PA Hunting On Sunday’s

It’s a credit to the benefit of perseverance when you have a goal and see it through.  The droves of newspapers and naysayers proclaiming it couldn’t be done made it only that much sweeter. The first step was taken recently in Pennsylvania toward total overturning of an antiquated law banning hunting of popular game animals on Sundays. Senate Bill 147 made it through the state legislature to land at the pen of Governor Tom Wolf who signed into law the ability to pursue all game animals on a Sunday for the first time in well over a century.

The law allows three Sundays to be legally hunted starting in 2020. One during the archery season, one during rifle season and one to be determined by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Some may say it’s not enough, but it’s a major step forward towards being able to hunt every Sunday.

In all of the interviews, articles, town halls, camp kitchens and smoke-filled bars the debate would circle around painting the blame equally about why hunting wasn’t allowed on Sundays. The politicians, the hikers, the farm bureau and the game commission all were among the accused. Some suspected a surreptitious plot to keep hunters out of the woods for one reason or another. Farmers feared for safety and solace on a single day to rest. Hikers saw their free pass in danger of disappearing for several months of the year.

Whatever the reason, the law that kept hunters out of the woods became a self-fulfilling prophecy seeing generations leave the sport altogether in recent years. The cost of time was too high for one day afield. Many present-day hunters in the commonwealth simply couldn’t justify a license for such little return.

This stands as a shining example of compromise and how great things can be accomplished with conversation. The past few years saw many hunters raise awareness as to the benefits of expanding hunting opportunities both tangibly and intangibly. Everybody involved wanted something, and when the original introduction of the bill sought a complete overturn of the ban get little political support something rare and unique happened in today’s world, a compromise was proposed.

Instead of pushing for all Sundays Sen. Dan Laughlin of Erie asked simply for three. The compromise was enough to sweeten a pot filled with many other benefits for landowners including the strictest trespassing enforcement seen to date. The bill gained support and steam as it moved into and through both the state senate and the house of representatives. Elected official’s office phones and inboxes were flooded by voter support. Responses changed to those voters from “constituency concerns” to “you can count on my vote.”

Pennsylvania hunters should enjoy the victory and be proud of what they’ve achieved. A herculean effort is being rewarded for every hunter in the commonwealth no matter where we hunt, who we hunt with, or how expensive your camo and equipment are because we’re all pursuing the same game. Whether you know it or not we’ve also been rewarded with an equal responsibility. The eyes of the opposition have been fixed on three Sundays in 2020 craving for us to make a mistake.

It’s possible that you’ll be confronted out there. Maybe even baited into breaking the law. It’s important to stay the responsible, calm and ethical steward of the land and animals that you’ve been, without a doubt now more than ever. This is a gift that we’ve never had before, make sure to cherish it.

Ruffed Grouse Decline and Their Future in the Keystone State

Unraveling Pennsylvania’s Ruffed Grouse Decline

Photo by Susan Drury 

Grouse hunting in Pennsylvania is a tradition for many. The northern tier of the state particularly housed robust but variable populations of ruffed grouse. The thrill has always been getting to hear the characteristic thump, thump, thump of a drumming bird. Pennsylvania grouse hunting is a completely different thrill. Harvesting one means pulling up on a flushed bird in dense cover and making a difficult shot. These situations, however, are becoming much rarer in the state.

The ruffed grouse decline the Keystone state has been experiencing for decades is coming to ahead. Hunters are noticing it more and so are land managers. Regardless of if you hunt grouse, hunted them years ago, or are simply an interested outdoors person, the current state and future for this bird is concerning.

“Decline” and “trouble” are serious words but are being used more and more to describe ruffed grouse populations in Pennsylvania. It is not just Pennsylvania either. Most Northeast and Midwest states like Maryland, Minnesota, and West Virginia are all showing seriously declining grouse populations. Pennsylvania is coming up on the last year of a 10-year grouse management plan aimed at addressing the issue. Although, the situation looks much different than it did back in 2011.

Grouse Numbers and Our Current State

Grouse hunting in Pennsylvania was traditionally split into two seasons. Grouse would open in the fall alongside squirrel hunting and other small games species. Even though there were several weeks available in the fall Pennsylvania grouse season, hunters relished the late-season opportunity. These weeks after Christmas were ideal to sneak through dense thickets in the big woods or for running dogs to flush birds. But based on the increasing decline in grouse numbers, the late-season opportunity has been closed since 2017.

Grouse populations are always in flux. Across their entire North American range, their numbers tend to rise and fall in 5- to 10-year cycles. Biologists to a lesser extent understand why the 5- to 10-year cycles occur compared to more short-term swings in numbers.

Many factors affect population numbers. Generally, a cold, damp spring combined with a prolonged cold winter lowers grouse populations in the state. These conditions influence adult female survival and decrease the chances a young grouse will make it through to next spring. Like other animals, causes of mortality also include predation, disease, accidents and environmental factors such as floods and habitat loss.

Exact grouse numbers are difficult to estimate. Instead, the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) uses sightings, harvests, and hunter survey data to assess grouse populations year-over-year and compile long-term trends. In the most recent data from 2018 (available from the PGC), a flush rate of 0.88 flushes per hour (f/hr) was overserved. This was a 6% decrease from the previous year and the lowest since 1965. For comparison, the long-term average is 1.37 f/hr. In addition, sight surveys are down 33% from the previous year and down 49% from the short-term average. These figures are based on surveys from grouse hunters (or cooperators) inside and outside of Pennsylvania grouse seasons. Clearly, the ruffed grouse decline that first was observed in the early 1980s is continuing to propagate itself.

 

Video: Award-winning and comprehensive look at Pennsylvania grouse from the PGC.

Two Factors Affecting the Ruffed Grouse Decline

The ruffed grouse decline can be attributed to two factors. The first, habitat loss, has always played a role in grouse numbers across their entire range. Aging forests are increasing and thus young forests, which grouse thrive in, are harder to find. It was not until 1999 when the second factor appeared. The impacts to grouse from the West Nile virus (West Nile) are only exemplified with habitat loss.

Habitat Needs of Grouse and Implications of Losing It

The primary habitat requirement of grouse is cover. Grouse use dense cover for all aspects of their life cycle including feeding, breeding, and shelter. Young forests provide these ideal conditions, however, aging Pennsylvania forests offer less suitable habitat. Also, population growth has fragmented what once were large contiguous tracts of forests. Grouse do not adapt well to changing habitat conditions and increased interaction with people.

Vegetation like mountain laurel, young pines and hemlocks, and new growth of hardwoods such as aspen are key elements to productive grouse habitat. Birds will eat buds of young growth during winter and feed on greenbriers, witch-hazel, and grapes during warmer months. All of which grow infrequently in older timber stands.

Multi-age forests have been dwindling through natural attrition over time since the large-scale logging that took place at the beginning of the 20th century. This continued loss reduces the habitat needed particularly for breeding and rearing young. The ruffed grouse decline is a direct result of decreased young forests in the state.

West Nile’s Threat

West Nile virus began running its course in Pennsylvania between 2001 and 2003. Mosquitoes can transmit the virus to humans, animals, and birds. The health impacts have been known as it relates to humans, but less is understood when it comes to birds. Birds have shown symptoms and even mortality, especially in crows and jays. Recently, grouse have been studied and observed to have effects related to West Nile.

Research has begun to show just how much of a threat West Nile is to grouse populations in Pennsylvania. More robust population segments, which occur in high-quality habitats, have a greater chance of surviving West Nile. These segments are able to rebound faster after years where West Nile is more prevalent. When small populations in poor habitats experience widespread West Nile prevalence, it is more likely they will experience higher than average mortality and further decline.

In summary, the ruffed grouse decline is not an either-or but rather a combination of less than optimal habitat in conjunction with higher incidents of West Nile.

Planning to Save the Ruffed Grouse’s Legacy in Pennsylvania

The state has proactively been addressing the ruffed grouse decline for decades but more rapidly since the development of the statewide ruffed grouse management plan in 2001.

One-step undertaken has been the use of a framework for Pennsylvania grouse season recommendationsGrouse hunting in Pennsylvania was reduced beginning in 2017 to close the late-season. Even though hunting is a minor factor in grouse survival, closing the after Christmas season ensures that even more birds made it to the next breeding season.

Similar to other wildlife species, habitat is key. Creating and maintaining high-quality grouse habitat supports existing populations and helps them be more resilient against outbreaks from West Nile. Grouse management is being incorporated in the strategic planning for forest harvesting on state lands. Programs are also being implemented to support private forest landowners in an effort to expand acreage and connectivity of a good habitat.

Finally, additional research is being conducted to assess the impacts of West Nile. The focus is on looking at factors that can limit the transmission of the virus and at what thresholds of infection grouse are most vulnerable. Information like this would be used to prioritize habitat work that will have the most benefit on existing and future grouse populations in Pennsylvania.

The good news is we have an example where this is possible. The state of elk in Pennsylvania is thriving due to accomplishments in creating habitat and intensive management. Grouse can be the next success story with a lot of focused effort.

Hunting grouse in Pennsylvania is in many ways a dying tradition. The changing hunter demographic but more so the ruffed grouse decline has been a major contributing factor. However, hunters will need to play a major role in the path ahead to solving this issue. They are key in assessing populations and helping to manage large tracts of public and private land for which Pennsylvania is known for. The future of the state bird and beloved game species is most certainly a concern. Yet optimistically, much has been and more is being done to change the declining path grouse have been on.

Pennsylvania Fishing Report | Yellow Breeches Creek (July 2018)

Kinsey’s Outdoors Field Reports | Yellow Breeches Creek July 2018

Location: Yellow Breeches Creek, Boiling Springs, PA

Weather: High 80s/low 90s

Angler: Brandon Rapp

Being a spring fed creek the water temperature was in the low to mid-50s which was a very welcomed characteristic given the recent heat wave. I came across the Allen Cedar Creek Sling Pack at the store the other day and wanted to give it a try. My verdict is, that thing is amazing. Every time I pick it up I find a new reason to love it. I’m always finding a new pocket along with other features that allow me to carry more than what I need and allows me to go further to better, more remote fishing locations. It’s so comfortable I actually forgot I was wearing it most of the time.

Since the stretch of the creek I was fishing was catch and release with only artificial lures I used mostly Yakima Rooster Tail spinners which was enough to fool a 7-inch trout in an area known nationwide as a trout fishing destination.

Business Travel With The Wife

There is something about parenthood that gives us a sense of history and a deeply rooted desire to send on into the next generation the great things we have discovered about life. And pan of that is the desire to instill in our children the love of science, of

There is something about parenthood that gives us a sense of history and a deeply rooted desire to send on into the next generation the great things we have discovered about life. And pan of that is the desire to instill in our children the love of science, of

There is something about parenthood that gives us a sense of history and a deeply rooted desire to send on into the next generation the great things we have discovered about life. And pan of that is the desire to instill in our children the love of science, of

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Blog Title

As conscious traveling Paupers we must always be concerned about our dear Mother Earth. If you think about it, you travel across her face, and She is the host to your journey; without Her we could not find the unfolding adventures that attract and feed our souls.

I have found some valuable resources for us to use and publisize, all of which are dedicated to responsible travel and care of our environment. 

A well-established nonprofit group which conducts research, publishes articles, provides consumer information, and has a directory of members around the world. With Rainforest Alliance, it recently started an ecotourism certification standards program.

Formed three years ago to bridge the gapbetween research and ocnsumer information and to promote sustainable development and eco-friendly travel. Offers a carbon offset program and last month started an eco-certification program that will follow standards laid out by the International Ecotourism Society.

Created this year for the Educational Travel Conference meeting, this lengthy guide has a wealth of contributors and information. (Click on responsible tourism to download).

The first “green travel” book to be published by Lonely Planet includes

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