From the National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®), comes these interesting numbers.
NSSF is the firearms industry trade association, and they released the 2017 Firearms Production Report to members. The report compiles the most up to date information based on data sourced from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF’s) Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Export Reports (AFMER). Key findings for public release showed:
• The estimated total number of firearms in civilian possession from 1986-2018 is 422.9 million, according to data reported in the ATF’s Firearms Commerce Report in the United States 2019 report and including the preliminary 2018 Annual Firearms Manufacturing and Exportation Report (AFMER) figures.
• 17,740,000 Modern Sporting Rifles are in private ownership today.
• More than half (54%) of all rifles produced in 2017 were modern sporting rifles.
• In 2017, 7,901,218 total firearms were produced and imported. Of those, 4,411,923 were pistols and revolvers, 2,821,945 were rifles and 667,350 were shotguns.
• An interim 2018 estimate showed a total 7,660,772 total firearms were produced and imported. Of those 4,277,971 were pistols and revolvers, 2,846,757 were rifles and 535,994 were shotguns. Those are interim reports and will be updated as complete information becomes available.
• Firearms-ammunition manufacturing accounted for nearly 12,000 employees producing over $4.1 billion in goods shipped in 2017. An estimated 8.1 billion rounds, of all calibers and gauges, were produced in 2018 for the U.S. market.
“These figures show the industry that America has a strong desire to continue to purchase firearms for lawful purposes,” said Joe Bartozzi, President of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. “The Modern Sporting Rifle continues to be the most popular centerfire rifle sold in America today and is clearly a commonly-owned firearm with more than 17 million in legal private ownership today. The continued popularity of handguns demonstrates a strong interest by Americans to protect themselves and their homes, and to participate in the recreational shooting sports.”
The report also shows that as lawful firearms ownership in America continues to grow, criminal and unintentional misuse of firearms is falling. During the 25-year period covered in this report (1993–2017) the violent crime rate has decreased by 48.6 percent and unintentional firearm-related fatalities have declined by 68 percent.
And get this from a recent Fox News report:
The FBI ran the second-highest number of gun background checks on Black Friday 2019, which is an 11 percent increase from the previous year and an indication that firearm sales are on the rise, officials said.
The agency conducted 202,465 gun background checks on Nov. 29, 2019, which is the second-highest number seen since the bureau implemented the checks in 1998. This year’s big-shopping day is second only to Black Friday 2017, when the FBI ran 203,086 checks, records show.
Black Friday’s numbers were 11 percent higher than 2018, when 182,093 checks were fielded, according to the data.
Though the agency’s background check data typically includes permit checks and re-checks and is, therefore, higher than the number of actual gun sales, it is often indicative of trends in sales in the firearm industry.
Mark Oliva, director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, called the FBI’s gun background check records the closest barometer available to gauge firearms sales.
“This tells us Americans are voting with their wallets when it comes to their ability to exercise Second Amendment rights,” he told FOX Business. “Interestingly, Americans are turning out to buy the firearms they want in increasing numbers even as politicians on the national stage and in some states are increasingly vocal on restricting Second Amendment rights.”
Oliva said the decision to buy a firearm is not “made on a whim,” instead describing it as a “significant investment.”
“Americans are choosing to invest their hard-earned dollars in their ability [to] exercise their rights and buy the firearms they want before gun control politicians attempt to regulate away that ability,” Olivia said.
Roughly 1.2 million firearms were sold nationwide in October 2019, a 10.8 percent increase from October 2018, according to arms and ammo analytics research consultancy Small Arms Analytics and Forecasting. September’s sales were estimated to be about 1.1 million, an increase of nearly 11 percent from the same period a year ago.
Data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System shows the agency performed 2.4 million background checks for potential gun purchasers in October 2019, which is the highest number of checks recorded by the agency for that month. The second-highest recorded year for October’s background checks was 2016, when 2.3 million checks were conducted.
Gun sales are expected to spike this holiday season amid public and political pressure for stricter gun control laws.
In the past five years, there have been at least 33 mass shootings, which are defined as those in which four or more people were killed, not including the shooter, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Democratic presidential contenders have since come out strong against certain kinds of firearms, or in favor of stronger gun control practices, and some retail chains, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, have since opted not to sell them.
In September, nearly 150 business executives called on Senate to pass legislation to enforce stricter firearm background checks and stronger gun laws.
The way I see it, while these efforts appear viable in practice, how will they determine if someone has an undiagnosed mental problem and suddenly goes off the deep end because someone or something set them off. Strong gun laws are already on the books in places like Chicago, California, New York and New Jersey, but firearm crimes still occur.
As many sportsmen and sportsgals are deer hunting right now, there are a number of avid anglers who don’t hunt (or have already filled their deer tags) who prefer to fish as local streams and lakes are virtually void of fishermen.
According to Willie, from Willie’s Bait & Tackle in Cementon, the Lehigh River is dead. No one fishing it. But he was receiving good trout reports from the Little Lehigh that was stocked two weeks ago with brown trout from the Lil-Le-Hi trout nursery. He says a couple customers have been picking up nice 16-19 inch brownies on Gulp Worms, night crawlers and fathead minnows. But not PowerBait.
Willie reminds anglers that the Extended Trout Season is in effect allowing only a three fish limit. He added that he received a call from an angler inquiring if he had waxworms as he was going ice fishing at Tobyhanna Lake in the Pocono’s that had three inches of ice. Wow! If in fact that’s true, he’s walking on thin (unsafe) ice.
From upper Berks County, Chris at Chris’ Bait & Tackle in Mertztown, reports good crappie action at Ontelaunee Reservoir in Maidencreek Township. Crappies there are falling mostly for minnows. Blue Marsh Lake too is producing decent crappie action and a few largemouths, also on minnows. And in Lehigh County, Leaser Lake continues to yield catch-and-release muskies that are being enticed with large shiners. No trout, as the consensus is the sizable muskies there, devoured them.
If you have a New Jersey fishing license, the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife recently stocked approximately 4,800 two-year old rainbow trout averaging 14-18 inches in 20 selected ponds and lakes. Check the agency’s website for a map and location of these stocked waters.
Since the rifle deer hunting season continues until Dec. 14, and then extended season kicks in Dec. 26, hunters need to hunt safely. Cases in point, two hunters succumbed to falls last week in Berks County. The first accident happened when a 69-year old man fell 30 feet from his treestand in District Township near the Hereford Township line.
The second fatality occurred when a 75-year old man died when he fell on his crossbow while driving deer for his son in Alsace Township. The hunter tripped and the crossbow he was carrying discharged into his left side, abdomen and it pierced one of his lungs.
The treestand incident could have likely been avoided had the hunter used a full-body harness that attaches to the tree. One model even allows the hunter to be slowly lowered to the ground in the event of a fall.
The second incident was unique as most on-the-ground fall accidents occur when a firearm is involved, not a crossbow.
From the Pennsylvania Game Commission comes this notice. It’s official: expanded Sunday hunting is coming to Pennsylvania in 2020.
Gov. Tom Wolf today signed into law Senate Bill 147, which permits additional hunting on three Sundays per calendar year – one within the archery deer season, one within the firearms deer season and one selected by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
The law will take effect Feb. 25, 2020, and the first new Sunday hunting opportunities will be identified by the Game Commission thereafter.
In Pennsylvania, Sunday hunting generally is limited to the hunting of foxes, coyotes, crows and feral hogs during open seasons.
Introduced by state Sen. Dan Laughlin, R-Erie, Senate Bill 147 passed the state House of Representatives by a 144-54 vote Oct. 29, then passed the state Senate by a 38-11 vote Nov. 18.
Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said today’s signing of Senate Bill 147 by Gov. Wolf is a win for Pennsylvania’s hunters.
“People today tend to lead busy lives, and hunters are no exception,” Burhans said. “No matter how badly a hunter might want to get out and enjoy the outdoors during hunting season, other responsibilities might take priority and make it difficult.
“Providing opportunity to experience hunting on previously closed Sundays has game-changing potential for hunters with tight schedules and, in many cases, will make a difference by enabling those hunters to hunt alongside their children, setting them on a path they’ll follow the rest of their lives,” Burhans said. “To Sen. Dan Laughlin and to all of those who supported the bill and helped to make it a reality, please accept a heartfelt thank you on behalf of the Game Commission and hunters statewide.”
Laughlin, Chair of the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee, said the new law will create opportunities for tens of thousands of working families across Pennsylvania.
“I believe this has been a long time in coming and is truly a tribute to the thousands of hunters and the many organizations who have supported this effort,” he said. “Weekends are essentially the only time that most working men and women can get out into the woods. The same could be said for many young people, the ones who represent the future of the sport. Lifting the ban will give them increased opportunities to pursue the activity that they love.”
Sen. Jim Brewster, D-McKeesport, who serves on the Senate Game and Fisheries Committee as Minority Chair, sees the new law as an important tool in helping to recruit new hunters and keep them active.
“Sunday hunting will boost interest in the sport and open up new opportunities for hunters who are unable to get into the woods on other days of the week,” Brewster said. “I have been a longtime supporter of adding days when hunters are able to be in the field.
“This law will create access yet provide reasonable protections for farmers and landowners,” he said. “Sunday hunting will allow us to usher in new generations of sportsmen and women to enjoy our woodlands.”
Prior to passing the House of Representatives, Senate Bill 147 was amended to require all hunters on private land on the selected Sundays to carry written permission from the landowner. This requirement does not apply on Sundays when only foxes, coyotes, crows and feral hogs may be hunted.
The bill also gives Game Commission officers the authority to investigate private-land trespassing complaints and enforce trespassing violations as a primary offense. Previously, trespassing violations were referred to police unless a Game & Wildlife Code violation also was alleged. Once the new law takes effect, hunting-related private-land trespassing violations will be enforced year-round by the Game Commission.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) - Pennsylvania will allow landowners to legally notify hunters and others that they’re trespassing by painting purple stripes on trees or posts.
The bill signed Wednesday by Gov. Tom Wolf is designed to ease a landowners’ task of posting “no trespassing” signs that deteriorate over time. The law takes effect in 60 days.
The purple stripes must be vertical lines at least 8 inches long and 1 inch wide. They must be 3 to 5 feet off the ground, readily visible to a person approaching the property and no more than 100 feet apart.
The law applies everywhere, except in Philadelphia and Allegheny County.
Numerous other states have adopted a purple-paint law, and paint manufacturers have formulated cans of spray paint and brush paint specifically marketed as “no hunting” paint.
It’ here. It’s deer … the firearms deer hunting season that is.
The much awaited rifle deer season gets underway statewide Saturday, Nov. 30, when the majority of sportsmen go afield in hopes of bagging a buck. And this year, the season opens on a Saturday after Thanksgiving instead of the Monday after the holiday as it has traditionally been.
According to Chris Rosenberry, supervisor of the Game Commissions Deer and Elk Section, “The Saturday opener will become the biggest harvest day for bucks with the following Monday playing a lesser role, but how much less remains to be seen.” He believes the second Saturday, since it runs concurrent with the start of the antlerless season, will probably become the second largest harvest day for bucks.
Said Rosenberry, “And now there is a third Saturday, as well, since the season was expanded from 12 days to 13 to accommodate a Saturday opener in which more hunters likely will be able to participate.”
Last year, the firearms season opener saw rainy weather nearly statewide and throughout much of the day, but even then, says the PGC, 30 percent of the antlered deer harvest in the 2018-19 harvest were taken on opening day. It was the best day of the season for buck.
The PGC says larger-racked and older bucks are making up more of the deer harvest with each passing year. Two seasons ago, 163,750 bucks were taken, making it the second-largest buck harvest in Pennsylvania since antler restrictions were started in 2002. It was the 10th best all-time harvest.
In the 2018-19 hunting seasons, the overall deer harvest was 374,690 (226,940 antlerless and 147,750 bucks). But despite the lower buck harvest in 2018-19, there were more 2.5-year-old and older bucks (64 percent) taken. Over the previous four-years, the percentage of 2.5-year-old and older bucks in the annual harvest was 57 percent (2017); 56 percent (2016); 59 percent (2015); 57 percent (2014).
Interestingly, the PGC claims only about a third of deer hunters harvest a whitetail during the slate of deer seasons.
In the past, Penn’s Woods produced some “book bucks” that made Pennsylvania’s Big Game Record book or Boone & Crockett Club rankings.
As for field conditions, the agency says that precipitation through spring and summer has fostered an exceptional supply of fall foods. Grazing grass was available in early November, soft and hard mast crops have been plentiful in many areas, spotty in others.
Rosenberry explained that deer typically key on food sources within good cover. And in the case of cornfields, they might never leave them until the corn comes down, so hunters are urged to confirm deer activity in areas they plan to hunt before they commit to them.
A couple weeks ago as I drove along Mauch Chunk Road a huge buck came running out of the uncut cornfield and across the highway just past the entrance to GEO Chemicals (Trojan Powder Co.). This was around 9:30 a.m. so I wondered why this beauty was hightailing it at that time of morning. As I drove farther south, I noticed a farmer taking down the corn in that field and he spooked the buck that was hiding in the standing corn.
Rosenberry goes on to say deer like to hang-out where food is the easiest to obtain (and this particular buck did just that). And deer usually make a mess wherever they eat so it shouldn’t be hard to sort out whether they’re using an area. The deer biologist suggests hunters do some scouting this week and look for raked-up leaves, droppings and partially eaten mast for confirmation.
BUCH HARVEST PHOTO CONTEST
If you take a buck, or a special buck, or your first buck, the PGC would like to hear from you.
The commission is looking for photo of your trophy from either the archery or firearms season, along with some limited background such as hometown, harvest date and county where buck was taken. Photos will be accepted through Dec. 20 and sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Use “Buck Harvest” in the subject line.
The PGC will narrow the photos in each contest into groups of contenders to be posted on the agency’s Facebook page where users will determine the winning photos by “liking” the images. The winners in the archery and firearms bucks will win trail cameras.
For more information, check the PGCs website.
Last Saturday, the Lil-Le-Hi Cooperative trout nursery stocked some sizable trout in the Little Lehigh between the walk bridge near the Allentown Police Academy and downstream to Robin Hood Bridge. From field reports, 17-inchers and above appeared to be the average size.
Saturday, Nov. 23 kicked off the rifle bear season for its three day run that ends Nov. 27. After that, there’s the extended season from Nov. 30-Dec. 14 in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D. The extended opener also opens again in WMUs 1B, 2C, 3A, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4A, 4B, 4C, 4E and 5A, but that period ends Dec. 7.
Pennsylvania is known nation-wide for having large bears. Bruin’s in the 500-600-pound range are taken every year and in fact two were shot last year that topped 700 pounds, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Last year hunters took 3,153 bears, the 11th best state harvest to date. And this was out of an estimated population of about 20,000.
Typically, the northcentral part of Pennsylvania produces the most bear. Counties of Clinton, Lycoming and Tioga are customarily the top producers. And bear have been shot in 60-67 counties within the state.
But that doesn’t mean there are no local bears. For example, and during the 2018 seasons, Lehigh County had one bear taken during the early season and three during the general season. And they were taken from the Blue Mountain area.
In Northampton County, there were four in early, five in archery, three in the general and five in the extended season. Over in Berks, two in early, one in archery, two in general and three in the extended season.
Interestingly, the bears taken in Lehigh in 2018, were all year-old bear, determined by biologists manning bear harvest check stations who pull a tooth to analyze it for age. The four Lehigh County bear field dressed at 141, 124, 130 and 142 pounds respectively.
In Berks, one bear dressed out at 456 pounds and was determined to be nine years old. A 283-pounder came in at 283 and was nine years old. There was one 179-pounder that was nine years old, and a 152-pounder that was five.
Over in Northampton County, the largest four were a 400 pounder age three, a 316-pounder that lived to 12, a 258 pounder that was four-years old and a 10-year old 209-pounder.
So far this year and during the early season, the largest bear came from Clarion County that tipped the scales at 631 pounds. Slightly below that was a 610-pounder taken in Monroe County, and then a 601-pounder from Northampton County.
There were two archery season bear shot. A 556-pound bruin came from Berks County while the other, a 549-pounder bruin, came from Clearfield County. Interestingly, the PGC says it takes about nine years for a bear to reach 500 pounds.
The top 10 harvest counties to date were: Clinton (138); Lycoming (119); Tioga (91); Luzerne (70); Potter (66); Pike (58); Centre (56); Monroe (51); Wayne (50); and Bedford (49).
If hunters prefer to hunt locally, the best bet is the Blue Mountain ridge that encompasses Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties.
Bear hunting opportunities have expanded this season since there are now 32 hunting days in most parts of the state as compared to the previous 16, and from three Saturdays to seven.
Successful bear hunters are reminded that they are required to take their bear within 24 hours to a PGC check station. Check the Hunting/Trapping Digest for their locations and hours of operation.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, hunters who took part in the first archery-only elk hunt Sept. 14-28, (98 general season elk license holders, 27 for bulls and 71 for antlerless), elk hunters are primed for one of the most exciting hunting adventures in the Keystone State.
The general elk season begins Monday, Nov. 4 and ends Saturday, Nov. 9.
The archery season was held in five of Pennsylvania’s 14 Elk Hunt Zones. The 15 hunters taking part in the archery hunt were selected by lottery after applying to participate. Separate drawings were held for the archery season, general season and late-antlerless-only season, with applicants paying $11.90 to be part of each drawing. More than 60,000 individuals put in for the elk license drawings, says the PGC.
All five archery bull elk hunters were successful during the archery season, and all took trophy animals. Five of the archery antlerless elk license holders harvested animals.
“The bulls were extremely active and vocal during the September archery season,” said Game Commission elk biologist Jeremy Banfield. “They were responding to calls, and in a few cases multiple bulls came charging in to hunters. Hunting during the elk rut certainly provided some exciting hunting,” Banfield added.
Hunters holding licenses for the general season should have been scouting and learning the area if hunting without the services of an outfitter. Outfitters operating in the area are regulated by the Game Commission and have intimate knowledge of the thousands of acres of private and public lands, and for hunters who don’t have the time to scout might benefit from a guide service.
Hunters who do not harvest an elk during the general season may participate in the extended season, in which they are permitted to take either an antlered or antlerless elk outside of the state’s Elk Management Area.
“Trophy bulls were harvested during the archery elk season, there’s much to be excited about for those lucky hunters holding bull and antlerless licenses for the upcoming general season,” said Bryan Burhans, Game Commission Executive Director.
Hunters participating in elk firearms seasons must wear, at all times, 250 square inches of daylight fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined, visible 360 degrees.
Successful hunters must attach the tag to the ear of an elk immediately after harvest and before the carcass is moved. In addition, within 24 hours, each hunter who harvests an elk must take it, along with his or her hunting license and elk license, to the Game Commission check station, where samples are collected to test for chronic wasting disease, brucellosis and tuberculosis. The elk check station is open to public and located at the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette, hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day of the season.
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.