Outdoors notebook: 2014-15 hunting seasons set, bear hunt expanded

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Some hunting seasons will start a week later than usual, an important turkey study will end, possession limits are going up for small game species and following a sizeable black bear harvest, the hunt will be expanded.

Last week the state Board of Game Commissioners gave preliminary approval to hunting and trapping seasons and bag limits for 2014-15 license year. The dates are expected to be finalized in April. Among the board's decisions:

* The split five-day antlered deer season (Dec. 1-5) and seven-day concurrent season (Dec. 6-13) will be retained in WMUs 2A, 2C, 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, 2H, 3B, 3C, 4B, 4D and 4E. The two-week (Dec. 1-13) concurrent, antlered and antlerless deer season will continue in 1A, 1B, 2B, 3A, 3D, 4A, 4C, 5A, 5B, 5C and 5D.

* Following the fifth largest black bear harvest in Pennsylvania history, in which 3,510 bears were taken (58 weighed 500 pounds or more, nine of those were in excess of 600 pounds), the board extended bear hunting opportunities in central WMU 4B and southwestern 2C, which covers parts of Westmoreland County including the Greensburg area. The board reported a slightly growing bear population in 2C with increasing highway bear mortality and a noticeable increase in human-bear conflicts. In 2013, 335 bears were taken in the southwest -- 41 in Westmoreland County (up from 37 in 2012), and three in Allegheny County (down from four in 2012).

The board retained expanded bear seasons in urban WMUs 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D, where the legal harvest of bears with a bear license during all deer seasons from September through early December will continue.

* A four-year turkey hen harvest rate and survival rate study will conclude in 2014. Season lengths set last year will continue in the study area, which includes 2B. Biologists report that regulating the fall hunting season has the greatest impact on controlling turkey populations. The study has alternated two-week and three-week seasons to gather controlled data on how season lengths impact populations.

* With fewer hunters targeting small game, the board voted to increase combined squirrel species possession limits to 18 (up from 12) after the first day, which was set for Oct. 18. Ruffed grouse, six in possession (up from four); rabbits 12 in possession (up from eight), pheasants six in possession (up from four).

For full details on proposed seasons, visit the Game Commission web site at www.pgc.state.pa.us.

* The state acquired a 42-acre tract in Springfield, Allegheny County, donated by Anthony Gagliardi and Carol Lund. The land, 16 miles southeast of State Game Lands 203, is a mix of northern hardwoods, feral fields and forest openings.

Wild pheasant stockings

Last week the Game Commission was granted permission by a Montana Indian tribe to trap 300 wild ring-necked pheasants and transfer them to Pennsylvania's four Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas. There is no open season in the zones, established to revive self-sustaining pheasant populations.

Commissioners reappointed

Robert Schlemmer of Export was reappointed as Game Commission board president. Other reappointments on the board: Vice-president David Putnam of northcentral Pennsylvania, and secretary Brian Hoover of the state's southeast.

Dam repair

A portion of oil company franchise taxes collected by the state will fund repairs of high-hazard dams. A new state transportation law bases the revenue in part on gallons of fuel used by boaters.

Outdoor expos

The Washington County Sportsmen's Show will run Feb. 6-9 in Washington, Pa. The Butler Fishing Show will be held Feb. 8 in Butler.

Steelhead trip remembered

Among Allegheny Sport, Travel and Outdoor Show speakers will be Penn's Woods West Trout Unlimited member and Upper St. Clair Trout Fishing Club manager Ron Milavic. Part of his 3 p.m. Feb. 14 steelhead seminar will revisit the Post-Gazette's November fishing trip to Erie. The January issue of the PWWTU newsletter (www.pwwtu.org) includes photos and commentary on the trip.

Club news

Penn's Woods West Trout Unlimited meets 7 p.m. Feb. 10 with speaker Steve Galletta of the Big Horn Angler Fly Shop & Lodge, Brentwood VFW (412-881-9934).

Tri-County Trout Club meets 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12 with speaker Todd Bowersox of Allegheny River Fly Fishing Company, Burrell Lake Park, Fisher Hall (724-335-2679).


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