Outdoor notebook: Opening day deer forecast notes spotty acorns, wet leaves

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The late cold snap and wet weather of the spring is expected to impact autumn whitetail behavior during the firearms deer season that begins tomorrow statewide.

David Gustafson, chief forester for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, said the late frost impacted white oaks and chestnut oaks, and the wet spring may continue to have an affect on red oaks for up to two years. As a result, acorn production is spotty across the state.

This year's growth of native fruits and soft mast has been good, however. In fact, soft food production is up in some parts of the state.

Smart hunters will adapt to those conditions by staking out areas surrounding the few successful acorn-producing oaks and travel lanes linking bedding areas and soft-mast and fruit feeding sites.

Game Commission executive director Carl Roe recently noted in a written statement that in 2012 some 200 new antlered deer entries were added in Pennsylvania's Big Game Records Program.

"Considering deer and hunter numbers both are good, the pieces are in place for a great season," Roe said. "And for those hunters who harvest their 'buck of a lifetime' this year, it will be the best season ever. That chance lies in store for the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who will take part in our deer seasons. I hope each of them soon discovers that, indeed, good things come to those who wait."

Expect a soggy opening day, and while all that nice white tracking snow may be gone by morning, the fallen leaves are likely to be soft and quiet. The Pittsburgh area weather report calls for evening showers today and a high of 41 degrees, 20 percent chance of showers and light winds Monday. Plan for slightly cooler temperatures but similar conditions in mountain regions.

Outdoor expo redux

When one of the nation's largest outdoors expos was canceled in February, following a dealers' boycott protesting a ban on the sale of semi-automatic rifles, it made national news. The Harrisburg, Pa., business community vowed that its greatest cash cow would return.

Renamed the Great American Outdoor Show, the huge expo of hunting, shooting, fishing and outdoors gear, will return to the 650,000 square foot Pennsylvania Farm Show Complex Feb. 1-9, 2014, with a new promoter: the National Rifle Association. The event will feature music concerts, archery competitions, seminars and demonstrations. It will include nearly 1,100 exhibitors selling hunting and fishing equipment and outfitter trips, boats, RVs, an expanded section dedicated to shooting sports and, of course, semi-automatic rifles. Get more information at www.greatamericanoutdoorshow.org.

Loyalhanna improvements

With help from the Loyalhanna Watershed Association and Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, and nearly $200,000 in funding provided by the Richard King Mellon Foundation, the state Fish and Boat Commission has finished installing habitat improvement devices on Loyalhanna Creek near Ligonier. The final phase of the face lift is expected to be completed in the summer of 2014.

Fly shop

In a digital world where local fly fishing shops are losing ground to Internet giants, it's good to report on the opening of a new Orvis fly shop in the South Hills, just in time for Christmas at the Galleria of Mt. Lebanon, 1500 Washington Road; 412-343-1612.

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