2018-07-07 / Outdoors

INSIDE THE OUTDOORS

Early peek at fall hunting season

As we begin to prog­ress through summer, the thoughts of many outdoors people in these parts tend to drift to the fall hunting seasons. Seeing hen turkeys with their broods chasing grasshoppers in mountain meadows, or velvety racked bucks out feeding in the early morning, stir our pas­sions.

It seems that some people just can’t seem to enjoy the moment. The calendar may say July, but their minds have drifted off to the cooler days of autumn.

Another symptom of this affliction is peering up into treetops. It’s an odd behav­ior, and I find myself occa­sionally exhibiting it. It’s the acorn crop that will dictate where hunters are more likely to find game animals this fall.

As the summer pro­gresses, the oak mast will become more apparent. And I wouldn’t be surprised if white, chestnut, and/or black oak acorns start appear­ing along with the red ones we’re seeing now -- at least I hope they do.

There also seems to be a good apple crop develop­ing. We dodged the bullet when it came to a late frost this spring. If the white oak acorns are spotty this fall, the apples will dictate many of the deer movement and feeding concentrations dur­ing the early part of archery season.

I have also noticed fruit developing on our black cherry trees. It is hard to gauge at this point how heavy of a cherry crop we will have, but by late sum­mer there will be at least some cherry mast for the game in areas that haven’t been hit too hard by the tent caterpillar defoliation.

The Allegheny serviceber­ry is also developing nicely. Serviceberries seem to be a favorite of bears and ripen in late June through July. I per­sonally relish the tasty fruit and always help myself to any ripe berries encountered within my reach when walk­ing in the summer forest.

That reach problem doesn’t seem to affect bears, who scale the small trees and frequently rip branches and tops out of the trees to get at the fruit. In many areas, I find it hard to encounter a serviceberry trunk that isn’t scarred by bear claw marks.

Wild blueberries will begin to ripen, providing more mast in our forests. As summer progresses there will be more and more ripe berries, nuts, and fruit. Autumn will bring about a feast of both soft and hard mast as animals store up fat reserves to help them survive the lean months of winter, or to provide enough energy for the migration south.

By then outdoorsmen will no longer have to wait. The heat of summer will be long gone, and their time will be here. All the informa­tion gathered in the summer months gazing up into trees will be processed and used to lead them to the perfect spot for a hunt.

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Chronic wasting disease (CWD) continues to make headlines among wildlife management news in the state. Some 78 deer taken during this past hunting sea­sons tested positive. And that number includes only the 7.900 whitetails that were tested.

The Pa. Game Commis­sion provided free CWD testing for deer killed within its disease management areas. Hunters deposited more than 1,500 deer heads at collection boxes.

Twenty-eight of the new cases were discovered through the voluntary efforts of hunters having their deer tested. The remaining posi­tive cases were from deer tested at taxidermy and meat processing facilities.

The number rose sig­nificantly from the 25 detected in 2016, signaling the ongoing spread of the disease. The good news is that all positive cases were from within or near existing disease management areas. However, the trend is alarm­ing and illustrates the great risk that chronic wasting disease poses to deer popula­tions.

Of local interest, there were three new cases from Disease Management Area 3 in Clearfield County, which was created after CWD was discovered at a deer farm in Jefferson County in 2014.

Because both deer and elk can are susceptible to this fatal disease, it is vitally important that the Game Commission and the hunt­ing population take CWD seriously, and that we work together to reduce its spread. We all have a lot to lose.

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