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Bobcat population large in Pennsylvania

| Friday, Feb. 23, 2007

Sydney Serjak issued her dad a stern warning at the beginning of the school year.

There was no way, she said, that she was going to miss Mowhak High School's homecoming to go trapping with him.

She said nothing about the Snowball Dance, though.

So, when it came time to pick between a weekend in the woods with her dad or an evening out with a boy from school, she headed to hunting camp.

That decision paid off Feb. 3. Hunting in Clearfield County, the just-turned-18 Serjak killed an 18-pound, 4-ounce female bobcat.

"I was excited," said Serjak, who lives near New Castle. "It was fun. And I didn't want to go to the dance anyway."

Getting a bobcat was no easy trick, however.

Serjak and her dad, Ted -- who also had a bobcat permit, making them perhaps the first father-daughter duo to draw permits in the same season -- tried first to trap some bobcats. When four days of putting out sets in Clearfield County got them nothing but some porcupines, they decided to try hunting instead.

They hooked up with guide Cliff Cessna of Clearfield, who chases bobcats with his Walker hound, Annie. Cessna and Annie led them on some wild chases through the mountains that seemed near-vertical at times.

"I said to Cliff at one time, 'Cliff, we've got to stop.' He turned and looked at me and asked why, and I said 'Because I can't lift my legs," Ted Serjak said.

"My mind was telling my legs to go, but they weren't listening any more."

Added Sydney Serjak, "(Cessna) was following the dog and winding through the woods, and we were just going straight, trying to keep up, and he still beat us to the top of every mountain. That made us feel awesome."

Cessna and Annie put out at least one cat on each of four consecutive weekend hunts, though. That's good, but perhaps not overly surprising.

Pennsylvania's bobcat population is so large and widespread that in the 2005-06 season, 221 of the 615 hunters and trappers with a permit got a bobcat.

That 36 percent success rate is among the best anywhere in North America, said Matt Lovallo, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's furbearer biologist.

This year's season ended Feb. 17, and as of Jan. 21, 183 of the 720 people with a bobcat permit had killed one.

More than half of the annual bobcat harvest typically occurs after Jan. 1, however, so Lovallo is expecting this year's harvest to ultimately meet or exceed last year's.

Ted Serjak didn't get a bobcat, though he saw one on a weekend when he was hunting without Sydney. He said he's no particularly disappointed.

"No, because you know what, the older you get, it seems like if you get one, you get one, but if you don't, you just don't, and that's OK," Serjak said. "We just had so much fun. It was a blast."

Sydney agreed, even while admitting that she rolled down more than one hill, trying to keep up with Annie in the snow.

"My pants were frozen almost stiff because I spent so much time in the snow. "But I'm glad I got one."

Butler High School to host outdoors show

Pennsylvania's hunting seasons may be close to over, but sportsmen can still talk shop at the third annual Moraine Angler/Outdoor Adventure Show. It's set to run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday in the cafeteria of Butler Area Senior High School.

The show will feature 43 vendors, including guides, taxidermists, campgrounds, lure makers, woodcarvers and others.

There will be a variety of seminars, too, on everything from coyote hunting and walleye fishing to bluebirds and hiking the North Country Trail.

There will be hourly door prizes and an auction.

Admission costs $6 for adults and $3 for kids ages 6 to 12. Those younger than 5 get in free.

The high school is located on Route 356, across from the State Police barracks. Proceeds from the show benefit the Mental Health Association of Butler County.

- By Bob Frye

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