Pennsylvania hunters posted their highest overall deer harvest in 14 years when they took 374,690 deer during the state’s 2018-19 hunting seasons, which closed in January, the Pennsylvania Game Commission reported today in a press release.
The 2018-19 deer harvest topped the previous year’s harvest of 367,159 by about 10 percent. The last time the total deer harvest exceeded this season’s total was in 2004-05.
After four years of successive annual increases in buck harvests, hunters posted a buck harvest of 147,750, which placed fourth overall since the start of antler restrictions in 2002. The 2018-19 buck harvest represents a 10 percent decline from the 2017-18 buck harvest of 163,750. The largest harvest in the antler-restrictions era – 165,416 – occurred in the first year.
Although the total deer harvest was not impacted by downpours on the opening day of the firearms deer season, the buck harvest seemed to take a hit. About half of the firearms season’s overall buck harvest typically occurs on the season’s opening day, when hunter participation is usually at its highest.
Steady rain in most of the state persisted through the morning if not longer of the firearms season opener, making hunting for deer, as well as staying dry and warm while afield, more difficult. And when hunter participation drops on the best harvest day of any season, the harvest typically does, too.
“This year’s opening day antlered harvest was down significantly from last year’s harvest,” said Christopher Rosenberry, Game Commission Deer and Elk Section supervisor. “Although the rest of the firearms season’s daily harvests were similar to or above last year’s, they did not make up for the low opening day harvest.”
Except on Deer Management Assistance Program properties and in Wildlife Management Areas 2B, 5B and 5D, antlerless deer hunting doesn’t begin until the first Saturday of deer rifle season. That limits antlerless deer hunting to seven of the rifle season’s 12 days.
Still, hunters took plenty of antlerless deer, which was anticipated with a 2018-19 allocation of antlerless deer licenses that exceeded the previous license year’s.
The 2018-19 overall antlerless deer harvest was 226,940, which is about 10 percent larger than the 2017-18 harvest of 203,409.
Across the 23 WMUs used by the Game Commission to manage whitetails, the antlerless deer harvest decreased in only five units: WMUs 1A, 2B, 2H, 4B and 5D. The largest harvest increases – 48 percent – occurred in WMUs 2C and 3A.
On the antlered deer side of WMU-level harvests, the buck harvest dropped in all but six units: WMUs 2B, 2H, 3D, 4A, 5A and 5B. The largest declines were in WMU 2G, 23 percent; and WMU 4D, 22 percent.
The percentage of older bucks in the 2018-19 deer harvest remained amazingly high. About 64 percent of the bucks taken by hunters were at least 2? years old. The remainder were 1? years old.
“That almost two-thirds of the bucks taken last year in Pennsylvania were at least 2? years old is a tribute to the science our deer managers use and the sacrifices a generation of hunters made in the Commonwealth,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “The bucks being taken every day in Pennsylvania’s deer seasons are living proof that this Commonwealth has never managed whitetails better.”
About 66 percent of the antlerless deer harvest was adult females; button-bucks comprised 17 percent and doe fawns made up 17 percent.
Bowhunters accounted for about a third of Pennsylvania’s 2018-19 overall deer harvest, taking 110,719 deer (54,350 bucks and 56,369 antlerless deer) with either bows or crossbows. But the buck harvest also was down in the 2018-19 archery seasons, by 13 percent. The previous license year, bowhunters took 62,830 bucks. Unseasonably warm weather and rain impacted many fall bowhunting days in 2018.
The muzzleloader harvest – 23,909 – was similar to the previous year’s harvest of 23,490. The 2018-19 muzzleloader harvest included 1,290 antlered bucks compared to 1,310 bucks in the 2017-18 seasons.
Agency staff currently is working to develop its 2019 antlerless deer license recommendations, which will be considered at the April 9 meeting of the Board of Game Commissioners.
In addition to harvest data, staff will be looking at deer health measures, forest regeneration and deer-human conflicts for each WMU as it assembles antlerless allocations, according to Matthew Schnupp, agency Bureau of Wildlife Management director.
Total deer harvest estimates by WMU for 2018-19 (with 2017-18 figures in parentheses) are as follows:
WMU 1A: 5,800 (6,300) antlered, 12,400 (12,600) antlerless;
WMU 1B: 8,000 (8,300) antlered, 15,800 (13,000) antlerless;
WMU 2A: 6,000 (6,100) antlered, 10,900 (10,900) antlerless;
WMU 2B: 5,000 (4,500) antlered, 12,000 (14,000) antlerless;
WMU 2C: 9,600 (9,800) antlered, 11,787 (7,972) antlerless;
WMU 2D: 11,800 (14,700) antlered, 20,958 (17,391) antlerless;
WMU 2E: 6,300 (6,900) antlered, 9,701 (6,669) antlerless;
WMU 2F: 7,700 (9,500) antlered, 7,973 (7,202) antlerless;
WMU 2G: 6,300 (8,200) antlered, 7,402 (5,501) antlerless;
WMU 2H: 2,500 (1,700) antlered, 1,800 (1,900) antlerless;
WMU 3A: 4,800 (5,400) antlered, 7,400 (5,000) antlerless;
WMU 3B: 7,000 (8,900) antlered, 8,400 (7,000) antlerless;
WMU 3C: 7,700 (8,700) antlered, 12,200 (11,900) antlerless;
WMU 3D: 5,200 (4,700) antlered, 5,700 (4,200) antlerless;
WMU 4A: 5,100 (4,800) antlered, 8,230 (7,672) antlerless;
WMU 4B: 5,300 (5,600) antlered, 6,916 (7,108) antlerless;
WMU 4C: 5,800 (6,800) antlered, 7,200 (6,500) antlerless;
WMU 4D: 8,300 (10,600) antlered, 9,081 (8,417) antlerless;
WMU 4E: 7,000 (8,200) antlered, 9,300 (8,700) antlerless;
WMU 5A: 3,100 (2,900) antlered, 4,600 (3,801) antlerless;
WMU 5B: 9,200 (9,000) antlered, 14,608 (12,800) antlerless;
WMU 5C: 7,600 (8,800) antlered, 16,415 (15,600) antlerless;
WMU 5D: 2,600 (3,300) antlered, 6,000 (7,500) antlerless; and
Unknown WMU: 50 (50) antlered, 169 (76) antlerless.
Season-specific 2018-19 deer harvest estimates (with 2017-18 harvest estimates in parentheses) are as follows:
WMU 1A: archery, 2,530 (2,710) antlered, 3,150 (3,320) antlerless; and muzzleloader, 70 (90) antlered, 1,150 (1,480) antlerless.
WMU 1B: archery, 2,750 (3,370) antlered, 2,790 (2,730) antlerless; muzzleloader, 50 (30) antlered, 1,210 (970) antlerless.
WMU 2A: archery, 2,050 (2,040) antlered, 2,040 (2,030) antlerless; muzzleloader, 50 (60) antlered, 960 (1,170) antlerless.
WMU 2B: archery, 3,520 (3,060) antlered, 5,760 (6,490) antlerless; muzzleloader, 80 (40) antlered, 640 (1,010) antlerless.
WMU 2C: archery, 3,400 (3,400) antlered, 2,378 (1,500) antlerless; muzzleloader, 100 (100) antlered, 1,315 (1,000) antlerless.
WMU 2D: archery, 4,540 (5,720) antlered, 3,472 (2,800) antlerless; muzzleloader, 60 (80) antlered, 2,274 (2,100) antlerless.
WMU 2E: archery, 1,950 (2,040) antlered, 1,601 (1,120) antlerless; muzzleloader, 50 (60) antlered, 1,205 (880) antlerless.
WMU 2F: archery, 2,520 (3,110) antlered, 1,216 (1,340) antlerless; muzzleloader, 80 (90) antlered, 998 (1,060) antlerless.
WMU 2G: archery, 1,430 (2,050) antlered, 1,341 (1,110) antlerless; muzzleloader, 70 (50) antlered, 1,060 (990) antlerless.
WMU 2H: archery, 480 (390) antlered, 270 (320?) antlerless; muzzleloader, 20 (10) antlered, 230 (280) antlerless.
WMU 3A: archery, 1,180 (1,670) antlered, 1,320 (1,010) antlerless; muzzleloader, 20 (30) antlered, 780 (690) antlerless.
WMU 3B: archery, 2,160 (3,030) antlered, 1,630 (1,560) antlerless; muzzleloader, 40 (70) antlered, 1,170 (1,040) antlerless.
WMU 3C: archery, 1,940 (2,530) antlered, 1,820 (2,200) antlerless; muzzleloader, 60 (70) antlered, 1,280 (1,400) antlerless.
WMU 3D: archery, 1,660 (1,550) antlered, 1,410 (1,230) antlerless; muzzleloader, 40 (50) antlered, 590 (570) antlerless.
WMU 4A: archery, 820 (960) antlered, 1,338 (1,250) antlerless; muzzleloader, 80 (40) antlered, 991 (950) antlerless.
WMU 4B: archery, 1,760 (2,060) antlered, 1,598 (1,760) antlerless; muzzleloader, 40 (40) antlered, 627 (740) antlerless.
WMU 4C: archery, 2,350 (2,770) antlered, 1,900 (1,800) antlerless; muzzleloader, 50 (30) antlered, 800 (700) antlerless.
WMU 4D: archery, 2,430 (3,020) antlered, 1,796 (1,920) antlerless; muzzleloader, 70 (80) antlered, 1,002 (1,080) antlerless.
WMU 4E: archery, 2,550 (3,040) antlered, 1,890 (1,870) antlerless; muzzleloader, 50 (60) antlered, 1,010 (1,030) antlerless.
WMU 5A: archery, 880 (870) antlered, 1,220 (1,060) antlerless; muzzleloader, 20 (30) antlered, 480 (440) antlerless.
WMU 5B: archery, 4,640 (4,830) antlered, 5,401 (4,920) antlerless; muzzleloader, 60 (70) antlered, 1,365 (1,180) antlerless.
WMU 5C: archery, 4,690 (5,800) antlered, 7,238 (6,890) antlerless; muzzleloader, 110 (100) antlered, 1,272 (1,210) antlerless.
WMU 5D: archery, 2,080 (2,770) antlered, 3,790 (4,890) antlerless; muzzleloader, 20 (30) antlered, 210 (210) antlerless.
Unknown WMU: archery, 40 (40) antlered, 0 (60) antlerless; muzzleloader, 0 (0) antlered, 0 (0) antlerless.
Blue Mountain Resort plans to end their 2018-2019 winter season this Saturday, March 30th, with their annual Pond Skim Event. Guests are invited to end the year with a splash taking part in an annual tradition among ski resorts across the country. The event signifies the end of a winter season but also the start of a summer season!
Trails will close for the skiing and riding season Saturday, March 3oth at 4pm, but not before some big-time celebrations take place! Lift tickets will be $40 starting at 8am and will go to $30 from 12pm-4pm. Guests can purchase tickets online or at a ticket window.
Guests are also invited to end the season with a splash on Saturday, March 30th, at the Annual Pond Skim event, sponsored by Shea’s Hardware in Palmerton! Participants who skim across the pond located on the Vista Trail will win a free t-shirt! Registration is free but requires a lift ticket to participate. Guests can register from 9am – 11am in the Alpine Room, with skimming starting promptly at 12pm. Spectators do not require tickets and are encouraged and will be able to walk out onto the Vista Trail where the event will take place. Participants under the age of 17 require a parent or guardian signature.
Details on registration and more information about the event can be found online at www.skibluemt.com.
Area streams and creeks will be teeming with trout and almost an equal number of anglers when the trout season opens Saturday, March 30, in 18 counties within the Southeast Region of Pennsylvania. For the remaining counties of the state, the season opens April 13.
Within, you’ll find the in-season stocking dates for Lehigh and Northampton counties. You’ll notice Leaser Lake is missing as it was initially reported it wouldn’t be stocked. But it was on 3/25. However, Mike Parker, PF&BC Communications Director, said Leaser was stocked with rainbow trout but its initial allocation was cut because the lake didn’t produce acceptable creel yields. Part of Leaser’s allocation, he said, went to Kaercher Creek Dam in Hamburg, Berks County, as it’s a smaller lake and should offer better yields.
During last years’ opener, I interviewed several Leaser anglers at all three access locations and not one caught a trout. A few fishermen caught a Muskie and couple more caught small bass and panfish, all of which had to be returned unharmed. The general consensus among those surveyed believed the muskies ate them. But Parker dispelled that theory.
That aside, with pre and in-season stockings, the PF&BC will stock 468,800 trout in the Southeast Region alone. That is out of a state-wide allocation of 3.2 million in 707 streams and 127 lakes. And that breaks down as 2.1 million rainbows, 640,000 browns and 440,000 brook trout.
Keep in mind not all portions of the streams get stocked on a specific date. They are as follows:
Cedar Creek: 4/16, 5-13; Coplay Creek: 4-3, 5-1; Jordan Creek: 4/3, 4/4, 4,8, 4/11, 4/24,4/29; Little Lehigh Creek: 4/16, 4/22, 5/13, 10/15; Ontelaunee Creek: 4/15; Switzer Creek: 4/24; Trout Creek: 4/16; Lehigh Canal: 4/5.
Bushkill Creek: 4/16, 4/26, 5/15; Hokendauqua Creek: 4/9, 4/23, 4/30; Indian Creek: 4/9; Jacoby Creek: 4/3; Lehigh Canal: 4/18; Little Bushkill Creek: 4/26, 5/15; Martins Creek: 4/3; Monocacy Creek: 4/17, 5/2; Saucon Creek: 4/17, 5/2.
If you’re new to the area or are looking for more places to fish, Stream Map USA has debuted a handy smartphone app for you to explore even the most remote rivers, lakes, and streams. Finding them is simple they say, just type in a name and you immediately get turn-by-turn driving directions right to streamside. 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 right to the water.
Once you arrive, Stream Map USA turns your mobile device into a handheld GPS. Your location is displayed on the map as it follows your travels. Along the way, you save additional waypoints with GPS accuracy and add your own notes. This feature is ideal for marking fishing holes, campsites, tree stands, scenic locations, or just about anywhere you may wish to return. To get back, simply tap your waypoint's "Target" button and use the built-in navigation compass, which points the way and counts down the distance right to your spot. It even works without cellular service.
Stream Map USA is currently available for purchase on the App Store and Google Play. Each edition is priced at $9.99 and can be installed on multiple devices including both phones and tablets. For those information visit StreamMapUSA.com or simply search for it on your app store.
If you’re heading up to Leaser Lake via Kernsville Road, then Route 100, you may want to stop at Bob’s Wildlife Taxidermy (610-398-7609) on Kernsville Road and a block west of the Route 309 traffic light, for some last minute bait and tackle items. Bob has the gamut of minnows, mealworms, worms, lures and Power Baits.
MENTORED YOUTH TROUT DAY
Despite high winds and high water from the rains we had, some youth anglers managed to catch a trout or two.
One such angler was Annika Schiebel of New Tripoli, who fished with her sister Ava and friend Josh Hanna. Annika held on tight to land a 22-inch rainbow trout from the upper Jordan Creek with some assistance from her father Tommy Schiebel.
Mentored youth were allowed to catch and keep two trout during the pre-season special fishing day.
The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commissions fleet of white stocking trucks are on the roll, stocking trout for the March 23 Youth Fishing Day and regional trout opener on March 30 in 18 southeast region waters.
If you’d like to introduce your youngster to the sport of fishing, the Youth Fishing Day is an opportune time for them to experience catching their first trout. It’s also an opportune time since there’s no fishing pressure from adults, and there will be loads of freshly stocked trout to be caught.
The rules for this special day are that youths participating need to have a Mentored Youth Fishing Permit or Voluntary Youth Fishing License. The Mentored Youth Permit is free while the Voluntary Youth License (VYL) is $2.50. ($1.00 cost plus 1.90 to the issuing agent). Both may be gotten at local tackle shops and the Army-Navy store in Whitehall.
The VYL helps both the PF&BC and their youth outreach programs in that the agency gets $5 in federally reimbursed funding for each license sold.
To participate, an adult angler (16 or older) must accompany a youth angler and the adult must have a current fishing license and Trout/Salmon Permit (stamp). Adult anglers may not harvest any trout and must release them unharmed, while youth anglers may harvest up to two trout with a minimum size of seven inches.
If you’re a first time angler and wonder what gear and bait is needed, it’s the old KISS rule. For small youngsters, a push button Zebco type reel on a small compatible rod is how I started my son on his first fishing experience, as this combo is simple to use. But if the reel comes spooled, it’s usually with 10-12-pound test line. Pull most of that out and attach some 4-pound test line. It will cast easier, farther and if getting snagged on underwater rocks or brush, will be easier to break off.
As for bait, simple garden worms, whole corn or stale bread (which is firmer than fresh and will stay on the hook longer) will work. For more exotic fare, fathead minnows and mealworms always tempt a few. Then there’s Berkley’s artificial Power Bait, the scented doughy stuff in a jar that’s good, but can be tough to keep on the hook.
Depending on the stream’s flow speed and depth, a split shot or two pinched about 12 inches above the hook will keep the bait where the trout can see it and the weight will make casting easier with longer distance. And remember when using bait, cast it upstream and allow it to drift downstream with the natural speed of the water.
After all that, just watch the excitement and enjoyment on the youngster’s face when they hook their first trout. If it’s a big one, get ready to net it. Then use your smartphone and take a few memorable, keepsake photo’s.
GIANT CATFISH CAUGHT
If you haven’t heard, one Berks County angler caught a huge 43.78-pound flathead catfish last week in the spillway at Blue Marsh Lake in upper Berks. There have been several reports of large walleye being taken from there as well.
And by the way, unless we get freezing temps again, Leaser Lake is almost void of ice. Only the coves have thin, unsafe ice.
But it will be stocked with trout on March 26, in time for the Youth Fishing Day and the regional trout opener March 30.
There was initial information that Leaser would no longer receive trout stockings because the trout creel return was almost non-existent there. But according to Mike Parker, PF&BC Communications Director, fisheries biologists took a portion of Leaser’s trout allocation and stocked them in Kaercher Creek Lake in upper Berks County. Kaercher, said Parker, is a smaller lake and should have better yield results.
If you have bird houses or nesting boxes at your residence, now’s a good time to check them so see if they need repair and to clean them out before spring arrives. Incoming birds won’t nest on old nest material that may have mites, bugs or even mice in them.
If you don’t have any boxes but would like to enjoy seeing the spring arrivals such as colorful bluebirds, it would be a great time to either buy or build a box/house or two.
According to The Birding Wire, by installing nest houses on your property, you can attract cavity nesting birds including wrens, bluebirds, chickadees, tree swallows and more. Nest boxes provide a needed option for nesting birds that require cavities, which are in short supply. And having one or more on your property allows you to hear the songs of bluebirds, wrens, and chickadees to yards and homes.
The Birding Wire says the birds you prefer to attract to a given nest box can be dictated by the size of the opening you provide in the face of the nest box, as well as the overall dimensions of the box. By providing a smaller entrance hole you ensure smaller birds such as wrens and bluebirds will be attracted and have less competition for a nest site – especially from larger, more aggressive species, which may include non-native birds such as House Sparrows and European Starlings.
If bluebirds are high on your list to attract, keep in mind they don’t like perches as they allow other species and predators to more easily access the nest. And the boxes should be at least 3-5 feet above the ground.
It’s also necessary to position a nest box in the correct habitat; for example, wrens prefer an overgrown location, while Tree Swallows and bluebirds prefer an open setting. It’s usually not suggested to hang bird houses from a wire or line because birds generally don’t like the movement in the wind, which will reduce the chances your bird house will be used.
Predation is a serious concern, so it’s important that nest boxes are protected from squirrels, chipmunks, raccoons, some snakes, and other potential nest robbers. Some would say that if you do not provide protection from predators, a bird house merely becomes a feeding site for predators. Be aware of the positioning of nest boxes to ensure predators can’t jump from a nearby trees, fences or buildings.
Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a leader in providing helpful information to birders interested in nest boxes and bird houses. For a variety of information refer to https://nestwatch.org/learn/all-about-birdhouses/right-bird-right-house/and associated web pages.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s (PGC) Howard Nursery in Howard, Pa., is sells bluebird nesting boxes and kits that are built by staff at the nursery. Bluebirds are the most desired songbird species but other species will also use them, including tiny wrens. Keep in mind bluebirds are early nesters, so putting one or more up now is preferred.
PGC’s pre-built nest boxes cost $11.66 or get two or more for $10.60 each. To order, call the Howard Nursery at 814-355-4434. S&H costs will apply.
The PGC has been building these boxes for over 30 years and produces an average of 4,000 boxes and 10,000 kits each year.
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.