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.
Deer and bear hunters are in for some changes this season, with most offering additional hunting days afield.
Now that the statewide archery deer hunting season gets underway this Saturday (Oct. 5), it also spells the time junior license holders can hunt squirrels and rabbits until Oct. 19. Juniors can also hunt ring-necked pheasants from Oct. 12-19.
But the big news is that for the first time in 50 years, the regular firearms deer hunting season will open on a Saturday after Thanksgiving instead of the usual Monday opener. This came about as the result of lobbying by sportsmen’s groups and hunters who plan their vacation days around the deer season opener. This gives them an extra day to hunt as many leave for their hunting camps and destinations on Friday night.
Statewide archery deer season too has increased a bit for antlered and antlerless deer as it runs until Nov. 16. This later November closing is due to the way the calendar falls, and the PGC says it promises to offer some prime hunting days during the deer rut.
The other big news is the bear season. According to the PGC, the season this year is being doubled and will be the longest since bear hunting began in Pennsylvania in the 1930s.
Says Mark Ternent, Pennsylvania Game Commission bear biologist, “Bear hunting days are expanding from 14 or 16 days, to 32, and from three Saturdays to seven. As such, we will start hunting bears almost two weeks earlier.”
The archery bear season in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D started Sept. 21 and will end Nov. 29. In 5B, it gets underway this Saturday and continues to Nov. 16. But the statewide archery bear season doesn’t kick off until Oct. 28 and concludes Nov. 16.
For muzzleloader hunters, their new statewide bear season begins Oct. 19 and ends Oct. 26. This leads the way for an early firearms bear season from Oct. 24-26 for junior/senior hunters and hunters who are on active military duty and certain disabled persons.
The PGC reminds deer and bear hunters of warm weather threats in regards to meat spoilage. They suggest field dressing the animal as quickly as possible and cooled down as soon as possible. Hanging an animal during warm temperatures they contend, is not advisable as that practice is mainly used during colder days.
Some hunters take along a cooler filled with ice bags to stow inside the body cavity of their field dressed animal until they can get it to a meat processor, or they do it themselves.
Another remedy in warm or cold weather was told me to by Jeff Heller, owner of the former Pro Am Fishing Shop in Kuhnsville, Heller said when deer hunting he would take along a plastic jug filled with salt water, a brine if you will, to wipe out the body cavity of a deer. He claimed it would put a nice sheen on the meat and preserve it while adding a bit of flavor to it. May be worth a try.
FALL TROUT STOCKING
A quick reminder that Lehigh County’s Little Lehigh Creek will be stocked Oct. 15, but not all portions.
Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. (NYSE: RGR) is pleased to announce that Team Ruger Captain Doug Koenig took first place in the Open Division and first overall at the 2019 European Bianchi Cup Championship match held in Alsfeld, Germany. Koenig claimed this title for the sixth time in his career with a final aggregate score of 1920-183 shooting his Ruger® Custom Shop SR1911® built open competition pistol.
The Bianchi Cup course includes four separate events, including: the Practical Event with 12 shots fired at cardboard targets at distances of 10, 15, 25 and 50 yards; the Barricade Event, where competitors stand behind barricades and engage cardboard targets from distances of 10, 15, 25 and 35 yards; the Moving Target Event, in which a cardboard target moves horizontally in a 60-foot space between two barricades while competitors shoot from a three-foot square at 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards; and the Plate Event that requires competitors to fire at six metal plates lined up on a rack at distances of 10, 15, 20 and 25 yards. Competitors must complete the course of fire within the maximum par time allowed at each distance in each event, with the number of X-ring hits being the deciding factor for the win.
"Winning a major event like the European Bianchi Cup is all about confidence," said Koenig. "That confidence starts with great equipment that allows me to focus on the match and not my gear. The quality and reliability of my SR1911 gives me that assurance."
Meanwhile stateside, teammates Dave Olhasso and James McGinty each claimed divisional wins at the USPSA Area 8 Championship held at the Ontelaunee Rod & Gun club in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania. Olhasso placed first in the Limited 10 division with a winning time of 261.54 scoring 1,468.71 points competing with his Ruger Custom Shop SR1911 Competition Pistol chambered in .45 Auto. McGinty took the top spot in the ESP division and second place overall for the match shooting his Ruger Custom Shop SR1911 Competition Pistol chambered in 9mm Luger, with a final time of 253.94 scoring 1,452.95 points.
From the folks at Yak Gear, they say that one sure way to get kayakers fired up is to start a healthy conversation about paddling versus pedaling. With advances in kayak propulsion technology, there are increasingly more ways to thrust a kayak through the water than ever before. We take a look at some of the advantages and drawbacks to each method of kayak propulsion.
Paddlers harken back to the old-school days where paddling was the only game in town. While options have changed, paddling does provide worthy benefits over pedaling.
Paddling Provides Stealth
The ability to sneak up on spooky fish is probably the most often-cited reason for choosing paddling over pedaling. Fish don’t like anything out of the ordinary and will vacate the area if they sense something is amiss. Quietly dipping the paddle in the water makes much less commotion then pedal-drive and will allow anglers to slip in on unsuspecting fish. Once in an area, using an ultra-quiet anchor, such as the YakGear YakStick Floating Stake-Out Stick, will secure your boat while fishing out an area.
Fish More Shallow Waters by Paddling
One of the drawbacks to using a pedal drive system is the extra clearance needed under the boat. Some pedaling anglers flutter kick their fins in shallow water, but when fish are in super shallow waters, like redfish busting back in a mud flat, anglers will need to completely flip up their fins or remove the pedal drive. This will take up much-needed deck space and can become frustrating after numerous switches.
Make Adjustments While Standing with a Paddle
Whether chasing tailing reds or sight-fishing bedded bass, fishing from a standing position can give you an advantage. Standing allows for longer and more accurate casts, and provides the ability to pitch and flip baits, too. The paddle plays a critical role in maintaining or adjusting your position to best present the bait to fish. Keeping the paddle close at hand is a must, and the RAILBLAZA QuickGrip Hip Clip is a good solution to storing the paddle without unnecessary bending up and down.
Hobie forever changed the landscape of kayak fishing with the introduction of the Mirage Drive in 1997. Since this innovation, many other kayak manufacturers have launched their own versions of a pedal drive, and each delivers advantages to paddling.
Pedaling Gets You Places Fast
Whether it’s a rotational pedal with a propeller or push/pull pedals with fins, pedaling provides on-the-water speed and efficiency. Successful tournament anglers are usually the ones who get to their spot first. Anglers who routinely travel large bodies of water will get the most out of their day using a pedal drive to get them where they need to be in a short time.
Pedaling Frees Up Your Hands
The problem with paddling is that it requires both of your hands. Many anglers, in both freshwater and saltwater, actively fish while moving from location to location. Traveling is also a good time to tie on different baits and fine tune fishing electronics. Pedaling while making small adjustments to your keel or skeg is usually enough to keep you on the right track to your destination and your hands free for other tasks.
Get More Power and Endurance Using Your Legs
Pedaling takes advantage of our strong and powerful leg muscles. Anyone new to kayaking will need to get into paddling shape, but most people will have a better built-up endurance in their legs. Even seasoned paddlers can benefit from pedaling when traveling long distances or prolonged periods on the water. Paddling efficiently takes much work to develop the proper technique, so a pedal drive may be the best choice for novice kayakers.
The gap between diehard paddlers and dedicated pedalers is slowly closing as more and more kayakers see the advantages of both methods. As companies continue to produce more efficient ways to propel your kayak, tradition does have its place in kayaking. Whether you choose tradition or innovation, getting on the water as much as possible is the most important goal. To really stir up the pot, we could have also thrown in the use of motors, as well. But that is for another day.
One of the most debated topics in the hunting world is whether or not products that are geared to hide or mask human scent while hunting are effective, but a recent HunterSurvey.com poll is shedding new light on the topic.
And with the Pennsylvania archery deer hunting season set to open this weekend in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D and the statewide opener on Oct .5, here’s what the folks at Southwick Associates' HunterSurvey.com found in their survey.
They found that 88 percent of hunters believe scent control products are effective for their intended purpose, according to Southwick, the leading market research and economics firm in the outdoor industry. Among those hunters, 51 percent use them.
So, which products are used the most? Scent control sprays, applied just prior to going to a stand or into the field, are the overwhelming favorite choice of today’s scent-conscious sportsmen with 85 percent using them. Following directly applied sprays, the survey found these other products to be quite popular:
• Scent-Control Detergent and Dryer Sheets, 71 percent
• Scent-Control Hygiene Products, 54 percent
• Scent-Control Hair Products, 47 percent
• Scent-Control Clothing, 28 percent
• Scent-Control Bags or Containers, 27 percent
Field wipes (20 percent), ozone products while hunting (4 percent), ozone products while stored (3%), and unspecified “other” items (2 percent) rounded out the survey results.
Among those hunters who don’t use scent control products, the top reasons for taking a pass on them include: the belief that they do not work (42 percent), cost (21 percent), prefer the challenge of hunting without them (10 percent) and lack of product awareness (4 percent). More than 32 percent of respondents cited “other reasons,” including not needing scent control for species, such as waterfowl and wild turkeys.
“This survey may not settle the debate on the effectiveness of these products in managing scents, but it does show the majority of sportsmen do believe in them and in fact use them to gain an edge in the field,” says Cody Larrimore, research analyst at Southwick Associates, which designs and conducts the surveys at HunterSurvey.com, ShooterSurvey.com and AnglerSurvey.com.
With an increasing number of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) cases occurring within certain areas of Pennsylvania’s deer herd, the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) is soliciting input from sportsmen on a response plan before more areas are affected.
To date the CWD has designated three CWD areas: Disease Management Area 3 (DMA3), encompasses WMU 2E and includes parts Jefferson and Indiana counties; DMA2, the largest of the affected areas, covers WMUs 4B, 4A, 5A and parts of 2G and 4D; DMA4 covers Lebanon, parts of Lancaster and Berks counties.
These areas cover 8,000 square miles and as such makes it unlawful to intentionally feed deer within a DMA. Also, hunters in DMA’s may not use or possess urine-based deer attractants. And deer harvested within a DMA may not be transported out of the DMA unless the carcass parts with the highest risk of transmitting the disease are removed first.
According to the PGC, CWD is always fatal to deer and elk, it’s not known to infect people. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommends never consuming meat from CWD positive animals.
The PGC’s potential actions within these CWD areas are as follows:
*Actions within CWD areas could include expanded deer seasons; the removal of antler-point restrictions and increased allocations of antlerless deer permits. In areas where a new, isolated CWD-positive deer is detected, allowing hunters to take additional antlered deer is also being considered.
*If disease management objectives are not reached through hunting, the post-season, small scale targeted removal of deer could be conducted in parts of CWD areas could be necessary.
Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said in a press release, “Hunters are essential to CWD management. Without the effort they put into hunting and harvesting deer, and submitting samples from deer they harvest in CWD areas, our collective fight to slow CWD’s spread and limit the disease where it exists in Pennsylvania would be an uphill battle.”
He goes on to say, “The PGC’s draft CWD Response Plan, puts hunters first in CWD management and their support will be fundamental to the final plan’s success.”
CWD first was detected in Pennsylvania in 2012. Through 2018, 250 free-ranging CWD-positive deer have been detected within the state – 246 of them within DMA2 in southeastern Pennsylvania.
Public comment on the plan will be accepted through Feb. 29, 2020 and will be considered for adoption as a final plan for implementation for the 2020-21 hunting seasons.
FALL TROUT STOCKING
The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission’s fleet of stocking trucks will be on the roll again for the fall trout stocking in selected streams, and in a lot of cases, only portions of a stream.
In Lehigh County, only the Little Lehigh will be stocked 10-15; In Berks, Tulpehocken Creek, 10-16; Bucks, Levittown Lake, 10-23; Monroe, Brodhead Creek, 10-1, Bushkill Creek, 10-2.
For anglers holding a New Jersey fishing license, they will begin their fall trout stockings Oct. 8-16 with the closest to the Lehigh Valley being the Pequest and Musconetcong rivers.
When air temperatures stabilize towards the cool side, fresh water fish traditionally go on the feed as cooler water temps signal the feeding frenzy, says our local fishing reporters.
Willie, from Willie’s Bait & Tackle in Cementon, reports Leaser Lake is the hot spot with customers picking up muskies on jumbo minnows while bass anglers are nailing largemouths on large shiners. As for Lehigh River, Willie said it’s dead of late although one avid angler picks up an occasional trout or two but no smallmouths, which is rare for this time of year. Another avid trout angler persistently fishes the Hokendauqua Creek and continues to catch and release 5-6 trout from the various deep holes.
Chris, from Chris’ Bait & Tackle in Mertztown, says the usual productive Ontelaunee Reservoir has been slow. Two weeks ago customers were picking up largemouths there on 7-10-inch worms in the lily pads, but the crappie action suddenly died. Down at Blue Marsh Lake, bass action is good. Water temperature was 77 degrees last week and has only dropped three degrees over the past two weeks “We fished there last week and had 11 bass, with 5-6 of them over 15 inches. We threw swim baits, Senko worms and green pumpkin tube jigs with red flakes and rubber skirts,” said Chris.
Mike, from Mike’s Bait & Tackle in Nazareth, said the Delaware River is yielding some nice catfish. Flathead catfish were falling for 6-8-inch bluegills while channel cats were eating minnow-tipped jigs intended for walleye’s. An occasional small striper is caught and released, but most of the big ones are gone. River smallmouths were hungry for tubes and minnows and one customer caught a 20 incher. But that action has slowed as well.
Otherwise Mike hears good largemouth action at Mauch Chunk Lake where they can be caught all day long, but they’re mostly 14 inches and smaller. For trout, the lower end of Bushkill Creek around 15th Street has been productive. Mike thinks with the temperatures dropping, fishing will only get better.
On the Water Magazine reports that the Francis E. Walter Reservoir is being drawn down and the fish there are beginning to school-up. They say, “find the fish and you’ll find success.” A pair of anglers fishing there reported good crappie action on marabou jigs and and fathead minnows. Up at Lake Wallenpaupack, striper fishing has been good from the Pike and Wayne County sides and from Briar Hill to Mangan Cove using live bait suspended in 8-15 feet of water. They too believe fishing will continue to be good as temperatures cool.
SUNDAY HUNTING BILL BEING CONSIDERED
A bill introduced by Sen. Dan Laughlin (R-Erie) and Jim Brewster (D-Allegheny) have introduced SB147 and was passed by the state senate, will go to the House of Representatives to allow the PGC to permit Sunday hunting in the state.
If passed and signed by Gov. Tom Wolf, it would allow Sunday hunting on three Sunday's a year. More specifically, one Sunday during the firearms deer hunting season, another during the archery hunting season and the third date to be determined by the PGC.
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is encouraging anglers to vote online for their favorite fishing license button for 2020!
Choices on this year’s ballot are a solid color vintage green, or a fish skin design depicting the colorful scales of a pumpkinseed sunfish. The selected button for 2020 will be available for purchase on Dec. 1 through the PFBC’s online store - The Outdoor Shop - and at more than 700 license issuing agents across the state.
Online voting is open now through Friday, September 13 at noon using the following link:
The PFBC re-introduced the availability of an annual Pennsylvania fishing license button in 2014. Brought back by popular demand, this custom button is similar to the vintage buttons offered by the PFBC in the past. Each custom button measures 1 3/4 inches with a high-quality, pin-back design and feature the angler's customer identification number (CID), the same number displayed on a paper license. As long as the angler is carrying a valid paper license, a valid button is the only display requirement.
The purchase of an annual or multi-year fishing license or voluntary youth license is required in order to purchase a license button. The purchase of a button is not a requirement in addition to the purchase of a license.
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.