Pennsylvania's hunting seasons could see changes for 2018-19 | TribLIVE
The first change involves one of the state's wild pheasant recovery areas.
Those are places where the commission and Pheasants Forever volunteers worked with farmers to do extensive habitat work. Wild pheasants were imported from other states and released. No hunting was permitted.
The idea was to see if the birds could survive and reproduce in huntable numbers.
In the case of the Somerset County recovery area, the answer is no, Gregg said.
It was established in 2009.
“It's gotten its full complement of wild pheasants from the Midwest, but they haven't done particularly well,” Gregg said. “The population hasn't dropped to zero, but it's very low. It's certainly not a huntable population.”
Staff will be asking commissioners to eliminate it, Gregg said.
That would leave just two.
The commission breaks the state into 23 wildlife management units. In 17, pheasant hunters can shoot male and female birds.
In the other six — 2A, 2C, 4C, 4E, 5A and 5B — hens are off limits.
That rule was put in place in part to protect wild hens, Gregg said. But there are no wild birds to speak of in units 2A, 2C, 4C and 5B.
So there's no biological reason anymore for protecting hens there, Gregg added. The result is staff would like to make those either-sex pheasant hunting units.
That would lead to a more equitable distribution of stocked roosters, said Bob Boyd, wildlife services division chief for the commission.
Pen-reared pheasants are raised at a 50-50 ratio of males to females.
“The miracle would be if we could sex an egg and just selectively hatch an egg that was male. We'd be in great shape,” Boyd said.
Because that's not possible, 70 percent of the male pheasants raised each year go to just six wildlife management units. The remaining 17 make do with two hens for every cockbird.
The commission first created either-sex pheasant hunting areas in the 1970s, Boyd said. It's expanded them periodically since.
“It's a good time perhaps to consider going further,” Boyd said.
The “change” with grouse is that a one-year experiment is likely to continue.
This season, for the first time in years, there's no post-Christmas grouse season. With the double whammy of habitat loss and West Nile virus having knocked ruffed grouse populations to 50-year lows across Pennsylvania, commissioners decided to close it.
That's to protect as many adult breeding birds as possible.
That apparently needs to continue.
Gregg said grouse biologist Lisa Williams developed a new system for deciding whether to keep the late season closed or open it for one or four weeks. It's based on hunter flush rates, summer brood sightings and the annual West Nile index.
The resulting “score” suggests another closed season is in order for next year, Gregg said.