Hello and welcome month of October. I am mentally finished with summer and have been waiting patiently for you to arrive. I enjoy the cool crisp mornings of fall especially while I’m sitting in a treestand waiting for the sun to rise. While I do enjoy the smells of spring, the enticing aroma of mushrooms growing on the damp forest floor is quite seasonably nice. The leaves are about to start changing and the anticipation of Mother Nature’s colors of fall is driving me crazy.
Pennsylvania and especially Northeastern Pennsylvania is known for its fall foliage and scenic trail system. Most experts agree that the brilliant fall colors usually coincide with the Columbus Day weekend. This year Columbus Day falls on Monday, October 10. There are many websites to help you plan your fall foliage adventure but I always turn to the state’s website (visitpa.com). You will also find driving instructions and pages of events designed to help you enjoy the beauty of this fall season. Foresters and tourism promoters believe that this could be the most colorful autumn we have had in years. Don’t let it pass you by!
Fall also means hunting in our house. The six week archery season started yesterday and by the deer sign I’ve seen it should be quite productive. Most deer could be found around apple trees and brush lines until the acorn start falling. I have seen a few on the ground but I believe the best is yet to some.
The weather could play an important role in more ways than one. While this cooler weekend could get them feeding up for the winter, I expect that the Indian summer warmer temperatures will arrive on time. This means that a harvested deer should be processed quickly in the field and again at home. It is probably a good idea to place a bag of ice in and on the carcass before traveling for a long distance in order to keep your meat as fresh as possible. Good luck and be safe if you’re heading out with your bow and arrows.
The recent flooding has surely played havoc with the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s pheasant stocking program. Two agency game farms in Lycoming County were ravaged by flood waters resulting in the loss of over 30,000 pheasants. Some of them were killed while many escaped to nearby farms and mountain sides. Prior to the flooding from Tropical Storm Lee, the Commission game farms were on track to have more than 104,000 ring-necked pheasants for release on public lands throughout the state for the upcoming small game hunting seasons. Initial reports showed about 40,000 birds were missing after the flood waters receded. That number was revised to 30,000 when Game Farm employees worked hard to round up the birds that escaped. They managed to recapture more than 10,000 birds and are still working on recapturing more.
The Commission has two other game farms in Crawford County and Armstrong County. They were not impacted by flood waters. Combined with the birds unaffected by the flood and recaptured around the two Lycoming County game farms, the Commission was forced to reduce pheasant stocking allocations across the state by about 30 percent. Based on the present figures, the Game Commission expects to be able to stock 73,390 pheasants this year instead of the planned 100,000. This included 11,510 birds for the junior-only season (Oct. 8-15).They will also deliver the 1,800 pheasants allocated for those clubs sponsoring mentored pheasant hunts for juniors on Oct. 8. The one season effected by the loss of pheasants is late season from December 26 to February 4. That scheduled stocking has been cancelled for this year.
The good news is that the youth hunt for pheasants will go on as planned. The pheasant stockings will begin this Friday, October 7, when the agency will release 11,510 birds (6,880 males and 4,630 females) for the junior pheasant hunt scheduled for Oct. 8-15.The Luzerne County properties expected to be stocked for the youth hunt include Frances Slocum State Park and Nescopeck State Park. Game lands 187 in lower Luzerne County is also on the list. For a complete listing of stocking locations for the youth hunt go to pages 25-27 of the 2011-12 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations, which is provided to each license buyer.You can also find more information about the pheasant program on the agencies website at www.pgc.state.pa.us.
The state’s youth squirrel hunt and rabbit hunt seasons start next Saturday as well. This is a great opportunity to spend time with a young hunter without the stress of hunting pressure. Squirrel hunting is a great way to instill safe hunting practices and marksmanship. Most hunters I know grew up shooting rabbits and squirrels. Some of my fondest memories include sitting up against a pine tree with my father while waiting for a squirrel to show up. This hunt could be filled with action considering the large squirrel population in our area.
The fall hunting seasons continue to grow with the early muzzleloader season for deer in two weeks and the general small game season and turkey season not far behind. Please be safe if you are taking to the field and remember to wear the appropriate amount of fluorescent orange. Be sure to share a photo with us here at the Sunday Dispatch.
Be sure to watch Pennsylvania Outdoor Life tonight at 6:30 p.m. on WNEP-TV. We’ll take you smallmouth bass fishing on the Susquehanna River with bass pro Casey Magargle. He has a few tips you can use to catch the big ones. We will also announce the winners of this year’s Thomas P. Shelburne Award for Environmental Leadership. Have a great day.