Bowhunters are beginning to see the start of the deer rut when bucks begin chasing does for their mating season. When that occurs, wary bucks throw caution to the wind and run across roadways and highways in pursuit of a doe in-heat.
It’s at this time when deer-vehicle accidents are common in the fall, so drivers need to be alert to the danger, suggests Whitetails Unlimited Director Russ Austad. “According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are approximately 1 million car accidents with deer each year. These accidents kill 200 Americans, cause more than 10,000 personal injuries, and result in $1 billion in vehicle damage.”
Deer are primarily active at night and particularly during the hours between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Dawn and dusk are main travel times as they move from bedding areas to feed in the evening, and back in the morning. Even during the day when they’re on the chase.
State Farm Insurance Company estimates there were over 2 million animal collision insurance industry claims for the past year. This marks a 7.2 percent increase over the previous 12 months, according to State Farm.
Animal strike claims typically rise dramatically in the fall, and peak in October-November. Insurance claims from 2006 through 2020 show claim frequency in November was more than twice the monthly average, when such claims are least likely to be filed.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that about 20 percent of motor vehicle crash deaths result from the vehicle leaving the road and striking a solid object, like a tree or utility pole. Due to the risk of leaving your lane, losing control and leaving the road, braking in a straight line is better than a sudden swerve in many cases when encountering a potential animal strike.
There are a number of things a driver can do to be safer during this time of year:
* If you see one deer, assume there are others around. Deer often travel in groups.
* Deer crossing signs along the highway are there for a reason – deer are known to cross the road in that area so be extra cautious.
* Reduce your speed and watch the edges of the road, as well as ditches and tree lines along the highway. At night, drive within the limits of your headlights and use your high beams when you are able to. Headlights will pick up reflections from the deer’s eyes long before you will be able to see the entire deer. If you see these reflections, start to slow down.
* If a collision with a deer is inevitable, avoid swerving to miss the deer and do not go into the ditch or cross the centerline into oncoming traffic. Most experts advise hitting the deer instead of swerving sharply into the side of the road and possibly losing control of the vehicle, hitting a roadside object, or rolling the vehicle.
* If you do hit a deer call police as insurance companies normally require a police report if there is damage that needs to be repaired. Do not approach a deer that is injured but still alive. It will be scared and want to flee, and you can be injured by hooves or antlers. Police officers and game wardens are permitted to destroy injured animals, but it’s usually not legal for individuals to kill a deer out of season or without a license, regardless of circumstance.
Seeing a deer in the woods is a unique experience, but it’s scary when you see one in front of you when you’re driving.
As a “heads up” for you waterfowl hunters, local farmers have started taking down their corn and soybean crops so this should be inviting for ducks and geese to begin feeding in these harvested fields. In Lehigh County, I’ve seen early morning flights of small flocks of geese taking off from the Lehigh River around 7:30 a.m. and they all seem to be flying West.
With the pheasant hunting season set to open Oct. 23, allow me to reminisce a bit.
In years past, the opening of pheasant hunting season in Pennsylvania was almost as popular as the deer opener. It was a time when upland hunters would walk the fields and woodland edges in hopes of flushing a long-tail as they’re often called. The cackle when one would flush was startling and awakened the senses.
When I was 12, my grandfather, who lived in Ironton, and my one uncle took me and my single shot, 16-gauge shotgun on my first pheasant hunt on farmland that is now the Whitehall Mall. We also hunted around my grandfather’s house and the fields around Egypt and Ormrod. That’s when there were wild pheasants to hunt. There were also wild pheasants in the fields around the West Catasauqua woods (by Walmart, Dicks, oil tank fields) near my parents’ home. In fact, one morning there was one walking around our backyard that evidently came from those same fields and woodlot.
Going back even farther, the late former outdoor writer Charlie Nehf used to write about taking a trolley from Allentown to Fogelsville with his shotgun to hunt pheasants and rabbits in the large fields there at the time. Can you imagine that happening today. SWAT would be called out to arrest him.
But those good old days are gone and never to return as development both housing and commercial ate up an appreciable amount of pheasant habitat.
Today, hunters have to rely on the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s pheasant stocking program. Unfortunately, it’s like the trout stocking program, that is essentially put and take.
And what hunters don’t take, great-horned owls, fox’s and coyotes take.
Some years ago, the PGC sponsored the Farm-Game Co-op program wherein farmers would allow hunting on their property that would be stocked with pheasants and they would be given posters to post to show their relationship with the PGC and hunters. Today, that former program is now called the “Hunter Access Program.” Unfortunately, those lands have pretty much dried up as well for hunting.
As such, the PGC now stocks primarily state game lands and state parks. In Lehigh County it’s SGL #205 in Lowhill Township. In Berks, SGL #106, 280, Blue Marsh State Park, French Creek State Park – Big Woods Tract. Unfortunately, Northampton County has no listed stocking areas.
For Lehigh, the PGC lists the pre and in-season stocking time frames with the number of pheasants in parenthesis. Pre-season stocking will be Oct. 20-22 (370); 1st in-season, 26-29 (440); 2nd in-season, Nov. 2-5 (440); 3rd in-season, Nov. 8-12 (430); 4th in-season, Nov. 17-19 (400); Xmas season, Dec. 22-23 (400); 1st late season, Dec. 28-29 (220); 2nd late season, Jan. 5-6 (180).
All totaled, the PGC will have stocked a total of 3,360 pheasants that includes an added 480 for the youth pheasant hunt held Oct. 7-8.
Back in 2017, the PGC conducted a daily survival rate between male and female pheasants and between public and private properties, and among pheasants released during different stockings during the season. Overall, 53.8 percent of males and 41.1 percent of females were harvested. Harvest rates were similar between other public properties (50.7 percent) and SGLs (48.7 percent), but were significantly higher than harvest rates on Hunter Access properties (37.3 percent).
The pheasant season is split in three parts beginning Oct. 23-Nov. 26; Dec. 13-24; and Dec. 27-Feb. 28. The daily limit is two birds with six in possession.
The second part of the statewide bear hunting season for archery and muzzleloader hunters gets underway Sat. Oct. 16, but has been open in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D since Sept. 18.
Bear season in Pennsylvania has gained in popularity the last few years. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), a record 220,471 people (211,627 Pennsylvania residents) purchased bear license in 2020. That was up from 292,043 in 2019, 174,869 in 2018 and 147,728 in 2009.
Perhaps the main reason for the increase is that it has become known throughout the country that Pennsylvania has some very large bears, many weighing more than 600 pounds. On Nov. 7, 2020, Abby Strayer of McConnelsburg took a 719-pound male bruin with a crossbow in Ayr Township, Fulton County.
As for bowhunters, who had two weeks last year to hunt rather than one as in the past, they took a record 955 bears. The harvest was 1,041 in the 2-year-old muzzleloader/special firearms seasons, and 1,177 during the general firearms season.
Hunters took bears in 59 of 67 counties and in 22 of Pennsylvania’s 23 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs).
Potter County led the state in the bear harvest with 188; Lycoming was next best at 186; Tioga had 185; Clearfield, with 158; Monroe, with 152; Clinton, with 150; Elk, with 140; Luzerne, with 125; Centre, with 117; Bradford, 108; Pike, 105; Wayne, 100; and Carbon, 97.
There is something new for the 2021 season. In the past, many WMUs will allow bear hunting during the first – and in some units even the second – week of the statewide firearms deer season. Unlike last year, though, when bears didn’t become legal game until the first Monday, hunters in 2021 will be able to harvest them on the opening weekend of deer season, both Saturday and Sunday says the PGC.
Another regulatory change is that properly licensed bowhunters may carry muzzleloaders when any deer or bear archery or muzzleloader seasons overlap again this year.
Also, and aside from the exemption that applies during overlaps in the muzzleloader deer and bear seasons, holders of License to Carry Firearms may possess their permitted firearms while bowhunting.
Successful bear hunters must not forget to have their bears checked at a bear check station that are listed in the 2021-22 Hunting & Trapping Digest.
DEER RUT REPORT
According to Bob Danenhower, of Bob’s Taxidermy in Orefield, this season could prove to be an early rut. He’s seeing deer hammering soybeans the past few weeks and they love the leaves as they turn yellow, although many bean fields are already brown. Plus, corn crops are about two weeks ahead of normal. He says oak trees are showing above average yield and early dropping white oaks are always a sure bet. Chestnuts too, look big and plump.
His customers have been seeing large bucks on their trail cams, many of which are not yet on the move during the day, but staying close to or in the tall standing corn.
Danenhower believes now is an ideal time to use cover scents with buck urine preferred because many bucks are still in bachelor groups and they’ll seek out other bucks. As such, Danenhower handles fresh weekly Yurin-Luck buck scent that he and many of his customers use on the bottoms of their shoes as they walk to and from their stands. Later on, when the rut heats up, he’ll have fresh doe-in-heat scent available.
The Little Lehigh Creek in Lehigh County will be stocked Oct. 18 and Lake Minsi in Northampton County on Oct. 14.
As we’re now in October with dipping temperatures, the recreational boating season is about over for the year. Only avid boating anglers can be seen on local lakes and the Delaware and Lehigh rivers.
If you’re not among the latter, this may be a good time to winterize your boats’ outboard motor. According to BoatUS, when freezing temperatures prevail, and if there is water inside your engine or gear case, the result can be a cracked block or housing. This could cost you a repair bill that could run into four figures.
BoatUS recommends following the owner’s manual for winterizing, but in the absence of one, the organization recommends the following.
*Freshwater flush: Using a flushing attachment run your outboard in a tank filled with clean water.
*Empty fuel lines and carburetors: While the engine is still running, disconnect the fuel line from the engine and when it dies, the fuel delivery components will be empty which prevents gums from forming in the stagnant gas and clogging lines, jets or injectors.
*Fog the carburetor intake(s): Before the engine runs out of fuel, spray fogging oil into the carburetor(s). It acts as an anticorrosive to protect the carb and cylinders.
*Drain cooling passages: Disconnect the flush attachment or remove the motor from the flush tank. With the motor upright, let all water drain out of the pick-up. Open the drain plugs. Crank the motor a couple times by hand or “bump” it with the starter to empty the water pump. Remove the spark plugs and spray fogging oil into the holes to coat the interior of the cylinders. While the plugs are out, check and regap or replace them.
*Drain and refill gearcase: This will prevent condensation from forming inside the tank.
*Drain fuel tank and supply lines: Drain the fuel that remains and use it in your car or snow blower, but leave the tanks empty. If emptying tanks is not practical, top it off to 95 percent full. Gasoline with ethanol is subject to phase separation if water gets into the fuel which will happen with a half-empty tank over the winter. Filling the tank limits the air space inside the tank and reduces the potential for internal condensation.
*Stabilize the fuel: If leaving the tank full, dose it with an appropriate amount of gasoline stabilizer to combat the formation of passage-clogging gums.
*Clean and lubricate propeller shaft: The off-season is perfect to have the prop(s) serviced. If storing your craft at home, leave it off to discourage theft.
*Store upright: Laying the engine down risks water draining where it shouldn’t. An engine stand is easy enough to cobble together.
These suggested BoatUS maintenance items will go a long way for trouble-free spring-time boating.
The Lehigh County Fish & Game Protective Association stocked a portion of the Little Lehigh yesterday (Oct. 1) with trout from the Lil Le Hi Trout Nursery. Stream reporters say the fish, however, were far and few between, But the PF&BC will stock the Little Lehigh on Oct. 18. Over in Northampton County, Lake Minsi gets stocked Oct. 14.
Well if it isn’t deer with Covid, now we have rabbits with Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease (RHD) that affects domestic and native wild rabbit and hare populations.
RHD is a foreign animal disease caused by a virus that can only infect lagomorph species. The virus variant responsible for the current RHD outbreak in the United States is RHDV2. This variant of RHD-causing viruses, is the only one known to affect native North American lagomorphs.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) has taken steps to address RHD by prohibiting the importation into Pennsylvania of any wild lagomorph – a group that includes rabbits, hares, and pikas – or any of their parts or products, including meat, pelts, hides and carcasses, from any state, province, territory, or country where Rabbit Hemorrhagic Disease Virus Serotype 2 (RHDV2) has been reported. This ban will remain in effect until further notice.
This is one of many PGC strategies drafted to minimize the introduction risk and impact of RHD on Pennsylvania’s native wild rabbit and hare populations. The agency’s importation ban complements a similar quarantine order covering domestic lagomorphs recently issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA).
According to the PGC, RHDV2 cannot infect humans or other animals, but it is highly contagious and no specific treatment is available. Infection can occur through ingestion or inhalation of the virus, which is shed predominantly by infected lagomorphs in their urine, feces, and respiratory secretions. The virus can contaminate equipment, tools, enclosures, and therefore can inadvertently be spread by humans and other animals. Disease control or eradication is inherently challenging as the virus is extremely resilient and can remain infectious on the landscape for months.
The PGC goes on to explain that the infection with RHDV2 is often fatal, resulting in large, localized mortality events. It can easily spread between domestic and wild populations. Infected lagomorphs may exhibit blood-stained noses due to internal bleeding along with other non-specific clinical signs, but an RHD outbreak in wild populations would be suspected if multiple dead rabbits or hares are observed in the same relative location and over a short period of time with no obvious cause of death.
To date, RHDV2 has been detected in domestic and/or wild populations in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Wyoming, Canada, and Mexico, but so far, not in Pennsylvania. While the detections in Florida and Georgia have been restricted to domestic rabbits, they highlight how easily RHD can spread across great distances due to human-driven transportation of infectious animals or materials.
With the upcoming rabbit hunting season (Oct. 16), the PGC recommends cleaning and disinfecting any surfaces or equipment that may have been contaminated by harvested rabbits and wildlife in general. After cleaning with soap and water, a 10 percent household bleach disinfectant should be applied. Following a 10-minute contact period, the surfaces or equipment should be rinsed with clean water and allowed to air dry.
Anyone who finds two or more dead rabbits or hares in one location with an unknown cause of death, is advised not to touch or disturb those animals. Instead, they should contact their local PGC office, who along with the PDA and federal authorities, will conduct an investigation.
During the recent cool nights we’ve been having, it’s a good time to open the windows and experience some night sounds. What I’m referring to are the sounds of crickets.
These seldom seen but heard during late summer nights, crickets are distributed around the world except in latitude 55 degrees or higher. They can be found in varied habitat from grasslands, bushes, forests, marshes, beaches and caves. In most of our Lehigh Valley yards, they hide mostly in flower beds or along walls or fences with high grass.
Crickets are mainly nocturnal and best known for their loud, persistent chirping song of males trying to attract females, although some species are mute. The singing species are said to have good hearing. Proof of this is upon approaching one in your yard when they’re chirping, they’ll immediately stop.
As for the chirping, a male cricket, with its head facing its burrow in a flower bed for example, creates its chirping using its leathery fore wings to scrape against each other to produce the sound. Its burrow acts as a resonator to amplify the sound.
According to entomologists, crickets have a vein that runs along the center of each tegmen, with comb-like serrations on its edge forming a file-like structure. At the rear edge of the tegmen is a scraper. The tegmina are held at an angle to the body and rhythmically raised and lowered which causes the scraper on one wing to rasp on the file on the other. Most female crickets lack the necessary adaptations to stridulate, so make no sound.
Like birds, crickets have several types of songs in their repertoire. The calling song attracts females and repels other males, and the latter is fairly loud. The courting song is used when a female cricket is near and encourages her to mate with the caller. A triumphal song is produced for a brief period after a successful mating, and may reinforce the mating bond to encourage the female to lay some eggs rather than find another male.
As for their diet, some species will feed on flowers, fruit and leaves, with ground-based species favoring seedlings, grasses, pieces of leaf and the shoots of young plants. Others are more predatory and include invertebrate eggs, larva, pupae, moulting insects and aphids. Many are scavengers and will consume various organic remains, decaying plants, seedlings and fungi.
Crickets’ lifecycles consist of an egg stage, a larval or nymph stage that increasingly resembles the adults that eventually form into an adult stage.
Their predators are mostly opossums and skunks. We’ve had a cricket in our flower garden beneath our bedroom window the last two months. Last week, we smelled a skunk and upon checking our security cameras the next morning, low and behold old stinky was foraging around in our garden evidently looking for a cricket meal.
So, before the cold temperatures of fall arrive and the crickets burrow in for the winter, enjoy the night sounds of summer.
The much-anticipated archery deer hunting season is set to open in a split season beginning Sept. 18 including a Sunday date on Nov. 14, in Wildlife Management Areas 2B, 5C and 5D. After that in these WMU’s, the season runs Nov. 15-20; continues on a second Sunday, Nov. 21; and goes from Nov. 22-26 and again Dec. 27-Jan. 29.
The statewide season opens Oct. 2. To Nov. 14 (Sunday), then again on Nov. 15-19, then Dec. 27-Jan.17.
In 2020, the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) reported that 373,700 archery licenses were sold, a big difference from the 5,500 sold during the first archery season in 1951. These numbers go to show the increase in popularity of bowhunting in Pennsylvania.
These totals also reflect that bowhunters managed to take 160,380 deer of which 80,130 were bucks in 2020. This accounts for 37 percent of the overall 2020 deer harvest.
The local WMU archery seasons estimated harvest breakdown is as follows. The numbers in parenthesis are last season’s totals with “A” representing antlered and “AL” representing antlerless deer AL.
WMU 3C: 2,670 (2250) A; 2,240 (1,470) AL
WMU 4C: 3,260 (3,550) A; 2,890 (2,960) AL
WMU 5C: 5,810 (5,330) A; 7,410 (7,075) AL
WMU 5D: 1,790 (2,180) A; 4,310 (4,460) AL
Here are some PGC rule updates for the upcoming season.
*Hunters may use illuminated nocks for arrows and bolts, as they aid in tracking or locating the arrow or bolt after being launched. However, the PGC says transmitter-tracking arrows remain illegal.
*As for tree stands and climbing devices, the PGC mandates that both forms that cause damage to trees are unlawful to use or occupy unless the user has permission from the landowner. Tree stands or steps that penetrate a tree’s cambium layer causes damage and is unlawful to build or occupy tree stands screwed or nailed to trees on state game lands, state forests or state parks are illegal. Portable hunting tree stands and blinds are allowed on state game lands, must be removed no later than two weeks after the close of the flintlock and late archery deer seasons in WMU’s being hunted. And those used on state game lands must be conspicuously marked with a durable I.D. tag that identifies the stand owner and include the hunter’s full name, legal home address and nine-digit CID number that appears on their hunting license.
Some other tips for tree stand hunting is hunters should use a fall restraining device, preferably a full-body harness and be used the moment leaving the ground. The PGC strongly suggests not climbing on dead or icy trees and to stay on the ground on blustery days.
Oh yes. And don’t sleep in a tree stand. If sleepy, get down.
In retrospect I once owned and used a Screaming Eagle fixed tree stand. It was made of heavy steel and very sturdy. The company, at the time, would advertise it showing it holding a VW beetle bug coupe. Only part that would worry me was during set-up as it came with a hefty chain that would encircle the tree then hook onto the stand. To complete the installation, the company recommended jumping on it a couple times to set it onto the tree as I hugged the tree. At that time there were no body harnesses on the market, so I used a utility line worker’s type belt with rope, carabiner and thick steel O-ring for attachment. But it still worried me that the stand would slide down as did a Loggy Bayou climber I once owned.
Every year a few hunters fall from a tree stand, some of which are fatal falls. So a word to the wise, use a harness, even on a ladder stand.
Here are a few more safety tips on tree stands from the PGC.
*Choose a live, straight tree and avoid ash that may decline due to emerald ash borers.
*But Smart. Only use stands certified by the Treestand Manufacturers Association,
*Inspect your stand each time you use them for wear and tear and before erecting it.
*Don’t go too high. The higher up you go, the vital zone on a deer decreases, while the likelihood of a serious injury increases.
*Be careful with long-term placement as exposure to the elements can damage straps, ropes and attachment cords. Plus, a stand’s stability can be compromised over time, and as the tree grows.
Gray squirrels are the most populated small game species in the state. And their hunting seasons are lengthy.
These bushy-tailed, nimble, acrobatic residents of tree tops, are bird feeder robbers and are opportunists. The other day I watched as one had a piece of pepperoni pizza in its mouth that it deposited on my neighbor’s porch. I couldn’t resist calling my neighbor to tell him Domino’s just delivered a pizza to his house.
And as said, they’re nimble, as they can hang by one foot on a thin limb to grab a nut from another branch of a walnut tree. One time while bowhunting from a tree stand, I watched as a squirrel was being chased in a tree by another squirrel and it lost its footing. It fell about 14 feet to the woodland floor but merely bounced once, then scampered off seemingly unscathed from the fall.
Squirrel hunting is a good way to introduce youngsters to the sport of hunting. As a mentor, this can be done by sitting together against a tree and scanning the treetops. And sometimes they can be called in. One simple trick used for generations is to suck on the back of a hand to make a squeaking sound. It may be enough to pique a squirrel’s curiosity and draw it into shooing range.
Speaking of shooting, squirrels can be hunted with a shotgun and small #8 shot. Problem with this is picking the spent shot out the squirrel’s body so you don’t break a tooth when eating it. A scoped .22 caliber rifle is better for a youngster as recoil is negligible compared to a shotgun, plus it sharpens a junior hunter’s shooting skills.
One good choice if you don’t already have a .22LR, is a Henry Rifle that are made in the USA. You may have seen their TV ads as they offer .22s in lever and pump actions, plus carbines that are shorter in length for a youngster. They’re quality rifles that can be handed down to upcoming generations.
In addition, squirrel’s make good table fare as their meat is sweet as their diets consist of nuts, flower buds, berries, mushrooms, pine seeds, germ at the base of a corn kernel, dogwood, wild cherry and black gum fruits. (Incidentally, the pizza scavenger squirrel didn’t eat the pizza, but merely deposited it for my neighbor to throw away)
For junior hunters, with or without a required license, squirrel hunting season runs Sept. 11-25 and that includes a Nov. 14, Sunday hunt, one of two with the other falling on Sunday, Nov. 21.
The regular squirrel season runs concurrent with a split season of Sept. 11-Nov.13; Sunday, Nov. 14; Nov.15-20; Sunday, Nov. 21; Nov. 22-26; Dec. 13-24 and Dec. 27-Feb. 28, 2022.
LIL’LE HI TROUT NURSERY SUSTAINED FISH LOSS
As a result of the rains from hurricane IDA, Lehigh Parkway’s Lil-Le Hi trout nursery sustained some damage and loss of fish. Visiting there after the storm on Thursday, volunteers from local sportsmen’s clubs were in the process of cleaning up and attempting to recapture any live and dead fish that got swept away. At that time, workers said they couldn’t get an idea of the number of fish loss until the water receded.
Since then, Herb Gottschall, president of Lehigh County Fish & Game, said they believe they lost about 200 fish that were in the 6-20-inch class. And those would have been stocked in area streams in 2022.
During these dog days of summer, local fishing action can be tough. Especially on local streams and rivers.
Willie Marx, from Willie’s Bait & Tackle in Cementon, says the Lehigh River is high, ripping and chocolate colored from the rains we’ve had, so forget fishing it. But he hears lakes like Mauch Chunk are yielding largemouth bass while Leaser Lake is producing good numbers of largemouths and muskies, both of which must be immediately released.
At Chris’ Bait & Tackle in Mertztown, Chris said Blue Marsh Lake in Berks County has been producing good numbers of large and smallmouth bass on Senko worms and jigs.
At Ontelaunee Reservoir in upper Berks County, anglers are taking largemouths by working frog lures over the many Lilly pads there.
He’s been selling a lot of trout for Leaser Lake anglers who are targeting the huge (catch-release) muskies there. Largemouth bass too are hitting well but both must be immediately released unharmed.
Otherwise, most of the angling action is at New Jersey shore points.
First up is Capt. Howard Bogan of the Jamaica, who reports his trips are hauling in bluefish up to 12 pounds as well as some sea bass and a few sizable fluke. He has offshore tuna trips planned and recommends checking his website for dates and times.
On the Water Magazine has received decent fluke, bluefish and albacore reports. For example, Bob Matthews, at Fisherman’s Den in Belmar, NJ, says it was an excellent week for jumbo fluke with the biggest weighed so far was a 13-pounder caught aboard the Big Mohawk. The Ocean Explorer got a 12 pounder with Capt. Cal II bringing in blues up to 12 pounds. The Shark River is loaded with snappers while false albacore are plentiful in the Shark River Inlet jetties. Most are being caught on Epoxy jigs.
Giglio’s Bait & Tackle in Sea Bright reports albies appeared off Monmouth Beach on Tuesday and were in Sea Bright on Wednesday. They also report good crabbing action.
Rich Hebert, at Tackle World in Rochelle Park, said giant bluefin were being taken off Rockaway and added that the fluke bite was good on the reefs and wrecks.
Capt. Phil Sciortino, at the Tackle Box in Hazlet, reports a 130-pound bluefin was caught in the Sandy Hook Channel last week. Blues have been appearing all over the place and fluking has been good at Scotland Grounds and the Rattlesnake with porgies hitting at Breezy Point.
John Vafiadis, at the Reel Seat in Brielle, said his customers are catching everything from false albacore, Spanish mackerel and bonito along the beaches and outside the Manasquan Inlet. He added that fluking has been good on all the local reefs with giant bluefin being found not far from shore. There are also a number of southern kingfish while the canyons are giving up bigeye tuna, swordfish and wahoo. “It’s been crazy,” he concluded.
If you’re heading to the beaches, On the Water says the schools don’t stay in one place for long. But chasing them can be frustrating. So, it may be better to stay put and let them come to you.
The first part of the small game hunting season, when dove and resident goose population season, kicks off Sept. 1.
Dove are the most populated small game bird in the state. And are challenging to hunt for two reasons. First, they’re fast flyers as they can dip, dart and reach speeds up to 70 mph with a tail wind. Perhaps faster when peppered by a load of #7 shot.
It’s been said dove are more challenging targets than a round of skeet or trap. Unlike claybirds, whose flight paths are generally known, doves offer every wing shot possible. You’ll have incomers, outgoers, quartering right, quartering left, crossing in front, crossing behind and overhead shots. And once the smoothbore barks, expect the whistling wings to turn on the afterburners and high-tail it out of the area.
The second hardest part of dove hunting is finding a spot to hunt them. As dove are small-grain lovers, look for a harvested grain field for starters. If there is water nearby, so much the better.
Cornfields are good attractors, especially if some ragweed or foxtail grows throughout. However, farmers don’t appreciate hunters traipsing throughout their standing corn, which is predominant right now. Instead, hunt the perimeters and pass up birds flying into the corn as opposed to coming out of it. Aside from that, downed birds are very difficult to located in the standing corn unless you have a good hunting dog to send in.
Upon filling their crops with wheat, corn, ragweed or sunflowers, doves will head off to pick grit and drink water before they roost for the night. This usually happens from about 4 p.m. until sunset. It’s at this time when the shooting action can be fast and frequent.
But it’s important to see doves on-the-wing to learn their flight routes. Scout trees along these routes and try to determine which trees along field edges doves prefer. There’s often a pattern to their movement according to veteran dove hunters.
As for a stand site, take advantage of natural vegetation such as high weeds, a corn-row middle, clumps of bushes, brush or a tree in the middle of a field. Most importantly, remaining still when a bird is sighted is probably the best tip.
If you cannot locate a local dove spot, try state game lands that have cover crops planted such as those on SGL 205 in Lowhill Township, off Route 100. But expect lots of company.
Another good bet are the vast fields in upper Berks County around Topton, Maxatawny, Fleetwood, Lyons, which are predominately owned by Mennonite farmers. Some are even posted as Safety Zones but ask hunting permission first.
Observing dove sitting on the utility wires is also a good sign that there’s a flyway nearby.
As for geese, they’re on the wing and making early morning feeding flights from their resting spots on Lake Muhlenberg and Dorney Park pond. Some can also be found on the Lehigh River and at Leaser Lake in upper Lehigh County and Ontelaunee Reservoir in upper Berks County. The question is, where are they putting down once they leave water to feed? Scouting is the best bet.
Unfortunately, local corn and soybean fields are still unharvested making it more difficult to locate a feeding field. As for resident geese, they’ll often hit the same spot day after day until crop fields are harvested then they’ll hit those. And if you're looking for a goose hunting spot, Lake Nockamixon in Bucks County has announced that portions of lake property is open to goose hunting, It's recommended stopping in the lake office for a map of the open areas.
The split dove season runs Sept. 1-Oct. 25 and again from Dec. 16-Jan. 1. whereas goose season has longer runs from Sept. 1-25; Oct. 23-Nov. 26; Dec. 13-Jan. 15; Feb. 4- Feb. 26. Check the Hunting/Trapping Digest for field and possession limits and necessary hunting stamps.
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.