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Navigating the Changes: Pennsylvania’s 2024-25 Migratory Game Bird Seasons

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The anticipation of hunting season is an exhilarating time for seasoned hunters and outdoor enthusiasts in Pennsylvania. With the announcement of the 2024-25 migratory game bird seasons by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, hunters eagerly prepare for another year of memorable experiences in the field. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the details of the upcoming seasons, highlighting key changes, offering expert insights, and providing valuable tips for maximizing success in the pursuit of game birds.

Migratory game bird seasons play a crucial role in wildlife management, conservation efforts, and maintaining sustainable hunting practices. These seasons are carefully selected by state authorities within federal frameworks to ensure the preservation of bird populations while providing recreational opportunities for hunters. With a focus on species like ducks, geese, doves, and woodcock, these seasons offer hunters a chance to engage with nature, hone their skills, and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow outdoor enthusiasts.

Key Changes in the 2024-25 Seasons

One of the most notable changes announced by the Pennsylvania Game Commission pertains to the season for Canada Geese. Previously spanning 45 days, the Canada Geese season has been shortened to 30 days for the upcoming hunting year. Despite the reduction in duration, hunters will maintain a daily bag limit of three geese. Amanda Hoyt, Game Commission Waterfowl Biologist, explains that this adjustment is a proactive measure in response to the population of Canada Geese falling below the threshold required for a ‘liberal’ hunting season. By implementing a shorter season, wildlife authorities aim to ensure the long-term sustainability of this bird species.

In addition to changes in the Canada Geese season, minor adjustments have been made to the duck zones in the northwestern region of the state. While these modifications may seem subtle, they can significantly impact hunting strategies, particularly for hunters familiar with the area. Understanding these zone-specific changes and adapting hunting tactics accordingly can enhance the overall hunting experience and increase the likelihood of a successful harvest.

Maximizing Success in the Field

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As hunters prepare for the upcoming migratory game bird seasons, several factors should be considered to optimize success in the field. First and foremost, staying informed about the latest regulations, including season dates, bag limits, and hunting zones, is essential. Hunters should familiarize themselves with the specific rules governing the harvest of different bird species and adhere to all legal requirements to avoid penalties and ensure ethical hunting practices.

Furthermore, hunters are encouraged to enhance their skills through regular practice and training sessions. Practicing shooting techniques, improving camouflage strategies, and honing calling skills can all contribute to increased success in the field. Additionally, scouting potential hunting locations prior to the season can provide valuable insights into bird behavior, migration patterns, and habitat preferences, enabling hunters to make informed decisions and maximize their hunting opportunities.

Contributing to Conservation Efforts

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Beyond the thrill of the hunt, hunters play a vital role in wildlife conservation and habitat preservation. By actively participating in reporting efforts, hunters contribute valuable data that helps authorities monitor bird populations, track migration patterns, and assess the overall health of ecosystems. Reporting banded birds, whether ducks, geese, doves, or woodcock, is a simple yet impactful way for hunters to support conservation initiatives and contribute to the long-term sustainability of game bird populations.

As the 2024-25 migratory game bird seasons approach, hunters in Pennsylvania eagerly anticipate another year of outdoor adventures, challenges, and camaraderie in the field. By staying informed about key changes, maximizing hunting strategies, and actively contributing to conservation efforts, hunters can make the most of their hunting experiences while ensuring the preservation of wildlife populations for future generations of outdoor enthusiasts. 

With careful planning, preparation, and respect for the natural world, hunters can embark on memorable journeys that celebrate the rich heritage of hunting and the beauty of Pennsylvania’s diverse landscapes.

Are you prepared for the new changes in the migratory bird season? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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Ohio’s Gobblers Facing Harder Times

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Spring turkey season results suggest that Ohio’s gobbler hunters might be facing tougher times. While the situation isn’t dire yet, any hopes for a quick rebound to the bountiful days of the past remain unfulfilled.

The 2024 spring turkey season concluded last Sunday in 83 South Zone counties, including central Ohio. The Ohio Division of Wildlife reported a total harvest of 15,426 turkeys, which is a slight decrease from last year’s total of 15,550. This year’s total includes birds taken during the statewide youth season in April, 30 days of hunting in the South Zone, and the first 23 days of hunting in the Northeast Zone. Hunting in the five Northeast Zone counties (Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull) ends at sunset this Sunday.

Although the 2024 numbers are an improvement over the alarming results of 2021 (14,546) and 2022 (11,872), they still fall short of the more prolific years. For instance, the 2018 spring take was 22,612, and the 2017 take was 21,096. From 2000 to 2010, the spring harvest exceeded 20,000 birds eight times, peaking at 26,156 in 2001.

In 1993, the Ohio Division of Wildlife introduced a two-bird limit in the 42 open counties, although the second permit initially cost double the price of the first. This premium was dropped by 2003. The two-bird limit remained until 2022 when the declining turkey population led to a reduction in the spring limit to a single bird for the first time in almost 30 years.

Some have suggested eliminating the fall turkey season or imposing restrictions on targeting hens to help the population recover. However, the wildlife division has maintained a short fall season and continues to allow the harvest of a single turkey of either sex.

An ongoing research project in Ohio aims to track changes in wild turkey habits and examine the potential effects of environmental conditions. The goal is to identify measures that could enhance survival rates. Falling turkey populations are a common worry among both gobbler advocacy groups and state and local wildlife agencies nationwide.

Of the 83 counties where the turkey hunting season has ended, Belmont led with 451 birds checked, followed closely by Monroe and Tuscarawas, each with 447. Among central Ohio counties, Licking finished top with 255 birds, followed by Fairfield (91), Delaware (78), Union (44), Franklin (17), Pickaway (14), and Madison (4).

Leave your thoughts about the situation in Ohio in the comments below. 

 

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Five Years After Supreme Court Decision, Tribal Hunting Rights Still Murky

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Nearly five years have passed since the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision recognizing the treaty-based hunting rights of Native American tribes. Despite this, many legal and policy questions regarding where, when, and if certain Native Americans are bound by state hunting regulations remain unresolved. Two months ago, a lower federal court issued an order related to tribal elk hunting in the Bighorns, but the clarity hunters and tribal members hoped for remains elusive.

Observers expected that lingering legal questions would be resolved through various court cases. However, Wyoming’s decision to drop charges in the partially remanded Herrera v. Wyoming case has left many issues unresolved. This decision has unexpectedly elevated the importance of another case dating back to 1989, involving Thomas Ten Bear, a member of the Crow Tribe, who was convicted of elk poaching in the Bighorns. Like the Herrera case, Ten Bear’s situation revolves around the prosecution of Crow Tribal members for killing elk in a national forest in Wyoming without a state-issued permit.

Ten Bear’s Case and the Supreme Court Precedent

Years before the Supreme Court’s Herrera ruling, Ten Bear sought to have his nearly 35-year-old poaching conviction overturned. With the new precedent in place, U.S. District Judge Alan Johnson issued a 27-page order in late March, partially granting Ten Bear and the Crow Tribe’s requests for relief. Johnson’s decision clarified some key legal questions, establishing that statehood admission does not abrogate treaty rights and that the creation of a national forest does not render the land “occupied,” thus not nullifying the Crow Tribe’s treaty hunting rights.

Despite these clarifications, significant questions remain about off-reservation hunting. There are ambiguities about when portions of a national forest—or any land—can be considered “occupied” and thus off-limits to treaty-based tribal hunting. Additionally, questions about “conservation necessity”—the conditions under which the state could regulate or prevent tribal hunting outside of reservation boundaries—are still unanswered.

Judge Johnson’s ruling was specific to Ten Bear’s case and did not provide broad answers to these complex issues. The limits of what a court can definitively resolve were evident in his narrow approach, which left many aspects of off-reservation hunting rights open to interpretation and further negotiation.

A Call for Agreement

Cheyenne attorney David Willms believes that Wyoming and tribal residents with treaty hunting rights still lack a clear blueprint for resolving off-reservation tribal hunting. Judge Johnson’s ruling suggested that the state and tribes should work together to strike a balance between treaty-based rights and state sovereignty over natural resources. The Supreme Court’s Herrera v. Wyoming ruling also implied that these two aspects are “necessarily compatible.”

In the five years since the Herrera decision, there has been one significant legislative effort in Wyoming to make off-reservation hunting compatible with state regulations. During the Wyoming Legislature’s 2023 general session, a tribal agreement bill was introduced, granting the governor the authority to negotiate state-tribal pacts for off-reservation hunting and angling seasons outside of Game and Fish Department regulations.

However, the bill faced opposition from tribes like the Shoshone-Bannock, who argued that they were excluded from the drafting process and that the bill was too prescriptive, violating their sovereignty. The legislation ultimately died, leaving tribal hunting rights unresolved and further complicating state-tribal relations.

Since the legislative effort failed, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has maintained that tribal members without standard permits can be cited for off-reservation hunting violations. Meanwhile, Montana has taken a different approach, instructing its wardens not to cite Crow Tribe members who violate state hunting laws, reflecting a more lenient stance on treaty rights.

Despite the legal and legislative deadlock, Wyoming officials remain hopeful for a negotiated agreement. Governor Mark Gordon emphasized the need for government-to-government negotiations with the tribes to mutually agree on off-reservation hunting, considering it a more positive and productive approach than litigation.

Towards a Resolution

Resolving these issues outside of the courtroom appears to be the best path forward. Both sides need to find common ground and address the concerns that have previously derailed efforts. Lessons from past negotiations, particularly the importance of inclusive and respectful dialogue, are crucial for future success.

The hope is that, with time, both the state and the tribes will be ready to re-engage in discussions and develop a framework that honors treaty rights while ensuring sustainable wildlife conservation. As the dust settles, there is cautious optimism that an agreement can be reached, benefiting both tribal members and the broader community.

What do you think of the legal issues surrounding tribal hunting? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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Bear Kebabs Cause Serious Parasitic Disease in South Dakota Family

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Six family members were sickened with a rare parasitic disease caused by roundworm larvae after they ate kebabs made of bear meat. The outbreak, which occurred in July 2022 during a family reunion in South Dakota, has highlighted the importance of properly cooking wild game meat to avoid serious health risks.

A report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week revealed new details about this unusual outbreak. The nine-person family reunion included a meal featuring bear meat kebabs brought by one family member from a black bear hunt in northern Canada. The bear meat had been stored in a household freezer for 45 days before being thawed and cooked.

Cooking Mishap Leads to Illness

The family prepared the bear meat kebabs alongside grilled vegetables. Due to the dark color of the meat, they had difficulty determining whether the kebabs were fully cooked, leading to the meat being served and eaten rare. This mistake had severe consequences.

About a week later, a 29-year-old man in Minnesota, who had attended the reunion, developed a fever, severe muscle pain, and swelling around his eyes. He was hospitalized twice due to the severity of his symptoms. Tests confirmed that he had antibodies for Trichinella, a type of roundworm. Five other family members soon exhibited similar symptoms, including fevers, headaches, stomach pain, diarrhea, muscle pain, and swelling around the eyes.

Two family members who had been exposed did not develop symptoms, and the CDC could not confirm whether the ninth attendee had been exposed to Trichinella. The CDC tested the remaining frozen bear meat and detected larvae from the same roundworm species, confirming the source of the infection.

Understanding Trichinellosis

The CDC presumed that all six family members had trichinellosis, a disease caused by consuming undercooked meat contaminated with Trichinella larvae. Trichinellosis is relatively rare in the United States. From January 2016 to December 2022, the CDC identified only seven trichinellosis outbreaks in the U.S., involving 35 probable or confirmed cases, most of which were linked to bear meat.

Bear meat is a known source of Trichinella infection. Freezing meat is often thought to kill parasites, but this is not always effective. The bear meat at the family reunion was contaminated with a species of Trichinella found in Arctic bears, which is resistant to freezing.

Cooking Wild Game Meat Safely

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The CDC’s report emphasizes that the only reliable way to kill Trichinella parasites is by thoroughly cooking the meat. They recommend cooking wild game meat to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit, verified with a meat thermometer rather than relying on the meat’s color.

Additionally, the CDC warns about the risk of cross-contamination. Even if you don’t eat the meat, consuming vegetables or other foods that have been in contact with the meat or its juices can lead to infection. This was evident in the case of two family members who ate only the vegetables but still became ill.

Three of the family members who had consumed the bear meat were hospitalized and treated with albendazole, a medication that kills parasitic worms and their larvae. Thankfully, all six people recovered from the disease, but their experience serves as a stark reminder of the importance of food safety when preparing wild game.

For experienced hunters and fishermen, the thrill of the hunt and the satisfaction of a successful catch are unparalleled. However, this incident underscores the critical need to prioritize safety when handling and preparing wild game meat. Ensuring that meat is cooked thoroughly can prevent serious, potentially life-threatening illnesses.

As the popularity of consuming wild game continues to grow, it’s essential to remember that proper food handling and cooking practices are not just guidelines—they are vital steps in protecting your health and the health of your loved ones. Always use a meat thermometer to verify cooking temperatures and be vigilant about preventing cross-contamination in your kitchen. Your diligence can make the difference between a memorable meal and a dangerous outbreak.

Do you eat bear meat? Have you ever gotten sick from it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. 

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