posted on October 07, 2004 00:00
HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- Pennsylvania Game Commission
biologists and field officers are somewhat undecided about what hunters will
encounter when they head afield for the Oct. 16 start of the statewide ruffed
grouse season. The grouse season dates are Oct. 16-Nov. 27, Dec. 13-23 and
Dec. 27-Jan. 15.
On the heels of a season that set one of the worst grouse flushing rates
in almost 40 years - and followed by another rainy and cold spring - many
field officers believe prospects for the upcoming season are fair. About 25
percent of the officers rated prospects as good; 40 percent, fair; and 35
percent poor. A significant number of those offering "poor" ratings are in
districts - such as in the Philadelphia area - where grouse are not commonly
Bill Palmer, veteran Game Commission grouse biologist, said managers
expected a low population last year, and the forecast was accurate.
"Last year, we anticipated a low year, and, unfortunately, we got it,"
Palmer explained. "Snow may have impacted hunter effort in some areas, but,
generally, ruffed grouse numbers were down throughout Pennsylvania, as well as
throughout many of the eastern states.
"According to the 2003 Game-Take Survey, Pennsylvania's grouse hunters
decreased by 10 percent, their days of hunting decreased by three percent, and
their take per hunter dropped by seven percent. We estimate there were about
134,000 grouse hunters and they took 106,000 birds. That compares with 149,000
grouse hunters who took 119,000 birds in 2002."
The statewide grouse flushing rate, established by grouse hunting
cooperators who keep a log of their hunting activities, was 1.05 grouse
flushed per hour of hunting in 2003. It compares with 1.17 in 2002; 1.51 in
2001; and 1.39 in 2000. Hunters who take part in this important fieldwork are
updated on yearly results through an annual newsletter.
"The 2003 flushing rate of 1.05 almost matched the state's worst flushing
rate of 1.04 that was posted in 1976," said Palmer, who noted that the agency
began compiling flushing rates in 1965. "The good news is that Pennsylvania
has experienced three exceptional peaks in grouse flushing rates - about 1.7 -
since that low was set in 1976. With last year's near-record low behind us,
we're expecting grouse to show us some of their well-documented resiliency to
"Agency foresters and surveyors reported seeing more grouse afield during
June, July and August than a year ago, so I believe we could see an increase
of about 10 to 15 percent in flushing rates this fall. If that bears out,
Pennsylvania will have better grouse hunting, but it won't be anything
special. It'll be similar to grouse hunting conditions in 2002."
Palmer pointed out, however, that even though grouse populations go
through cyclic highs and lows, they still require adequate habitat to make a
"We have lost a million acres of brushy habitat over the last 25 years,
and that's never a good thing for grouse," Palmer said. "Consequently, we're
trying to keep an eye on the recovery of grouse. It's possible that grouse
won't rebound in some locations, because of habitat deficiencies or loss. But
where the habitat's good, where there's plenty of seedling-sapling forestland,
grouse will rebound."
The overall statewide flushing rate of 1.05 narrowly escaped the dubious
distinction of being the Commonwealth's worst. But how does it compare over
time? The annual average flushing rate for grouse over the 39 years of record-
keeping currently is 1.44. The best year for flushing grouse was 1995, when
hunters posted a 1.74 rate. For the second consecutive year, the state's
northwestern counties established the best regional flushing rate with 1.43
(1.47 in 2002). It was followed by the Northcentral, 1.25 (1.41); Southwest,
0.96 (1.19); Northeast, 0.87 (0.90); Southcentral, 0.83 (0.94); and Southeast,
Field officer observations on ruffed grouse vary. But most expressed
either guarded optimism or concern that inclement spring weather impacted
reproduction. For example, Potter County Wildlife Conservation Officer (WCO)
Bill Ragosta saw positive signs afield.
"Grouse numbers seemed to be seriously depressed last year, but many local
broods have been seen this summer and many more have been reported by local
dog owners and hunters," Ragosta said. "We aren't anywhere near peak numbers,
but the spring hatch is encouraging."
In Crawford County, WCO John McKellopp III saw things differently. "Grouse
numbers are very low here again this year," he said. "With the last two very
wet, cold springs and summers, brood success was minimal. I've been in
Crawford County for 15 years and this is by far the lowest that I've seen."
John Shutkufski, a Land Management Group Supervisor in Wayne, Pike,
Susquehanna and eastern Lackawanna counties, said hunting in the right places
can really make a difference. "Grouse are feeding in areas of aspen, barberry,
autumn olive and other types of berries, especially near swamp edges, thickets
of sapling-stage maple and aspen, and also where acorns and beechnuts are
abundant," he said. "Concentrating on these areas while afield may improve
your chances of getting into some birds."
In Bedford County, WCO Tim Flanigan observed plenty of grouse activity.
"Ruffed grouse have reproduced well this year and the 17-year cicadas provided
excellent nourishment for the chicks," he said. "Survival rates appear to
have been excellent."
Grouse hunters are reminded to wear at least 250 square inches of
fluorescent orange clothing on the head, chest and back combined at all times;
limit hunting parties to no more than six individuals; and plug shotguns to
three-shell capacity (magazine and chamber combined). No grouse hunting is
permitted on a 2,800-acre tract of State Game Land 176 in Centre County, where
the agency is conducting a long-term study to determine the impact of
intensive habitat improvement efforts on the grouse population. However,
other hunting and trapping may be done on this parcel.
Hunters interested in participating in the Game Commission's annual Grouse
Cooperator Survey are asked to write the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Bureau
of Wildlife Management, ATTN: Grouse Cooperator Survey, 2001 Elmerton Ave.,
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797.
SQUIRRELS OFFER HUNTERS PLENTY OF ACTION
Pennsylvania Game Commission officials noted that, in most places,
squirrel populations couldn't be stronger, and with the continuing expansion
of fox squirrels into eastern and northern counties, squirrel hunters even
have more variety when they go afield for the opening day of squirrel season
on Oct. 16. The squirrel seasons are Oct. 16-Nov. 27, Dec. 13-23 and Dec. 27-
Squirrels are one of the most abundant game animals and they can be found
near oak trees yielding acorns or unharvested cornfield near wooded areas; or
by slowly moving along wood trails or sitting near a food source and waiting
for squirrels to approach or leave it. Hunters use shotguns with light loads
(size six-shot) or .22 caliber rifles with or without scopes.
"Only groundhogs topped squirrels in harvest numbers in 2002, so it's
obvious Pennsylvania has an ample supply," said Bill Palmer, Game Commission
biologist. "Almost 200,000 hunters spent 1.1 million days hunting and bagged
more than one million squirrels during the 2003-04 hunting season. Fox
squirrels, now found east of the Susquehanna River, have become a very popular
quest for squirrel hunters. Grays also are very abundant in most places.
"With the aging of more and more of the Commonwealth's forestlands,
squirrels should continue to thrive. The larger, more mature, trees will
provide increased mast production and more tree cavities. The outlook for
squirrels and those who hunt them is bright."
Field officers throughout the state overwhelmingly rated squirrel hunting
as good to excellent this fall.
In Monroe County, WCO Gerald Kapral succinctly reported, "Squirrels are
like flies in the barnyard."
Luzerne County, WCO Tom Swiech said, "Squirrels are around every tree it
seems. Excellent is an understatement when describing the size of our squirrel
York County WCO Guy Hansen said, "There are squirrels in every little
pocket of woods in this area."
WCO Mario Piccirilli said, "For those hunters wanting to take the grand
slam of squirrels - the red, gray, fox and black - Forest County is the place
to hunt for these treetop dwellers."
Blair County WCO Al Zellner reported, "Squirrels are above excellent, to
the point of being nuisance animals. In the farming areas, crop and building
damage have been high. Find the farmers with corn and the squirrels will be
WOODCOCK HUNTING UPDATE AND OUTLOOK
Pennsylvania Game Commission biologist Bill Palmer reported that he
expects hunters to encounter woodcock numbers similar to those of the past two
seasons when they head afield for the Oct. 16-Nov. 13 season. The daily bag
limit remains three birds.
"In 2003, woodcock hunting cooperators posted the best flushing rate in
three years," Palmer said. "But because Pennsylvania woodcock hunters may see
a combination of local birds and migrants from the north, hunting success
depends somewhat on chance.
"While the long-term trend in woodcock populations continues to be
negative, the past 10-year trend shows no change. The population index for
spring 2004, when compared to 2003, even showed a slight increase for the
state. I believe summer weather conditions were sufficient to provide good
production and survival of our resident woodcock."
In 2003, woodcock hunters participating in the Game Commission's Woodcock
Cooperator Survey flushed an average of 1.65 birds per hour of hunting. That
compares with 1.42 in 2002; 1.46 in 2001; 1.78 in 2000; 1.41 in 1999; and 1.54
Persons who plan to hunt woodcock are reminded they must purchase a
Pennsylvania Migratory Bird Hunting License ($3 for residents, $6 for
nonresidents), in addition to their general hunting license.
Hunters interested in participating in the Game Commission's annual
Woodcock Cooperator Survey are asked to write the Pennsylvania Game
Commission, Bureau of Wildlife Management, ATTN: Woodcock Cooperator Survey,
2001 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797.
REGIONAL SMALL GAME REPORTS
Northwest: In Butler and Lawrence counties, LMGS Dale Hockenberry
reported, "Grouse finally seem to be on the upswing." Venango County WCO Clint
Deniker said, "Grouse hunters should concentrate on stands of aspen, grapevine
thickets and evergreens that provide thermal cover." In Forest County, WCO
Rich Cramer said, "Grouse seem to be in good numbers this year. Squirrel
hunters should have their best luck along the Allegheny River and Tionesta
Creek, where many hickory stands are found." Butler County WCO Randy Pilarcik
said, "Gray and fox squirrels abound throughout the area and finding them
should not be a problem. After seeking permission from landowners, try hunting
the wooded areas surrounding farmer's fields for the best bet for bigger fox
squirrels." In Clarion County, WCO Dan Schmidt said, "There are quite a few
areas with wonderful squirrel populations, but grouse numbers seem to be
down." In Erie and Crawford counties, LMGS Shayne Hoachlander reported, "Fox
squirrels in particular appear very abundant." Jefferson County WCO Mike
Girosky said, "The grouse population is starting to come back after a low last
year. There seems to be more fox squirrels out in the woods this year."
Officers also recommended SGLs 86 and 29 for grouse and squirrels; and SGL 162
for fox squirrels.
Southwest: Indiana County WCO Pat Snickles said, "Concentrate your grouse
hunting on reclaimed strip mines with heavy cover such as parts of SGL 262,
between Gipsy and Smithport." In Cambria County, WCO Larry Olsavsky said,
"Some areas of SGLs 108 and 158 are loaded with grouse and squirrels. Area
farmers have complained about squirrels raiding their corncribs on a regular
basis." Allegheny County WCO Gary Fujak reported, "Squirrels are everywhere
again; the population on SGL 203 is excellent." Somerset WCO Brian Witherite
suggested, "A good bet for grouse would be SGL 271 at High Point." In
Armstrong County, WCO Barry Seth said, "Grouse continue to be scarce with only
minimal sightings; it appears that our state bird is still having a difficult
time." Westmoreland County WCO Gary Toward reported, "Fox squirrel populations
seem to be expanding and grays have been reported to be doing well. Most
woodlots have plenty of acorns but they seem to be smaller than normal."
Washington County WCO Dan Sitler said, "Fox squirrels are everywhere." In
Fayette County, WCO Stephen Leiendecker said, "SGLs 51 and 138 should produce
plenty of grouse flushes. The Quebec Run Wild Area is an often overlooked
Northcentral: In McKean County, WCO Tom Sabolcik reported, "Grouse numbers
appear to be on the rebound with broods being reported in good numbers.
Concentrate on the ridges where good cover exists and on the edge of the
clearcuts." Potter County WCO Mark Fair said, "Grouse numbers may be low, but
more juvenile birds were observed this spring." Tioga County WCO Rich Shire
said, "Ruffed grouse numbers are coming back up and can be found in good
numbers. Hunters would do well where evergreens and aspen trees are found,
especially in the Tioga State Forest." Clearfield County WCO Chris Ivicic
said, "Grouse hunters should be able to flush a few in the grape thickets, but
shooting will be difficult." In Union County, WCO Dirk Remensnyder said, "You
can't really go anywhere and not find great squirrel hunting." In Clinton
County, WCO Tom Smith reported, "Hunters should keep their eyes open for fox
squirrels, as their range continues to expand further north each year. Hunting
small woodlots where there are plenty of acorns and hickory nuts should be
very productive." Lycoming County WCO Jonathan Wyant said, "For those looking
for a lot of fun and a new challenge, try for bushy-tails with a .22 and open
sights. It can be a humbling experience."
Southcentral: WCO Travis Pugh said, "Grouse populations continue to remain
healthy in Fulton County with large tracts of public property, such as state
forests and SGLs, being your best bet to get a chance at a bird." In Bedford
County, WCO Jim Trombetto said, "Grouse hunters will again have to put down a
lot of shoe leather to find grouse this year. But the bright side is that I've
observed more grouse than last year." Perry County WCO Jim Brown said, "Grouse
hunters may want to check out the edge of power lines and areas that have been
clear-cut in the past few years." In Juniata County, WCO Dan Clark said,
"Grouse populations are scattered, but mostly in the recently timbered areas."
Cumberland County WCO Rich Deiterich said, "Squirrels are everywhere and are
in such abundance that they are actually causing problems in towns and
boroughs." In Franklin County, WCO Kevin Mountz said, "Squirrels are a dime a
dozen. We have several good pockets of fox squirrels in Warren Township,
mostly on SGL 124." Perry County WCO Steve Hower said, "Fox squirrels appear
to be increasing in numbers and have been seen in many areas. Gray squirrels
remain plentiful and hunters will do best near cornfields as autumn
progresses." In Snyder County, WCO Harold Malehorn said, "The squirrel
population is outstanding. Pick a SGL and have fun."
Northeast: In Sullivan County, WCO William Williams said, "Grouse hunting
should be good on all SGLs in areas with suitable cover. SGLs 57 and 13, on
either side of Route 487, are good bets." Lackawanna County WCO Dan Figured
said, "Hunters should have a good number of flushes on SGL 300 and the Silver-
Brook Anthracite Forest-Game Project along the edges in areas where the scrub
oak meets the mature timber." Bradford County WCO Matt Grebeck reported,
"Grouse are around, but you'll need to spend some time in the woods to find
the best spots." In Monroe County, WCO Pete Sussenbach said, "Grouse hunting
will be good, especially around the recent timber sales on SGL 127."
Northumberland County WCO Kris Krebs said, "Try SGL 84 for grouse." In Luzerne
County, WCO Dave Allen said, "Numerous sightings of black-phase squirrels have
been reported." Columbia County WCO George Wilcox reported, "Gray squirrels
appear to be almost everywhere." WCO Jim McCarthy said, "Squirrels are
abundant on all of Wayne County's SGLs. Look for the large stands of oak and
beech, and you should have plenty of excitement." In Carbon County, WCO Ray
Lizzio said, "Squirrels are abundant."
Southeast: Dauphin County WCO Mike Doherty reported, "Ruffed grouse are
suffering from a lack of brushy growth and food sources, resulting from poor
forest regeneration. I surveyed on foot at least 10 miles of SGLs 211 and 210
every week during spring and early summer and did not hear or see a single
grouse." Berks County WCO Bob Prall said, "The best grouse in northern Berks
County is on the Blue Mountain, including SGLs 80 and 110." In Schuylkill
County, WCO Will Dingman said, "Ruffed grouse populations are stable, but
limited. The Small Valley section of SGLs 211 and 229 are the better grouse
hunting areas." LMGS Rich Skubish, who works in Chester, Lancaster and York
counties, reported, "Grouse can be found in border- and clear-cuts and other
timber harvest areas." In Chester County, WCO Keith Mullin said, "If squirrel
hunters find a stand of hardwoods with some oaks, they will have good
shooting." Lancaster County WCO Steve Martin said, "Squirrels are everywhere.
Find a woodlot with some nut-producers, grapevines and a mix of pines, and
hunting should be excellent." York County WCO Amy Nabozny said, "Squirrels
again seem plentiful." In Northampton County, WCO Brad Kreider said, "Squirrel
hunting on SGL 168 and along the Blue Mountain looks promising." Montgomery
County WCO Tim Wenrich said, "Evansburg State Park and local Farm-Game and
Safety Zone cooperative agreement properties offer the best squirrel hunting."
SOURCE Pennsylvania Game Commission
Web Site: http://www.pgc.state.pa.us