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Friday, April 11, 2014

Medication and Hunting Trips

This week I experienced a urinary tract infection (UTI).   It's not unusual being a quadriplegic, and happens a few times a year.  It does come on very quickly, starting with a mild headache and progressing to chills, fever, shaking and difficulty breathing.

Fortunately I had antibiotics on hand and was able to start taking them Monday evening.  But I have to say, it was very uncomfortable between Monday and today (Friday).  If I was on a hunting trip and did not have this medication, I surely would have been in trouble.  It would have definitely required a trip to the emergency room, ending my hunt.

When you are planning your next adventure make sure you take the proper medication with you.  Remember Accessible Hunter Law, if it can go wrong it usually will on a hunting trip.  Plan, Prepare and Execute. 


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Turkey Call


My friends over at  Thunder Mountain Game Calls recently sent me a new turkey call.  I can't wait to give this a try in May here in Pa.  These hand crafted calls are made in the USA and I think they are works of art not just calls.

Look out Tom Turkey, I'm looking to put a toe tag on you very soon!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

NWTF Waynesburg Pa 2014

Last night I attended the NWTF banquet  in Waynesburg Pa.  It was sponsored by the Warrior Trail Gobblers.  I did not win anything last  night, but the real story is what this group did for young hunters (17 and under). 

They gave away over 50 shotguns for FREE.  Each child received a ticket when they arrived and they picked 55 names!  I think this was one of the best event's I have ever been to for kids.  It really got  them excited about hunting, shooting and conservation. Way to go NWTF




Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Applying for a Hunt

Last week I covered game habitats in North America providing reasonable access for a physically-challenged hunter. This week I explore buying a hunting license and applying for a big game draw. Referring back to a previous article, we know that a big game draw is like a lottery. You enter and hope your name is drawn for a particular hunt.

Figuring out which license you need and how to apply for a hunt can be confusing. A state’s hunting regulations is your source for answers. Where can you find those regulations? The state’s Game and Fish department website, or by picking up a paper copy at your sporting goods store. Either way you get them, they’re essential reading.

In their publications you can usually learn the following:

  • An explanation of license types.
  • The fee structure for licenses and tags.
  • How to apply online or how to fill out the paper application.
  • Where you can hunt.
  • When you can hunt.
  • Draw odds.
  • Game or wildlife management unit maps.
  • Hunter ethics.
  • A list of hunting rules and common violations.
  • Dates and locations for hunter education classes.
  • Wildlife conservation efforts in that state.

Not all states publish every topic listed, but many states do. I recommend studying the regulations closely. Pay special attention to fees, where and when you can hunt, and access regulations.

Some hunts are relatively inexpensive. A resident Arizona elk tag is $135.00 if drawn -- not bad. A resident bull bison tag is $1,095.00. Big difference. Know the fees before applying!

Where you hunt determines the terrain you’ll encounter. When you hunt provides a guide to average temperatures. Previous articles discussed the importance of understanding both factors.

The state’s access regulations convey how and where vehicles may be used. Whether it’s to transport you, or to retrieve game, you need to know the rules. Not knowing can result in the loss of your hunting license, a fine or jail.

After reviewing the regulations, the next step is purchasing a license. Every state requires a hunting license. Do you want to hunt in your home state? Then buy a license from your state’s online portal if available, or purchase one at a licensed dealer. Purchasing online allows you to print your license at home.

Do you want to hunt in a state not your own? You’ll need that state’s license. Be aware that non-residents pay higher fees for licenses and permits. Sometimes the disparity is huge. That Arizona bull bison I mentioned earlier? The non-resident permit fee is $5,452.25.

License privileges vary by state. They can be “hunting only”, a hunting and fishing combo, and/or they may require additional “stamps” for particular types of game. They can also vary in duration of eligibility; three days, a year, a lifetime. It depends upon the state and your needs. Youth hunters are usually granted a special license.

Once licensed, you are ready to apply for your hunt. Most states host big game hunts in the spring and fall. You can usually apply for multiple species as well.

I encourage you to use an online application process if available. It’s efficient and fast. Well, fast if you don’t wait until the last day to apply. The websites can slow to a crawl and you may not succeed in beating the deadline.

Paper draw applications are published in the hunting regulation booklets or you can download them from your game and fish department website.

My Process
I’m going to take you through my process when applying for this year's fall Arizona pronghorn and elk hunt. We’ll go through choosing the hunts, how-to pay and finally discuss results.

I know which animals I want to hunt. Pronghorn and Rocky Mountain elk. I’ve hunted elk successfully, but a successful pronghorn draw has eluded me. In Arizona, you apply for each species separately. Here’s what I'm thinking about when applying:

Am I applying in a group hunt or an individual hunt? I chose individual.

I have three weapon choices for each animal; archery, rifle and muzzleloader. I don’t shoot a muzzleloader so it’s between my crossbow and my rifle. It’s one or the other. The bag limit is one of each big game animal species per year in Arizona. Except bison. That limit is one in a lifetime.

I read the regulation’s schedule of pronghorn hunts and I see that archery hunts in Arizona are August 22nd to September 4th. Temperatures can soar above a 100 degrees in many pronghorn units during that time period. If I hunt from a blind in those conditions, I'm facing 120 to 130 degree temps. Too hot for me or likely any quadriplegic.

So I look at the pronghorn rifle hunt. September 5th through September 18th. Still hot, but my rifle strategy is open ground or brush cover, not a blind. Next, I look at the draw odds for each game unit. The most popular units offer very low odds. I avoid those. Instead, I look at a unit with less demand and one where my hunting companions can provide guidance and share their unit experience.

Familiarize yourself with the Arizona pronghorn schedule as an example:



If you look at the far left column you’ll see a “Hunt No.” Every draw hunt has one. When filling out your application, you enter this number to specify when and where you want to hunt. It works that way for all species. If your state offers multiple choices, say a 2nd or 3rd choice, enter those hunt numbers in their respective fields on the application.

I decided on Unit 19A as my first choice because it meets my criteria. You'll find the unit number listed under the Open Areas column. There are thirty permits issued for this unit. Why not choose Unit 10 where ninety permits are issued? Because Unit 10 is the most desirable pronghorn unit in the state and it gets thousands of applicants. Far fewer people apply for Unit 19A.

My thinking during the elk application process is different in one consideration. The elevation for a September elk hunt is cool enough for an archery hunt from a blind. So I’ll apply for both archery and rifle. In Arizona, they allow the physically challenged to hunt the archery season with a crossbow.

My first choice is an archery hunt unit that provides decent access to a setup location, is known by my companions, has received decent rainfall the preceding winter and spring, and typically yields good bulls.

I pick an elk rifle hunt unit as my second choice. A unit I know well and hunted successfully. I don’t bother entering a 3rd choice. The popular big game hunts are filled by the time AZ Game and Fish computers have passed through first and second choices. That is likely in other states as well.

You’re now ready to fill out the application. States can differ in their application requirements but in general you’ll need the following items of information:

  • Social Security No.
  • D.O.B.
  • Your physical characteristics (for description on license)
  • Current contact information
  • Hunter ID No. (SSN# or dept. issued)
  • Current hunting license no. and all license no.(s) if applying as a group.
  • Hunt No(s) you selected.

Whether filling out the form online or on paper, you'll usually find a completed example to guide you.

After completing all the data screens online or filling out the paper form, it’s time to pay. If you’re applying online, you’ll pay with a debit or credit card. You’ll have a check or money order option if paying by paper or in person at your game and fish department. Check your states requirements.

Fee structures also differ by states. A draw hunt in Arizona requires a separate application fee from the species permit fee. That may not be the case in your state. Your state’s regulations document will guide you.

States also differ in when they charge you for the hunting permit if drawn successfully. Some states charge your credit card or cash your check immediately upon receiving your application. They’ll issue a refund if you’re not drawn. Other states wait until you have drawn successfully before charging your account.

All application fees for both circumstances are non-returnable. Those funds help support operations and wildlife management in the state you applied.

There is another important factor in a draw but not applicable to the new hunter. The bonus point system. Essentially this is a rewards program for applicants. For every species you apply for, you’ll receive a bonus point if unsuccessful in the draw. When you’re drawn, the bonus points are used and you start over for that species. In Arizona, permanent points can be accumulated by attending hunter education classes or applying for a draw hunt every year for five years. Check the regs for your state.

How bonus points affect the draw is beyond the scope of this article. Check with your game and fish department for a thorough explanation.

The last part of the application process is the hardest: Waiting for draw results! States announce the results according to the application process. If you applied online, notification is published on the website. If it’s a paper only application process, notification happens by mail.

How long you must wait for results varies by state. States with high-demand hunts like elk in Colorado may take a longer than average. No matter the method or wait, it’s incredibly exciting to see a “Draw successful” notice!

Within a few weeks your tags will be mailed to you. The tags are affixed to the animal if you have a successful harvest. States dffer in where they want you to attach tags. So, check your regs for details.

Understanding your state’s application process is critical to selecting your hunts. Review the regulations thoroughly and ask other hunters for guidance if you’re unclear about the specifics. I hope this overview provided insight into the process and helps you formulate good questions as you read through your state application regulations.

Thanks for reading,

Randy

Monday, March 24, 2014

Buck Knives

The Buck knife model 110 is celebrating 50 years in production.  I remember buying one the year I graduated high school.  I used that knife for almost 15 years completing many different task, from field dressing deer to cutting rope.  For my money, I don't think you can buy a better knife.



I think it's a great company with a tried and true product.  Over the years I have given a few as gifts and will continue to buy the 110.  Congratulations on 50 years, I bet you make 50 more!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

2014 Spring Turkey in PA

Some quick information on hunting Spring Turkey this year in Pa.  Click HERE for your state, thank you NWTF for all the information !

Photo was taken by Austin Young, March 2014, thanks buddy
 

PENNSYLVANIA

Pennsylvania Game Commission
www.pgc.state.pa.us
(717) 787-4250

POPULATION: 191,000
2013 FALL HARVEST: 34,158
SEASON DATES: May 3-May 30

HUNTER EDUCATION: New hunters ages 12 and older are required to complete a hunter/trapper education course with the exception of those hunting with a mentored youth hunting license. Hunters with a license or hunter education certificate from another state are exempt. The Pennsylvania Game Commission offers an Advanced Successful Turkey Hunting course. See the agency website for details.

HOURS: April 26 and May 3-17: half an hour before sunrise until noon. May 19-31: half an hour before sunrise until half an hour after sunset

BAG LIMIT: one bearded bird per regular hunting license. Hunters with a special second license may take a second bearded bird.

POACHER HOTLINE: (888) 742-8001

SPECIAL HUNTS: Youth Spring Gobbler Day: April 26

Friday, March 21, 2014

Selecting Popular Game Animals to Hunt

In North America, I found fifty-two species you can hunt. Not all species exist in every state, but choices exist for most hunters. The fifty-two animals listed are classified as Large Game, Small Game, Upland Birds and Waterfowl. Providing details on every species would be worthy of a book. Instead, I will focus on the most popular game animals hunted North America. The entire list will be added to the Resources section of this series.

To hunt successfully from a wheelchair, you must go where the animals live. I won’t discourage you from trying to hunt for any species on the list. However, I will focus on habitats providing access with a reasonable amount of effort. You have my complete admiration if you can find a way to hunt big horn sheep or mountain goats, but they are a hard hunt for an able-bodied hunter in great shape.

Three considerations start our selection of an animal to hunt:

⦁ Your desire to hunt a particular species.
⦁ Your ability to access their habitat.
⦁ The difficulty of obtaining a permit to hunt a particular species.

Many hunters want to harvest a particular animal. If you want one of the animals portrayed frequently on TV hunting shows; white-tailed deer, elk, turkey, mule deer, black bear, pronghorn or pheasant, your desire can likely be fulfilled.

All these animals live in habitats you can access. It may be challenging, they may not show up in your chosen location, but they will present a shot from a wheelchair if luck is on your side. Believe me, you can increase your odds with good prep, but luck is always a factor, for able-bodied and disabled alike.

Hunting any game animal requires an evaluation of terrain you’ll encounter and your capability to navigate it safely. Hunting from a wheelchair has two access requirements; navigable terrain by vehicle and relatively level ground once you reach your destination.You would be right in thinking that access is our greatest challenge. However, it can be done and is done every season. Some states allow the disabled to shoot directly from a vehicle, other states do not. Some folks ride on a modified quadrunner or Ranger, or use a track chair with tank like trends, ride in a trailer mobile blind, or simply get pulled and pushed along by helping hands until they reach their location.

Your methods will be dictated by state game and fish department laws and the equipment available to you. I’ll share access success stories in a later article. I can tell you from experience that it can be done! There are also many organizations and individuals willing to help and I’ll list them in the resource section.

Let’s take a look at the most popular big game species hunted in North America. Rather than recreating the extensive data already compiled on each species, I’ll link to the resources and talk about how each is typically hunted. Please explore the links and get familiar with the animals. Your success depends on your knowledge unless you get lucky.


White-tailed deer - Naturally found in all U.S. states except California, Nevada, Utah, Alaska and Hawaii, they are the most hunted big game animal in the United States and Canada. They exist in terrain that ranges from deciduous and coniferous forests to the scrub plains of the arid southwest.

Their sense of smell is very keen and they are incredibly sensitive to disturbances in their bedding and feeding areas. Your best chance of success is entering a blind as quietly as possible adjacent to a food plot, along a bedding to feeding path, or in front of feed (if allowed) before dawn or dusk. Deer season typically begins in the late fall and ends in mid-winter. White tails are usually hunted from tree-stands or ground blinds near food plots or forest cover. They are often the first big game species taken by new hunters.


Elk - These large members of the deer family are popular game for western hunters. Relocation of Rocky Mountain elk into Pennsylvania and Kentucky affords easterners hunting opportunities, but the large western populations provide the best opportunity. You can hunt them with a vertical bow or crossbow if you’re lucky enough to be drawn for a hunt during the rut, i.e. mating season. The male bulls are looking for cows and eager to defend their harem. You may be able to call them into range of your blind or position. Using a rifle to cover greater range in the later seasons will likely increase your odds of a kill. It’s hard to get close to elk. Especially when you’re in a fixed position rather than using a spot-and-stalk technique.


Wild Turkey - These wily birds are a challenging hunt. Their eyesight is very good and they will bust you if they see you move. Again, a ground blind or a camo netting thrown-over yourself and chair can hide you well enough to arrow or shotgun a big Tom. You locate them by calling. Turkey country differs across the United States. The turkey species exist in the arid meadows of the southwest and Texas, lush deciduous forests in the east and mid-Atlantic region, and the tropical conditions in Florida. If you can find a fire road or forest road and setup along the edge with decoys and a call, you may get lucky.


Mule deer - These big bodied deer are residents of the western United States, western Canada and Sonoran Mexico. They are more prevalent than white tails in the states they are found. Mule deer hunts are tough for wheelchair hunters. They live in hilly and difficult terrain. Most mule deer hunting is spot and stalk. However, if you can locate a feeding area near a farm or river bottom, you may get a shot. Getting permission to hunt on private property near food sources is likely your best bet.


Black bear - Though not restricted by terrain, I would advise against dangerous game hunts like bears and wolves. Once you have outdoor experience you may want to consider a black bear hunt. Just remember, you’re on the ground with them. There’s no quick escape so choose wisely. Bears can often be hunted from logging roads. You may get a shot with a rifle if you can find animals near the road. Some states allow baiting which makes crossbow use possible.


Waterfowl hunting - If you can get to a blind along a marshland or water way and can swing a shotgun, you can hunt ducks, geese, and other waterfowl. I have not seen many wheelchair hunters going after waterfowl. However, I will research this activity and post any additional details in the comments section of this post.


Upland bird hunting - This is a challenging hunt because it typically involves moving and flushing the game. However, there are programs like Rolling for Ringnecks in California that provide a guided hunt for pheasant.

Once you select a species that provides a reasonable chance at a kill, we then consider the process for obtaining a permit to hunt that animal. There are two options here, buying a tag “over-the-counter” or entering a “draw.” Over-the-counter is what it sounds like. You visit a game and fish office or a qualifying sporting goods store and purchase a tag on the spot. The tag designates which species you can hunt and in what location. Small game species are permitted this way. If you want to start hunting by going after squirrels, foxes, bobcats, coyotes, or other small game, this is how you do it.

A draw on the other hand is like a lottery. You apply by paper form or on your state’s game and fish website. You then select an animal and a game management unit. After a designated time period, you’ll find out if your selected to receive a tag. If the species is limited in population size or there are many hunters applying for your unit, your odds of being selected are poor.

Selecting a hunt with a robust animal population or a less desirable species can increase your odds. Big game species like elk, deer, turkey, bears or bison are usually “draw” first animals. The less desirable hunting areas for these animals can be offered over-the-counter after the draw. However, it varies by state. For example, drawing pronghorn in Arizona is a low percentage opportunity. In Wyoming, however, where pronghorns outnumber people, you can buy them over-the-counter.

If you get drawn, your tag or tags are mailed to you. They have an adhesive backing and get attached to the animal immediately after the kill. Check your state laws for details. I’ll show you where to find that information next week when I cover “How to Apply for a Hunt” in detail. I hope you gained insights about the animals, their habitats and a few high-level techniques for pursuing them. Future article will provide additional details about hunting strategies.

Thanks for reading! -Randy

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pa GAME COMMISSION RELEASES DEER HARVEST ESTIMATES 2013

Harvests up 3 percent statewide in 2013-14, report shows.
 
The Pennsylvania Game Commission today reported that, in the state’s 2013-14 seasons, hunters harvested an estimated 352,920 deer – an increase of about 3 percent compared to the previous seasons’ harvest of 343,110.

Hunters took 134,280 antlered deer in the 2013-14 seasons – a harvest similar to the previous license year when an estimated 133,860 bucks were taken. Also, hunters harvested 218,640 antlerless deer in 2013-14, which represents about a 4 percent increase compared to the 209,250 antlerless deer taken in 2012-13.

Harvest estimates are based on more than 25,000 deer checked by Game Commission personnel and more than 110,000 harvest reports submitted by successful hunters. Because only about one-third of hunters report their deer harvests, the Game Commission uses data from deer checked in the field and hunter reports to estimate the total harvest.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day 2014

Happy St. Patrick's day everyone !  Enjoy the day with family and friends.  Be safe and celebrate your Irish because today, everyone is lucky enough to be Irish !