We are at that time of the year when most of our hunting is over; sure we can still chase rabbits and squirrels until the end of February and, of course, coyotes can be had anytime. Last week, I even spotted a distant field with a bunch of goose decoys spread over a large area.
While hunting is on the downswing, ice fishing is on the up-swing; this year’s cold temperatures have provided us ice in the 10-12 inch range on many lakes. For the dedicated fly-fisherman you can still pick up a few good trout on wet flies or nymphs on several area streams providing conditions remain fairly stable — in other words no more mid-winter flooding rains.
With many people “setting out” for the above-mentioned winter activities, I thought now might be a good time to catch the outdoor crowd up on some of the latest news from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
This first item kind of caught me by surprise, and that is that the Game Commission is officially changing the name of its law-enforcement officers to “state game wardens.” This new title took effect Jan. 1, 2018. Previously, these officers were referred to as Game Protectors or Wildlife Conservation Officers or WCOs. Actually, I knew a lot of people who have referred to WCOs as game wardens for many years. Apparently, the Game Commission feels that the new name better describes the work of those who serve in that capacity. Game wardens do fulfill a number of different obligations, even when most hunting seasons are over, and the commission feels that this new label will help the public to understand that concept better. Actually, I always thought WCO pretty well covered their duties and responsibilities, but I won’t have any trouble getting used to the new label either.
Another item that seems to have generated some increased interest is the changes that have come to this past season’s archery bear season, and the harvest numbers those changes have produced. Two new changes were introduced this year. First, we had our first ever six-day archery season for bear, and second, it was held during the archery deer season — a first also. Naturally, there were questions as to how this might affect the usual bear take numbers and its long-range effect on our roughly 20,000 bears statewide. It’s logical to assume that this change would result in an increase in the bear take since many archers were prepared to take a bear if the opportunity arose. Apparently it did, archers killed 490 bears in 2017 — that’s two and a half times more than what is normally taken in archery season, and that’s with two days of bad weather.
However, while the archery number is up, the regular firearms bear season numbers were down due to bad weather. So, in the end, the overall kill was on track. Opening day of the regular firearms bear season usually results in around 1,600 bears being taken, but due to the very lousy weather this year, hunters took only 600 on opening day. With numbers being what they are, my guess is the Game Commission is in a wait-and-see before any more changes come to the archery bear season.
Obviously, there is a lot more going on with the Game Commission and the Fish and Boat Commission, but I am out of room for now, and besides — I have to go get my ice-fishing gear ready for tomorrow.