Anticipation has been building all year. It’s November and that means the start of firearms buck season. Buck season? Yes, for the first time in a decade, Wildlife Management Unit 2A in southwestern Pennsylvania, will have a 5-day buck season, beginning November 28, followed by a 7-day concurrent buck and doe season. In sportsmen’s terms, it is known as a split season.
The goal of the game commission’s biologists is to stabilize the herd population in 2A. But a study done by Dr. Chris Rosenberry, the commission’s chief deer biologist, indicates that WMUs with a split season had a 20 percent reduction in the doe harvest. In order to compensate for that, the game commission increased the antlerless license allocation in 2A to 65,000, the highest allocation ever in this WMU.
But there is a concern that all the antlerless licenses may not sell out. In the past decade, WMU 2A has been the last rural WMU to sell-out, indicating that the market is already saturated. If licenses are not sold and used, and the doe harvest decreases, the result could be an increase in the deer population in 2A. Overpopulation is always followed by habitat degradation.
Biologists believe it is much easier to grow the deer herd than it is to reduce it. It generally takes the selling of four antlerless licenses to harvest one doe. In other words, the goal of stabilization may not be met.
In the past, the game commission board stated that a split season would result in hunters seeing more deer. But Rosenberry’s study concluded that hunters didn’t see more deer and weren’t satisfied with the number of deer they did see.
A bigger concern is hunting opportunity in a split season. Junior hunters in many schools have the first day of firearms season off, and they take advantage of the concurrent season. Now, they can only harvest a buck on their day off from school, a restriction they aren’t accustomed to. By the time the doe season opens on the first Saturday, the pressured deer should be holding tight and/or completely nocturnal. So the chances of harvesting a deer are somewhat diminished. It’s a good thing that luck is also a factor of hunter success.
The concurrent season seems popular with adults too, many of whom have limited days to hunt. Now, they must remind themselves to not harvest a doe until the first Saturday of the season. Some non-resident hunters have also expressed disappointment in not being able to harvest a doe on the first day. Anything that takes away hunter opportunity is not a good regulation.
October is the time for the World Series, football, and trick or treat. October also presents many opportunities to take the kids outdoors and get them involved in special youth hunts. The youth squirrel hunt is open October 8 – 14 for junior hunters, ages 12 to 16 without or with a license. They must have completed a hunter-trapper safety course and be accompanied by an adult. Mentored youth under the age of twelve can participate after securing a permit from the game commission. They must be accompanied by a licensed adult at least 21 years of age. Mentored youth are not required to have a hunter-trapper safety course.
The junior pheasant season and junior cottontail season is October 8 – 15 for kids ages 12 to 16, with or without a license, accompanied by a licensed adult, and having successfully completed a hunter-trapper safety course. Mentored youth cannot participate in this junior hunt.
October 20 – 22 is the statewide junior antlerless deer season. Junior hunters are required to have the proper licenses to participate.
Though it didn’t pass in time to be in the “Hunting & Trapping Digest”, mentored youth can harvest an antlerless deer for the first time this year, including the October junior season. When hunting antlerless deer, the adult mentor must be in possession of a valid antlerless deer license that can be transferred to the youth if he/she harvests an antlerless deer. The field harvest tag is to be completed by the youth and attached to the carcass; however, the reporting of the harvest is to be completed by the adult mentor as if they had harvested the deer.
In addition to squirrels and antlerless deer, mentored youth are permitted to hunt groundhogs, coyotes, and antlered deer. They can participate in the spring gobbler season but not the fall turkey season. When hunting antlered deer, a mentored youth can follow the same antler restrictions that junior hunters follow.
The mentored youth must tag and report any antlered deer taken. With the new permit required for participants, mentored youth will now have the field harvest tag that must be attached to any antlered deer harvested. Also, the youth must report his or her harvest, which can be done online, or by mailing a harvest report card, within five days. Mentored youth can see a sample carcass tag and use the harvest report card available in the “Hunting & Trapping Digest”. The mentored youth may not use the mentor’s tags or harvest report cards if the youth harvests an antlered deer.
Even if a child is not ready to hunt yet, he or she can accompany an adult licensed hunter or trapper as an observer. The child can’t participate in the hunt in any way and must wear the required amount of fluorescent orange.
There are more hunting opportunities for youth than ever before. The days are still long enough for some groundhog hunting after school. Or go for a few hours on a Saturday. Some people have Columbus Day, October 10, off and that may be a good
day to go hunting with a child.
For more information about seasons and bag limits, or the Mentored Youth Hunting Program, visit www.pgc.state.pa.us and click on “Hunt/Trap”. Have fun, be safe and enjoy the cooler weather. — Roxane Palone
The following is Game Commissioner Greg Isabella’s testimony before the PA House Game & Fisheries Committee on September 15 in Northampton:
SUNDAY HUNTING PRESENTATION
GOOD EVENING MR CHAIRMAN, FELLOW COMMITTEE MEMBERS, THANK YOU FOR ALLOWING ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO PROVIDE WRITTEN TESTIMONY THIS EVENING. AS A MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS OF THE PA GAME COMMISSION LET ME OFFER YOU A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON SUNDAY HUNTING. FIRST, AS A PA GAME COMMISSIONER REPRESENTING REGION 8 OF SOUTH EASTERN PENNSYLVANIA WHERE A VERY LARGE HUNTING CONSTITUENY SUPPORTS SUNDAY HUNTING AND SECOND, AS AN AVID HUNTER WHO SUPPORTS SUNDAY HUNTING AND ELIMINATION OF THE ANTIQUATED BLUE LAW.
MY TESTIMONY IS MY OWN OPINION AS A SITTING COMMISSIONER ON THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS, IT IS BY NO MEANS MEANT TO REPRESENT THE ENTIRE BOC.
WHAT CAN I SAY THAT ALREADY HAS NOT BEEN SAID. THERE HAS BEEN THE LEGISLATIVE BUDGET & FINANCE COMMITTEE REPORT THAT CONCLUDED AN ECONOMIC FINANCIAL WINDFALL TO BUSINESSES AND THE ECONOMY OF PENNSYLVANIA, HAD SUNDAY HUNTING BEEN ENACTED. THERE IS MUCH DEBATE ON THAT REPORT, BUT I MAKE DECISIONS BASED ON REALISTIC SCENARIOS. THIS PAST SPRING I COMMUNICATED WITH MR. SCOTT WOJTON FROM THE LEHIGH VALLEY. HE PROCEEDED TO TELL ME THAT BECAUSE PENNSYLVANIA DOES NOT HAVE SUNDAY HUNTING, HE HUNTED SPRING GOBBLER SATURDAY & SUNDAY IN NEW YORK STATE, THEN TRAVELLED TO PENNSYLVANIA THE DAY AFTER TO ALSO HUNT SPRING TURKEY. DURING THAT OUT OF STATE VISIT HE AND HIS PARTY SPENT OVER $1000.00 WHICH INCLUDED LICENSE, GAS, MEALS, LODGING & TIPS THAT WENT TO AN OUT OF STATE TREASURY. HE & FRIENDS ALSO VISITED SEVERAL OTHER STATES WHO HAD SUNDAY HUNTING, THEY ALSO SPENT SEVERAL THOUSAND DOLLARS AND CONTRIBUTED TO AN OUT OF STATE ECONOMY AND THEIR STATE TREASURY.
THE END RESULT, DUE TO OUR ANTIQUATED BLUE LAWS NO MONEY SPENT IN PENNSYLVANIA!! NO FINANCIAL BENEFIT TO THE COMMONWEALTH!!!!!
By Don Heckman, PA Chapter NWTF Executive Officer
The Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) Board of Commissioners adopted Season and Bag Limits regulation changes on April 19, 2011 to go back to traditional opening of the fall turkey hunting season on the last Saturday of October for 2011. Review your 2011-2012 “PGC Hunting & Trapping Digest” to get the complete list of start and end dates for the Fall 2011 season.
Hen Harvest Rate Study Area 1 and Study Area 2 WMU’s are intact and the study is currently scheduled to run 3 more years through 2013. Both short term and long term impacts on the Hen Harvest Rate Research Study are now back on track for 2011 to be reviewed yearly so the research study data will not be jeopardized.
With Fall 2010 turkey hunting season now behind us, the real questions continue to be asked, what fall season framework will be recommended by PGC Bureau of Wildlife Management after the study is completed and research data are fully documented, analyzed, and reported? And with or without Thanksgiving Day, Friday, and Saturday turkey hunting?
That’s one reason PGC is conducting a 4 year hen harvest rate research study. Its research data will provide answers to these questions by acquiring hen harvest rate data under the current fall seasons, then changing fall season lengths during the study to see how harvest rates change in relation to season length. PGC Commissioners can not be changing fall turkey hunting season lengths during the course of research projects. I believe that reasoning has now been fully recognized and will continue to be followed throughout the study.
To me, that means continuing the traditional 3 weeks, 2 weeks, 1 week, or closed fall turkey seasons according to turkey population trends in each WMU. With the introduction of turkey management areas (TMAs) in 1981-1983, followed by the new wildlife management unit structure being adopted in 2003, that is 28 years of doing it right by the book, Resource First, wild turkey management.
The 2010 fall turkey hunting seasons were changed for 2011 reverting back to the traditional structure, except with the continuation of Thanksgiving Day, Friday, and Saturday. I believe that decision to change back to traditional fall seasons was absolutely the correct decision for Commissioners to get wild turkey management by the book back into the “Management Plan For Wild Turkeys In Pennsylvania”, PAGE ii, EXECUTIVE SUMMARY.
I also firmly believe the larger wild turkey management picture is obtained through the wild turkey population model by using constant and controlled wildlife management units, actual field data for monitoring population trends, continued updates to current information, charts and graphs, and using all this to document future management planning.
Pennsylvania’s wild turkey management improved immensely from 1958 to present. I start with 1958 because that is the 50+ years I am familiar with and have been provided invaluable wild turkey management information, articles, and been around long enough to remember my discussions with PGC biologists Roger Latham, Jerry Wunz, Arnie Hayden during the building days, and then Bill Drake, Mary Jo Casalena, and Bob Eriksen up to the completion of the restoration days.
From the mid 1960s to spring 2010 wild turkey state-wide populations, wild turkey management, and turkey hunting opportunities have steadily improved due to PGC professional based management decisions for the wild turkey resource. Just look at the estimated statewide population density chart from 1960 to 2010 as one of many documented data proofs. Add in wild turkey harvests, and turkey hunter numbers and you have the basis for the next 40 years of Resource First wild turkey management and not social management.
Wild turkey management decisions and turkey hunting improvements have been well received and well managed in the Commonwealth from spring season 1968 (when spring hunting re-opened) to spring season 2011. My personal thank you and I would believe a state-wide chorus of thank yous to PGC and its 6 Regions for providing the best wildlife management, wildlife habitat, wildlife protection, information/education, and automated technology services and administrative support they can do.
I personally believe that proof has been well documented and displayed to the public through PGC articles in Game News, “Hunting and Trapping Digest”, News Releases, PGC web site, and many technical presentations. And I personally have written several articles in “PA Turkey Talk” over the past 10 years detailing the facts that not one PGC state-wide wild turkey management decision can be documented in those 40+ years as providing a negative or disruptive impact on the state-wide wild turkey populations. NOT ONE!
I tip my camo hat to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, as I have done many times in my 36+ years with the Pennsylvania Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation, for its successful wild turkey management planning and accomplishments.
Now, just think how much better the future of wild turkey management and turkey hunting will be in the next 40+ years if the PGC “Management Plan For Wild Turkeys In Pennsylvania” is completely followed and fully funded to provide better and up to date wild turkey management data and information. This focus is spread across all aspects of wild turkey and wildlife management planning including adequate funding for: improved wildlife habitat management, improving turkey hunting safety education, improving wildlife protection opportunities, and hunter information & education opportunities.
Of all the issues related to hunting, Sunday hunting is once again taking center stage. The Pennsylvania House Game & Fisheries Committee will be holding a public hearing on the controversial topic on September 15 in Northampton. Invited groups will be testifying before the committee both for and against expanding Sunday hunting.
House members John Evans (R) and Ed Staback (D) have introduced HB 1760 pertaining to Sunday hunting. This bill would repeal the ban on Sunday hunting that has been the law since 1873. It would also give authority over Sunday hunting back to the PA Game Commission, where it belongs, as part of its duties to set seasons and bag limits.
Currently, it is legal to hunt only crows, coyotes, and foxes on Sunday. Some would like to see this expanded to deer firearms season, which includes only one Sunday. They argue this would generate the sale of more nonresident licenses, get more people to deer camp, and create new jobs and revenue in the state. Some would like to see groundhog hunting opened on Sundays.
Proponents of Sunday hunting are backed by the Sunday Hunting Coalition, a group of sportsmen’s organizations that are lobbying for the passage of HB 1760.
The main opponents of Sunday hunting are the PA Farm Bureau and the Humane Society of the United States. The fact that these two groups are on the same side of the issue borders on ridiculous. The HSUS is adamantly opposed to any type of hunting, fishing, trapping, and livestock farming. It is the largest animal rights group in the country and has a record of being anti-sportsmen and anti-animal farming.
The Farm Bureau argues that Sunday should be a day of rest, both for landowners and wildlife. Yet these are some of the same people who visit casinos and gas stations, shop at K-Mart, eat in restaurants, and go to Steelers football games on Sunday. Apparently, it’s ok for other people to be made to work on Sundays, but not them.
It isn’t up to the Farm Bureau to tell all landowners what they can do on their own properties on Sunday. If a particular farmer is opposed to Sunday hunting, he should just post his land with signs that state “No Sunday Hunting”. Regardless of what day of the week it is, hunters should always ask permission of the landowner before hunting on any private land. The farmer has a right to say no anytime.
Some outdoor groups are opposed to Sunday hunting on public lands. They say it interferes with their bird watching and hiking. Specifically, they want one day a week when they don’t have to fear for their lives. The truth is, hunting is one the safest sports we have. It is only in liberal Hollywood movies that hunters are stupid slobs and drunken outlaws.
Sunday hunting should be allowed on public lands, especially state game lands. These lands were purchased specifically as public hunting lands and many were paid for by hunters and shooters.
HB 1760 is a good bill. It puts control of hunting back into the hands of the game commission. That doesn’t mean that the commission will immediately open all Sundays to every type of hunting and species. It only means that it will consider the views of all stakeholders and make thoughtful regulations pertaining to Sunday hunting. That could mean only groundhog hunting or deer hunting for only one Sunday during the entire year. It is certainly better to allow the game commission to regulate seasons than the entire General Assembly, most of whom don’t hunt at all. — Roxane Palone
If you want to be a baseball player, you start with learning the basics.
A coach teaches you how to hold a bat, which base is first, where the shortstop stands. Only later do you learn how and why it’s important to hit the cutoff man. Later still, you learn how to throw a curve, to pull off a hit and run, to work the count.
It’s a progression.
Hunting and fishing need something similar, at least if they’re going to remain strong, with plenty of participants, and move forward.
That’s one of the conclusions in a new report, “Effectiveness of Hunting, Shooting and Fishing Recruitment and Retention Programs: A Final Report,” that looks at whether such programs are working and how they can get better.
It’s a mammoth document, 875 pages of text, charts and graphs. But it’s full of some interesting data.
Sponsored by the National Wild Turkey Federation and conducted by Responsive Management, a natural resources research firm, the report concludes that, yes, recruitment and retention programs are good at retention. They generally do a good job of providing a way to get people – children especially – who come from hunting and fishing families involved in the sports.
Where the programs need help is in true recruitment: getting people whose dads, uncles, moms, sisters and brothers don’t already hunt, fish, shoot or trap started.
One key, the report concludes, is that natural resource agencies should look at who needs served – which groups of kids aren’t being reached – and develop programs to help them, rather than doing things the other way around, as has traditionally been the case.
Agencies need to diversify their instructors, too, and get people who look like their prospective students involved. They need to find ways to get entire families involved as well, the report says.
And – as with baseball, football, soccer, band and other activities – hunting and fishing programs need to be “cradle to grave” in nature, meaning that while it’s great to take a kid to the rifle range once and let him shoot a .22, if you really want to keep him involved you’ve got to offer follow-up activities.
How do you take someone, teach them how to shoot a bow, then turn them into an archery deer hunter? That’s something sportsmen and our natural resource agencies need to figure out.
The data are there now. The problems have been identified. Can we figure out how to address them?
Nothing less than the future of our sporting tradition is at stake. — Bob Frye
This just in from the Pennsylvania Game Commission:
In the last year, John Eveland has been offering his views of the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s deer management program. Unfortunately, there have been many mistakes and errors on the part of Mr. Eveland, as well as completely false allegations. I would like to offer your readers a rebuttal from the Game Commission.
It is important to note that the debate over deer management has existed in this state since the first antlerless deer season was held in 1923. So, in a larger sense, Mr. Eveland is simply the latest to play the role that many others have over the past nine decades; that of proclaiming the imminent demise of our deer herd. It is without doubt, that this debate will last another 90 years.
I do not believe anyone can pretend that a solution could ever be reached that will please all interests, from hunters to landowners, from farmers to those who want to return to the days of seeing hundreds of deer a day while afield.
However, as that debate continues, certain facts regarding wildlife management practices must be reinforced, as these principles hold very specific meaning to those trained in the science of wildlife management. Admittedly, some of these concepts are as foreign to the layman – myself included – as nuclear engineering. Despite the complexities, the procedures and techniques used by wildlife management professionals involved in the present scientific community are irrefutable, no matter how dry, boring or confusing they may be to you or me.
That being said, the premise for most of Mr. Eveland’s allegations is that the Game Commission’s deer management agenda was defined by Audubon, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), and other environmental interests and focused solely on deer herd reduction. On this point alone, Mr. Eveland’s assertion is patently false.
The fact is, in 2000, the Game Commission began an earnest effort to reach deer density objectives that had been put in place in the 1980s. Unfortunately, during the 1980s and 1990s, deer populations routinely exceeded these objectives. Difficulties in reaching these objectives were documented in two articles published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin, a scientific, peer-reviewed journal, in 1997. The Game Commission’s desire to achieve these objectives led to increased hunting pressure on deer populations, not an alliance with “special interests” as claimed by Mr. Eveland. There was no conspiracy, nor secret meetings. Every step of the agency’s herd reduction plan was discussed and adopted in public meetings. The bottom line is Mr. Eveland’s allegations that the Game Commission’s deer program was designed by some secret cabal are false.
In his most recent series of claims, Mr. Eveland takes on the Game Commission’s deer harvest estimates. Game Commission deer harvest estimates are the most reviewed component of the agency’s deer management program. The Game Commission uses common, time-proven wildlife management methods to estimate the harvest. In fact, Game Commission procedures have been peer reviewed and published in the Journal of Wildlife Management, one of the world’s leading wildlife management journals. Deer harvest estimates receive their principal data from hunter-provided harvest reports; more than 100,000 annually. To corroborate hunter harvest reports, the Game Commission annually surveys hunters and asks them how many deer they harvested. For the past two decades, hunter survey results have consistently matched harvest estimates. The credibility of harvest estimates has been acknowledged by scientific reviews and is confirmed by hunter surveys.
In his analysis, Mr. Eveland calculated the deer population and then concluded the Game Commission’s deer harvest estimates are inaccurate. He further accused the Game Commission of incompetence and deception. However, Mr. Eveland’s recent assessment of deer harvest estimates contained numerous errors.
Connecting the dots is not so easy.
The formula seems simple enough. Ask hunters and would-be hunters what it would take to get them into the woods more. Get their answer. Give them what they want. Then stand back and reap the benefits.
Things aren’t so simple, it seems. A survey conducted by the Pennsylvania Game Commission has revealed that.
Prior to the 2010-11 hunting seasons, Game Commissioners adopted some changes to the fall turkey hunting seasons. One of the big ones was to re-open the season on Thanksgiving and let hunters chase birds on that day and the next two, Friday and Saturday. The hope was that the extra time would allow hunters – and young hunters off school especially – to get outdoors.
It didn’t work out that way, at least in Year 1.
A survey of general license buyers done by the agency – 10,000 were queried, about 4,600 responded – after the season showed that the change “provided additional opportunities for existing fall turkey hunters” but did not necessarily create many new ones.
Of those sportsmen surveyed, 61 percent hunt turkeys and 39 percent either don’t turkeys at all or don’t hunt them in the fall specifically.
The commission then asked those who had hunted birds last fall when they did it. Fifty-seven percent said they hunted only the segment prior to Thanksgiving; 10 percent hunted only the Thanksgiving segment. Thirty-four percent hunted both.
Most – more than half — liked what they experienced. Twenty-three percent rated their season as excellent, while 34 percent said it was good.
The bad news is that the new season structure did not put more hunters in the woods.
At its meeting this week, the PA Game Commission approved 56 elk licenses, up from 50 last year. The regular firearms elk season will be October 31 to November 5. The extended firearms season will be November 7 through November 12, in designated areas, for those who haven’t harvested an elk by November 6. Elk licenses will tentatively go on sale June 13 through August 26.
The PGC estimates there are a minimum of 750 elk in the state. The population is rising, especially in the Winslow Hill area.
The following table lists the number of elk licenses available by hunt zone and by gender.
Elk Hunt Zone License Type
1 Open Open
2 4 12
3 1 2
4 1 1
5 0 0
6 0 0
7 4 6
8 4 6
9 2 9
10 2 2
TOTAL 18 38
— Roxane Palone
The Pennsylvania Board of Game Commissioners (PGC), based on a request from Game Commissioner David Putnam at the Board’s October meeting, and an amendment offered by Game Commissioner David Schreffler, gave final approval to a specific hunting season for porcupines.
Under the new season, hunters can take porcupines from Sept. 1 through March 31. The daily limit is six and the field possession limit after the first day is twelve.
Schreffler explained that the season is closed during the time the porcupine is raising her young, which stay with her about 50 days. In Pennsylvania, it is believed they only have one offspring per year.
Currently, there is no ongoing research on porcupines in Pennsylvania. A season will provide some data on them through the PGC’s annual Game Take Survey.
Hunters pursuing porcupines may use any legal sporting arm, and must wear 250 inches of fluorescent orange material. Porcupines may be harvested from one-half hour before sunrise until one-half hour after sunset.
The season was passed over protests by the Humane Society of the United States, which called the season “unwarranted and capricious”.
Prior to Schreffler’s amendment, the proposal under “seasons and bag limits” was “no closed season except during the regular firearms deer seasons” and the daily and field possession limit was “unlimited”.
The Pennsylvania Biological Survey and its Mammal Technical Committee asked the PGC to delay any action on the season until the population could be assessed. It is believed that the porcupine’s range has been expanding to the southwestern part of Pennsylvania.
Among other states in the Northeast that allow the harvesting of porcupines are Maine, Massachusetts and New York, as well as the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. — Roxane Palone