went on to say that 1982 was the last time the bear harvest dipped below 700 on opening day, and that was when the season was only two days and the statewide harvest was less than 5,000 bears.
The largest bear harvested in 2017, said the PGC, weighed an estimated 707 pounds and was taken in Middle Smithfield Township, Monroe County during the extended season in WMU 3D by Holly F. Scott of Steelton, Pa. Chad A. Wagner, of Titusville, took a bear estimated at 700 pounds in Oil Creek Township, Venango County during the firearms season. Other large bears included a 691-pounder taken in the firearms season in Cherry Grove Township, Warren County by James M. Landgdon, of Wattsburg; a 661-pounder taken during the extended season in Ekland Township, Sullivan County, by Tim M. Smith of New Albany; a 648-pounder taken during the firearms season by Joe S. Simon of Newfoundland in Dreher Township, Wayne County; a 648-pound bear taken by Jared R. Kipp of Bethlehem during the extended season in Lehman Township, Pike County; a 638-pounder taken during the archery season season in Tamaqua Township, Schuylkill County by Jason Strohl, of Nesquehoning; a 632-pounder during the extended season in Zerbe Township, Northumberland County by Tim I. Lenig Jr. of Shamokin; a 625-pounder in the extended season in Harrison Township, Bedford County, by Mark C. Kunkle, of Sinking Spring; and a 616-pound bear taken in the extended season in Tremont Township, Schuylkill County, by Paul H. Neidlinger of Pine Grove.
Interestingly, many of these big bruins were taken during the extended season, so bear hunters may want to keep that in mind for next season.
Here are the harvest totals for here in the Southeast Region, and per county with last years totals in parenthesis:
Southeast: 131 (113); Dauphin, 49 (47); Schuylkill, 47 (44); Northampton, 19 (8); Lebanon, 8 (7); Berks, 7 (2); Lehigh, 1 (1); Bucks, 0 (4).
As for local Wildlife Management Units, in 3D, 417 (355); 4C, 157 (144); 5C, 11 (11).
If you hunt in the Northeast, the totals are as follows:
Northeast: 1,112 (858); Pike, 193 (109); Sullivan, 156 (77); Wayne, 156 (104); Bradford, 112 (82); Luzerne, 108 (114); Monroe, 82 (94); Wyoming, 70 (49); Susquehanna, 66 (73); Lackawanna, 65 (51); Carbon, 57 (60); Columbia, 29 (39); Northumberland, 16 (5); and Montour, 2 (1).
These figures can give you somewhat of an idea of where to and not to, bear hunt next season.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission has released the 2017-18 deer harvest report and it shows the buck harvest has increased 10 percent. And that’s not all. Their report also shows the overall deer harvest was up 10 percent.
During the past deer hunting seasons, hunters took an estimated 367,159 deer, which surpassed the overall deer harvest of 333,254 during the 2016-17 seasons. The PGC points out that over the 23 Wildlife Management Units, the deer harvest decreased in only three units.
Interestingly, the 2017-18 buck harvest totaled 163,750, for a 10 percent increase over 20176-17’s harvest of 149,460. It is, says the PGC, the second largest buck harvest since antler restrictions were enacted in 2002. Overall, the current buck harvest ranks as the 10th best since the PGC began using calculated harvests in 1986.
For some historical information, the PGC says that back in the 1987-88 deer seasons, 16 percent of deer hunters took a legal buck. Ten years later, that rate increased to 19 percent. During the 2007-08 seasons, 15 percent of deer hunters took an antlered deer, whereas during this last season, more than 20 percent of deer hunters took an antlered deer.
As for antlerless deer, their estimated harvest also increased totaling 203,409, for an 11 percent increase over 2016-17 that saw a harvest of 183,794. That harvest, admits the PGC, was by design since they increased the license allocation by about 7 percent over the 2016 allocation.
The PGC says about 64 percent of the antlerless deer harvest were adult females, while button-bucks comprised 19 percent and doe fawns made up 17 percent.
Bowhunters according to the report, took about a third of the overall harvest taking 118,110 deer of which 62,830 were bucks, and 55,280 were antlerless. All total, the archery harvest saw a 10 percent increase over the 2016-17 total harvest of 109,250.
Muzzleloader hunters, took 23,490 deer (1,310 bucks) for a 10 percent increase over 2017-18.
Another interesting stat was that about 57 percent of bucks taken were at least 2.5 years old, while the remainder were 1.5 years old.
Deer harvest totals (for firearms, archery, muzzleloader) per our local Wildlife Management Units of 3D, 4C, 5C and 5D, are as follows with last season’s numbers in parentheses and A representing antlered deer and AL for antlerless:
WMU 3D: 4,700 (4,300) A; 4,200 (4,200) AL; Archery: 1,500 (1,470) A; 1,230 (1,060) AL; Muzzleloader: 50 (30) A; 570 (440) AL
WMU 4C: 6,800 (6,400) A; 6,500 (5,300) AL; Archery: 2,770 (2,570) A; 1,800 (1,380) AL; Muzzleloader: 30 (30) A; 700 (620) AL
WMU 5C: 8,800 (8,300) A; 15,600 (15,600) AL; Archery: 5,800 (5,300) A; 6,890 (6,990) AL; Muzzleloader 100 (100) A, 1,210 (1,010) AL
WMU 5D: 3,300 (2,900) A; 7,500 (6,500) AL; Archery, 2,770 (2,280) A; 4,890 (4,180) AL; Muzzleloader: 30 (20) A; 210 (220) AL.
Within their harvest report, the PGC boasts that their deer management plan was recently rated one of North America’s best by Simon Fraser University in their study that measured scientific soundness and transparency of varied state and provincial wildlife management plans. Pennsylvania tied with Wisconsin for the highest scoring deer plans in North America among states that participated in the research.
With some sun and warmer temperatures, the snow we had last week should hopefully melt enough to allow access to area stream banks and lake shores for Saturday’s, March 31 regional trout opener in 18 southeastern counties.
The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission adds that their Keystone Select Stocked Trout Waters program stocks 21 streams across the state with 14-20-inch trout. The trout, they say, will be stocked at a rate of 175-225 per mile. Anglers are invited to visit the agency’s website to see the list of these selected waters.
After this weekends regional opening, the statewide season kicks off April 14 which opens up more trout angling waters.
As for local stockings, the inseason plantings are as follows for Lehigh and Northampton and Berks counties.
Cedar Creek: 4-17, 5-14; Coplay Creek: 4-10, 5-2; Jordan Creek: 4-2, 4-9, 4-10, 4-11, 4-25, 5-1; Lehigh Canal: 4-6; Little Lehigh Creek: 4-17, 4-23, 5-14, 10-16; Ontelaunee Creek: 4-16; Trout Creek: 4-17; Monocacy Creek, 5-2 (Lehigh County section); Swabia Creek: 4-9, 5-2; Switzer Creek, 4-25.
Bushkill Creek: 4-17, 4-26, 5-16; Hokendauqua Creek: 4-10, 4-24, 5-1; Indian Creek: 4-10; Jacoby Creek: 4-4; Lehigh Canal: 4-6, 4-19 (Northampton County section); Little Bushkill Creek: 4-26, 5-16; Martins Creek: week of 4-2, 4-4, Monocacy Creek: 4-18, 5-2; Saucon Creek: 4-18, 5-2.
The PF&BC has added Kaercher Creek Lake in upper Berks County to the stocking list this year. Rainbow trout were stocked in this 31.9-acre lake during the preseason stocking period.
If you seek a bit less company on opening day, portions of the Lehigh River will be stocked with rainbow and brown trout on opening day (Mar. 30), compliments of the Lehigh River Stocking Association. It’s not a bad idea to join this organization which has been stocking the river over the past few years.
Allegheny Creek: 4-16; Antietam Creek: 4-12, 5-4; Antietam Reservoir: 4-12, 5-4, 11-14; Furnace Creek: 4-30; Hay Creek: 4-16, 5-4; Kaercher Creek Dam (lake): 12-11; Little Swatara Creek: 4-30; Maiden Creek: week of 4-16; Maiden Creek: week of 4-16; Manatawny Creek: 4-9, 4-26; Mill Creek: 4-3, 4-17, 4-20; Northkill Creek: 4-26; Ontelaunee Creek: 4-16; Perkiomen Creek: 4-24; Pine Creek: week of 4-16; Sacony Creek: 4-20; Scotts Run Lake: 4-30, 10-16; Spring Creek: 4-30; Swabia Creek: 4-9, 5-2; Swamp Creek: 4-16; Tulpehocken Creek: 4-2, 4-17; 4-30, 5-16, 10-15; Willow Creek: 4-12.
If you’re new to the Lehigh Valley or are seeking new waters to fish, you can readily find them with Stream Map USA’s series of eight regional apps that cover every stream locally and the lower 48 U.S. states.
Merely type in a name of the water and you immediately get turn-by-turn driving directions to it. Search for any water across the entire region or limit your search by state or even search an individual county. Once you locate your water, simply touch the map to add a waypoint. Then tap "Go" for turn-by-turn driving directions to the water.
Stream Map USA is produced by Gogal Publishing in Warrington, PA, and is available at the App Store and Google Play. Each edition is priced at $9.99 and is compatible on multiple devices including phones and tablets. For more information check www.StreamMapUSA.com.
If you’re a veteran fly fisherman, you’ll readily recognize the name Lefty Kreh. Well, sad to report but the sport lost this legendary fly-fisherman as he passed away at his home in Cockeysville, MD on March 14. Born in Frederick Maryland, Kreh was 93.
Kreh reinvented the way fly anglers cast. He pioneered the sport of saltwater fly fishing and designed some of the most successful fly patterns ever tied. He also caught over 130 species of fish world-wide, of course, on a fly rod.
Not only was he an expert fly-angler, but was an outdoor writer, book author, fishing TV personality who once fished with Fidel Castro in 1959, famed author Ernest Hemingway and baseball great Ted Williams to name a few.
Known by his long-billed fishing hat, Kreh was a popular fly fishing personality at many outdoor shows including the Harrisburg show, NJ Saltwater Fishing show and many others.
To read a more in-depth history of Kreh go to Anglers Journal.com and Gary Reich’s first hand experiences with Lefty as he liked to be called.
Saturday, March 24, kicks off the Mentored Youth Trout Days whereby youngsters under age 16 can join a mentor (adult) with a valid fishing license and trout stamp to fish stocked waters within 18 southeastern regional counties prior to the opening of trout season. This opportunity gives the kids a chance to catch a trout before the crush of anglers on opening day, March 31 in 18 southeastern counties of Adams, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery, Northampton, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill and York.
A second Mentored Youth Day will be held on April 7, the Saturday before the April 14 regular opening day of the statewide trout season.
Youth anglers must obtain a Mentored Youth Fishing Permit or Voluntary Youth Fishing License. Both are obtainable at GoneFishingPA.com or from any of the 900 licensing agents across the state.
The Voluntary Youth Permit is free whereas the Voluntary Youth License is $2.90 ($1 cost plus $1.90 agent/transaction fee).
The reason the PF&BC charges for this Voluntary License is because the agency receives $5 back in funding through federal reimbursement. The agency says these funds are then used for youth outreach and education programs. However, the agency receives no federal reimbursement for Mentored Youth Permits.
Mentored youth may harvest up to two trout with a minimum of 7 inches in length, and of any species.
In my experience as a father of a son who now has a son of his own, my son gained his love of fishing because when he was 4, I took him to a local farm ponds to catch panfish and bass. And catch he did. Catching something was better than catching nothing. And back then there was no Mentored Youth Days. So as long as there is a tug on the line, it maintains a kids’ interest and keeps a smile on their faces. If they don’t catch anything, they get bored and quickly lose interest.
Today, my son out fishes me because he learned patience and a lifelong sport at an early age. And that’s what the commission is promoting through their mentored program.
To get a youngster started if you don’t have downsized equipment, get one of those Zebco push button reels and short rods for them. But refrain from buying the colorful kids’ combo’s as they’re cheap and inferior. Step up a model or two and get a better one preferably with the release handle under the reel. Then buy a separate rod that can be used later with a conventional spinning reel as they get older and more dexterous. And if the reel is already spooled with line, strip it as it’s usually spooled with 10-12-pound test line making it tougher to cast. Instead, spool on some 4-pound test mono line as it’ll cast farther and come off the spool easier with less effort. And you may want to have the youngster practice casting with a plastic bobber on the end of the line, before hitting the stream or pond. It builds confidence in their ability.
Then on opening day, tie on no larger than a #10 hook. I’ve seen kids fishing with #4 and #6 hooks and they are too large for trout. And the poor kids rarely catch anything. Add some spit-shot (not a sinker) and bait of choice (preferably a worm, butterworm or minnow as they stay on the hook better) and let them heave it out. Or, cast it out for them until they get the knack of it. Then wait for a bite.
Despite the snow we had (and may get), the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission’s fleet of trout stocking trucks are on a roll. They’ve been planting trout in area streams and lakes for the regional season opener March 31. There’s also the Mentored Youth Trout Opener March 24 where kids get a chance to catch a trout or two before the crowds of opening day take over.
So far in Lehigh County, Muhlenberg Lake, the lower Jordan Creek, Laurel Run in Coopersburg, Little Lehigh, Lehigh County section of the Monocacy Creek, Ontelaunee Creek and Trout Creek have received pre-season fish that were stocked from March 3 through March 13.
While this going on, the striper bite, predominately in New Jersey, has started up. From On The Water Magazine comes these initial south Jersey forecasts and tips.
“The best bet for the weekend is to fish areas with the warmest water as these will usually hold small baitfish, grass shrimp, and worms. Bridges, backwater lagoons, mud flats, and power-plant outflows are the most productive areas during this time of year. Small striped bass will hit grass shrimp or bloodworms on a weighted float, especially around bridges at night. Small 3 to 5 inch soft plastics would be the “go-to” if you were planning on fishing one of our warm-water outflows. With the colder bay temperatures, it’s pivotal to work the soft plastics very slow. Depending on the forecast, winter flounder should be in play through the weekend especially with any afternoon sun. Mantaloking, Toms River, and Barnegat bay are good places to try for winter flattie action.”
Fishermen’s Supply Co in Point Pleasant reported that the striped bass fishing in the back bay is off to a good start with anglers hooking up on live bloodworms, small plugs, and soft plastics. One angler reports that there seems to be a healthy number of small stripers around in the Manasquan River and bay. In addition, anglers are doing well off the bridges and docks bayside.
Grumpy’s Bait & Tackle in Seaside Park reported a few anglers have been targeting stripers in the back bay and have hooked a few. Bloodworms have been working the best, but some have been catching on small SP minnows and Rapala X-raps. A few winter flounder have been caught around the bridges and in Toms River. Flounder fishing should only get better as the area waters start to warm. There have also been some good reports of small striped bass from the Oyster Creek outflow in Forked River.
From the Fisherman Magazine comes word that last Thursday morning, Nikita Grantan from New Jersey, registered the first keeper striper of the 2018 season; a 29-inch, 8-1/2-pounder brought into Absecon Bay Sportsman Center.
The Delaware River should also come alive with early stripers and will be kept company when the shad run kicks off as soon as the water warms.
The first lawsuits have been filed as a result of recent age restrictions on long gun buyers by certain retailers.
According to the Outdoorhub site, a teenager in Michigan is now hauling Dick’s Sporting Goods to court for refusing to sell him a rifle after the company autonomously changed its policy in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting massacre.
The retail chain announced last week that it would be increasing the age limit from 18 to 21-years-old to buy firearms at any of its stores, and is now beginning to see push-back from legal gun buyers.
The latest legislation to be filed, came after an 18-year-old high school senior from Battle Creek, Michigan, Triston Fulton, who walked into a Dick’s store at Oakland Mall in Troy, and was refused to even look at a rifle. According to Fox 2 Detroit, a Dick’s employee told Triston that was the new policy.
“Dick’s corporate policy is not to sell to anyone under 21 years of age, even though Michigan allows for anyone over 18 to purchase a firearm,” said Fulton’s attorney James Makowski.
Triston Fulton is protected under Michigan’s Elliot Larson law, which states is “an act to define civil rights; to prohibit discriminatory practices, policies, and customs in the exercise of those rights based upon religion, race, color, national origin, AGE, sex, height, weight, familial status, or marital status”
Also reported by the Outdoorhub is that a 20-year-old from Oregon is dragging DICK’S Sporting Goods and Walmart into court after both major sporting goods stores refused to sell him a rifle due to his age.
The plaintiff, Tyler Watson, is claiming “Unlawful Age Discrimination,” and his case might actually hold water, says the Hub.
They repot that according to Willamette Week, Oregon law says as long as an individual is an adult, they cannot be refused something based on age that’s readily available to other adults.
A retired judge in Oregon, Jim Hargreaves, breaks it down further:
“They [sellers] can’t set their own age limit because the statute has already done that. They don’t have any authority because the statute specifically says you can’t as a merchant discriminate against either young people or old people. If you’re selling something you have to sell it to anyone who is entitled to buy it by law.“
The lawsuit claims Mr. Watson attempted to purchase a .22 caliber Ruger rifle from Field & Stream, a Dick’s owned store in Medford, Oregon, but was refused. Watson then traveled to a Walmart in Grants Pass, Oregon, a few days later to buy the gun, but again was turned away.
This is believed to be the first pieces of legal litigation filed over the new gun restrictions enacted February 28.
NEW BORE STICKS UPCOMING
A few weeks ago we reported on the reusable, washable, gun cleaning Bore-sticks for cleaning 9mm handgun bores. Bore-sticks replace cleaning rod-jag-and patches for handgun bores, and for maintaining hard to reach areas.
Well since they’re introduction, there’s been a clamor by gun owners for other calibers. So the company listened and have just introduced Bore-sticks for .22cal., .40cal and .45cal handguns.
Bore-sticks are the invention by Super Brush, a leader in Foam Swab Technology headquartered in Springfield, MS. The company is the leader, according to Pam Hartog, Bore-sticks account manager, in providing foam applicator solutions for industrial, medical, aerospace and printing organizations. Their swabs are popular for cleaning computer printer heads as they are lint free and reusable.
After using a Bore-stick to clean your handgun, it can be washed with soap or mineral spirits and after air drying, can be reused again.
The new additions will be available in a week and can be ordered from the company’s website (www.swab-its.com), and will eventually be available at retailers, like the ones I’ve seen on Walmart store shelves in their sporting goods department.
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.