Since the grouse, rabbit and squirrel season opened last Saturday, the third part of small game opens Saturday (Oct. 26) for pheasants, often referred to as long-tails. A reference to the long tail feathers of a male cockbird.
If a cockbird can be flushed, the cackle and burst of feathers is exciting and when not anticipated, a bit startling for the hunter. But it’s a nice rush to experience.
When I was a pre-teen, I’d tag along with my uncle and grandfather when they hunted the cornfields and overgrown fields with multiflora rose in and around Whitehall and North Whitehall townships. We actually hunted the land where the Whitehall Mall is located and behind Lehigh Valley Cooperative Farmers land where Spring Ridge Apartments is situated. We’d also hunt in my grandfathers’ backyard in Ironton and beyond the Ironton School.
During those days, wild pheasants were somewhat abundant. But you had to do a lot of walking to find one or two. That’s not the case today. If it weren’t for the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) stocking them, pheasant hunting would be a mere memory of the past.
For veteran upland hunters, you may remember when the PGC would stock birds on Farm-Game, Forest-Game and Safety Zone program lands, and private lands whose owners allowed hunting. That too is gone. Now the PGC mainly stocks State Game and State Park lands as those programs were all merged under a portion of the Hunter Access Program (HAP).
According to Travis Lau, PGC Public Information Officer, “The HAP program is intended to maximize return on our propagation investment by maximizing harvest rates on stocked pheasants. Pheasant banding studies in 1998 and 2015 showed that average harvest rates for stocked pheasants on public land (45-50 percent) are consistently higher than those on private land (35-40 percent). Therefore, the agency has gradually moved away from private property stockings in favor of State Game Lands and other public lands (e.g. State Parks, Army Corp of Engineers properties etc.). In some limited circumstances, pheasants are still stocked on HAP properties that have demonstrated to have higher harvest rates than the average for private land. However, these remaining private land stockings constitute less than 5 percent of the total allocation.”
Insofar as private properties are concerned, I recall many moons ago my son and I asking a Farm-Game cooperator farmer in Lowhill Township to hunt his stocked land. He said we couldn’t because there were five hunters already hunting there. I subsequently learned that he wanted it for himself and family so no others could hunt there despite his agreement with the PGC.
So if you would like to find a place to hunt pheasants, go to the PGC’s website and click on Hunting, then the sub-topic of Ring-Necked Pheasants then on Pheasant Allocation by List or Interactive Map. There you’ll see pheasant emoji’s of sorts on which to click that will give the game land number and allocation.
For Lehigh County’s SGL #205, stockings either took place or will take place on the following dates and bird numbers:
*Oct. 10-11, 450 birds; *Oct. 22-25, 450; *Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 460; *Nov. 6-8, 390; *Nov. 13-15, 390; *Nov. 20-22, 390; and *Dec. 19-20, 320.
When there are two days, Lau explained that a SGL could get stocked on either date, but will be only one of two, not both. But on a larger scale, stockings could happen on both days, some locations on day 1 and other locations on day 2. He went on to say that the PGC attempts to stock as close to weekends as possible.
ARCHERY AND MUZZLELOADER BEAR SEASON
While the archery bear season opened in WMUs 2B, 5C, and 5D Sept. 21 and on Oct. 5 in WMU 5B. It opens statewide Monday, Oct. 28. But this Saturday, Oct. 19, bear muzzleloader season opens and closes Oct. 26.
THIRD WEEK RUT REPORT
According to Bob Danenhower from Bob’s Wildlife Taxidermy, his hunting buddies and customers are seeing some movement of young bucks chasing doe’s. He doesn’t think the older bucks will move much until after Halloween when the weather and moon phase seem to coincide. But he feels the rut may be a bit early this year. So, far he’s taken in several 8-pointers and a couple 10s, all local deer.
Danenhower also got in his fresh Yurine Luck deer scent. The shop is open during normal business hours and is located on Kernsville Road in Orefield and a block west of the Route 309 traffic light.
The second part of the small game season gets underway, Sat. Oct. 19, for grouse, rabbit and squirrel
The second part of the small game season gets underway this Saturday (Oct. 19) when Squirrel, Rabbit and Grouse become legal game.
Of the trio, squirrels are the most plentiful and their sweet meat makes for excellent table fare be it in a stew, creamed or as a primary meat with mashed or sweet potatoes and a green vegetable or two.
As for rabbits, there are more of them in the city of Allentown and suburbs, than there are in area farmland fields and woodlots. And the reason for that are coyotes, foxes and great horned owls who keep their numbers there severely in check.
Then comes the ruffed grouse, Pennsylvania’s state bird. This majestic, beautiful game bird is the fast flyer of the woodlands. Unfortunately, their numbers are low and getting lower. In fact, the PGC closed the post Christmas season for them.
According to the PGC in their fall and winter hunting survey, avid grouse hunters (i.e. cooperators) were sent survey forms in October 2017. Forty-four percent of 595 Cooperators submitted hunt information. Useable replies were received from 206 of 262 responding cooperators; the remaining 56 submitted ‘did not hunt’ responses. Grouse Cooperators submitted data on 1,456 hunts, representing 4,135 hours of active grouse hunting. Grouse hunters averaged 20 hours hunted, 18 grouse flushed, and 0.87 grouse bagged during the 2017-2018 hunting season. Daily effort was greatest during the October (95.7 hours/available day) and November (83.7 hours/available day), followed by the December segment (71.3 hours/available day). December participation increased dramatically (up 96 percent compared to 2016) with the loss of the post-Christmas “Late Season” in 2017. The November portion of the season accounted for 52 percent of the statewide cooperator harvest, followed equally by December (24 percent) and October segments (24 percent).
The report goes on to say, statewide cooperators hunted 4,135 hours and recorded 3,641 flushes for an average rate of 0.88 flushes per hour. This flush rate of 0.88 represents a 6 percent decrease compared to the previous season and is the lowest flush rate observed in 53 years of population monitoring. It is 36 percent below the long term (52-year) average of 1.37 flushes per hour. Compared with the previous year, all regions exhibited decreased flush rates except the NW which ticked up (5 percent slightly. All regions are greatly below their respective 35-year long-term averages (Northwest -41%; Northcentral -22 percent; Northeast -38 percent; Southwest -51 percent; Southcentral -66 percent; Southeast -32 percent). Even compared to 10-year short-term averages, all regions except the Southeast are currently very depressed (Northwest -41 percent; Northcentral -24 percent; Northeast -22 percent; Southwest -25 percent; Southcentral -44 percent; Southeast -6 percent).
Without the relatively high annual abundance in the Northwest and Northcentral regions the statewide flush rate falls precipitously lower. In these regions, the mix of northern hardwoods and oak forests provides optimum nutrition, while active forest management within a largely forested landscape provides abundant habitat. Unfortunately, it is becoming evident that after years of high West Nile Virus (WNV) prevalence, these regions cannot be counted on to produce an abundance of grouse, which drops the statewide average below one bird/hour to a record-low 0.88 flushes/hour in 2017-18 license year. In other areas of the state, the Southcentral and Northeast regions retain relatively large-scale forested landscapes with suitable forest types, yet they seem to be under-producing grouse.
Best bet for grouse, the Blue Mountain. One veteran grouse hunter once told me the secret to finding them is to traverse the rugged terrain at the top of the Blue. A good hunting dog helps too.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) and Pennsylvania Game Commission are warning anglers and hunters to avoid online scams when purchasing their licenses. The warning follows several recent reports of customers paying for licenses through third-party websites not affiliated with either agency, and then never receiving a license.
“The only proven, reputable and reliable methods for purchasing Pennsylvania fishing licenses and permits are through the PFBC’s online portal The Outdoor Shop or in-person from a retail license issuing agent,” said Bernie Matscavage, Director of the PFBC Bureau of Administration. “If you choose to use a third-party website offering to sell you a fishing license, you risk wasting your money and putting your personal information at risk.”
The Game Commission, which sells hunting and furtaking licenses and permits through The Outdoor Shop, has received similar reports from hunters and trappers who tried to purchase their licenses online through unaffiliated vendors and never received them.
Customers should be aware of several look-a-like websites that mimic the agencies’ branding and offer customers the ability to purchase licenses and related permits. In one case, an imposter website uses a logo closely resembling the PFBC logo and offers to “broker” or “simplify” the purchase of a fishing license for an added fee, in some cases up to $50.00 (a resident PA fishing license costs just $22.90). The customer is then asked to provide personal information, including their social security number, as well as payment information to complete the online transaction. After submitting their information, the customer is informed that they will receive a printable, electronic version of their fishing license within 72 hours.
“There is absolutely no advantage to using a third-party website to buy a license,” added Matscavage. “Customers to these websites are being asked to provide the same information as they would if they purchased a license securely through the agencies directly. The difference is that by using a third-party site, you are paying an unnecessary added fee, compromising your identity, and will likely not end up receiving a license at all.”
When you purchase your fishing license from the PFBC through the Outdoor Shop, a printable electronic version (.pdf) of your fishing license is issued immediately. Hunting licenses purchased online through the Outdoor Shop are confirmed at the time of sale through an official email from the Game Commission and licenses are mailed to the buyer within two weeks of purchase.
Anyone who encounters a website offering the sale of a Pennsylvania fishing or hunting license that does not link to The Outdoor Shop to complete the transaction should call the PFBC Fishing License Help Line at (877)707-4085 or the Game Commission’s license division at (717)787-2084. Victims of a fishing or hunting license scam should notify the PA Attorney General by completing a Scams Complaint Form.
October and November traditionally trigger trout and salmon migrations into Lake Ontario and Lake Erie tributaries where local anglers make the trek to experience some of the best trout and salmon fishing in North America.
Chinook and Coho salmon runs in Lake Ontario tributaries generally begin in mid-September and continue through early November. Steelhead begin their tributary runs in earnest in both these Great Lakes in mid-October, and provide fishing excitement through springtime.
Salmon are on a mission to spawn and they’re aggressive and ready to fight. Steelhead on the other hand seem happier and eager to feed, arriving to stuff themselves full of eggs and decaying salmon flesh.
If you plan a trip to pursue these strong fish, the following are the most popular waters that should provide some excellent fishing action:
• Black River (Jefferson County)
• Salmon River (Oswego County)
• Oak Orchard Creek (Orleans County)
• Lower Niagara River (Lake Ontario)
• Cattaraugus Creek (Lake Erie)
According to Willie, from Willie’s Bait & Tackle in Cementon, several customers traveled to Salmon River in Pulaski, New York last week and had terrific action on Coho in the 5-12-pound range. Although the daily limit is three, Willie said his customers could have caught them all day long. “This was the best run of Coho my customers have seen in a while,” Willie retells.
Willie went on to say that the guys were also picking up a few browns and steelheads and were using egg sacs, rubber salmon eggs and, believe it or not, Berkley’s pink, three-inch trout worms for the Coho.
Easton angler and friend Tom Marchetto, also hit Pulaski and in three days fishing during the last week in September, he reported there was plenty of fish from the DSR up to Pineville (basically the lower stretch of the Salmon River). Marchetto and buddies fished the Staircase Hole area for all three days where the water flow held at around 375 cfs, so access was good. Marchetto said they used a variety of baits including egg sacs, plastic eggs and various flies.
Fishing was good, he opined, considering major runs had not yet occurred. The trio focused on Coho and steelheads, but the majority of the hook-ups were kings (Chinook). Battles were intensive which is indicative of fresh fish coming up the river. Marchetto believed fishing could have been even better had the temperature not been 84 one day. Some rain cooled things off a bit making conditions more typical for fishing there. “The three of us brought home five kings and one Coho, but the take could have been higher had we chose to keep what was landed. Overall, another successful salmon trip,” he said.
Reporting for On the Water Magazine, my fellow New York State outdoor writer and long-time friend Bill Hilts Jr says the Salmon River has fish spread out from top to bottom while the lower end of the river is getting the most fishing pressure. He reports anglers have been getting into kings in the DSR, Black Hole, Staircase/Longbridge, Town Pool, Ballpark, Papermill and RT2A areas.
Bill goes on to report that in the mid-upper end of the river, fish continue to be holding in and around the deeper holes and larger runs such as Sportsman Pool, Pineville, Trestle Pool, Ellis Cove and Schoolhouse Pool. Additionally, fish are holding in both the Upper and Lower Fly Zone.
Anglers there are using glo-bugs, sucker spawn, estaz eggs, hot stones, steelhead hammer, egg sucking leeches, comets, bunny leeches and Wooly Buggers.
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.