Since local freshwater fishing is essentially over for now, but if you don’t mind bundling-up and heading to the New Jersey shore you can get into some big, good eating, bluefin tuna and striped bass fishing.
According to our fishing reporters from On the Water Magazine, striped bass fishing remains red hot. Fish of all sizes are hitting shads, flutter spoons and topwater baits from Sandy Hook down to Island Beach State Park.
The bluefin bite is also excellent with giants and regulation-size fish reportedly caught within just a few miles from shore.
Rick Hebert, at Tackle World in Rochelle Park, said the bluefin bite has been on fire. The hot spots are down south. Hebert goes on to say stripers are all over the place, north and south, with boats getting the best action.
Danny Stolba, at Fish Tail Bait and Tackle in Carteret, said anglers are still catching stripers in the Arthur Kill and have switched to frozen bunker as fresh has been hard to come by. But, he adds, the bass don’t seem too picky with the best bite occurring when the tide switches to incoming.
My ole buddy Phil Sciortino, at the Tackle Box in Hazlet, said they’re seeing some of the best striper action of the year right now. Fishing with his son last week he witnessed miles and piles of stripers about a half mile off Sandy Hook. Bass of all sizes, with the biggest up to 25 pounds, were hitting flutter spoons, shads and topwater lures. The fish were stacked from the surface down to 60 feet with spoons getting hit long before they reached the bottom.
Mike Gleason at TAK Waterman in Long Branch, reported it’s been a pick of bass on the beaches using Avas and teasers. The night bite too has been improving. He was out chasing bluefin and said striper readings under the boat were remarkable.
Ted Imfeld, at The Reel Seat in Brielle, said bluefin are two to six miles offshore and are all over Barnegat Ridge, the Shark River Reef and in the shipping lanes. Stripers too are all over the place with boaters getting the most action. There were also bass on the beach to the south of the Manasquan Inlet that are falling for Ava teasers and topwater lures.
Scott Thomas, at Grump’s Bait and Tackle in Seaside Park, reported plenty of stripers in the surf that are hitting sand eel imitations from Tsunami, Joe Biggs and Bill Hurley Avas. with teasers and needlefish are also working. Fish are of mix sizes up to 20 pounds. He also had excellent bluefin tuna reports with the Shark River Reef a current hot spot.
Capt. Pete Sykes of Parker Pete’s Sportfishing out of Belmar, said striper fishing keeps getting better. High hook last Wednesday was 27 stripers with everyone getting their limit. He added that bluefin have been blowing-up alongside the bass as well. He’s fishing north and south of the Shark River Inlet.
So if you have some venison in the freezer and could use some bass or tuna in there as well, the fishing will be cold temperature wise, but the fishing should be hot.
As veteran deer hunters know, November signals the start of the deer rut in Pennsylvania when male deer begin chasing female deer to mate. This means deer will be on the move and active. Plus, daylight-saving time, that occurred this weekend, will put more vehicles on the road during the hours when deer move the most meaning during dusk and dawn. As such, the Pennsylvania Game Commission advises motorists to slow down and stay alert as this is the time most vehicle-deer collisions occur.
This is the period, says the PGC, when yearling bucks disperse from the areas in which they were born and travel, sometimes several miles to find new ranges. At the same time, adult bucks are cruising their home ranges in search of does, and will chase the does they encounter resulting in more deer crossing roads.
According to the PGC, data from around the country indicates Pennsylvania drivers face some of the highest risks of a vehicle collision with a deer or other large animal. A recent report shows Pennsylvania led the country in animal-collision insurance claims in the fiscal year 2022-23. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania drivers, according to the report, have a 1-in-59 chance of a vehicular accident involving a big game animal – one of the highest rates nationwide.
The PGC says that drivers can reduce their chances of collisions with deer by staying alert and attempt to understand deer behavior. Paying attention while driving on stretches marked “Deer Crossing” signs can make a difference as that’s the location of most deer accidents.
Deer often travel in groups and walk single file. So even if one deer crosses the road in front of you, it doesn’t necessarily mean the threat is over. Another one or more could be right behind it.
This is especially true now as there’s still amount of standing corn where deer could pop out and not be seen until they’re on the roadway. Last year at this time a doe followed by a buck ran out in front of my car as they emerged from the edge of standing corn on Rural Road, down from Lazarus’s Market located off Mauch Chunk Road. Later that week on Mauch Chunk a farmer was taking down the corn on the east side of road when a nice buck ran across the highway and into standing corn on the other side of the road and on land owned by GES Chemicals (former Trojan Powder Co.). And this was at 9:30 a.m.
A driver who hits a deer with a vehicle is not required to report the accident to the PGC. If the deer dies, only Pennsylvania residents may claim the carcass as there probably is some edible venison remaining. If it’s a buck, you may not keep the antlers that must be turned into the PGC. To do so, you can call the PGC (833-PGC-HUNT or 833-PGC-Wild and a dispatcher will collect the information needed to provide a free permit number that is needed to claim the carcass. Residents must call within 24 hours of taking possession. A passing motorist may also claim the deer if the person whose vehicle hit it doesn’t want it.
If a deer is struck and is not killed, drivers are urged to maintain their distance because some deer may recover and move on. If it’s a buck, it could charge and gore you. Drivers should call the PGC or local law enforcement and they’ll deal with it.
To report a dead deer for removal from state roads, motorists can call PennDOT (800-FIX-Road), and they’ll pick it up.
The fall turkey hunting season kicked off this past Saturday (Oct. 28) in 19 of Pennsylvania’s 22 Wildlife Management Units (WMU). Unfortunately, it’s not open locally in WMU 5C, 5D and 5A as the turkey population is not sufficient to allow spring and fall hunts in these units.
During the fall season, any turkey can be harvested, and female turkeys make up over 50 percent of the fall harvest. When turkey populations are below goal in a WMU, the fall season structure is reduced to allow more female turkeys to survive to nest, explains the PGC.
As for the season outlook, turkey reproduction in 2023, as measured by the number of poults observed, was lower than in 2021 and 2022. But it was greater this year than in 2019 and 2020 across many WMUs, says the PGC.
According to Mary Jo Casalena, PGC wild turkey biologist, “Although fall flock sizes may be smaller this year, there may be more flocks due to the above-average reproduction the previous two years. Hunters should expect to find flocks concentrated on available food sources, such as areas with acorn production or agricultural areas.”
Casalena encourages hunters to cover a lot of ground in areas where acorn or beechnut production is abundant because flocks are not constrained by limited food. “Where food is abundant, determining turkey movement patterns around that food will improve hunting success,” Casalena opines.
During the 2022 season, the fall harvest (7,600 turkeys) was 12 percent greater than in 2021 (6,800 turkeys). Statewide fall hunter participation (70,500 hunters) was 14 percent less in 2022 than in 2021 (81,500 hunters). Fall hunter success of 10.8 percent was 29 percent greater than the 8.4 percent in 2021 per the PGC.
Successful turkey hunters are reminded that they must tag their birds immediately after harvest and file a turkey harvest report within 10 days of harvest. That can be done by going online to the PGC’s website (www.pgc.pa.gov.), by calling toll free (800-838-4431), or by mailing in a prepaid post card. When doing so, hunters are asked to identify the WMU, county, and township where the bird was taken. If hunters harvest a leg-banded turkey, or has a transmitter attached, follow the instructions on the band or transmitter as last winter the PGC leg-banded more than 900 turkeys that include backpack style transmitters on more than 260 turkeys. The effort was to help track turkey populations.
Also keep in mind that while it’s not required to wear fluorescent orange, the PGC highly recommends wearing some while moving through the woods.
Since 2021, there have been one or fewer turkey-hunting related shooting incidents each year, and 2022 marked the sixth year with no incidents. The other years with no incidents were 2012, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2021. Incidents can be avoided by positively identifying the target before shooting.
FALL TURKEY HUNTING MYTHS
According to the National Wild Turkey Federation, here are two myths about fall turkeys.
MYTH: You can’t call fall longbeards - Not unless you try. Fall longbeard hunters know a post-scatter wait can take time. But the birds can come back gobbling, yelping, even strutting after a flock break. Sometimes it happens quickly, often it takes longer if at all. Be persistent.
MYTH: Fall gobblers don’t strut or gobble - Fall turkeys roost-gobble, ground-gobble and gobble after an intentional flock break as they regroup during your effort to call them back. Fall gobblers strut too.
Twenty and more years ago Pennsylvania hunters would look forward to the opening of the pheasant hunting season that opens statewide on Saturday, Oct. 21 with split seasons. I say “would” because this exciting gamebird has seen its demise in several forms.
According to Bob Danenhower of Bob’s Taxidermy Shop in Orefield, who used to raise pheasants and a historian of sorts of the good old days, wild pheasants are non-existent because of several factors. Namely, some due to loss of habitat, predation by owls, hawks, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums who would raid pheasant nests, and of course pesticides. The wild pheasant strain became diluted when the Pennsylvania Game Commission stocked pen raised hen pheasants that would lay eggs then walk away from them so no wild propagation resulted. And stocked birds don’t have the wildness despite the PGC’s effort to maintain a wild, hardy strain in stocked birds.
In my experience growing up in West Catty, my parents and I would often see wild pheasants in our back yard that would feast on bird seed my mother would put out for birds. Those pheasants would come from what we called the West Catty woods and farmland adjacent to the oil tank farm in the township and mall that houses Dicks Sporting Goods, Giant grocery store and others off MacArthur Road.
In fact, I remember as a youngster joining my grandfather and uncle as we hunted pheasant in the large cornfield that is now the Whitehall Mall.
Many years ago, in his outdoors column, the late Charlie Neff, who was very active with the Lehigh Valley Conservancy, would write about taking the trolley from Allentown with his shotgun to hunt pheasant in the farmlands in Fogelsville. Try that on a bus today and the SWAT team would be called out. Ah, the good ole days.
Despite all this, pheasant hunting does exist thanks to the PGCs pre and inseason pheasant stocking program of pen raised hens and males. But unlike past times, when the PGC sponsored a Farm-Game Co-Op when farmers would open their farmlands to hunters in return for pine tree seedlings and pheasant stocking, that program name was changed to Public Access Cooperator. So when hunters see these very few signs, permission from the landowners must be given before hunting there.
But today, PGC primarily stocks pheasants on State Game Lands (SGL) and state-owned properties.
In Lehigh County SGL #205 was stocked Oct. 5-6 with 480 cockbirds (C) and 180 hens (H) for the Youth Hunt. Then a pre-season stocking took place Oct. 18-20, 390-C, 140-H followed by; 1st inseason the week of Oct. 24-27, 490-C, 180-H; 2nd inseason, Oct. 31-Nov. 3, 390-C, 150-H; 3rd inseason, Nov. 6-9, 390-C, 150-H; 4th inseason, Nov. 15-17, 370-C, 140-H.
Down in Berks County, SGL #106, #280, Blue Marsh, French Creek State Park – Big Woods Tract received pre-season with the same above dates that consisted of; pre-season, 890-C, 320-H; 1st inseason, 1,120-C, 400-H; 2nd inseason, 920-C, 340-H; 3rd inseason, 910-C, 330-H; 4th inseason, 910-C, 330-H.
Both counties will have additional winter stockings that will begin Dec. 13-15 and other dates that we’ll list in a future column. Unfortunately, Northampton County receives no stocked birds although some local sportsmen’s clubs stock them on their properties.
As the archery deer hunting season kicked off this past weekend in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D while the statewide archery deer season opens Sept. 30, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has issued a Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) reminder to hunters hunting in CWD areas with a new one designated as DMA8 (Disease Management Area). Disease Management Area 8 includes portions of Dauphin, Lebanon, Northumberland and Schuylkill counties after CWD showed up in two road-killed deer in Dauphin. It seems the disease may be spreading.
For sportsmen unfamiliar with CWD, it’s akin to mad cow disease in cattle. It’s a neurological disease with a 100 percent mortality rate that’s caused by a naturally occurring protein called a prion, that becomes misfolded. This protein resists break down in deer, elk moose and reindeer. CWD has been detected in 30 states as well as five Canadian provinces, Finland, Norway, South Korea and Sweden, say biologists.
The disease is a challenge to fight and it spreads easily. CWD is transmitted, says the PGC, through bodily secretions, making animal-to-animal contact and contact with contaminated surfaces. Interestingly, an infected animal will not show any signs of CWD until late in the course of the disease, meaning animals with CWD can carry and pass along the disease for several years before ever showing the first sign.
Tracking CWD is difficult in that testing for the disease requires removal of the animal’s lymph nodes and in the case of deer, and lymph nodes and obex from elk. It’s the tissue from these body parts that’s used in testing for the disease and they include the head, brain, tonsils, eyes, spinal cord, backbone, spleen, skull plate with antlers attached and other high-risk parts.
There’s no evidence that humans can contact CWD, but public health officials studying the disease say that prions cannot be destroyed with radiation or heat below 1,000 degrees. This means hunters cannot destroy the disease through cooking the meat.
While there has been no evidence that humans can contact CWD, biologists studying the disease found that monkeys who consumed contaminated meat can contact CWD. Therefore, it’s not recommended to eat meat from a CWD positive animal.
If hunters suspect their deer is infected, the PGC has established check points or bins where hunters can take the deer or to approved cooperating processors and taxidermists. Locally it’s Frables Deer Processing in Slatington.
As a reminder, it’s illegal to import high-risk parts from any out of state deer or province outside Pennsylvania unless going directly to a PGC cooperator. These and deposit bins can be found on the agency’s website at www.pgc.pa.gov/cwd.
DEER SCENT AVAILABLE
With the start of bow season in 2B, 5C and 5D, you may want to increase your luck on a buck by teasing his scent of smell. By that I mean using deer scent to lure-in a big guy.
Aside from the pre-bottled type commercial scents that hang on store shelves that could be scent from last year, Yurine Luck scent is fresh and freshly bottled by Bob Danenhower’s Bob’sWildlife Taxidermy on 4262 Kernsville Road, Orefield.
Danenhower gets fresh scent in weekly in bulk and bottles it for sale. Call the shop before making the trip there (610-398-7609) to make sure he has some remaining as it goes fast every year at this time. Quite a few of his taxidermy customers used his scent to bring in some nice racked bucks.
With the archery deer hunting season set to kick off this Saturday, Sept. 16 in Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C and 5D, as well as archery bear in these same units, you aren’t alone as a bowhunter.
According to research numbers from the Archery Trade Association (ATA), there are 3,761,233 bowhunters in the United States. To come up with that head count, the ATA worked with state wildlife agencies and the National Deer Association to determine bowhunting participation numbers in each state for the 2021-22 hunting season. Whether it’s a relatively small number of bowhunters in Hawaii (1,384) or more than 331,000 here in Pennsylvania, the total numbers make it apparent that bowhunting remains significant to the hunting world.
According to the latest stats, there were 15.2 million hunting license holders in all categories in the U.S. All categories include rifles, pistols, shotguns and bow (vertical and horizontal).
It’s worth noting, that the current numbers are being bolstered by younger hunters. That implies that feeder groups lie S3DA and NASP in schools, are doing more than adding seasoned competitors to our junior Olympic teams.
ATA says that according to research by the Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, participants ages 6-17 make up 23 percent of all bow hunters. That’s up from 13 percent a decade earlier. Whereas bowhunters 65 and older saw an 8 percent average annual growth. And this could be with the easier to shoot crossbows.
Add to this, the same Council found that 27 percent of hunting participants were female while the number of Black and Hispanic hunters also showed growth.
Interestingly, the biggest takeaways from the Council’s research were that 49 percent of hunters participated before the age of 18, and 68 percent were introduced to hunting by family members.
Another interesting number ATA learned was that in their 2021 state-by-state bowhunter study, the following states had six-digit numbers of bowhunters. They are as follows:
Arkansas, 128,810; Illinois, 173,710; Michigan, 304,278; New York, 244,226; Ohio, 172,967; Oklahoma, 117, 216; Missouri, 202,726; Pennsylvania, 331,000; Texas, 168,301; Wisconsin, 307,450.
It’s apparent from these that Pennsylvania can officially claim to be the bowhunting capital in the USA.
Perhaps one reason for the aforementioned is the number of deer we have. They are all over including places they’re not expected to be. Name a patch of woods, even a fencerow, and there’s a good chance there are deer there. If my one late grandfather who lived in Ironton and traveled to Pike County every season to deer hunt and would rarely see a buck, were alive today, he couldn’t believe there would be deer in his backyard.
My buddy who lives on Buckingham Drive in Salisbury Township near Lehigh Parkway, has deer almost daily in his back yard.
Another friend who lives in Moore Township, came home one recent morning to find a nice buck sitting under his apple tree and another buck sitting by a bush.
Then there’s the small field off MacArthur Road and adjacent to Whitehall Police’s active shooting range. Usually one or two doe can be seen in the morning munching on soybeans. The shooting doesn’t seem to bother them.
Of course there’s also GES Chemicals (formerly Trojan Powder Company), whose huge land holdings are home to a large deer herd that keeps perpetuating.
Again, this is could be why bowhunting is so popular in Pennsylvania and in some cases, residents don’t hear it happening as one landowner I spoke to who allows hunting, put it.
With the countdown starting for the opening of bowhunting seasons for deer and bear in WMU’s 2B, 5C and 5D on Sept. 16, and if you haven’t already, it’s time to check your gear so you don’t have an equipment problem come the opener.
To find out the prime problems bowhunters encounter after putting their gear away at the end of last season, I contacted Rick Weaknecht of Weaknecht Archery in Kutztown, one of the oldest and most popular archery dealers in a five-county area.
According to Weaknecht, hunters who use crossbows experience the most problems. He recommends changing the strings yearly as they stretch more as they’re under great tension and that goes for the cables as well as they will break. And particularly so if it’s an old one like my Horton crossbow.
As for compounds, the most widely used bow, their strings need to be changed if not yearly then every two years if the bow is shot heavily like for 3D shoots or a lot of practice. The wheels, says Weaknecht, aren’t particularly troublesome especially with the newer bows. But if you have an old one, like my trusty Oregon Bow that are no longer made, it’s best to get the strings and cables changed.
If using a climbing tree-stand or even a ladder stand, check for loose bolts or nylon straps that may have withered or worn over the years.
Another problem for hunters using a drop-away rest, over time they have a tendency to loosen and may fall-away too easily.
Arrows are not much of a problem said Weaknecht since the newer carbon arrows aren’t susceptible to bend like aluminum arrows. And they are faster for deeper penetration.
When asked what are his top selling compound bows he didn’t hesitate to say Matthews and Hoyt, two long-time favorites of bowhunters. And for crossbows, it’s the Ravin, despite its astronomical price. But Weaknecht adds that a lot of hunters are buying them. “They don’t seem to mind the price for Ravin’s speed and cocking convenience,” he opined.
One hunting item not covered with Weaknecht is camo clothing. It doesn’t matter what brand you like, it’s time to re-wash them and hang them outside to rid them of any indoor odors and that includes facemasks if you use them in lieu of camo makeup. Some veteran bowhunters package their washed camo clothes in plastic bags until the season opener. Same goes for hunting boots. With all the new anti-odor sprays and washes on the market, they make the chore less of a chore.
The first part of the archery deer hunting season in WMU’s 2B, 5C and 5D has split seasons running Sept. 16-Nov.11; Sunday, Nov. 12; Nov. 13-18; Sunday, Nov. 19; Nov. 20-24 and Dec. 26-Jan. 27, 2023. Statewide, the season kicks off Sept 30- Nov. 11, Sunday, Nov. 12; Nov. 13-17; Dec. 26-Jan. 14, 2023.
But before the bowhunting season kicks off, the multi-part squirrel season starts this weekend Sept. 9 – Nov. 11; Sunday, Nov. 12; Nov. 13-18; Sunday, Nov. 19; Nov. 20-24; Dec. 11-23; Dec. 26-Feb. 29, 2023. Without a doubt, squirrels are our most abundant game animals. And they’re good eating if prepared properly.
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.