With warm temperatures, it’s difficult to think about hunting. Even fishing isn’t that good during these times. But come Monday, September 2, the traditional dove and early goose season kicks off.
Since dove are somewhat easier to hunt this time of year, we’ll focus on them as corn and soybean crops are still standing which makes those fields not conducive to goose hunting methods.
As common, this years dove season comes in two separate seasons. The first phase runs from Sept. 2 – Nov. 29, then again on Dec. 21-Jan. 4. Hunting hours start at noon during the first phase and reverts to normal hunting hours thereafter.
Actually our September dove season is customarily shared with 40 of the lower 48 states and combined has a population of approximately 300 million, the most abundant game species in the country. Of this number, hunters countrywide take between 15-20 million birds who replenish their numbers annually.
The mourning dove is a member of the family Columbidae and is closely related to the rock dove or domestic pigeon. It breeds across all of the lower 48 states. Contrary to some thinking, doves do not damage crops as deer and bear do. They prefer to eat on the ground, typically twice a day, once in the morning and again in late afternoon. They primarily feed on weed seeds such as that from foxtail, thistle and occasionally, a few insects, snails and slugs. And when harvested, waste grains from corn, wheat, millet, sorghum, barley and sunflowers that the mechanical harvesters leave behind. But sunflower seeds are one of their favorite if they can find them.
Later in the day doves customarily pick grit to aid in digestion. Grit can be in the form of gravel, cinders, glass bits or any other small material. That’s why you’ll see them on roadways and gravel parking lots picking away. When not doing that, they’ll be perched on utility wires or in trees, dead branches and may take an occasional drink at a pond, creek or puddles of standing water. These are the places hunters have to look for in the countryside’s where dove could have a flyway and roosting habitat. But with standing corn crops and soybeans, you don’t want to traipse through those looking for a downed dove. In situations like this, it would be beneficial to have a good hunting dog for retrieval, or, only shoot when the doves fly from standing crops towards open fields.
While dove hunting in Lehigh County has become a chore of finding a place to hunt with all the new developments and warehouses that cropped up in rural areas, for those who don’t have a spot, best bet is to try SGL #205 off Route 100 in Lowhill Township. In several places there the game commission plants food plots for wildlife with the latter offering a Managed Dove area. But expect lots of company.
You may also want to head down to upper Berks between Topton, Lyons and the outskirts of Fleetwood where many Mennonite farmers may allow you to hunt their vast farmlands with permission of course In fact some farms have Farm/Game Co-Op signs posted showing that they allow hunting. Also in Berks is a Managed Dove area at Blue Marsh Lake. Check the PGC’s website for other locations.
The second best part of dove hunting is making their olive-oil basted, bacon-wrapped breasts on a grille. The dark meat of a dove breast is a dinner delight. Just remember when going afield to take lots of shells (and bug/tick spray). You’ll likely need them as dove’s dip, dive and put on the afterburners when a load of No. 8 non-toxic shot is coming their way.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, chronic wasting disease (CWD) continues to spread to new parts of Pennsylvania, infecting and killing deer and threatening the deer hunting tradition.
West Nile virus has also left Pennsylvania’s state bird, the ruffed grouse, with an uncertain future.
At no time in history has disease posed more problems for wildlife and its conservation, says the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) in a prepared release.
In light of that, the PGC established a new partnership between it and the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine (Penn Vet) to address those problems head-on.
Both agencies announced that Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures is a new wildlife health program that will increase disease surveillance, management and research to better protect wildlife across the Commonwealth.
Says the PGC, hunters who submit samples from deer they harvest for chronic wasting disease (CWD) testing, the partnership will provide much faster turnaround for test results – about seven to 10 days as opposed to weeks or sometimes months – as well as the ability to track test results online.
But there are broader benefits, as well.
“The Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program will dedicate 12 employees, one of them working full-time out of the PGCs Harrisburg headquarters, to address wildlife diseases. Not only will that allow for more thorough disease documentation, research and management, it will allow agency biologists to spend less time dealing with disease issues and more time focusing on managing wildlife populations,” said Travis Lau, PGC media relations manager.
PGC Bureau of Wildlife Management Director Dr. Matthew Schnupp added that the Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program demonstrates how public-private partnerships can advance the health of our wildlife and the resilience of their habitats. “Our research-oriented partnership with Penn Vet will be invaluable in helping us define wildlife diseases, their impacts, and how we can manage them,” Schnupp opines.
Based out of Penn Vet’s New Bolton Center located in Kennett Square, Pa., the Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program will be led by ecologist Dr. Julie Ellis, and veterinarian and toxicologist Dr. Lisa Murphy.
“The Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program establishes a sustainable infrastructure for collaboration, and really represents a paradigm shift in managing wildlife disease,” said Dr. Ellis. “Not only are we charting a novel and comprehensive program that helps protect Pennsylvania wildlife, but ultimately, we are working to safeguard the health of Pennsylvania’s nearly 13 million residents from the potential impacts of wildlife disease. Land use in Pennsylvania is changing, and wildlife species are coming into closer contact with humans. We need to be prepared for these possible, broader consequences on both animal and human health.”
“As the state’s only veterinary school, Penn Vet has a depth of experience investigating disease in veterinary medicine,” said Dr. Murphy. “Through our affiliation with the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System (PADLS), we have the capacity and wildlife health expertise to support this exciting new partnership with the PGC.”
The Pennsylvania Wildlife Futures Program was established under a five-year, $10 million contract financed by the Game Commission, and Penn Vet was the only university to submit a bid for the work.
PGC Executive Director Bryan Burhans said the program is a necessary expense in an age when impacts are mounting from many wildlife diseases, some of which afflict humans.
With temperatures forecasted to be in or close to 100 degrees this week, these dog days of summer make for tough fishing in local streams, rivers and lakes. If you crave big, good eating fish, head to the Jersey shore for some saltwater action.
According to our On the Water fishing reporter, more keeper fluke were reported in northern New Jersey as anglers make the most of the dwindling summer flounder season. Boat anglers continue to get the better fish on bucktails on rough bottom while the surf anglers saw an increase in keepers from the beach. There are still plenty of shorts around, but bigger fish are biting.
Small blues, kingfish, Spanish mackerel and short stripers fill out what’s being caught from the beach. And the bluefin tuna bite goes on and on. There are also more mahi-mahi showing up.
Mark, at Tackle World in Rochelle Park, reported a definite improvement in the size of the summer flounder caught in the last week. He also said the shark fishing has been crazy good.
Capt. Phil Sciortino, at the Tackle Box in Hazlet, said boats continue to see bigger fluke coming over the rails. The biggest of the week was a 10-pound, 5-ounce doormat caught aboard the Elaine B II out of the Highlands.
Anglers fishing the rough stuff are getting the keeper fish in the 6-8-pound range and the Ambrose Channel is starting to give up bigger fish as well. Raritan Bay is loaded with cocktail blues, while plugs and sandworms are getting bass on the Sandy Hook beaches. Offshore, the Bluefin bite is still going strong around the Atlantic Princess.
Mel Martens, at Giglio’s Bait and Tackle in Sea Bright, said the fluke fishing has seen a big improvement from the sand with a number of keepers coming ashore. A buddy of his got three along with bunch of shorts earlier in the week. Martens said he’s been having success with a floating jig head tipped with a Gulp swimming mullet. The jig head is on a dropper loop above a sinker and he fishes it close to the jetties. He said a lot of fish bite right at his feet. The crabbing, he added, is outstanding in the Shrewsbury and Navesink rivers.
Bluefish and fluke are biting in the Ocean Grove surf, but the Spanish mackerel, which pop up almost daily, stay just out of reach of shore anglers. Some anglers are also waiting for the snappers to show up here in the surf.
Bob Matthews, at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar, reported larger fluke are moving around with more fish being caught in the 5-10-pound range. Matthews said there are still a lot of fluke in the Shark River, but shorts dominate the catch. Boats fluking in the ocean are filling out their catches with sea bass and blackfish.
In southern New Jersey, On the Water says bait is beginning to stage as peanut bunker and mullet swim up and down the lagoon at dawn and dusk. There are two weeks left in August and the fishing has improved on the big fluke front with most shops reporting fluke being caught in the 6-10-pound range. The ocean bite should get into full swing through the remainder of the season as these fish start to pull out of bays and estuaries.
The pelagic bite has continued to be “hot” offshore with yellowfin, mahi and billfish out deep while Spanish mackerel, bluefin, cobia, and bonita are hitting lures in the 10-30-mile range.
This past week a Philadelphia angler caught a rare for the area 90.6-pound Cobia, a fish normally found in southern waters like Cape Hatteras and beyond. He caught what may be a pending state record at Cape May, while fluke fishing.
There are plenty of tog off the jetties for anglers to have a great time catching, but remember you can only take one fish home at or greater than 15 inches. If you like the backwaters, the last few weeks of August are great for small striped bass on poppers or the fly, but these can only be targeted dusk to dawn.
Every spring and summer we all spend a good deal of money buying and planting flowers to beautify our yards and gardens. But there is a way to circumvent this annual expenditure by planting native plants.
Native plants, as defined by the Pennsylvania Native Plant Society, are ones that occur naturally in a particular region, ecosystem or habitat without direct or indirect human intervention. Some may think they’re mainly weeds. But they’re not.
Also called indigenous plants, native plants have evolved over thousands of years in a particular region. They’ve adapted to the geography, hydrology and climate in a region. They’ve evolved together with other plants, animals and microorganisms. And many have English and European origins.
Native plants are easier to grow, require less maintenance (like watering), and are less susceptible to challenging conditions than non-native plants.
Over the years I spent three figures on Azaleas. I started with two orange ones and they lasted one season. Then went to red. They lasted two seasons. Then switched to white for one season. And that’s after buying pine bark mulch and gathering pine needles to add to the ground to make it more acidic as advised on websites and in books. But to no avail. They all died. And we love azaleas.
As such, native plants make sense. They are generally hearty plants that require little to no maintenance. They also save time, money and offer year-round beauty, attract native wildlife like butterflies, songbirds, hummingbirds and bees.
And if a patch of native plants are in a meadow on your property, they may only require mowing once a year compared to a lawn that must be mowed weekly.
Native plants also offer a source of food, cover or shelter for wildlife. For example, and according to Millersville Native Plants, the Viburnum species, that are native to Eastern Pennsylvania, produce berries in autumn that are a popular food for a variety of birds. And berries are just the right size for consumption by native birds in the region. Plus, they offer a beautiful contrast to the foliage in a yard or a vase on a table.
At this point you may be thinking “How do I know which species of plants are native?” Millersville says this can be a challenge because many landscapes in the Lehigh Valley and America have been altered through human intervention for hundreds or thousands of years (by Native Americans and later by European settlers). Best bet is to call or visit local nurseries such as Edge of the Woods Native Plants on Route 100 in Orefield, or contact the Pennsylvania Native Plant Society.
So next spring, consider natives instead of commercials.
As written by Adriana Mendez and reported on The Fishing Wire, the Campiones's weekend family trip to Fox Lake in Wisconsin turned into a scary ordeal after the family said a fish bit their son. A.J. Campione was just about to test out new water skis when he felt something clamp down on his foot.
"I ripped it out, and I knew I was bleeding, so I screamed ‘I've been bitten!’ It was a lot of pain," AJ said.
A.J.'s mother, Wendy, didn't believe her son at first until she saw the bite marks.
"I pulled him on the boat, and we screamed. We saw his foot and all the blood coming from his foot," Wendy said.
The family rushed A.J. to the hospital, where he received sixteen stitches. Wendy said there were 40 pin marks on the bottom of A.J.'s foot. After research, they believe a northern pike or a muskie was the culprit.
"We just couldn't believe it," Wendy said.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, the chances of being bit by either of these freshwater fish are rare, but muskies and northern pike are known for their aggressive feeding styles.
"Their feeding pattern is this ambush-style, and they are very effective predators," said Laura-Stremick-Thompson, with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
Stremick-Thompson said she during her 20 years with the DNR she has never heard of this happening at Fox Lake.
"I never had a report like this on muskies or northern pike in Dodge County, so it's new to me, but it does happen occasionally," Stremick-Thompson said. Stremick-Thompson said A.J.'s injuries are very similar to images of two previous Muskie bites in another state.
Despite this scary incident, A.J. and the family said they wouldn't let this stop them from jumping back into the water.
"It's not going to happen again, so I'm just going to go in and have fun," A.J. said.
A.J.'s new nickname is now “Muskie Bait.”
In case you didn’t know, states like MN and PA have implemented bans on the use of urine-based scents in CWD management zones. And most recently, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources set a rule banning urine-based scents for deer hunting in their state.
According to a press release from the Wildlife Research Center and Tink’s, the scent company, these products have been widely used by hunters for many decades to help them be more successful in the field. Banning them takes away a great tradition and an important tool from hunters in those areas, per the release.
The argument made by rule makers to ban these products is that they unnaturally congregate deer like bait or feed, thereby increasing interaction between animals and possibly increasing the spread of disease. While a scent set-up can effectively attract the interest of deer nearby for a short period of time to the benefit of a hunter, putting a small amount of deer urine on some wicks is insignificant regarding the overall “congregation of animals” argument. It would cause no more congregation than using a call or decoy and is a natural occurrence of deer already in the area.
A typical deer releases about 64 oz of urine per day in good weather conditions and 42 oz in bad weather conditions which calculates to approximately 150 gallons per year. Tink’s has never verified the frequency on camera, but their assumption is that each deer urinates on average 4 to 6 times per day. That’s over 1800 times per year. The point is that deer are naturally urinating exponentially more urine in the general area already versus a hunter using 1 or 2 oz of urine that lasts a few hours to attract deer closer to his hunting location. Even with deer lure, you still have to be in a good spot where deer already exist. It does not bring in dozens of bucks from far away for extended periods of time like bait or feed might. The animals do not eat the scent and do not spend long periods of time there interacting with each other like they would at a bait pile. The animals that are attracted live and urinate all around that area already.
If you made any legitimate argument at all, it would be that you are adding scent locations to the already natural ones, per the release. But then this logic would mean that deer are actually decreasing the amount of congregation because now they are attracted to multiple spots versus just the natural ones that were going to be there anyway. Plus, the urine deposits would be more diluted because there are more of them. Most importantly, urine-based scents help hunters to be more successful, decreasing the population, further decreasing natural congregation of deer in that area over long periods of time. If using urine-based lures encourages deer to move around to these different scent locations actually decreasing congregation at the natural scent locations, thereby diluting the urine deposits in these natural locations, and increasing hunters’ success therefore lowering the risk of disease transmission, then what is the Wildlife Agency really trying to accomplish with this rule?
In the recent press release by the South Carolina DNR, it was stated “CWD research conducted in Colorado showed that mule deer were able to be infected with CWD after exposure to just the urine, feces and saliva of infected deer.” This statement is misleading and misrepresents the actual scientific finding of these studies. Many studies have attempted to transmit CWD with urine and none have been successful in deer. Later studies in Colorado used urine from CWD sick deer, concentrated it 10-fold, and injected it directly into brains of mice that were genetically altered to be 6 times more susceptible to the disease than deer. One of the 9 mice became infected. We are led to believe that urine is a risk for spreading the disease by putting a small amount, from facilities that are enrolled in a program to safeguard their deer from risk of contamination, on a scent wick or squirting it on the ground when only one mouse became infected by injecting infected and concentrated urine into its brain? Hunters are not injecting deer with urine and the urine is coming from healthy animals and not sick ones!
Moreover, the urine collection process prevents or removes nearly all contamination from feces or saliva. Based on the study referenced and other available research, it is estimated to take close to 2 fl oz of pure infected saliva from a single sick deer entirely ingested by one single deer to invoke an infection. Even with the larger 4 oz bottles, we would have to believe that half of this bottle is pure saliva, and that the saliva was infected in the first place. Then we would have to believe that a single deer would drink the whole bottle. This is ridiculous to even be a consideration.
The urine from hunting scent companies like Wildlife Research Center® and Tink’s® is collected from healthy animals and not sick ones. South Carolina wildlife officials say that the urine comes from captive herd facilities and that CWD has been found in 40 captive cervid facilities since 2012. What they don’t tell you is the collection facilities that companies like Wildlife Research Center® and Tink’s® use are from a small number (less than a dozen) of highly specialized facilities and are vastly different than the other likely 10,000 deer farms across the country. Of the 40 mentioned positives since 2012, only 16 were in a certified herd testing and certification program, and none of those were closed to importation of deer like the facilities where urine is sourced. The facilities the urine scent companies utilize are all 100% monitored, meaning every deer that dies is tested. CWD has never been found in one of these urine collection facilities.
South Carolina wildlife officials also say the scent industry is not regulated by any agency or entity and there is no testing or marking requirements identifying the source of the urine products. That is also false. The collection facilities are regulated by state and federal department of agriculture and wildlife agency rules and regulations relating specifically to CWD and to the operation of those facilities. All of the source herds are 100% monitored. The department of agriculture requires that testing is conducted before issuing the testing certifications the facilities all have and maintain.
It is also important to note, that lead authors of the most commonly referenced studies on urine and CWD agree that “the risk of urine-based scents spreading CWD is virtually zero”. See more about this at www.wdfacts.org
While hunting is generally considered a male sport with approximately 10.3 million American males, it may surprise folks to know that more than one million females over 16, annually take to America’s woodlands and waters to ethically hunt and harvest wild game.
In her newly released, first of a kind book, “Why Women Hunt,” author and hunter K.J. Houtman of Minnesota takes an intimate look at the personal lives of 18 individual females who have diverse backgrounds from across the country and who pursue humankind’s most ancient food-gathering ritual.
One of those women, Jaliliah “Jay” Williams, is from Allentown. In her book, Houtman recounts how Williams, a Jamaican immigrant, began as a product of Camp Compass, the Allentown-based conservation awareness program for inner-city kids. During her early teenage years Williams’ classmates learned of her desire to hunt and would say to her, “Oh my God? Why would you want to kill Bambi?” “A lot of my fellow students are city kids, Williams told the author, “but I tell my story and my experiences in protecting the ecosystem and wild game conservation in a way that is understandable to all audiences.”
Williams’ new-found knowledge and experience is a tribute to what Camp Compass does for young kids. It’s an education they would never receive in any public school.
Williams’ story is but one of these dedicated outdoor women featured in the book who are of all ages, professions, education and cultural backgrounds, and who make up an increasing proportion of licensed American hunters.
For any female, single or married and who may have an inkling to try hunting, be it alone, with relatives or friends, the 18 gals profiled may be just the inspiration for them to give hunting a try and to enjoy locally-sourced, free range, wild meat that is clean, delicious and without a trace of chemical additives.
Houtmans’ 243 page, hardcover is illustrated with 90 original photos that support her story.
Published by Wild River Press, the book is available now for $49.95 and can be purchased online from the publisher by going to www.wildriverpress.com. To check out some excerpts from the book, go to www.whywomenhunt.com.
ILLINOIS ALLOWING HUNTER SAFETY COURSES IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Illinois law makers passed a new bipartisan bill that allows school districts the option to teach hunter safety courses along with the daily curriculum.
As reported in Outdoor Hub, Illinois State Rep Monica Bristow (D) said, “Hunting in Illinois is still very popular and students can learn about hunting as a sport and respect for guns.” She added, “If people have to do the education to obtain a hunting license anyway, why not be able to do this in school?”
No guns or ammo, however, will be allowed in the schools. The course will teach responsibility and ethics when it comes to outdoor recreation, first aid, wildlife conservation and bowhunting.
WEAKNECHT ARCHERY’S 56TH ANNIVERSARY SALE
In celebrating 56 years in business, Weaknecht Archery in Kutztown if having a “Customer Appreciation Day” sale where sportsmen can save up to $200 on all bows and crossbows. And when purchasing either a compound or crossbow, Weaknecht is giving a free hard bow case for each.
In addition, special anniversary pricing can be realized on carbon arrows, hunter safety systems, Shotblocker archery targets, scouting cameras, crossbolts, Muck boots and more.
The sale runs from Aug. 19-24 with store hours Mon-Fri 2-8 p.m. and Sat. 9-5 p.m. For questions, call the store at 610-683-7405.
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.