Fall Trout Stocking Opportunities and 2 Ways to Catch Them

Guide to Pennsylvania Fall Trout Stocking

Fall trout stocking doesn’t get the fanfare the opening days of trout season get in the spring but it should. Pennsylvania streams and lakes will once again be stocked with trout throughout October. The 2018 trout stocking schedule for fall provides anglers an abundance of freshly stocked trout. Combine that with many holdover fish and fall is an awesome time to chase trout in Commonwealth waters.

Besides a new batch of stocked trout, the atmosphere surrounding fall trout fishing is worth your time on the water. Water temperatures and levels are rebounding from summer conditions, which triggers trout into feeding mode. Also, fewer anglers crowd stocked waters because many choose hunting opportunities instead of fishing for fall trout. And finally, the abundance of fall colors lining to the waterways in the state is picturesque. To make the most of fall trout stocking, you need to know which places are getting stocked and the best ways to catch them.

The Extent of Fall Trout Stocking Opportunities in Pennsylvania

Fall stocking mostly occurs in October. The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission (PFBC) is planning to stock over 111,000 trout in 90 waterways across two-thirds of the counties in the state during this month. A sizable portion of these waterways includes special regulation streams such as the catch and release fly fishing only stretch of Clark Creek in Dauphin County and the delayed harvest artificial lures only section of Quittapahilla Creek in Lebanon County. Lakes are also on the schedule to receive fall trout such as Little Buffalo Lake in Perry County. The widespread distribution of the fall 2018 trout stocking schedule ensures there are opportunities for all types of anglers.

3 Ways to Find Out What Streams Are Stocked with Fall Trout

There are three ways to determine which streams and lakes will be stocked for fall trout fishing.

  1. PFBC Trout Stocking Website – The trout stocking website provides the streams and lakes by county that will be stocked for fall. It also includes detailed information on the date, specific section, regulations and which species of trout will be stocked. It is by far the best resource available to decide the best places to trout fishing in October.
  2. Angler Clubs and Organizations – There are also several streams in Pennsylvania that receive trout stocking from private clubs. If you fish a particular stream that has an association connected to it, reach out to see if they plan a fall trout stocking. Clubs are also always looking for volunteers to help stock and doing so gives you an upper hand on exactly where fish were stocked.
  3. Local Tackle Shops – Local tackle shops are fewer and farther between nowadays, but those that are still operating know what areas in the local region are getting their share of fall trout stocking. Thriving local outdoor retailers like Kinsey’s Outdoors can help you figure out what places are getting stocked and more important guide you on how to catch them.

2 Fall Trout Fishing Setups to Catch Stocked Trout

Fishing for fall trout has many similarities to trout fishing in the spring. The same 4 ways to catch more trout work in October just like they do in April. A big difference is angler pressure, which is significantly less in October compared to April. This allows you to focus more on precise areas that have recently been stocked rather than expanding to more remote sections of a waterway.

In addition, cooler water and shorter days trigger trout into feeding mode. Holdover trout will be the most geared up on feeding while stocked fish may take a few days to adapt to recently being stocked. A trout’s natural instinct to bulk up before winter has them eating just about anything the floats in front of them. This need to eat before food becomes scarce works in the advantage of the angler. Although you still need sound tactics, it is slightly easier to catch trout in the fall when they are continuously feeding.

The best way to take advantage of stock trout waters in October is with these two fall trout fishing setups.

Fall Trout Fishing Setup #1 – Live Bait

Not all places stocked in the fall allow you to fish with live bait. However, in approved trout waters, few tactics work better than live bait for fall trout fishing. The extent of trout fishing lures available today have left many anglers not even considering live bait as an option anymore. Cautious trout, especially a big holdover trout that may have been caught before, can be reluctant at times to a strike an artificial trout fishing lure. That is why it is hard to beat a live bait setup for catching trout in the fall. 

The two of the best trout bait for stocked trout in Pennsylvania are the minnow and the worm. The key with live bait is to keep them alive. You want as realistic presentation as possible to be able to fool fall trout.

The best way to rig a minnow is by using a minnow rig such as the Duty #1’s Deluxe Trout Rig or a similar “through the body” rig setup. This presentation offers the minnow as naturally as possible in the water. It can be fish in versatile ways such as floating it with a weight about a 12-inches above the rig in deeper water or by reeling it riffles and along undercut banks.

Alternatively, the traditional night crawler does a fantastic job catching fall trout. A method many anglers don’t utilize enough is nose hooking a small piece of a night crawler using a single hook in size 8 to 12A small split shot approximately 8-inches above the hook will get the worm to the bottom. You will lose more worms with this technique but its natural presentation will ultimately get more bites.

Fall Trout Fishing Setup #2 – Trout Magnets

The trout magnet is named appropriately because it is a magnet for trout, especially in the fall. The basic Leland’s Trout Magnet is a tiny grub-shaped soft plastic bait with a split tail. It is fished on a 1/64-ounce jighead. The real magic of the trout magnet is the way it sits horizontally in the water.

Trout magnets are tiny and light, which requires extreme finesse fishing tactics for trout. Light line (2- to 4-lb test) and an ultralight rod and reel combo are a must. A common approach to fishing a trout magnet is fishing it under a small float. This gives you the ability to control depth and also provides a little extra weight for casting. Another good technique with this fall trout fishing lure is jigging it in slow-moving water like eddies and large pools near the bank. Let it sink and twitch it several times and let it fall back again. It drives trout crazy watching that little soft plastic fluttering horizontally in front of them.

Combine these two tactics with fall trout stocking and the opportunities for anglers are tremendous during October.

 

Kinsey’s Outdoor Review | Stealth Cam QS12

Stealth Cam QS12 Review

By: Brandon Rapp, Kinsey’s Outdoor Field Staff Member

As a hunter who likes getting value for their money the Stealth Cam QS12 is a great trail camera that fits the bill. Its compact size fits right into my hand making it portable for spots that are hard to get to and are easy to set up in a variety of locations. Sometimes I don’t always have a tree that I like or is the right size so I may look to use other vegetation to secure it to.  

The quick and easy set up of the camera with pre-programmed settings is another nice feature to it. If you forgot your camera or don’t have one you can grab this and not waste time when you get to your spot trying to find a set-up you want.  

The information you get with not only time and date of the photo but also the moon phase is what I need to know when I’m planning where and when to hunt. With infrared technology the game, or your neighbor should never know it’s there. The option of 5, 10, or 30 second videos is key when you’re looking to see if a buck is following a doe and when, all with 10.0-megapixel quality.  

If you’re in the market for a new, or another camera for your favorite hunting spot check out the Stealth Cam QS12 next time you’re at the store.

Kinsey’s Outdoor Review | Nikon Prostaff Scope Review

By: Brandon Rapp

With the rifle season for deer fast approaching, this is the time of year I definitely want to have my scope set up picked so I can start dialing it in. With work and bowhunting I don’t have a lot of time to get to the range before the Monday opener after Thanksgiving. The Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40mm rifle scope is one of the best options in the store for a great price.  

The first thing I noticed is the great field of view you get when you look through it. Even at the lowest setting you could see a lot of the woods and it’s all crystal clear. I also really liked the BDC reticle system that Nikon outfits this scope with. Sometimes I notice deer moving through a valley or feeding out in a cut ag field, so reticles give me the ability to shoot quickly and confidently at different distances. Also, if you’re planning a trip out west you won’t need to buy a new scope before you head out.  

If the weight of your rifle set up is something you think about, this scope is noticeably lightweight. I don’t always think about that but with some hunters, when heading farther back in the woods every ounce counts.  

This scope has everything a rifle hunter should want if you need a scope for a first-time hunter, or if you just want to upgrade to a new one for your set-up. Either way you’re getting a quality durable product without having to spend what it usually costs for quality optics.

Check out the Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40mm Riflescope

Kinsey’s Outdoor Review | Nikon Prostaff Scope Review

By: Brandon Rapp

With the rifle season for deer fast approaching, this is the time of year I definitely want to have my scope set up picked so I can start dialing it in. With work and bowhunting I don’t have a lot of time to get to the range before the Monday opener after Thanksgiving. The Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40mm rifle scope is one of the best options in the store for a great price.  

The first thing I noticed is the great field of view you get when you look through it. Even at the lowest setting you could see a lot of the woods and it’s all crystal clear. I also really liked the BDC reticle system that Nikon outfits this scope with. Sometimes I notice deer moving through a valley or feeding out in a cut ag field, so reticles give me the ability to shoot quickly and confidently at different distances. Also, if you’re planning a trip out west you won’t need to buy a new scope before you head out.  

If the weight of your rifle set up is something you think about, this scope is noticeably lightweight. I don’t always think about that but with some hunters, when heading farther back in the woods every ounce counts.  

This scope has everything a rifle hunter should want if you need a scope for a first-time hunter, or if you just want to upgrade to a new one for your set-up. Either way you’re getting a quality durable product without having to spend what it usually costs for quality optics.

Check out the Nikon Prostaff 3-9x40mm Riflescope

Getting Over the Sticker Shock of Sitka Gear

New Hunting Clothes | Sitka Clothing

By: Brandon Rapp 

With archery season here, you may find yourself like so many other hunters thinking more and more about getting some new gear. Of course, when you’re sitting on the beach or at a July 4th picnic you’re probably not thinking about base layers and systems for holding your body heat. You’ve forgotten about when last year’s buck smelled or spotted you, and even more about that single digit day with 10 inches of snow where you were never so happy to be back in the truck with the heat on full blast. Now though, with a few cooler days under our belt those memories have started to resurface as you walk by the racks at the store to kick the tires on this year’s threads.  

More than likely you’ve gone through several pieces from brands like Browning, Under Armour, and Sitka Gear. Some of it you’ve seen on hunting shows and in magazines so you know it works. Understandably a lot of people are surprised when they see the price of the garment. It’s just a jacket, or a pair of gloves how could it cost that much? 

Hunting is an all-around investment. You may not realize it because you’ve been hunting all of your life. You picked up a piece of clothing here and there so now you have a closet full. If you were to explain though to someone who wants to start hunting with no experience that is exactly what hunting is. It is obviously an investment of money in an initial purchase of clothing and weapons. Everyone hunts to be successful so you’re probably willing to spend enough to succeed at some point. It’s also an investment of time and effort. Maybe hanging a trail camera or planting a food plot could be part of investing that time and effort. Choosing how much time to spend hunting is also a consideration when you spend some of your time working and with family. Investing in your hunting clothes is no different.

Sticker Shock

Most hunters would have no problem spending almost anything on a new rifle or a new bow, and it makes complete sense. It’s your biggest tool for success so why wouldn’t you have the best to give you the best chance to get the job done? Every year clothing companies are doing research to make better products that keep you from getting seen or smelled giving you the chance to use that new rifle or bow you bought with your hard-earned money.  

The sticker shock was tough for me to get past too but what I’ve found with higher quality hunting clothes from companies like Sitka Gear is what I’ve found when I spent the money on a quality rifle, it works and it lasts. I’m taking my gear from chasing bear high up in the Sproul State Forest to whitetails in the Skippack Creek bottoms north of Philadelphia. It gets annoying when you find you’re leaving parts and pieces of your hunting clothes all over only to have to replace them every year. For me, it made sense to get familiar with the companies that make tough comfortable gear that will keep me hidden, scent free, warm or even cool when I need it to be.  

A good way to start without spending a ton of money is buying a hat, pair of gloves or even a vest. This way you can get a glimpse as to what one of these clothing manufacturers can offer you in the way of quality for some of their other gear. A lot of these garments will have a different fit or feel depending on the company’s philosophy and group of hunters they consider their target audience.  

When it comes to our hunting gear so many of us try to buy the best equipment we can afford. Investing in your hunting clothing, like your other gear should help to bring you more comfortable and successful hunts for years to come.

Shop Sitka Gear  

Getting Over the Sticker Shock of Sitka Gear

New Hunting Clothes | Sitka Clothing

By: Brandon Rapp 

With archery season here, you may find yourself like so many other hunters thinking more and more about getting some new gear. Of course, when you’re sitting on the beach or at a July 4th picnic you’re probably not thinking about base layers and systems for holding your body heat. You’ve forgotten about when last year’s buck smelled or spotted you, and even more about that single digit day with 10 inches of snow where you were never so happy to be back in the truck with the heat on full blast. Now though, with a few cooler days under our belt those memories have started to resurface as you walk by the racks at the store to kick the tires on this year’s threads.  

More than likely you’ve gone through several pieces from brands like Browning, Under Armour, and Sitka Gear. Some of it you’ve seen on hunting shows and in magazines so you know it works. Understandably a lot of people are surprised when they see the price of the garment. It’s just a jacket, or a pair of gloves how could it cost that much? 

Hunting is an all-around investment. You may not realize it because you’ve been hunting all of your life. You picked up a piece of clothing here and there so now you have a closet full. If you were to explain though to someone who wants to start hunting with no experience that is exactly what hunting is. It is obviously an investment of money in an initial purchase of clothing and weapons. Everyone hunts to be successful so you’re probably willing to spend enough to succeed at some point. It’s also an investment of time and effort. Maybe hanging a trail camera or planting a food plot could be part of investing that time and effort. Choosing how much time to spend hunting is also a consideration when you spend some of your time working and with family. Investing in your hunting clothes is no different.

Sticker Shock  

Most hunters would have no problem spending almost anything on a new rifle or a new bow, and it makes complete sense. It’s your biggest tool for success so why wouldn’t you have the best to give you the best chance to get the job done? Every year clothing companies are doing research to make better products that keep you from getting seen or smelled giving you the chance to use that new rifle or bow you bought with your hard-earned money.  

The sticker shock was tough for me to get past too but what I’ve found with higher quality hunting clothes from companies like Sitka Gear is what I’ve found when I spent the money on a quality rifle, it works and it lasts. I’m taking my gear from chasing bear high up in the Sproul State Forest to whitetails in the Skippack Creek bottoms north of Philadelphia. It gets annoying when you find you’re leaving parts and pieces of your hunting clothes all over only to have to replace them every year. For me, it made sense to get familiar with the companies that make tough comfortable gear that will keep me hidden, scent free, warm or even cool when I need it to be.  

A good way to start without spending a ton of money is buying a hat, pair of gloves or even a vest. This way you can get a glimpse as to what one of these clothing manufacturers can offer you in the way of quality for some of their other gear. A lot of these garments will have a different fit or feel depending on the company’s philosophy and group of hunters they consider their target audience.  

When it comes to our hunting gear so many of us try to buy the best equipment we can afford. Investing in your hunting clothing, like your other gear should help to bring you more comfortable and successful hunts for years to come.

Shop Sitka Gear  

Must Have Deer Scents and Calls

Deer Calls and Scents for the Hunt

Lessons Learned  

Fall is here, and deer hunters all across the country are putting plans into action to fill their tags. It’s a magical time of year, and you want to make the most of it. Time in the deer woods is cherished and invaluable; there is no price tag on experience, lessons learned, or woodsmanship when it comes to deer hunting. There are, however, tips and tactics when it comes to deer hunting, deer scents, and calling deer that will go a long way to filling your tag this fall.

The Rut

Perhaps the best part of deer season is hunting the rut and its stages. Nothing influences the deer herd more than the annual breeding period, and the time period just before and just after the does come into estrus. The rutting period general falls somewhere near or on hunting seasons in most states, and it makes for some exciting action for sure! Whitetail bucks are at their most vulnerable during this time, and tools like calls and scents can be lethal if you put them into practice during your hunt.

Phases of the Rut

Pre-Rut 

The pre-rut can be an amazing time in the deer woods. Bucks are beginning to move more and more during daylight hours with anticipation of the first estrus doe. Whitetail bucks begin to stake out their territory during this phase, establishing dominance over other bucks and laying claim to areas that does frequent. Pre-rut phase generally starts to heat up sometime in October and early November when bucks start making rubs, and establishing scrapes to make their presence known. Hunters in the field during the pre-rut can put the deer’s anticipation to work during the hunt to seal the deal with the help of calling and scent tactics.

Pre-Rut Calling Tactics

Calling during the pre-rut phase can be tricky. It’s important to take a buck’s temperature and read his body language when calling during the pre-rut. Light calling can be effective during the early stages of the pre-rut, but as the fall season drags on and the peak rut approaches, being more and more aggressive with calling can be amazingly effective. Remember to keep an eye on your downwind side, deer will approach to a call from the downwind if they can.

Vocalizations for the pre-rut

In the early weeks of the pre-rut, be sure and have a doe bleat in your pack. Calls like “The Little Can” by Primos produce a soft doe in estrus bleat that isn’t too aggressive and can be just the ticket to bring in a curious buck. Another effective call that deer hunters should never leave home without is the grunt. A grunt tube that is variable in tone, and able to produce both immature and dominant buck grunts is versatile and effective in many situations. Adding a snort wheeze to a dominant buck grunt can sometimes be just the medicine to put that bruiser buck over the edge and bring him in. Flextone’s all in one Boned Up Deer Call uses a variable reed to effectively produce young buck, mature buck, and doe bleats from the same call.

Rattling during the pre-rut 

Another highly effective calling strategy for the pre-rut period is rattling. Depending on the buck to doe ratio in your hunting area, competition for the prime doe feeding and bedding areas can be tough between bucks. The sound of two sparring bucks is an interesting tactic that can be extremely effective. Try different scenarios like the sound of two bucks lightly sparring to a drop down drag out fight, and everything in between. Start lighter and softer, especially in the earlier season.

Rattling is an effective tool for deer hunters in the woods during all phases of the rut, but what works one day might not the next. Keep in mind a buck that has lost fights to a more dominant buck might not be interested in losing again. On the other hand, the dominant buck in the area may not be happy with two subordinate bucks fighting in his territory. Use a call that is quiet in your pack, versatile enough to rattle lightly, but tough enough to take the abuse of loud and aggressive calling. A rattle bag, like the Primos Big Bucks Bag, is a versatile call that is easy to use and quiet to pack in.

Pre-Rut Scents 

Deer live and die by their noses. It only makes sense for whitetail hunters to put scents to work to better their odds on a hunt. During the pre-rut, bucks are busy making and tending scrapes and rubs. Hunters can use this phase of the rut to their advantage by making fake scrapes, or freshening natural scrapes made by a buck in the area.

Using a product like Tinks #69 Doe-in-Rut lure can fire up a buck and get him using the area you are hunting during daylight hours. Take careful consideration of the prevailing wind, not only from your stand, but from the scrape with lure. Ideally, a buck will approach the scrape from downwind while remaining upwind from your hunting position.

 

Peak-Rut
  
The peak-rut phase of the rut takes place when the majority of the does in the area come into full estrus. The peak-rut can be tricky to hunt, and is sometimes known as lock-down. When the peak-rut arrives, bucks will keep close tabs on their does. Any buck not bedded with a doe in estrus will be looking for his chance to breed. Calling tactics during this time of the rut can go from ice cold to red hot in an instant.
Peak-Rut Calling
 
Calling to bucks during the peak-rut can be tricky. During this phase, bucks aren’t as inclined to spar and fight, but are actively searching for does. One strategy during this time of year is to hunt the does, and the bucks will follow.
An estrus doe bleat is at its most effective during this phase of the rut. Blind calling from the fringe of a doe bedding area with a call like the Primos “the Great Big can” is a great tactic to catch the attention of a cruising buck looking for does. Don’t over call, and keep wind direction in mind.

Peak-Rut Scents  

During the peak-rut, any buck not with a doe is sure to be looking for a doe to breed. A tactic that is guaranteed to get the attention of any buck cruising by is a scent drag. It’s critical when deploying this tactic to wear scent free rubber boots, and to tuck your pant legs in to avoid laying down foreign scents that would alarm a deer.

To make a scent drag, dip a wick into your favorite doe in estrus lure, like this one from Code Blue. Attach the wick to a short length of cord or line and then to your boot. Drag the scented wick to the stand, effectively making a doe in estrus scent trail right to your stand. Make sure to approach you stand from the upwind side, then hang the wick in a tree upwind of your stand before settling in for your hunt.

 

Post-Rut 

By the time the post-rut rolls around, most of the does will have been bred. It will be about a month before the second estrus comes into full swing, and the transition can be tricky. In some ways, the post-rut is more like a pre-rut period between peak-rut and the second rut. The bucks have heard about every call in the book, at volumes and intensity not possible by real deer, but calling can still be effective.

Post-Rut Calling 

Reading a bucks posture and body language during the post-rut is critical. Avoid blind calling, and cater to a buck you spot by starting soft and taking his temperature. A hot buck looking for action can be coaxed in using grunts and even rattling, but a cautious buck looking to recover lost calories is best hunted with soft bleats or no calling at all.

Post-Rut Scents 

Deer in the post rut have been pushed around by hunters through two phases of the rut. Late season deer are on edge, and for good reason. Deploying a calming scent like EverCalm by ConQuest is one way to help put deer at ease in your hunting area. Calming scents work by distributing natural deer scents in an area, creating a calming effect that other deer are already nearby and the surroundings are safe.

When you get a chance to pursue your passion of deer hunting this fall, take into consideration the phase of the rut. Put calling and scent tactics to use during your hunts. Using a bucks natural drive to find and breed does during the rut is the key to hunting all phases of the rut, and deciding which calling and scent tactics will be most successful for your hunt.

Bow Season Opener and Early Season Tactics

Bow Season Opener Strategy and Tactics for Early Season Success

yearlong wait finally ends when the bow season opener arrives. Some hunters have prepared thoroughly and scouted wisely up to the first day of archery seasonIf you are not one of those wellprepared hunters, you need a little luck and good tactics to put a buck on the ground during the first few days of archery season. 

Opening day archery hunting is tradition for many, but most bowhunters don’t start really focusing on the season until late October. Why? Because you can avoid trying to figure out how to hunt bucks in the early season and jump right over the October lull. As an alternative to avoiding this time of year, understand where to hunt and build a strategy of success for early season bucks. Deer are less pressured and more predictable around the bow season opener and a mature buck can be had with the right tactics. 

Where to Hunt the Bow Season Opener and the Week After

It may sound obvious but on the first day of archery season and the days after you want to be hunting where you see deer. Whitetails will still, for the most part, be in feeding mode as they come out of their summer patterns. This means agricultural fields and mast areas will be key for early seasobow hunting stand placementAlso, deer will consistently visit water sources. A reliable water source can be a deadly first week of bow season location and even a good spot to hunt all the way up until the rut.

Two Bow Season Opening Day Stand Locations

  1. Acorn producing white oak flat – Deer will consistently feed on white oak acorns when available. Focus in on areas with a good crop of white oak acorn mast. Deer will often casually feed around when there are lots of acorns, which makes it hard to place a stand. Each evening they come out a different trail and leave a different way. Try to pick the most worn trail with the freshest sign for a stand location. Also, remember to take the wind into account and possibly even hang two stands over one white oak flat to be able to hunt different wind conditions.
  2. Water source – Because whitetails are still feeding a lot in the days leading up to and just after the bow season opener, water is critical. They will typically hit a water source after feeding in the morning and again in the afternoon as they move to an evening food source. Understanding deer movement around a water source allows you to place an archery stand in a reliable spot for late mornings and early afternoons.

Bow Season Opener and Early Season Deer Hunting Tactics

A successful archery hunter is always adapting based on current information and the time of the year. There is no exact playbook on how to hunt bucks in early season but these strategies are a place to start for early season success.

Continue to Use Trail Cameras

We all know trail cameras provide important pre-season information, but they are invaluable when it comes to early season bow hunting. They provide data around the timing of when bucks are entering and leaving food and water sources, if bucks are still in bachelor groups, and which food sources are hot and should be hunted. All this information is helpful in understanding deer movement and planning tree stand placement.

Be Willing to Be Mobile

The first week after bow season opens is very much a transition period. Whitetails, and especially bucks, are going to be changing their patterns in the next few weeks. Having trail camera data will tell you where deer are and when they are moving as well as when patterns begin to change. In order to hunt transitioning bucks, you need to be able to be mobile, either with a lightweight portable hang on treestand or a climbing treestand so you can change locations based on daily changing patterns.

 

 

Early Season Deer Calling Can Work

Deer calls are probably the last item on your bow hunting pack essentials list, however, they can work in the early days of archery season. When you think about when to use deer calls the rut is the first thing that comes to mind. Using a grunt call early season can work if done correctly. Unlike the rut when you are grunting hot and heavy, in the early season you want to call sparing and at a lower volume. It is to build curiosity and gain attention. Never grunt early with a buck coming in or looking at you.

Another early season deer calling strategy is to use a doe bleat. Does and fawns will be communicating and a curious buck may work towards you if he hears a doe or fawn bleat. Instead of calling blindly, use a doe bleat if a buck is feeding away from you or comes out to a food source out of range. A soft bleat may be enough to trigger him to come in and check out what is going on.

Minimize Early Season Bow Hunting Mistakes

Any time during the bow season you want to minimize mistakes. This is critically important for the bow season opener and the days following. Deer have been unpressured for months, few people have been in the woods, and they are set in their patterns. All of which are bad for an archery hunter who makes mistakes. There are three mistakes hunters commonly make on the first day of archery season and throughout the early season that can be detrimental.

  1. Getting in stand too late – You want to get into your stand as early as you can. The earlier the better because it allows plenty of time to let the woods calm down and any scent carried in to disperse. Also, getting there late could mean bumping a buck heading to food or water that will change his pattern entirely.
  2. No exit strategy – A good exit strategy goes a long way. Deer will be feeding on a food source well after dark early in the year. The last thing you want is to spook a buck or a herd of deer from a field or acorn flat trying to leave your stand. Stay late and have an exit strategy that is away from the food source and any travel lanes deer use to access it.
  3. Casual scent control – Not having a total scent control plan for early season hunting is by far the biggest mistake archery hunters make. Any whiff of human odor in the woods by a mature buck around the bow season opener or days following is a sure way to never see him again. Deploy all the scent-eliminating tools from ozone devices, scent-eliminating sprays and scent killing clothing and soaps, to be as scent free as possible.

 

In summary, the bow season opener for most archery hunters marks the start of a long and exciting season chasing mature bucks. Don’t discount your bow season opening day and the days and few weeks after it as just prep work for later in the archery season. Insteadcapitalize on this time of year by deploying deploy specific strategies and tactics to increase your chances of success at the beginning of bow season.

Bow Season Opener and Early Season Tactics

Bow Season Opener Strategy and Tactics for Early Season Success

yearlong wait finally ends when the bow season opener arrives. Some hunters have prepared thoroughly and scouted wisely up to the first day of archery seasonIf you are not one of those wellprepared hunters, you need a little luck and good tactics to put a buck on the ground during the first few days of archery season. 

Opening day archery hunting is tradition for many, but most bowhunters don’t start really focusing on the season until late October. Why? Because you can avoid trying to figure out how to hunt bucks in the early season and jump right over the October lull. As an alternative to avoiding this time of year, understand where to hunt and build a strategy of success for early season bucks. Deer are less pressured and more predictable around the bow season opener and a mature buck can be had with the right tactics. 

Where to Hunt the Bow Season Opener and the Week After

It may sound obvious but on the first day of archery season and the days after you want to be hunting where you see deer. Whitetails will still, for the most part, be in feeding mode as they come out of their summer patterns. This means agricultural fields and mast areas will be key for early seasobow hunting stand placementAlso, deer will consistently visit water sources. A reliable water source can be a deadly first week of bow season location and even a good spot to hunt all the way up until the rut.

Two Bow Season Opening Day Stand Locations

  1. Acorn producing white oak flat – Deer will consistently feed on white oak acorns when available. Focus in on areas with a good crop of white oak acorn mast. Deer will often casually feed around when there are lots of acorns, which makes it hard to place a stand. Each evening they come out a different trail and leave a different way. Try to pick the most worn trail with the freshest sign for a stand location. Also, remember to take the wind into account and possibly even hang two stands over one white oak flat to be able to hunt different wind conditions.
  2. Water source – Because whitetails are still feeding a lot in the days leading up to and just after the bow season opener, water is critical. They will typically hit a water source after feeding in the morning and again in the afternoon as they move to an evening food source. Understanding deer movement around a water source allows you to place an archery stand in a reliable spot for late mornings and early afternoons.

Bow Season Opener and Early Season Deer Hunting Tactics

A successful archery hunter is always adapting based on current information and the time of the year. There is no exact playbook on how to hunt bucks in early season but these strategies are a place to start for early season success.

Continue to Use Trail Cameras

We all know trail cameras provide important pre-season information, but they are invaluable when it comes to early season bow hunting. They provide data around the timing of when bucks are entering and leaving food and water sources, if bucks are still in bachelor groups, and which food sources are hot and should be hunted. All this information is helpful in understanding deer movement and planning tree stand placement.

Be Willing to Be Mobile

The first week after bow season opens is very much a transition period. Whitetails, and especially bucks, are going to be changing their patterns in the next few weeks. Having trail camera data will tell you where deer are and when they are moving as well as when patterns begin to change. In order to hunt transitioning bucks, you need to be able to be mobile, either with a lightweight portable hang on treestand or a climbing treestand so you can change locations based on daily changing patterns.

 

 

Early Season Deer Calling Can Work

Deer calls are probably the last item on your bow hunting pack essentials list, however, they can work in the early days of archery season. When you think about when to use deer calls the rut is the first thing that comes to mind. Using a grunt call early season can work if done correctly. Unlike the rut when you are grunting hot and heavy, in the early season you want to call sparing and at a lower volume. It is to build curiosity and gain attention. Never grunt early with a buck coming in or looking at you.

Another early season deer calling strategy is to use a doe bleat. Does and fawns will be communicating and a curious buck may work towards you if he hears a doe or fawn bleat. Instead of calling blindly, use a doe bleat if a buck is feeding away from you or comes out to a food source out of range. A soft bleat may be enough to trigger him to come in and check out what is going on.

Minimize Early Season Bow Hunting Mistakes

Any time during the bow season you want to minimize mistakes. This is critically important for the bow season opener and the days following. Deer have been unpressured for months, few people have been in the woods, and they are set in their patterns. All of which are bad for an archery hunter who makes mistakes. There are three mistakes hunters commonly make on the first day of archery season and throughout the early season that can be detrimental.

  1. Getting in stand too late – You want to get into your stand as early as you can. The earlier the better because it allows plenty of time to let the woods calm down and any scent carried in to disperse. Also, getting there late could mean bumping a buck heading to food or water that will change his pattern entirely.
  2. No exit strategy – A good exit strategy goes a long way. Deer will be feeding on a food source well after dark early in the year. The last thing you want is to spook a buck or a herd of deer from a field or acorn flat trying to leave your stand. Stay late and have an exit strategy that is away from the food source and any travel lanes deer use to access it.
  3. Casual scent control – Not having a total scent control plan for early season hunting is by far the biggest mistake archery hunters make. Any whiff of human odor in the woods by a mature buck around the bow season opener or days following is a sure way to never see him again. Deploy all the scent-eliminating tools from ozone devices, scent-eliminating sprays and scent killing clothing and soaps, to be as scent free as possible.

 

In summary, the bow season opener for most archery hunters marks the start of a long and exciting season chasing mature bucks. Don’t discount your bow season opening day and the days and few weeks after it as just prep work for later in the archery season. Insteadcapitalize on this time of year by deploying deploy specific strategies and tactics to increase your chances of success at the beginning of bow season.

Fall Steelhead Fishing Tactics and Hotspots for Erie

Steelhead Fishing Tactics to Conquer Pennsylvania’s Fall Run

Fall marks the start of the annual steelhead runs from Lake Erie into its tributaries in northwestern Pennsylvania. These fish grow to some impressive sizes all summer and return in fall to begin the next cycle of their lives. This movement offers anglers, with the right steelhead fishing tactics, an opportunity to hook and land one of the most exciting sport fish in the state.

Of course you can have the best steelhead fishing tactics but if you are not fishing in the best areas, it won’t do you much good. Steelheads run into numerous tributaries that drain into Lake Erie. Some of these are open to fishing, some are not, and of course there are a few that are absolute hotspots for fall steelhead fishing.

3 Streams That Offer Awesome Fall Steelhead Fishing in Pennsylvania

If you are considering fishing for steelheads in the fall for the first time or simply want to catch more and better steelheads, these three streams provide the best opportunities to do just that. Elk Creek and Crooked Creek in the west and Twenty Mile Creek in the east are the three best fall steelhead fishing locations.

Twenty Mile Creek 

Twenty Mile Creek starts in New York but drains its last four miles through upper northwestern Pennsylvania. This approved trout stream is the largest and most popular of the eastern steelhead fishing locations.

 

Access is somewhat tricky on Twenty Mile Creek, especially on the upper reachesHowever, there is a public parking area to the west of the Route 5 bridge that provides access to the western bank of the creek to the mouth. Basic steelhead fishing tactics deployed on the large pool just upstream from the mouth and also the riffles that run into this pool will produce quality fish. Also, several good pools can be fished upstream of Route 5 and hold good fish but many areas are private property so respect landowner signs.

Crooked Creek

Crooked Creek is one of the top hotspots on the long list of western streams. It is a medium size stream with good runs of fall steelheadsSimilar to Twenty Mile Creek, Crooked Creek is an approved trout stream and is stocked with trout in the spring on its lower reaches to the mouth. This stream is tough to fish with its brushy banks and finicky water conditions. Crooked Creek is usually the first stream to stain and the last to clear up after heavy rains. The advantage to Crooked Creek and why it is one of the top fall steelhead fishing spots is because it gets a lot less pressure than more well-known waters like Elk Creek. Solid steelhead fishing tactics combined with less fishing pressure makes for a great fall day in Erie.

Fish Crooked Creek between Ables Road to Happy Valley Road. The mouth also offers good fishing but access is limited to walking the lake shore to get there. Again watch out for posted property and nursery waters where fishing is off limits.

Elk Creek 

Twenty Mile Creek and Crooked Creek are good places for fall steelheads although at some point everyone ends up at Elk Creek. Elk Creek offers some of the best steelhead fishing in PennsylvaniaIt is the largest and most popular steelhead tributary for good reason. This approved trout stream gets a heavy stocking of brown trout and some of the best runs of steelheads along Lake Erie.

Elk Creek has a large parking area and facilities at its mouth, which gets crowded when the steelheads are really running. Although, there are plenty of fishing spots accessible from this access point. Fish the mouth and the large slow-moving pool adjacent to this parking area. Another spot to try is up and downstream of the bridge on Elk Park Road. Mixing up your steelhead fishing tactics will help you land more fish on Elk Creek. The pressure it receives is great and a simple change of technique or steelhead fishing lure can trigger a bite. Finally, a benefit to Elk Creek is that when water levels get low and clear, which happens often in the fall, the large pools near the mouth on this creek will still hold fish.

Fall Steelhead Fishing Tactics That Give You the Advantage in Erie 

No matter which tributary you fish for steelheads in during the fall, there are several steelhead fishing techniques you need to know. 

First, consider the weather and water conditions. The fall Pennsylvania steelhead fishing season generally means low and clear waters. Weather is important because it determines what the water conditions will be like. Optimal water temps for fall steelhead fishing is between 50- and 60-degrees. Rain will bring tributary waters up, which will push fish further upstream. However, when the water is low and clear, you want to fish travel zones or large, deep poolsTravel zones, which are slightly deeper than other parts of the stream, get fished less than larger community pools but hold traveling fish when the water-level is low. 

The next steelhead fishing tactic to try in the fall is to move around. Rule of thumb is if you don’t have a bite in the first 30 minutes then move on. The most successful steelhead anglers in the fall are the ones willing to change locations frequently. Depending on weather and water conditions, certain streams and holes may have very few steelheads. You have to be willing to move around in streams like Elk Creek and Crooked Creek but also be willing to move to an entirely different tributary.

One final fall steelhead fishing tactic is to experiment with your lures. It can be frustrating when you are fishing a tributary and the steelheads are there but you can’t get them to bite. Part of the problem is those fish have been seeing a steelhead jig or steelhead bobber rig drift by them time and time again. Instead of fishing the same lure, consider what small changes you can make to your baits to be different and get a bite. For example, change the bobber size, add additional weight to a drift rig, change to a spinner or change to a crazy color. Leader length and type (fluorocarbon vs. monofilament) can also make a huge difference when the steelhead bite is tough. Always carry several spinners and spoons as well because these steelhead fishing lures let you cover more water and provide a different presentation than the standard drift fishing setup most anglers are fishing.

Fall in Erie, Pennsylvania offers some fantastic steelhead fishingStreams like Twenty Mile Creek, Crooked Creek, and Elk Creek are your best steelhead fishing locations this time of year. Fishing can get crowded and tough during the fall. Yet steelhead fishing tactics such as playing the weather and water conditions, moving around, and the willingness to experiment with different lure presentations will help you conquer the fall steelhead run.