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Array of hunting seasons kick off

| Saturday, Oct. 6, 2012, 10:49 p.m.

If you're an outdoorsman and you can't find something to do this month, you're just not trying.

October — not even counting the archery season, already under way — presents all kinds of opportunities to hunt for everything from Pennsylvania's biggest game to small game. And this week starts the busiest of busy times.

Squirrels

Squirrel season starts Saturday and runs through Nov. 24. These are boom days for squirrels, with populations as high as they've been in decades, said Tom Hardisky, a biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

“There are squirrels just about everywhere you look. There's no shortage of them,” Hardisky said.

Last year, an estimated 690,141 squirrels were harvested by hunters. To find them, Hardisky recommends looking for mast-producing trees such as walnut, butternut, oak and hickory.

Junior hunters can chase squirrels — as well as pheasants — through Friday, and rabbits through Saturday, in special youth only seasons, too.

Ruffed grouse

Grouse hunting still has its followers, but this season — which opens Saturday and runs through Nov. 24 — might be a rough one for them.

Sightings of adult grouse and broods were off this spring, indicating that populations will be slightly below average this fall, commission biologist Lisa Williams said.

The hunting in the northwest and northcentral regions likely will remain “good to excellent,” though.

Warren, Forest, McKean, Potter, Elk and Cameron typically produce the most flushes and birds. Things will be only “fair” in the southwest.

Statewide, hunters averaged about 1.32 flushes per hour on their way to taking 52,000 grouse last year.

Antlerless deer

Pennsylvania's early muzzleloader season for antlerless deer and its early rifle doe season for junior and senior hunters start this coming weekend.

The muzzleloader season runs from Oct. 13-20, and the junior/senior season is Oct. 18-20.

The hunts, less than a decade old, draw a decent crowd. As you'd expect, though, those carrying more modern firearms take more deer.

The muzzleloader season attracted 65,000 hunters who took about 6,000 deer last year, said the Game Commission's Jerry Feaser. The rifle season drew about 32,000 hunters who took about 9,000 deer.

Hunters can take one antlerless deer, provided they have a valid doe tag or DMAP coupon.

Black bears

This year, for the first time ever, hunters can kill a bear during the muzzleloader and three-day rifle deer seasons, though only in wildlife management units 2B, 5B, 5C and 5D. A few bears have already fallen to archers.

Carl Roe, executive director of the commission, told board members in Franklin that a 12-year-old girl hunting with a crossbow in Lehigh County shot a 165-pound bear. She is the first person to take a bear in the extended season.

Not far behind was 17-year-old Aaron Hwosdow of West Deer, who shot a 350-pounder in Allegheny County while bowhunting for deer.

Waterfowl

Duck hunting in the so-called “south zone” — which takes in all of Pennsylvania south of I-80 — runs Oct. 13-20. The early season is prime time for taking species like wood ducks, according to commission data.

The bag limit is again a liberal one. Hunters can take six birds a day, counting all species.

Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bfrye@tribweb.com or 724-838-5148.

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