This Saturday, Oct. 13, marks the opening of the squirrel and grouse season in Pennsylvania. While squirrels are plentiful no matter what woodlots you hunt, they’re equally as plentiful within the city of Allentown where you can’t hunt.
If you do hunt squirrels they are tasty especially when made in a stew. And don’t throw their tails away once they’re skinned since Mepps, the fishing lure maker, will buy them from you or trade them for their famous spinner lures that use squirrel tail hair. Check www.mepps.com for more information.
But for now, lets consider our majestic state bird.
Ruffed grouse are beautiful game birds. When flushed they’ll disappear in a blink. A good hunting dog is really needed to hunt these fast flyers of the woodlands. They’re also a cyclical bird meaning some years their populations are up, while other years they’re down. Especially this year when the Pennsylvania Game Commission biologists again predict an average to slightly below average success rate.
Two seasons ago, cooperating grouse hunters reported an average flush rate of 1.32 per hour. This was a decrease from 1.4 during the 2009-10 season. In comparison, the PGC says the Keystone state consistently maintains the highest flush rates among nearby states.
Interestingly, during the 2010-11 season, a Game Take Survey showed that an estimated 91,000 hunters took 66,000 grouse for 414,500 hunting days. Grouse, incidentally, are the second most popular game bird after turkeys.
To increase your odds of flushing a bird or two, the PGC recommends focusing hunting efforts on locating good grouse habitat and high-quality coverts.
Here in the southeast, the PGC rates grouse potential as fair in areas north of the Blue Mountains and poor south of it. Biologists say grouse numbers are scarce here, and even worse than the rest of the state. As such, grouse hunting opportunities in the agricultural and urban dominated landscapes south of the Blue are extremely limited. That said, there used to be decent grouse numbers around Lake Nockamixon, but it seems that potential dried up. Same for the Leaser Lake area and portions of the Blue in Lehigh County and around Hawk Mountain.
If you want better grouse action the PGC says the six continuous counties of Warren, Forest, McKean, Potter, Elk and Cameron typically have the highest flush rates in the state and offer plenty of acreage in public and open-access private lands for hunters looking for coverts.
And if going afield this weekend, don’t forget to wear blaze orange as you could be sharing the woods with bowhunters and senior/junior rifle hunters plus active duty military members.
THIRD WEEK RUT REPORT
Bob Danenhower, our weekly rut reporter from Bob’s Wildlife Taxidermy in Orefield, says it appears the rut may be coming on a little sooner than normal. He bases this on reports of mature bucks starting to rub-urinate. That, plus older bucks being brought into the shop for mounting have very strong smelling tarsal glands, while younger bucks are showing very light tinted tarsal glands.
The previous warm weather Danenhower notes, seems to have kept the mature deer in a nocturnal mode, however smaller deer continue to remain active during daylight hours.
He also found that rubs and scrapes are becoming more plentiful so squirting some fresh buck tarsal urine on them could increase activity at those locations.
Danenhower thinks doe-in-heat scent could also work but he advises to only put it on a wick and remove it when leaving the area.
Reports have been coming in from hunters in the northern tier of the state and the Pocono’s in that they’re seeing heavy rutting action – even bucks chasing doe’s – and that’s probably because it’s been colder up there than down here in the Lehigh Valley.
Acorns are falling like rain drops in the northern areas so Danenhower suggests hunters look for white oak stands and set up nearby as the deer will be filling up on them. Hunter’s Specialties even has an acorn call out (The Kruncher) that mimics the sound of a deer eating acorns.
One young hunter who visited the shop this week said he uses fox urine as a cover scent when walking to his stand. Danenhower opines that deer have a difficult time differentiating fox and coyote scent, and with the latter now considered a predator, deer keep their distance so fox urine may not be a good cover.
Danenhower said he just received a fresh new batch of doe-in-heat and buck tarsal urine for sale as it may just bring that big one in. Or, as one old timer would tell him, “They (large and small deer) all look good in the back of the truck.”
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