Fall in Central Pennsylvania hails the coming of hunting season. Men, women and children clean their guns, prime their traps and get ready to get that trophy beast.
Below, we’ve compiled information to help hunters navigate their way through this year’s hunting regulations.
Read on, good luck, and hunt safe, from all here at GantDaily.
Regional Game Forecast from Forester Chris Folmar
DEER: Overall, I think this season will be very similar to last season. However, I would note that I saw more bucks last year after hunting season was over than any other year and heard many reports of the same. This spring and summer, I noticed more does with more than one fawn than what I have in the past couple of years. Good.
BLACK BEAR: Despite having some record harvests the past several years, the bear population in this area appears to remain the same. The number of bears and tracks I have seen are no different this year then any other. Find the food source this fall and you should increase your chances of finding one. Fair.
FURBEARERS: It’s hard to estimate furbearer populations based on sightings because most of them are mainly nocturnal, but based on tracks I have observed, there should be plenty of trapping/hunting opportunities for this year. If you have a bobcat permit, don’t overlook Clearfield County when considering places to trap or hunt. Fair.
Deer Season is Around the Corner
HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania’s biggest hunting season – the two-week rifle deer season – is just around the corner. According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, no other hunting season creates as much excitement, puts more meat in freezers and draws as many hunters afield, including former residents and nonresident hunters. Deer hunting is big in Pennsylvania.
The season, which starts the Monday after Thanksgiving and runs through Dec. 8, annually leads to the harvest of more than a quarter million deer and pumps millions of dollars into the Commonwealth’s economy.
“Preparing for deer season becomes a priority for most hunters as soon as the turkey is cleared off the table on Thanksgiving Day,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “Anticipation, reviewing scouting efforts and ensuring all the equipment is ready makes the preparation a weekend-long endeavor that doesn’t end until they head afield opening morning.
“Deer hunting is important to Pennsylvanians everywhere. It’s a tradition that was handed down by our forefathers and one that we will continue for future generations. It’s a safe and time-proven way to manage this renewable resource and ensure its conservation. Deer hunting provides millions of days of outdoor recreation, millions of pounds of venison, and helps limit deer damage to forests, crops and vehicles by reducing deer numbers.
“Time spent deer hunting is invaluable to Pennsylvanians,” Roe said. “It provides an escape from our fast-paced world. A chance to slow down, to enjoy the outdoors, to outfox the most-respected big game animal in the country.”
The Game Commission strives to manage a healthy and productive deer herd that provides recreational opportunities within acceptable ecological impacts and human conflicts. It’s a never-ending job, and one that will always be influenced by Pennsylvania’s changing landscape and the varying viewpoints of its residents. But, the agency is committed to providing sound deer management.
Hunters must wear 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined at all times while afield. They also are advised that it’s illegal to hunt, chase or disturb deer with a firearm within 150 yards of any occupied building without the occupant’s permission.
All hunters who take a deer must fill out their harvest tag and attach it to the deer’s ear before moving the carcass. The tag can be secured to the base of the ear with a string drawn very tightly, if the hunter plans to have the deer mounted. Cutting a slit in the ear to attach the tag will require additional work by a taxidermist.
A harvest report card – provided with every license sold – must be mailed to the Game Commission within 10 days after taking the deer. Hunters who lose or misplace a deer harvest report card are urged to use or copy the big game harvest report card found on page 33 of the 2007-2008 Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest, which also is provided to all license-buyers.
Deer hunters also are advised of the recent change in legal hunting hours. It now is legal to hunt from one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset. For more information, please see page 14 of the 2007-08 Digest for the legal hunting hours table.
Deer hunters with an unused bear license also are reminded they may take a bear from Nov. 26 to Dec. 1 in the state’s extended black bear season. The extended season will be held in WMU 3C, portions of 3B, 4E, and 2G, from Nov. 26 to Dec. 1. In WMU 3D, an extended season will run Nov. 28 to Dec. 1.
Bear licenses must be purchased prior to Nov. 26. Bear licenses may be purchased at any issuing agent or through “The Outdoor Shop” on the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us). Web orders are provided a “web order number” that must be written on the current general hunting license and signed.
Facts from the Pennsylvania Game Commission: Do deer see color? Because deer eyes have more rods, which enhance night vision, than cones, which provide the ability to see color, for decades, the answer was no. Recent research suggests deer do see color – especially on the blue-side of the color spectrum – but they have trouble seeing reds and greens. Camouflage patterns confuse a deer’s vision, but they have an uncanny ability to see movement. If you want a deer to come closer, break up your outline by standing still or near a tree. Also, don’t wear blue jeans and avoid having the wind blow your scent to the deer!
LOCAL WHITE-TAILED DEER INFORMATION AVAILABLE ONLINE – Interested in learning more about what’s going on with whitetails in your county? Please consider visiting the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s “Field Officer Game Forecasts” found on the agency’s Web site.
Developed to share field officer perspectives and observations on game and furbearer trends in their respective districts and to help hunters and trappers get closer to the action afield, the field reports have been warmly received by many hunters and trappers.
“Our field officers spend a tremendous amount of time afield, often in areas hunters and trappers are eager to learn more about,” said Carl G. Roe, Game Commission executive director. “Their observations have value to hunters and trappers so we decided to make them accessible to anyone who enjoys hunting and trapping in Pennsylvania – resident or nonresident. They can access the reports from their home or office.”
DON’T FORGET TO SUBMIT A HARVEST REPORT CARD – The Pennsylvania Game Commission counts on hunters to provide information on the deer they harvest. If all hunters who harvested a deer would send in their harvest report cards, as required by law, harvest estimates wouldn’t be needed. But it hasn’t been working out that way for some time.
The Game Commission began using reporting rates to estimate deer harvests in the 1980s, when declining report card returns were documented. Right now, reporting rates – for both antlerless and antlered deer – are less than 40 percent. The dropping compliance by hunters to report their harvests over the past decade is disappointing and an obstacle to simple deer harvest calculations.
Each year, according to Calvin W. DuBrock, Game Commission Bureau of Wildlife Management director, about 75 deer-aging personnel check and record information from ear tags on harvested deer throughout the state. During the 2006-2007 hunting seasons, more than 29,000 deer were examined. The information collected then was cross-checked with harvest report cards submitted by hunters to establish reporting rates for antlered and antlerless deer by Wildlife Management Units (WMU).
“Hunters submitted about 137,000 deer harvest report cards for deer taken in the most recent deer seasons,” DuBrock noted. “That we continue to receive such a significant number of report cards indicates many Pennsylvania hunters are following through with their obligation to report their deer harvest, and their cooperation is appreciated.
“But when you consider that only slightly more than one in three deer that are checked are reported by hunters, it is obvious there is room for improvement. Successful hunters need to help the Game Commission have the best, most complete harvest data available for management decisions. Hunters should report their harvest, even if after the prescribed 10-day reporting period. The Game Commission is committed to managing deer to the best of its ability, but it cannot do it alone. Just as we rely on partners and stakeholders in other parts of the deer program, we rely on and need hunters to report their deer harvests accurately.”
For more information on the Game Commission’s deer harvest estimating procedure, visit the agency’s Web site, click on “Deer Management Brochures” in the center of the homepage, and scroll down to select “Harvest Estimates: Why Can’t We Just Count Them?”
Proper Carcass Disposal
Statewide, there is a growing problem with people dumping deer and other animals on public and private lands. Deer and other wild game or furbearer remains are considered municipal solid waste and should be disposed of along with other household waste through your curbside pickup or at an approved waste facility. The dumping of animal remains is illegal. This does not apply to the viscera discarded from legally-killed animals. Burning and/or burying of animal remains may also present serious health concerns and are not advisable practices. Contact your County Recycling Coordinator for more information.
This statement has been developed with the cooperation of the Department of Environmental Protection, Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and PA CleanWays-State.
Hunters Sharing the Harvest
Hunters Sharing the Harvest (HSH) is a venison donation program that has been channeling donated venison to local food banks and soup kitchens since 1991. Each year, HSH helps provide needy Pennsylvanians with 200,000 meals of quality, high-protein venison. The effort was initiated by Pennsylvanians for the Responsible Use of Animals (PRUA), is affiliated with the Farmers & Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH), venison-feeding ministry in Maryland, and the SCI Sportsmen against hunger programs.
PRUA operates HSH in cooperation with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Other active partners as of 2002 in the organization include the Pennsylvania Chapters of the Safari Clubs International; United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania; the Pennsylvania Association of Regional Food Banks; the Pennsylvania Deer Association; American Crossbow Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs, Waste Management, Pittsburgh sportsmen Luncheon Club, USA Outback Television, NE Lancaster Rot, The Finestein Foundation, PA Quality Deer Management Association, Keystone Country Store, The NRA, Walker’s Game Ear, PA Chapter National Wild Turkey Federation, The Eastern Foundation of North American Wild Sheep (FNAWS), Central Penna. conference, United Methodist Churches, North Mountain Sportsmen Association, Consolidated Sportsmen of Lycoming County, Pa. Association of meat processors (PAMP), United States Smokeless Tobacco Company, Knight Rifles, Bass Pro Shops, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance, Grander Mountain, Inc, and Whitetails Unlimited.
For more information, visit HSH’s website at: http://sharedeer.org/ or contact HSH at 717-545-1188
HOW DOES HSH WORK?
Successful hunters are encouraged to donate venison by one of the following means
• Take your deer to any one of the more than 50 participating deer processors throughout the Commonwealth. When you drop your deer off to be processed, just tell the processor how many pounds of venison you would like to donate. The processors handle the venison under sanitary conditions and provide cold storage until the meat is moved to the food bank.
• If your local deer processor does not participate in the program, you can also contact any HSH volunteer coordinators, who can refer you to the closest processor who does participate and can arrange to have the venison picked up and taken to local food banks and shelters to be served.
• You can contact your local food bank (check the blue pages of your telephone book under “Food”), and ask if they are participating in the HSH program, and arrange to drop off your processed venison donation directly.
While hunters are responsible for processing fees, some HSH processors have agreed to process donated venison at a discount. Also, in certain limited situations, HSH may reimburse processors for venison processing from non-compensated donations in order to utilize the meat.
HOW CAN A NON-HUNTER HELP SUPPORT HSH?
While many of the Keystone State’s hungry benefit from this program, HSH organizers realized that many more whole deer would be donated for food if funds were available to process them. HSH began asking hunters and non-hunters across the Commonwealth to give a “buck for the pot.” These contributions will be used to underwrite the processing and preparation of meat from whole deer for food banks and soup kitchens. Food banks say meat from just one deer can provide 200 meals for hungry Pennsylvanians.
A monetary donation of $25, which is tax-deductible, will cover the processing fee for one-half of a deer and provides enough venison for 100 meals. A $50 tax-deductible donation will cover the processing costs for an entire deer, which will provide 200 meals; $75 will help ensure 300 meals are provided to needy Pennsylvanians; and $100 will cover the costs for 400 meals. Checks should be made payable to: Hunters Sharing the Harvest. You can mail your check to HSH at: 6780 Hickory Lane, Harrisburg, PA 17112 (ShareDeer@aol.com).
In an all-out effort to boost donations of cash, license-issuing agents were invited to help HSH by making hunters aware of the program and encouraging them to make a cash donation to help feed their hungry neighbors. Participating agents display wall posters and hand out mail-in donation envelopes.
The Game Commission periodically – usually every three years – holds “Big Game Measuring Sessions” to expand the agency’s database of information on black bears and white-tailed deer. These measuring sessions have been held since 1965, and the trophies measured in the sessions can be recorded regardless of when they were taken, provided they meet the minimum score required for entry into the Big Game Records Program categories. The only other requirement is that the bear or deer was taken in the Commonwealth.
The following listings are the state’s official rankings. They don’t declare to include every trophy buck ever taken in Pennsylvania, nor are they to be considered a complete listing for even recent hunting seasons. But they are the most complete listing available, containing more than 35 years of record-keeping.
Please take a moment and check out the listings. The chances are good that you’ll see someone listed that you know. Maybe it’s your brother or dad; your neighbor or friend; or someone from your hometown or who lives near your deer camp. What you’ll quickly notice, though, is that trophy deer and bear are taken all over the state. Pennsylvania truly is a hunter’s paradise!
For a listing of the game visit here.
Excitement Builds for Trapping
The Pennsylvania Game Commission noted that many of the state’s furbearer trapping and hunting seasons are underway and, based on comments from its field officers, hunters and trappers should have a successful year. The general trapping season – for coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums, skunks and weasels – opened Oct. 21 and runs through Feb. 17. The season for mink and muskrats is Nov. 17 to Jan. 6; beavers, Dec. 26 to March 31.
Raccoon hunting season began Oct. 20 and closes Feb. 16, and the season for skunks, possums and weasels runs from July 1 to June 30, except for Sundays.
Red and gray foxes hunting season opened Oct. 20 and runs through Feb. 16, including Sundays. Coyotes have a year-round season (July 1-June 30) and can be hunted on Sundays, too.
Pennsylvania also has bobcat hunting and trapping seasons in nine Wildlife Management Units (WMUs 2A, 2C, 2E, 2F, 2G, 3A, 3B, 3C and 3D) for the 1,010 individuals who were selected in the Game Commission’s annual bobcat permit drawing. The bobcat hunting season started Oct. 20 and closes to Feb. 16, except for Sundays. The bobcat trapping season opened Oct. 21 and runs through Feb. 17.
Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe pointed out that the Keystone State is lucky to have its furbearer populations managed by trappers, houndsmen and predator callers, who all play an important role of the Commonwealth’s wildlife management program.
“Pennsylvania depends on trappers and hunters to manage its furbearer resources,” Roe said. “Their annual efforts afield have helped to reduce Pennsylvania’s susceptibility to wildlife diseases such as rabies and mange, and its problems with crop- and property-damage caused by furbearers.
“Many Pennsylvanians benefit directly from the services of trappers, hound-hunters and predator-callers, because these specialized sportsmen and sportswomen manage everything from weasels to coyotes. They rescue farmers and other landowners from the damage and costly repairs furbearers can cause almost daily in the fall.”
Sagging fur prices spurred a decline in the ranks of fur-takers nationwide in the 1990s. Trappers had difficulty recovering their expenses, and inflation further compounded the problem. The result was a reduction in furbearer harvest and an increase in conflicts. To get a feel for the drop off in harvest that occurred, consider this: In 1996, more than 200,000 raccoons were taken in Pennsylvania; in 2005, the raccoon harvest totaled a little more than 106,000.
Then, last year, the raccoon harvest climbed to 138,640. In fact, furbearer harvests across the board increased; not to pre-1990s levels, but they did swell. Fur-buyers were speculating early that an increase in fur prices was on the horizon and raised pelt prices. It prompted a mild increase in trapper participation for all species.
“The rise in trapper and furbearer hunter participation seems to have been related to increases in fur prices and growing interest in both trapping and predator hunting,” Roe said. “Both are positive signs for furbearer management in Pennsylvania, because they stimulate an increased harvest of furbearers, something our state, roadways and residents would surely benefit from.
“In 2005, trappers and furbearer hunters removed about 300,000 surplus furbearers from the Commonwealth’s rural and suburban areas and, in the process, and helped to align furbearer populations with the carrying capacity of the habitat they live in. Last year, our furbearer harvest increased about 25 percent. It was a positive step forward, and something we hope continues.”
Increased furbearer harvests reduce the damages and encounters that residents – and their pets – will have with these animals on their properties. The effort also ensures motorists will see less carcass fodder along the state’s roads.
“Right now, many trappers, and particularly those in southern tier counties, are waiting to set and run their traplines until the pelts on the furbearers they intend to trap become more prime,” explained Dr. Matt Lovallo, Game Commission furbearer biologist. “Fur primeness for raccoons, foxes and coyotes usually is about right in most areas of the state by the first week of November. It’s always better to start trapping for these furbearers no sooner than early- to mid-November to improve their pelt value on the market.
“Pennsylvania’s furbearer populations are doing well and the international market demand for most furs remains relatively strong. Pelt prices can and do fluctuate over the course of a season and from year to year as speculators try to corner markets and unanticipated demands drive prices up for limited pelts. The market is influenced by fashion and the needs of garment-makers internationally.”
Most Pennsylvania trappers and furtakers market their pelts through local fur-buyers and regional auctions held by the Pennsylvania Trappers’ Association, and international auction houses. Some furtakers also process some of their pelts for personal use.
The average prices paid for Pennsylvania furbearers in 2006 were: raccoon, $12.88 ($17.50 in 2005); red fox, $20.84 ($20.36); gray fox, $43.84 ($26.54); coyote, $20.02 ($24.50); muskrat, $3.20 ($6.10); mink, $12.88 (17.42); skunk, $4.04 ($4.50); opossum, $2.45 ($5.05); and beaver, $22.14 ($17.18).
In 2006, Pennsylvania sold 26,589 furtaker licenses, up slightly from 23,941 in 2005. The Game Commission began selling combination licenses (which provides general hunting, archery and muzzleloader stamp, as well as furtaking privileges) to junior resident and nonresidents and senior residents in 1999. This new category has led to a dramatic decline in the number of furtaker licenses that are sold, but not necessarily the number of participants.
A soft fur market in the 1990s did reduce furtaker numbers in the state. However, with recent increases in fur prices, Pennsylvania has seen a corresponding increase in furtaker license sales. Increasing interest in predator calling, the bobcat seasons and growing coyote populations, along with new opportunities, such as the legalization of cable restraints for foxes and coyotes, also have encouraged more hunters and trappers to take another look at furtaking seasons.
The 2005 Game-Take Survey reports that fur-takers took 138,640 raccoons (106,082 in 2005); 121,161 muskrats (70,995); 48,102 opossums (43,720); 45,512 red foxes (40,551); 21,601 coyotes (20,377); 20,754 gray foxes (17,616); 10,687 skunks (9,977); and 12,680 mink (9,335).
The Game-Take Survey also showed that Pennsylvania’s best raccoon harvests came from WMUs 2C and 1A; red fox, WMUs 5B and 5C; gray fox, WMUs 2C and 4A; coyote, WMUs 2C and 2G; muskrat, WMUs, 1A and 1B; mink, WMUs 5A and 1B; skunk, 5B and 2C; opossum, WMUs 2C and 2F; and beaver, WMUs 1A and 1B.
“Our furbearer harvests for many species have remained relatively stable over the past three years, but considerable jumps have occurred in muskrats, raccoons and mink harvests,” Lovallo said. “Mink are thriving and appear to be expanding their populations in the southeast and central regions of the state. Increasing prices for raccoon and muskrat pelts likely have led to their increased harvests.”
Most furbearers – excepting muskrats – in Pennsylvania and other neighboring states remain underutilized. In fact, hunters and trappers are taking a fraction of the renewable fur resource Pennsylvania historically has provided. It’s a trend that likely will not be reversed because of the difficulties associated land access, increased equipment and transportation costs, and the free-time/commitment complexities that often dominate the lives of many Pennsylvanians.
“There’s plenty of room for more trappers in Pennsylvania, and our residents would surely benefit from increased pressure on furbearers,” Lovallo explained. “Trappers really do make a difference. Additionally, they’re utilizing a renewable resource that would be a real challenge to manage without their help.”
Over the past 30 years, beavers and coyotes have been expanding their range, primarily from northern counties south. Left unchecked, beavers would cause tremendous property damage and could adversely affect the quality of drinking water for municipalities. Coyotes would cause even more problems for livestock and pets.
“Trappers have done an admirable job managing Pennsylvania’s beavers and coyotes,” Lovallo noted. “They are our first line of defense in managing these species locally and they do it for free. Anyone who has suffered from the damages these species can inflict knows what a relief it is to have a trapper remedy the situation.”
Beaver trappers are reminded that they no longer are required to have harvested beavers tagged by Game Commission personnel. There are, however, beaver bag limits for each Wildlife Management Unit.
Licensed trappers may use cable restraints for coyotes and foxes, upon completion of a four-hour certification course provided by agency-certified instructors, from Jan. 1-Feb. 17. The cost of the course is $15. Students receive various educational materials and one legal cable restraint, and a permanent certification card will be mailed following completion of the course.
Trapping is a highly regulated activity in Pennsylvania. A furtaker license – or combination license – is required to trap in the Commonwealth. All traps must have an identification tag that provides the trapper’s name and address or a number issued by the agency. Body-gripping traps must be set within a watercourse. It is unlawful to set a trap with bait visible from the air, or to disturb the traps of another. Traps cannot have a jaw-spread exceeding 6.5 inches. Traps must be visited at least once every 36 hours and each animal removed.
GAME COMMISSION OFFERS TRAPPING TIPS AND BRIEFS
-Scouting Matters: Pre-season and in-season scouting are critically important to any trapline. Furbearer activity centers sometimes shift, based on the availability of food and den sites. Scouting helps a trapper determine where it’s best to put traps. After all, traps set in areas where targeted furbearers aren’t available will only waste your time and fuel. Be efficient. Don’t guess. In the process, you’ll squeeze plenty of excitement into your morning trap-checks and become a better trapper.
-Blowing in the Wind: When choosing trap-set locations, make sure to use the wind to your advantage. If a furbearer cannot smell your attractant, it may pass within a few feet of your set and never take a step toward it. Most furbearers are curious, and if they detect the bait, urine or lure you’re using to attract them, they’ll come closer to investigate. The wind will help you pull in furbearers by carrying your attractant’s smell further than it would emanate on its own in a still night air, especially in cold weather. It also allows you to set further off the travel-way, reducing the possibility on non-target catches, and trap theft.
-Every 24: Trappers have a legal obligation to check their traps every 36 hours. Most trappers, however, rarely check traps later than every 24 hours. Experienced trappers know that it’s best to check traps earlier to ensure captured furbearers stay in the trap; no one steals the captured furbearer and trap; and the captured furbearer spends no more time restrained than necessary.
-Swivel Action: Adding swivels to your trap’s chain – as well as shortening and center-mounting the chain to the trap frame directly beneath the jaws – will reduce escapes and self-inflicted injuries to the trapped furbearer. Swivels are inexpensive, easy to incorporate and will pay dividends. Consider placing one on each end of the trap chain, and one in the center. The swivel for the stake-end of the chain should be large enough to accommodate your trap stake. For additional trap modifications, please visit the Game Commission’s website at www.pgc.state.pa.us, click on “Trapping and Furbearers” in the left column, then select “Best Management Practices for Trapping in the United States.”
-Sweet Treats: If you’re raccoon trapping in an area where there’s a possibility of capturing a non-target animal, it’s usually best to avoid using meat- or fish-based baits and gland lures. Try using substitute attractants such as grape jelly, anise oil or peanut butter. These baits usually won’t pull in pets and they still have tremendous appeal to raccoons.
-Rock Solid: Traps set afield for furbearers work best when they are seated solidly in a trap bed. This is accomplished by packing soil around the circumference of the trap’s jaws. If the trap moves when you push down on the trap’s jaws or springs, it’s not seated firmly enough in the trap bed. Pack dirt around the trap or place a stone or small stick under the trap’s jaw to keep it from moving. Traps must be immobile to be effective.
-Ask First! Ask a landowner for permission to trap, even if he or she allows trapping, or doesn’t have his or her land posted. Landowners often know their property intimately and can direct you to the best places to set traps, or the only places they allow traps to be set. Be responsible and trap ethically. Remember, wildlife conservation always wins when trappers and hunters ask for permission.
-On the Blind: Another great way to take raccoons and mink in areas where using bait may lead to the capture of a non-target animal is by using “blind” or trail sets. These sets are placed where a raccoon or mink is forced to enter the water to get around a rock, tree trunk or to walk along a bridge abutment. These sets are especially effective on furbearers that have learned to stay away from bait sets.
-Any Trap Won’t Do: Traps must be matched to the furbearer you intend to catch. You can’t use a muskrat trap to catch a coyote and a beaver trap won’t work for raccoons. Here’s a quick overview of what to use for popular Pennsylvania furbearers: foxes, 1.5 coil spring; coyote, 1.5, 1.75 or 2 coil spring; raccoon, 1 or 1.5 coil spring; weasels, skunks, opossums, 1 coil spring; mink, 1 or 1.5 coil spring or five-inch by five-inch, double spring body-gripping trap; muskrat, 1 long spring, jump or coil spring trap or five-inch by five-inch single spring body-gripping trap; and beaver, 3 or 4 double long spring or jump trap and 10-inch by 10-inch, double-spring body-gripping trap.
-Out of Sight: Most people do not consider the skinned carcass of any animal to be pleasing to the eye. Since furbearer remains are considered municipal waste, carcasses should be disposed through your curbside pickup, or at an approved waste or rendering facility. Don’t dispose of them where passersby will see them, where a pet may drag one home, or where their decomposing odor will offend nearby homeowners. Keep it clean.
-Protection Precautions: Trappers should always handle dispatched furbearers with latex or rubber gloves to avoid coming in contact with any body fluids from the animal. Rabies, which continues to pose a health threat in many counties, is transmitted when a furbearer’s body fluids enter a person’s body through a cut or body opening (mouth, eye, etc.) Don’t take risks when approaching trapped animals to dispatch them. Always maintain a safe distance from captured furbearers and handle catches with gloved hands.
-Auction Locator: If you’re interested in finding a fur auction near you, consider visiting the Pennsylvania Trappers’ Association’s website – www.patrappers.com – then click on “Districts” and check the events listed for the districts in your area.
Mark Ternent, Pennsylvania Game Commission black bear biologist, noted that, as fall progresses, bears will begin to increase their food intake to prepare for the upcoming denning season, which begins in mid- to late-November. For some bears, the search for food may lead them closer to people or homes.
Ternent offered suggestions on how to reduce the likelihood that your property will attract bruins and how to best react when a bear is encountered.
“Bear activity can increase during the fall as bears try to consume as many calories as possible from any source they can find in preparation for denning,” Ternent said. “As a result, sightings of bears can increase, particularly if natural nut and berry crops are below average.
“While Pennsylvania bears are mostly timid animals that would sooner run than confront people, residents should know a few things about how to react if they encounter a bear, or better yet, how to avoid an encounter altogether by reducing the likelihood of attracting bears in the first place.”
Ternent stressed there are no known records of a Pennsylvania black bear killing a human, and there have been fewer than 25 reported injuries resulting from black bear encounters during the past 10 years in the state. However, deaths caused by black bears have occurred elsewhere in North America. Pennsylvania’s bear population currently is estimated at 15,000 animals, and reports of problems because people failed to keep food away from bears are not uncommon.
“Pennsylvanians need to understand that when bears become habituated to getting food from people, it can lead to conflicts, property damage and the possibility of injury or eventual destruction of the bear,” Ternent said. “Feeding wildlife, whether the activity is intended for birds or deer, can draw bears into an area. Once bears become habituated to an area where they find food, they will continue to return, which is when the bear can become a real problem for homeowners and neighbors.
“Even more disturbing are the reports we receive about people intentionally feeding bears to make them more visible for viewing or photographing.”
Since March 2003, it has been illegal to intentionally feed bears in Pennsylvania. Also, the unintentional feeding of bears that results in nuisance complaints filed with the Game Commission can result in a written warning that, if ignored, could lead to a citation and fine.
“We recognize that people enjoy viewing wildlife, and we are not attempting to impact that activity,” Ternent said. “But, the agency has an obligation to reduce conflicts when and where we can. All too often, human complaints about bears can be traced back to intentional or unintentional feeding. To protect the public, as well as bears, we need to avoid the dangers of conditioning bears to finding food around homes. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise.”
Ternent listed five recommendations to reduce the chances of having a close encounter with a black bear on a homeowner’s property:
Play it smart. Do not feed wildlife. Food placed outside for wildlife, such as corn for squirrels or deer, may attract bears. Reconsider putting squash, pumpkins, corn stalks or other Halloween or holiday decorations outside that also may attract bears. Even bird feeders can become “bear magnets.” Tips for how to safely feed birds for those in prime bear areas include: restrict feeding season to when bears hibernate, which is primarily from late November through late March; avoid foods that are particularly attractive for bears, such as sunflower seeds, hummingbird nectar mixes or suet; bring feeders inside at night or suspend them from high crosswires; and temporarily remove feeders for two weeks if visited by a bear. Encourage your neighbors to do the same.
Keep it clean. Don’t place garbage outside until pick-up day; don’t throw table scraps out back for animals to eat; don’t add fruit or vegetable wastes to your compost pile; and clean your barbecue grill regularly. If you feed pets outdoors, consider placing food dishes inside overnight.
Keep your distance. If a bear shows up in your backyard, stay calm. From a safe distance, shout at it like you would to chase an unwanted dog. If the bear won’t leave, slowly retreat and call the nearest Game Commission regional office or local police department for assistance. Children should understand not to run, approach or hide from a bear that wanders into the yard, but, instead, to walk slowly back to the house.
Eliminate temptation. Bears that visit your area are often drawn there. Neighbors need to work together to reduce an area’s appeal to bears. Ask area businesses to keep dumpsters closed and bear-proofed (chained or locked shut).
Check please! If your dog is barking, or cat is clawing at the door to get in, try to determine what has alarmed your pet. But do it cautiously, using outside lights to full advantage and from a safe position, such as a porch or an upstairs window. All unrecognizable outside noises and disturbances should be checked, but don’t do it on foot with a flashlight. Black bears blend in too well with nighttime surroundings providing the chance for a close encounter. If bears have been sighted near your home, it is a good practice to turn on a light and check the backyard before taking pets out at night.
“Ideally, we want bears to pass by residential areas without finding a food reward that would cause them to return and become a problem,” Ternent said. “Capturing and moving bears that have become habituated to humans is costly and sometimes ineffective because they can return or continue the same unwanted behavior where released. That is why wildlife agencies tell people that a ‘fed bear is a dead bear.'”
Ternent noted that although bears are no strangers to Pennsylvanians, bears are misunderstood by many.
“Bears should not be feared, nor should they be dismissed as harmless; they simply need to be respected,” Ternent said. He also advised:
-Stay Calm. If you see a bear and it hasn’t seen you, leave the area calmly. Talk to the bear while moving away to help it discover your presence. Choose a route that will not intersect with the bear if it is moving.
-Get Back. If you have surprised a bear, slowly back away while quietly talking. Face the bear, but avoid direct eye contact. Do not turn and run; rapid movement may be perceived as danger to a bear that is already feeling threatened. Avoid blocking the bear’s only escape route and try to move away from any cubs you see or hear. Do not attempt to climb a tree. A female bear can falsely interpret this as an attempt to get at her cubs, even though the cubs may be in a different tree.
-Pay Attention. If a bear is displaying signs of nervousness or discomfort with your presence, such as pacing, swinging its head, or popping its jaws, leave the area. Some bears may bluff charge to within a few feet. If this occurs, stand your ground, wave your arms wildly, and shout at the bear. Turning and running could elicit a chase and you cannot outrun a bear. Bears that appear to be stalking should be confronted and made aware of your willingness to defend by waving your arms and yelling while you continue to back away.
-Fight Back. If a bear attacks, fight back as you continue to leave the area. Bears have been driven away with rocks, sticks, binoculars, car keys, or even bare hands.
“Learning about bears and being aware of their habits is a responsibility that comes with living in rural Pennsylvania or recreating in the outdoors,” Ternent said.
Intelligent and curious, black bears are heavy and have short, powerful legs. Adults usually weigh from 200 to 600 pounds, with rare individuals weighing up to 800 pounds. An adult male normally weighs more than an adult female, sometimes twice as much.
Bears may be on the move at anytime, but they’re usually most active during evening and morning hours. Bears are omnivorous, eating almost anything from berries, corn, acorns, beechnuts, or even grass to table scraps, carrion, honey and insects.
GAME COMMISSION OFFERS BEAR HUNTING TIPS – Pennsylvania Game Commission officials point out that one of the biggest mistakes bear hunters make is failing to locate areas with good fall food supplies – acorns, beechnuts, apples, corn – before the hunting season and overlooking areas of dense cover where bears like to hide.
“Signs to look for while scouting include droppings; bedding areas, which are scratched out depressions, usually at the base of a tree or log; and active trails with tracks,” said Mark Ternent, Game Commission black bear biologist. “In beech stands, look for fresh claw marks on tree trunks indicating that bears are feeding in the area, and in oak stands look for fresh droppings that are almost completely composed of acorns bits. Either of these signs suggest bears are feeding nearby and, if food conditions are right, they will likely still be there come hunting season.
“A good time to scout is early November, so you can assess local mast conditions. When mast conditions are spotty, finding a good area dramatically increases your odds of also finding a bear.”
Land Management Group Supervisor John Dzemyan, who works in Elk and McKean counties, said, “Some basic tips to find and harvest a bear are to hunt thick areas with lots of mast, especially acorns, nearby. Hunt areas where plenty of bear hunters move about, which, in turn, moves the bears about. Hunt the whole day, hunt all three days if possible, and hope for good weather.”
Other bear hunting tips include:
– Look for bears in the thickest cover you can find, such as: swamps and bogs; mountain laurel/rhododendron thickets; north-facing slopes; regenerating timber harvest areas, areas with lots of downed trees, and remote sections of river bottoms. Bigger bears are notorious for holding in thick cover, even when hunters pass nearby.
– Organized drives are effective. Hunters working together often increase their odds of taking bears, especially those bears holding out in thick cover. Develop plans to safely drive likely bear hideouts and follow them to the letter. A minor slip-up by a driver, flanker or stander is all a bear needs to elude even the best-planned drive. Regulations limit the size of organized drives to 25 people or less.
– Hunting on-stand early and late in the day gives hunters a great chance to catch bears traveling to and from feeding and bedding areas. Hunt areas that provide cover to traveling bears and ensure there is either a good supply of mast or cornfields or cover near where you plan to hunt.
– Use the wind to your advantage. If a bear gets a whiff of you, you’re busted as a hunter. Bears have an outstanding sense of smell. They often let their noses guide the way as they travel. Always place yourself downwind of expected travel lanes when hunting on-stand or driving. Bears are cagey enough without giving them more advantages.
– Stay focused and assume nothing. Black bears blend in well in forest settings at dawn and as dusk approaches. Spend too much time looking one way and you can miss a bear. Even though bears are quite heavy, they often are surprisingly quiet moving through the forest. You may see a bear before you hear it coming. Staying alert and remaining vigilant are critical.
BEAR HUNTING BULLETS
– A bear license is required to participate in any bear season.
– Only one bear may be harvested per license year from all seasons combined.
– A hunter who harvests a bear must complete all information on his or her bear harvest tag and attach it to the ear of the animal immediately after harvest and before the carcass is moved. In addition, within 24 hours, hunters who kill a bear must take it, along with their general hunting and bear licenses, to a Game Commission check station for examination. Bear check stations are maintained at the agency’s six regional offices and at other locations listed on page 41 in the 2007-08 Hunting and Trapping Digest.
– Once a hunter has used his or her bear harvest tag, it is unlawful to possess it in the field. Also, hunters are reminded to remove old licenses from their holder before placing a new one in it. If you keep an old license in the holder, you may accidentally use it to tag big game and unintentionally violate the law.
– It is unlawful to kill a bear in a den; use a radio to locate a bear that has a radio transmitter attached to it; hunt in areas where artificial or natural bait, hay, grain, fruit, nuts, salt, chemicals, minerals, including residue or other foods are used, or have been used, as an enticement to lure wildlife within the past 30 days; use scents or lures; pursue bears with dogs; or to hunt bears in a party of more than 25 persons.
– During the regular and extended bear seasons, hunters are required to wear at all times 250 square inches of fluorescent orange on their head, chest and back combined, visible 360 degrees, while hunting in either of the black bear firearms seasons. In WMUs where the archery bear season and fall wild turkey season run concurrently, bowhunters when moving are required to wear a hat containing 100 square inches of solid fluorescent orange. The hat may be removed when the hunter is stationary or on stand. Those WMUs affected by this requirement are 2D, 2G, 3A and 4D.
– Bears may be hunted with: manually-operated center-fire rifles, handguns and shotguns with an all-lead bullet or ball, or a bullet designed to expand on impact – buckshot is illegal; muzzle-loading long guns 44-caliber or larger; long, recurve or compound bows or crossbows with broadheads of cutting-edge design. Crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds and cannot exceed 200 pounds.
– It is unlawful to intentionally lay or place food, fruit, hay, grain, chemicals, salt or other minerals that may cause bears to congregate or habituate in an area.