Furbearer season has officially begun
Pennsylvania's furbearer seasons are underway, and many hunters and trappers are expecting big things.
The general trapping season for coyotes, foxes, raccoons, opossums, skunks and weasels runs through Feb. 22. The season for mink and muskrats runs to Jan. 11, while that for beavers goes from Dec. 26-March 31.
Raccoon hunting season, meanwhile, as well as the season for red and gray foxes, runs until Feb. 21, and the season for skunks, possums, coyotes and weasels runs year-round. Coyotes can even be hunted Sundays.
The number of people trapping has climbed over the past couple of years, reversing a longtime downward trend. License sales reached 28,033 last year.
Those people harvested about 350,000 furbearers. That included 121,446 raccoons, 121,446 muskrats, 41,168 opossums, 52,000 red foxes, 13,360 coyotes, 18,613 gray foxes, 9,818 skunks and 10,004 mink.
Some of the best hunting and trapping can be found locally.
The best two wildlife management units for raccoons, for example, based on harvest figures, were 2D and 1A. The best for gray fox were 2C and 2D, for coyote 1B and 2A, for muskrats 1A and 4C, for mink 1B and 5B and for beavers 1A and 1B.
All species of furbearers continue to do well in Pennsylvania, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission's furbearer biologist, Matt Lovallo. Most furbearers -- with the exception of muskrats -- are underutilized in Pennsylvania, he said.
A group of turkey hunters recently brightened the holidays for some local families.
The members of the Peters Creek Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation bought 200 turkeys and donated them to five homeless shelters and food banks in McKeesport, Glassport, the South Hills and Elizabeth in time for Thanksgiving.
Club members sold tickets to raise more than $3,000 to buy the birds, said chapter president Mel Gouker of Clairton.
This was the group's third year buying turkeys. It purchased 30 in the first year and 80 last year.
The goal next year is to be able to buy 400 turkeys.
"We're going to try to double it every year until we can't do it anymore," Gouker said. "We're just trying to do the best we can as a small organization. You don't realize how many people in this area go without dinner on Thanksgiving. It's heartbreaking."
Anyone interested in donating to next year's effort can contact Gouker at 724-929-2966 or firstname.lastname@example.org .
Mark DeFrank of Uniontown took third place among more than 360 entries in the 30th annual Fly-Tying Championships conducted by Fly Tyer Magazine and the Catskill Fly Fishing Center and Museum.
Each tier was required to submit two flies: one mandatory pattern -- a Royal Wulff, Hair-Wing Blue Doctor or Flashtail Whistler -- and one "tiebreaker" fly of their choice. The tiebreaker could be an established pattern or an original fly, but it had to be one that would be used for actual fishing.
DeFrank tied the Royal Wulff and his Wiggle Hex.
The top 20 tiers had their flies put on display at 2008 Fly Fishing Hall of Fame festivities the weekend of Oct. 18. Visitors determined the winners by voting.
For placing third, DeFrank won an Orvis Helios Rod and a large-arbor Battenkill reel.