Saturday, Oct. 24 marks the opening of the regular small game season for pheasants, rabbits and grouse.
As for rabbits, I said this before and I’ll say it again, there are more of them in the city of Allentown then in the woodlands and farmlands. And that’s because the city is mostly void of their main predators like foxes, coyotes and Great Horned Owls. City rabbits usually only succumb to vehicles that hit them when the run out onto a street.
But the main small game quarry are pheasants. Long tails, as they’re often called, are non-existent in the wild. When I was a kid growing up in West Catasauqua, a pheasant or two would occasionally show up in our back yard. They emanated from what we called the West Catty woods that lay off of Pine Street and bordered on one side by the tank farm, the mall that houses Walmart, and on the other side, the Fairview Cemetery. Those days are gone and never to return.
If it weren’t for the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s (PGC) stocking of pen raised birds, there would be no pheasants to hunt. And this year, pheasants will be stocked mainly on state game lands.
Here in the Southeast Region, the PGC will have stocked a total of 21,380 male birds (m) and 7,850 females (f). This is in addition to the 2,640(m) and 990(f) that were already stocked for the early Junior Hunter season.
You may not be aware, but for the 2020-21 seasons, both males and females may be taken except in the Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas. And don’t’ forget, hunters need a Pheasant Permit ($26.90) that must be carried while pheasant hunting. Senior Lifetime license holders are exempt for this as are youths under 17 but who need a free permit.
Insomuch as where the pheasants will be stocked, in upper Lehigh County most of the birds will be stocked on State Game Land #205. There was a time when Farm-Game properties were included, but that program is no longer in existence.
The In-season stockings in Lehigh County are as follows with a four-day window date. They are as follows:
1st In-season, Oct. 27-30 with 460(m), 170 (f); 2nd In-season, Nov. 3-6, 460(m), 170(f); 3rd In-season, Nov. 9-13, 460(m), 160(f); 4th In-season, Nov. 18-20, 340(m), 130(f); Late-season, Dec. 17-18, 320(m), 120(f).
If you opt to hunt in Berks County, SGL 106, 280, Blue Marsh, French Creek – Big Woods tract, will be stocked.
In Schuylkill, which has the most with SGL 106, 160, 227, 229, 257 and Swatara State Park receiving birds.
As Pennsylvania’s state bird, Ruffed Grouse populations have been on the decline due to several reasons including disease. The PGC is managing them to maintain their survival and one method is that the late season has been cancelled. These fast flyers of the woodlands are a majestic bird and are tough to hunt.
In Lehigh County the best bets are the Blue Mountain ridge where the going is rocky and rough. A good hunting dog helps here. That, and the woodlands around Leaser Lake. The bag limit is two but hunters should be happy with one to help perpetuate the species.
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.