At last, the subtle changes that outdoors people see, hear and smell are drifting in on the wind and the seasons we so look forward to are blessedly about to begin.
Hay bales begin to appear in backyards as archers practice shooting bows and arrows. All sorts of new hunting gear appear in stores. Boots need waterproofed, guns need sighted in, shells reloaded, turkey calls tuned, lighter monofilament reeled onto the spinning gear for fall trout, oil changes for the hunting vehicle, and much more that now needs done.
These are things we should have taken care of during the summer but instead ball games, yard work and vacations occupied our time and thinking. We wonder how the warm winter of last year and the very hot summer just past affected wildlife.
The spring incubation periods of this past spring seemed good in this area so there should be plenty of young turkeys for fall hunting.
The Ruffed Grouse Society, a special interest group that specializes in preserving habitat for Pennsylvania's state bird, recently released a report about their predictions for grouse hunting in every Canadian province and every state of the Union. Here's what they said about the prospects for Pennsylvania's fall hunting season.
"Ample food supply and limited rain and ice conditions of this past winter should have led to fat and healthy hen grouse coming into the 2012 breeding season. Incubation weather was good and to this point brooding weather has been fine," according to Lisa Williams, Game Commission Upland Bird Biologis.
She continues that it is anticipated the 2012-2013 hunting season will be above average in Pennsylvania. Several anecdotal observations from long-term PGC Grouse Cooperators indicate the balance in deer management, forest health, and active silviculture management is paying dividends in terms of high flush rates in these areas by providing the dense, and highly diverse developing understory necessary for quality grouse habitat.
"The big woods areas of northwest and northcentral Pa. should produce abundant grouse flushes this year as flush rates are always highest in regions where high-quality young forest habitat is scattered throughout a largely forested landscape," adds Williams.
As always, the survival and health of any species is determined by the quality of the habitat they require for food and cover. Most special interest wildlife groups focus on raising money to fund their habitat and education programs.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission and many of these groups have partnered together to improve habitat and to educate the public about hunter safety and conservation of wildlife.
One thing we always procrastinate about is to get prospective new hunters into the Hunter -Trapper Education courses. The Game Commission is scheduling extra courses this year but you need to get folks registered now. A week before a season begins is way too late to try to get this task accomplished.
Remember that taking and passing this course is mandatory for all first-time license buyers, regardless of age. Courses have been available all summer but this is another of those chores we simply don't think about until it is almost upon us. Most people wait until autumn is officially here to begin making plans for the hunting seasons.
To register for a course in your area, visit the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) click on the hunter education classes icon in the center of the homepage and then click on either hunter-trapper education or hunter-trapper education independent study.
With the support of thousands of volunteers, HTE courses are being held throughout the state. There is no fee for the basic HTE course. Pre-registration is required and online registration is available for all courses offered.
As a last note today, the Game Commission is really in need of more volunteers to teach these classes. If you are retired, for instance, this is a worthy project to get involved in. If you could/ would get involved in this program, contact the Game Commission at its website.