It won’t be long before the largest outdoor show in the country rolls into Harrisburg’s Farm Show Complex.
The 2017 Great American Outdoor Show, hosted by the NRA, is set to kick off Feb. 4 and run until Feb. 12. With over 1,100 vendors and exhibitors representing the hunting, fishing, shooting and outdoors equipment industry, they will show their latest equipment and gear for the upcoming year.
This year’s show is being sponsored by the Outdoor Sportsman Group Networks, which includes the Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, World Fishing Network and mobile MyOutdoorTV. They, plus Ram trucks and Cabela’s are associate sponsors.
While we’ll provide more details as the show draws nearer, it was announced that this years NRACountry entertainment will feature platinum country hit-maker and outdoor enthusiast Dustin Lynch, along with blue-collar baritone and country star Granger Smith plus rising country singer Tara Thompson. All are scheduled to appear on stage Saturday, Feb. 11 in the Large Arena. Tickets for the show start at $35 and can be purchased at www.greatamericanoutdoorshow.org. And if you join the free NRA Country Connected Fan Club, it entitles you to online concerts, fan club parties, contests, VIP meet & greets, exclusive content from your favorite country artists and special offers plus discounts on outdoor gear and merchandise.
Advance general show tickets are now on sale at the above website with adult prices at $14; children 6-12, $6; Children 5 and under are free. Senior ticket prices (65 and older) are $11 and group tickets for 10 or more are $11.
Buying advance tickets frees you from standing in line to buy them at the show, and those lines can often be long. There will also be discounted NRA memberships at the show for those who are not current members.
Kudu’s to Carson Wentz, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, now so much for his on field football performance, but for his gift giving.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Wentz gave his offensive lineman personalized (their shirt numbers on the butts of the guns) Beretta shotguns for Christmas.
Wentz, himself an avid hunter, spent the holiday weekend hunting ducks and geese in New Jersey with American League MVP Mike Trout as per NJ.com’s Eliot Shorr-Parks sports reporter.
Said Eagles guard Allen Barbre, “This is an awesome gun. I’m excited about it. I don’t know how to shoot it, thought. But it’s pretty nice.”
Rookie guard, Isaac Seumato, said he has no hunting experience but is willing to learn. “But I’m more than thankful for it. It looks sweet. Carson said he’ll teach me how to use it and all that good stuff,” said Seumato to ESPN.
Wentz who hails from the Dakota’s, grew up hunting as do many kids in that hunting-rich state where pheasant hunting is the best in the country.
Despite the cold weather, there are some avid kayakers and paddlers who refuse to let the temperature stop them from enjoying their beloved sport. And for those new to the sport or those who received a kayak or canoe for a holiday gift and are dying to test it out, beware of the cold water.
BoatUS, the national boat owner’s association with over a half-million members, says you should wear thermal protection be it a dry or wetsuit while paddling. They say a long-assumed guideline that is meant to help paddlers make the right decision is sometimes known as the “120-degree rule,” however it may instead put paddlers in danger.
The 120-degree rule is a formula that adds together the air and water temperatures to determine when thermal protection is needed. It assumes that the total is above 120 F, so no dry or wetsuit is needed.
“Using this simple formula, a paddler could mistakenly believe that if air temperature is in the low 70s (which it isn’t in January) and water temperature is hovering around the low 50s, that thermal protection is not needed,” said Ted Sensenbrenner, BoatUS Boating Safety director. “That could not be father from the truth.”
Sensenbrenner says that warm fall, winter, spring days give paddlers a false sense of security. “Water temps that have plunged, but the warm sun on your face hides the reality that accidently going overboard during these chilly times could quickly lead to trouble.”
According to BoatUS research, sudden cold-water immersion can kill in several ways: involuntary gasp reflex and hyperventilation, cold incapacitation, and immersion hypothermia. And not wearing a life jacket compounds the risk of drowning.
So you may recognize them, here are the four stages of cold water immersion that can lead to hypothermia, according to BoatUS.
Cold Shock: Falling into cold water provokes an immediate gasp reflex. If your head is underwater, you’d inhale water instead of air and it’s unlikely you’ll resurface if you’re not wearing a life jacket (PFD). Initial shock can cause panic, hyperventilation and increased heart rate leading to a heart-attack. This stage, says BoatUS, lasts 3-5 minutes and at this point you should concentrate on staying afloat with your head above water.
Swimming Failure: In just 3-30 minutes, the body will experience swimming failure. Due to loss of muscle coordination, swimming becomes a struggle and the body tends to go more vertical in the water making any forward movement difficult. That’s why it’s not recommended to swim for help, but remain with the kayak/canoe or something that floats while keeping your head above water while awaiting rescue. In this regard, it’s always advisable to paddle with a partner if possible.
Hypothermia: True hypothermia sets in after about 30 minutes. Most victims never make it to this stage since 75 percent of individuals succumb and die in the earlier stages or cold water immersion. At this stage, regardless of your body type, size, insulation of clothing, acclimatization and other factors, your body’s core temperature gets dangerously low. Your survival chances are greatly lessened at this stage. Victims are usually rendered unconscious in this stage.
Post Rescue Collapse: A rescued victim must be handled very carefully. When a person is removed from cold water, the body will react to the surrounding air and the body position. Blood pressure often drops, inhaled water can damage the lungs and heart problems can develop as cold blood for the extremities is released into the body core. Proper medical attention is essential to re-warm the body safely.
So if you are going afloat during these cold days, heed these factors and take appropriate measures to not become a victim.
For you pheasant hunters, especially ones with hunting dogs and who love to watch their four-legged hunters work, there’s bad news.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) issued a notice that the agency is closing down two pheasant farms, one at the Western Game Farm in Crawford County, the other at the Northcentral Game Farm in Lycoming County. The result will be less pheasants to stock and of course the elimination of 14 employees that will be take effect Jan. 27.
According to the PGC, the decision to close the farms was strictly a financial one since the agency faces an $8 million budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year.
Since revenue from the sale of hunting and furtaker licenses makes up the majority of the PGCs budget, they blame it on the General Assembly who did not approve a much-needed increase in license-fee revenue. The agency said it enters a third decade without an increase in the cost of a hunting/furtaker license.
So the closing of the two farms will reportedly save the PGC about $1.5 million in the next fiscal year.
Said PGC Executive Director R. Matthew Hough, “Our employees at the two farms worked hard throughout their careers to make our pheasant propagation program the best it can be. They’ve done an outstanding job, and it’s tough to look them in the eyes and tell them their positions are being eliminated – especially at this time of year. But as an agency that has not seen its primary revenue source increase in almost 18 years, it – unfortunately – is necessary to make these types of reductions.”
The PGC will continue to operate the Loyalstock Game Farm in Lycoming County and the Southwest Farm in Armstrong County. As such, Bob Boyd, head of the PGCs’ pheasant propagation program, said the agency will strive to produce the same quality of birds it has. However, pheasant production will decrease overall in 2017-18 due to the closures. But Boyd indicates he hopes to release about 170,000 (200,000 stocked in 2016) pheasants for hunting in the fall of 2017.
Perhaps to compensate for this financial bind, the PGC’s Board of Commissioners are considering adopting regulations to create a “pheasant hunting permit” as a requirement to hunt Pennsylvania pheasants. The current proposed cost of the permit is $25 for adults and $1 for junior hunters. This revenue could sustain the program into the future. Again, this proposal and fee would have to be approved by the General Assembly.
The PGCs latest attempt to get a license increase came in the form of Senate Bill 1166, which was supported by all major sporting groups including PA Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, United Bowhunters of PA, National Wild Turkey Federation, Quality Deer Management , Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited and others.
In his announcement, Hough put sportsmen on notice that without a license revenue increase, additional programs will have to be reduced or eliminated.
2017 STATE LEGISLATIVE SESSION
As per the Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen Club Association, here is a sampling of bills affecting sportsmen that will be re-introduced for the 2017 legislative session:
HCO 26: Authorizes the PA Game Commission to provide for Sunday hunting.
HCO 192: Creates a “mentored junior hunting program” to compliment the existing youth and adult mentor programs, extending the benefits of mentored hunting to those individuals in the youth and adult mentor programs, extending the benefits of mentored hunting to those individuals in the 12-17-year-old age bracket.
HCO 195: Prohibits government entities or any public or private person from compiling registries and databases of firearm ownership except regarding criminal activities.
HCO 212: Provides the Attorney General with guidance when reviewing other states’ laws for the purpose of recognizing each state’s license to carry a concealed firearm in PA.
HCO 300: Creates a two-tiered system for the concealed carrying of firearms for lawful purposes in PA.
HCO 363: Codifies current Game Commission regulations which limit the number of antlerless deer licenses a person may receive in a license year to three.
HCO 374: Divides the current 8the Game Commission district into two, establishing a new 9th district that would include Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties.
HCO 376: Restricts certain turkey calling practices.
SCO 270: Eliminates all but the familiar transfer exception to the requirement of a background check prior to the purchase or transfer of a firearm with a new provision to permit the issuance of a single background check approval.
SCO 315: Gives the Game Commission the authority to establish the fees that it charges for hunting/fur taking licenses.
If you’re interested in any of these proposed bills, it would behoove you to contact your local state representatives and encourage them to vote in favor of these bills.
CABELA’S HAMBURG OFFERS FREE SEMINARS
Beginning January 7 and 8, Cabela’s Hamburg will offer the following free seminars:
* Ice Fishing: Will explain what is needed to enjoy the sport
* Archery Challenge: An introduction into the shooting sports
* Reloading 101: A course on reloading ammo to save money
* 9 Week Fly Tying Course: Teaching the basics with hands-on experience with a trip to a local stream to practice. Class is limited to 15 people so pre-registration is required.
On January 14 & 15 the store will offer Compound/Traditional Bow Basics; Animal ID with Outfitter Tom is a great family seminar featuring a collection of animal hides, pelts and artifacts as learning aides, as well as the tracks these animals leave behind; Tent Pitching Competition will test your skills in a one, two and group tent pitching contest. Prizes will be awarded for the fastest team who properly pitched the tent in each category.
Then on Jan. 28, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., the store will host a “Super Bowl Sunday Sampler” where Cabela’s Outfitters will cook wild game and fish snacks with an opportunity for patrons to try out fryers, jerky makers and dehydrators, to name a few.
For information on all these and other events check www.cabelas.com/hamburg or call the store at 610-929-7089.
With the deer hunting seasons almost over statewide, there’s still the late season for archery and flintlock that runs from Dec. 26 until Jan. 14 for antlered and antlerless deer, and until Jan. 28 in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C and 5D. If you possess an antlerless tag to hunt in Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties, you may use a firearm whose season runs from Dec. 26 until Jan. 28. But again, for antlerless deer only. The latter is an attempt to cull the overpopulation of antlerless deer in these areas.
As for as this past deer hunting season is concerned, our traditional annual sampling of deer processing shops came up with these reports as to the number of deer brought in for butchering and processing, when compared to the 2014-15 seasons. They are as follows:
Frable’s Deer Processing, Slatington: According to Jeremy Frable, they took in 170 deer so far this season, which is slightly more than last year. Interestingly, the shop took in 20 more deer during the archery season than the previous year. The largest bucks they processed were two 11-pointers, one had a 27-inch inside spread, the other, a 28-inch spread. Frable believes more sportsmen are getting into archery hence the increase in bow bucks. Frable added that the consensus was the rut was a bit late this year as the bigger bucks came in during the rifle season instead of the bow season. “Their necks were also enlarged which is a sure sign of the rut,” said Frable. The shop also processed five bear this season.
Hartman’s Butcher Shop, New Tripoli: Since they no longer butcher deer, except for those donated for the Hunters Sharing the Harvest (HSH) program, they do take in venison meat for processing into various delicacies such as hamburger, jerky, sausage, slim Jim’s and more. According to Hartman, the beginning of the rifle season was slow because of rain and warm temperatures. But business picked up in the latter part of the season, it put it on par or slightly more than last season. Compared to last season, he did have more venison coming in during the archery season, which could indicate the popularity and success of the early bowhunting season. Hartman added that about a mile away from his Route 309 shop, a coyote was shot after hunters drove an area for deer. In regards to the SHS program, Hartman pointed out that this year they butchered more deer for the program than ever before. That meat gets donated to local soup kitchens for the needy.
Lazarus’ Market, Whitehall: Grant Lazarus reported that they took in a few more deer this year than last year. A good majority of the bucks wore 8-points, one of which weighed 180 pounds field dressed. This seems to show that antlered point restrictions are working.
Bob’s Taxidermy, Orefield: Bob Danenhower, of Bob’s, said so far this year he has taken in 105 bucks for shoulder mounts, or about 30 more deer than last year. The majority of those bucks were 8-pointers with some 10s whose racks rough scored from 110 to 160 points. He mentioned that this year he has seen first time female youth hunters harvest more bucks than first time male youth hunters.
As for the final deer harvest tally, it will likely be some time in spring before the Pennsylvania Game Commission releases those numbers. It appears from these initial local deer processing reports, and if they hold for the entire state, the statewide harvest could be up a bit over last year where the statewide deer harvest totaled 315,813, or about four percent more than during the 2014-15 seasons.
They are the most delicious eating and the toughest fighters. And they’re making their run down the Atlantic coast right now.
If you haven’t guessed, we’re describing stripers, or linesiders as old salts call them.
They can be found from Maine to North Carolina and right now they can be caught along the beaches and slightly offshore of the New Jersey coast. And if you can brave the wind and cold, now’s a good time to hit the saltwater’s of the Jersey coast.
Here’s a sampling of what happened last week down at the shore according to New Jersey’s Fishing Report site.
MYSTIC ISLAND: Last Sunday, one boat angler called the striper fishing “stupid fishing” according to Scott from Scott’s Bait and Tackle. He said that because the boater landed 15 stripers including a double-header. The same action prevailed on Monday of last week. Stripers were hitting Mojos the best, followed by umbrella rigs. Others said the key was to find birds working the water. Find the birds and you’ll find fish. Fish that weighed in at Scott’s B&T shop ran 34-35 pounds.
ABSECON: There were loads of stripers schooled in the ocean but many were beyond three miles from shore, the area the season for stripes are closed. But Dave, from Absecon Bay Sportsman Center, said he ran last Sunday and decked 27 and 15-pounders in the legal waters on live-lined spots. On an earlier trip, dogfish kept biting off the spot, but they still managed a 32-inch linesider.
LONGPORT: Seas were to high, rough and rolling for Capt. Mike from the Stray Cat charter to venture out. But this week he’ll fish strictly for stripers on Wednesday, Friday and through Sunday.
SEA ISLE CITY: Capt. Joe from Jersey Cape Guide Service and Sea Isle Bait & Tackle, said the striper migration seemed to be pushing a little farther south, and closer to home. Trolling produced a few good catches for him.
CAPE MAY: Seas the past weekend were 8-10 feet but Capt. Andy Gallagher’s charter bagged eight stripers and lost a few on trolled Mojos in the ocean. Brian Hill’s charter last week bagged six stripers and lost one on the troll in water that held a 3-foot swell.
The folks at Fisherman Magazine reports that there was a 62-pound striper caught at Overfalls Shoals with many 20-30 pounders also being taken throughout the southern Jersey region. Down in the Delaware area waters, Mojos trolled plugs like Yo-Zuri Crystal 3D minnow deep divers, Stretch 30s, Bomber CDs and Rapala X-Rap Magnums luring the bass to boat. And the bigger the lure the better say the trollers.
The magazine says that the Central and North Jersey Coast has seen an influx of herring with surf casters live-lining herring to good size stripers.
Checking their logbooks, it appears that this action will not let up anytime soon. But if your surf-casting, you’ll have lots of company as the above areas had shoulder-to-shoulder anglers.
They’re finding that boat anglers who are dragging Mojos and plugs from South Jersey to the Delaware Coast are finding fish in the 30-40 pound class and they’re hitting peanut and adult bunker.
Brinkman’s Bait & Tackle in Philly reports that Mojo rigs plus Mann’s picked up over 100 stripers over the past 10 days as told by his regular customers as they fished out of the Highlands in Jersey. Customer Paul and crew fished out of Raritan Bay and had their 10 fish limit and also released 25 other bass. Most were caught by snagging bunker ad dropping 5-7-once spoons and heavy shad bodies.
The following are some Jersey striper hotspots, including surf fishing spots, you may want to try:
* Brigantine Inlet, Brigantine, NJ
* Beach Haven Inlet (Hole Gate), Beach Haven, NJ
* Long Beach Island, NJ
* Barnegat Inlet South Jetty, Barnegat Light, NJ
* Barnegat Inlet North Jetty, Island Beach State Park, NJ
* Sedge Island Barnegat Bay, Island Beach State Park, NJ
* Island Beach, Island Beach State Park, NJ
* Manasquan Inlet, Brielle/Point Pleasant, NJ
* Manasquan to Long Branch (Jetty Country), NJ
* Sandy Hook Point, Sandy Hook, NJ
* Corson’s Inlet (Strathmere Inlet), Strathmere, NJ
* Absecon Inlet Plus, Atlantic City
* Townsend’s Inlet, Sea Isle City and Avalon, NJ
* Hereford Inlet North Wildwood, NJ
* Cape May, NJ
Once the striper run passes Cape May, it’s off to the Outer Banks and Cape Hatteras. If pursuing them, remember to dress warm and bring an ice cooler.
To learn all about these striper hotspots, including directions, where to fish and tackle to use, check the web for Frank Daignault’s “Striper Hotspots” that covers striper fishing from Maine to New Jersey along with do’s and don’t for surf anglers.
The 228-page softcover gives the most detailed coverage of regionalized striper fishing. It’s published by The Globe Pequot Press in Old Saybrook, CT.
In his book, Daignault also shows a graph as to which locations are best for fly, Jetty, Inlet, Oversand Vehicle Allowance and Oversand Vehicle Necessary striper fishing. It’d make a dandy stocking stuffer for all anglers.
After Thanksgiving we customarily do a snow sport season report with local resort openings. And things looked promising two weeks ago as Blue Mountain Resort in Palmerton began making snow as they are at a higher and colder elevation. But that effort was for naught as unseasonably warm, rainy days followed. In fact it has been reported that a record El Nino could create one of the warmest Decembers on record. Not what skiers and boarders want to hear.
According to AccuWeather based at State College, this El Nino (which is warm Pacific Ocean water) is one of the strongest ever recorded. More so than the one that occurred in 1997-1998.
In the past, Blue Mountain and Bear Creek (in Macungie) ski areas normally look forward to a post Christmas day opening, as that day is their biggest and busiest of the season as kids, college students and some adults are off for the holidays. But unless we get cold weather for snowmaking, it may not happen until the new year.
In the mean time, here’s what downhill skiers and boarders have to look forward to at Lehigh Valley’s two closest ski resorts.
BEAR CREEK MOUNTAIN RESORT
According to Jeff Zellner, Bear Creek Public Relations Manager, the resort has revamped their tubing park by doubling the capacity. They increased their number of tubing lanes from five to ten and have purchased brand new tubes. They’ve also changed their new session times to make them more convenient for groups and families.
Bear Creek’s snowmaking system was also upgraded by expanding their water storage and base lake area. They also made pipeline modifications to increase water capacity and added new, high-tech demo guns. Without a sufficient water supply, ski areas can’t make machine snow, which here in the southeast is often better than real snow.
If you go night skiing or boarding you will also notice a difference in slope lighting. In a five-year project, Bear Creek has replaced 25 slope lights with new LED lights that are 70 percent more efficient and a bit brighter. The plan is to replace all their slope lights with LED lighting.
For sushi lovers, a full Sushi Bar was added at the grille and will offer a full sushi menu with two sushi chefs. There will be daily specials and events at the bar.
BLUE MOUNTAIN RESORT
Having invested in snowmaking capacity over the last 20 years, over half of Blue’s acreage is now fully automated with the latest equipment and software. Over the summer, Blue Mountain added six new snowmaking pumps that increased their output to 14,000 gallons/minute. Says Melissa Yingling, Blue Mountain Marketing Director, “This impressive water capacity coupled with our 55,000 cfm of snowmaking air and latest automated technology, is sure to make this winter one of the best yet at Blue Mountain.”
If you’re planning on being a regular visitor at Blue, Yingling suggests purchasing a season pass online now as it saves money over the long run.
For more information and when the mountain will open for skiing and boarding, check www.skibluemt.com.
With the deer hunting season winding down in most parts of the state, you may have been lucky to bag a trophy buck. If you did, you could win a trail camera from the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s “Take A Buck, Take A Photo” contest.
The PGC says that if you took a nice buck with rifle or bow, take two shots of the buck with your bow or rifle and submit it to the PGC for their free contest that runs until Dec. 18.
According to the Game Commission, staff will narrow your submitted photos to a group, and contenders will be posted on the agency’s Facebook page, where users will determine the winning photos by posting their “liking” the images. Those submitting the images with the most “likes” for their archery and firearms bucks, will win trail cameras.
The PGC says all submissions must include the first and last name of the hunter and other people in the photo, the hunter’s hometown, and the county where the deer was harvested. Of course, submissions must indicate whether the deer was harvested with a bow or rifle.
Finally, the PGC has the right to use all submitted images. If you need further information check the PGC’s website.
THE SECOND OPENING DAY FOR DEER KICKS OFF
Saturday, December 3, kicks off the second part of the rifle deer hunting season that comes to an end on Dec. 10 in most parts of the state.
If you’ve strike out on filling your buck or doe tag by this Dec. 10, there’s still the after Christmas flintlock season Dec. 26-Jan. 14, and in WMU 2B, 5C and 5D until Jan. 28. There’s also the Extended Firearms deer season Dec. 26-Jan. 28 for antlerless only deer in Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties.
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.