From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

Seedlings for Sale: January 5


Landowners Can Help Wildlife by Planting Trees and Shrubs

While it might be winter, landowners can begin making plans to help wildlife this spring – and beyond – by planting tree and shrub seedlings offered by the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Howard Nursery.

Sale Start Date

The 2015 seedling order form soon will be available online, and sales are set to begin Jan. 5.

Seedling Units

Most seedlings are sold in units of 25, but 100-seedling bundles also are available in mixes to benefit deer, game birds and songbirds, as well as to improve riparian and winter-thermal habitats.

Tree and Shrub Species

The 2015 order form contains a wide selection of evergreens, shrubs and fruit- and nut-bearing trees. Most species are native to Pennsylvania, and with the exception of black locust, all of the available hardwoods are grown from seed collected from Pennsylvania sources and processed by Game Commission personnel.

New Species for 2015

This year’s order form features three species that have not been offered regularly in the past. Nannyberry, a native large shrub or small tree, produces fruits that are an important food source for many birds and mammals in the fall and winter. Another shrub, northern bayberry, can grow to 12-foot heights and produces berries important to birds. And wild plum can grow up to 20 feet tall, with roots that can form excellent wildlife thickets in bottomlands, woodlots and other areas.

For both northern bayberry and wild plum, units of 25 1-year-old seedlings are available for $12.50. Nannyberry is sold in 25-seedling units priced at $8.75, but – like many of the seedlings offered for sale – can be purchased at a discounted price.


Although a discount is not offered for all species or habitat bundles, orders of 12 or more total units qualify for applicable discounted pricing. With the discount, prices are as low as $3.75 per bundle, or 15 cents per seedling.

The mixed-oak bundle costs $6.25 with the discount.

Species that qualify for the discount are marked on the order form.

Orders Accepted BEGINNING JANUARY 5.

Annetta Ayers, superintendent at Howard Nursery, said there is a very limited supply of some of the seedlings for sale, wild plum included. Those who are interested might want to call Howard Nursery at 814-355-4434. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The order form and information about the seedlings for sale will be available at the Game Commission’s website, Place your cursor over “General Store” in the menu bar at the top of the homepage, then scroll down to “Howard Nursery” and select “2015 Seedling Order Form” from the drop-down menu. The form usually is posted to the website shortly before sales begin.

If you have problems downloading the order form, you likely need to install the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader, which can be found by doing an Internet search and downloaded for free.

The order form can be completed and submitted online, or printed out and faxed or mailed. Payments are not due until the order is confirmed by Howard Nursery. For those without Internet access, order forms can be obtained at Game Commission offices or various displays or booths at shows in which the agency participates through the spring or by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to: Howard Nursery, 197 Nursery Road, Howard, PA 16841.

While the order form provides a brief description of the tree species available and their benefits to birds and wildlife, more information is available on the website under “Tree Seedling Index.”


The preferred method of delivery is by United Parcel Service (UPS). Shipping and handling charges do apply.

Orders are shipped only Monday through Wednesday to assure delivery for weekend planting. However, orders also may be picked up in person at the nursery once buyers are notified the order is ready.

Generally, seedlings ship in the month of April.

The Whitetail Calling Card


Photo: Jacob Dingel

The most important forms of deer communication in the fall are rubs and scrapes.

Differences in Yearling Rubs and Mature Buck Rubs

By September, a buck’s antlers are hard and the velvet is shed. This is when rubbing activity begins. These early signposts are usually made by more mature bucks.  Yearlings make about half as many rubs as mature bucks. Age also plays a factor in tree size selection. Older bucks rub much larger trees. Yearlings typically rub saplings no more than 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Compare this to a mature buck who may rub pole trees 6 inches or larger.

Tree Selection

Rubs only require a tree and, if it’s not cut down, the same tree will be there year after year. So some rubs are historic being used annually. On average, bucks may make 300-400 rubs each fall. Yearling bucks make only about a half as many rubs during the breeding season as mature males. Bucks also select highly aromatic species of trees for rubbing like pines, cherries, and Eastern red cedar if they are available in the area.


The most complex signpost bucks use is scraping. Scraping has been observed from July through March but is typically done when antlers are hard. This complex signpost is used more intensely just before the peak of the rut. Most adult does in Pennsylvania are bred in November with median conception dates between November 11-17. So expect most scrapes to be made prior to this in the fall.

A full scrape involves 3 things: branch marking, pawing, and urination. A scraping sequence starts with an overhanging limb on which a buck will rub his forehead or preorbital gland. If the mood strikes him, he’ll even rattle the branch with his antlers. He then takes the twig in his mouth and moistens it, thereby leaving his mark and detecting that of others using the scrape.  After this, he clears a 3- to 6-foot diameter circle by pawing the ground. The buck then steps into the cleared circle and urinates onto his tarsal glands while rubbing them together. Usually only mature, dominant bucks produce any significant number of scrapes.  Some scrapes may also be used annually. However as forests change, so may scrape locations as they require a marking branch at the proper height.

Bubba was Here, an article from Life & Times of the Whitetail series discusses signpost behavior.

-J.T. Fleegle

Pennsylvania Game Commission Wildlife Biologist

Deer & Elk Management Section

Report your Harvest

Your Harvest Counts logo RGB vertical

Reporting a harvest is easy! Have your customer identification number (hunting license number) and field tag handy and choose one of three reporting methods below.

  1. Report your harvest online! Click here and select the harvest reporting button.

  2. Report your harvest via phone: Call directly and toll-free to 1-855-724-8681 or 1-855-PAHUNT1 and follow the prompts. For more information and instructions on using the interactive voice response harvest reporting telephone system please read Pennsylvania Game Commission New Release #051-11.

  3. Report your harvest via mail: Tear out the harvest report card in the current Hunting and Trapping Digest, fill it out with the correct information and drop it off at the post office. No postage necessary if it is mailed in the United States.

Hunters who purchased a Disease Management Area 2 (DMA 2) permit should report their harvest or negative report here. Each hunter who harvests a deer or turkey must within 10 days (five days for mentored youth hunters) report it to the Game Commission. Harvest reports help the Game Commission to improve Pennsylvania’s wildlife management. Thank you for your cooperation.

Quilting Habitat for Pennsylvania’s Wild Turkeys

Turkey habitat

If ever there were a day to express gratitude (and perhaps a little empathy) toward the wild turkey, the last Thursday in November should be it! But in the Game Commission, our habitat managers pay homage to this noble game bird every day.

Almost Wiped Out

In the early 1900s, the wild turkey was nearly gone from Pennsylvania. Unregulated market killing and statewide forest clearing pushed the birds to isolated refuges. Over time, habitats recovered and game laws allowed population growth. The birds spread naturally as habitat expanded and some were trapped and transferred to speed the process. Today, Pennsylvania’s wild turkey is thriving.

 It’s All About Habitat

The most basic turkey habitat requirement is forest. They do very well where forests mix with fields and stream bottoms and habitat managers often refer to ideal turkey habitat as a “mosaic.” Older forest patches provide acorns, beech nuts, and black cherry. Younger forest offers nesting cover as well as blackberry, grapes, and greenbrier. Forest openings, fields and meadows are occupied by young poults as they gorge on bugs early summer through fall. As winter snows deepen, turkeys congregate on stream corridors and spring seeps kept open by their constant trickle of ground water. While forest is the general requirement, prime turkey habitat is defined by the mix of forest, fields, and stream drainages. The mosaic!

The Quilters

Put simply, the manager’s job is to create and maintain a habitat patchwork, much like a quilt. But these patches wouldn’t make a very sightly bed spread with their odd shapes, unmatched material and sloppy stitching. Yet that’s how the turkeys like it. A fallow field here, a timber harvest there. An astute habitat manager looks over an area and figures out how to mix in all the components that turkeys – and other wildlife – need to survive.

The Ax the Match and the Plow

Instead of needles and thread, habitat managers have a different array of tools at their disposal. As the great wildlife conservationist Aldo Leopold put it those tools include the, the ax (forest management), the match (controlled burning), and the plow (farming practices). Together, these practices are being used to conserve wild turkeys so they can be enjoyed as a noble adversary and maybe even a Thanksgiving centerpiece.

Benjamin Jones

Bureau of Wildlife Habitat Management

“Deer” Santa–Gifts for Outdoors People

The Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Outdoor Shop offers several NEW gift options for the holiday season. Pennsylvania PGC Cook Bookt  600 x 600

Game Commission Game Cookbook, Second Edition  Back by popular demand, the Pennsylvania Game Commission released The Pennsylvania Game Cookbook, Second Edition. The mouthwatering small game, big game and migratory game bird recipes have been tried, tasted and submitted by wild game hunters and cooks. In addition, readers will find field dressing and preparation guidelines to help hunters take the game from the field to the table. $9.43 (plus tax and shipping) DeerHuntingGamenews

Pennsylvania Deer Hunting, Through the Pages of Game News  Outdoor writer, Tyler Frantz, paged through 960 back issues of Game News magazine to piece together the collection of deer-hunting stories now contained within the 174-page softbound book. Each chapter is bound by a common thread, be it the advent of bowhunting in the 1950s, the buck-hunting boom of the 60s, or the return to primitive black powder hunting in the 70s; this book is a journey through our state’s whitetail hunting history. $15.50 (plus tax and shipping)


2014 Big Game Records Book  The Big Game Records book contains nearly 4,000 entries in 10 categories and is the complete official listing of all trophy big game animals taken in the Keystone State. A few of the trophies listed in the records were taken 100 or more years ago, but many others have been taken in recent years. The scoring program uses the Boone & Crockett Club measuring system. The record book is not only interesting, but it can be used as a tool to identify where the “big ones” are being taken. The book also illustrates color pictures of some of the trophy big game animals. $6.00 (plus tax and shipping) Hunters, wildlife watchers and outdoor adventurers may also be interested in these books. 

Loved one not a book worm? Don’t fret. Look over these other possibilities for: Patch Collectors:

  • Youth Hunt Patches (NEW in 2014)
  • Triple Trophy Patches
  • Upland Bird Series Patches
  • Elk Hunt Patches
  • Field Notes Patches
  • Working Together for Wildlife Patches
  • Working Together for Wildlife Patches Display Frame

Click to view more patches. Wildlife Art Enthusiasts

  • Working Together for Wildlife prints
  • Duck Stamp prints
  • Fine Art prints

View wildlife art prints. Educators


Wildlife Watchers

Additional items are available for sale online in the Outdoor Shop.

The Story of Doe #151

Our deer biologists receive a lot of photos of deer. Last month they received one of a doe with an ear tag in it and found the doe had an interesting story. The deer team wrote this article to describe their discovery:

2014 lost run rubs 057

Deer Tag #151

A gentleman gave us a ring to tell us about a picture his trail camera had captured of a doe with an ear tag. The photo was clear enough to make out a number – 151. It certainly looked like one of our ear tags – same size and shape. Over the years, we have captured and tagged thousands of deer. We have also trapped deer in the same study areas for multiple projects over multiple years. But try as we might, we could only make out those three numbers on the ear tag from the picture.

Searching for Clues

We searched the database. There were 6 deer that had an ear tag that ended in 151 going back to 2003. Only 2 of them were female. We were getting close but something wasn’t quite right. The ear tags we’ve been using are silver. And, the ear tag in the photo was clearly not silver. We did use brown colored ear tags in one study, our first large scale study that kicked off the research program we have today. That study occurred in 2001. Could this really be a deer from that study?

Mystery Solved

Dusting off the 13 year old database, we found her. Back then she was a cute, cuddly 8.6 lbs fawn in the Quehanna Wild Area. Caught in the very same area where her picture was taken 13 and half years later! Our last contact with Ms. 151 was in February 2002 when her telemetry collar fell off as it was designed to do.

A Long Life

What does she look like 13.5 years later? From the photo, she looks great! Given what we know about fawn and doe survival rates in Pennsylvania, only 3% would reach the age of 13. She probably gave birth to more than 20 fawns. She has outsmarted every coyote, bobcat, bear, and hunter in the area. She was tougher than the last 13 winters and has welcomed every spring that follows.


So the next time you see a doe in the woods, take a minute to think about the life she may have lived. It might be the daughter or granddaughter or great great-granddaughter of Ms. 151. For sure, it won’t be her. She’s too smart to be seen by anybody.

Pennsylvania Elk


Pennsylvania Elk History

Before settlers arrived in Pennsylvania, elk lived throughout the state, with concentrations in the northcentral and Pocono Mountains. By 1867, the species had been extirpated. Ultimately elk vanished from its former range which included New York and New England.

Elk Restoration

From 1913 to 1926 the Game Commission released a total of 177 elk in Blair, Cameron, Carbon, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Monroe and Potter counties. From 1923 to 1931, hunting seasons on antlered bulls were held, and hunters took 98 of them.

However, a decline in elk numbers, due in part to habitat loss and illegal poaching, closed the 1932 hunting season. And by 1936, only 14 elk remained statewide – all of them in Elk and Cameron counties, which, interestingly, is the area where the last native elk was killed.

Following a reintroduction effort, the herd slowly rebounded. In the first elk survey conducted by the Game Commission and DCNR in 1971, 65 were counted by ground and aerial spotters. By 1980, the number rose to 114. In 1992, the ground spotters were eliminated from the survey and the herd was estimated to number 183.

A three-year trap-and-transfer program launched by the Game Commission in 1998 expanded the elk’s range from 350 to 800 square miles.

 Watch the film: Pennsylvania Elk: Celebrating 100 years.

 Elk Hunting Season Reopened

In 2001, survey work indicated the herd contained more than 700 elk. That same year, the Game Commission once again had an open, but highly regulated elk hunt.

Elk Population

Today, Pennsylvania’s elk herd continues to thrive and provide hunting opportunities for a limited number of hunters each year. The elk herd has continued to grow since the Pennsylvania elk hunting season re-opened in 2001. One-hundred years after restoration efforts began, the herd numbers about 950 animals.

How to Apply for an Elk License

The application for the elk drawing goes on sale at all of our issuing agents and online at in June when the new license year licenses go on sale.  That date is yet to be determined but is usually the second or third Monday in June. Elk license applications are due July 31 and applicants will be randomly selected for licenses in a drawing held on the third weekend of August. The number of elk allocations varies by year. In 2014, 26,480 hunter applied for 108 licenses.

Preference Points

Since the 2003-04 license year, unsuccessful applicants have been granted preference points in future drawings.  For each unsuccessful application, one point is added to their record. First time applicants have won in the past.  You can read more about the elk application process in the Hunting & Trapping Digest.

Elk Management Area

The Elk Management Area is bounded to the west by US-219, to the North by US-6, to the East by PA-287 and the South by US-220 and I-80 (it includes all of 2H and most of 2G).  All together the area is greater than 3500 square miles and over 70% public land.


Elk Viewing Locations

Pennsylvania elk provide wonderful wildlife watching opportunities. The Game Commission has highlighted viewing areas on the website. The Game Commission’s Elk Tour app also provides off-the-beaten-path locations where elk may be spotted in the northcentral region.

Elk News!

Those who subscribe to the Game Commission’s news e-mails, Facebook page or Twitter page receive reminders of license application dates and season openers. People who subscribe to a Game Commission e-mail list before December 15 will be entered into a weekly gift card drawing for Cabela’s or Field and Stream!


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