From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

Hunting for Tree Stand Regulations?

Jason - Archery - Treestand - Vertical Photo: Joe Kosack

Many hunters enjoy the bird’s-eye-view that can be gained through the use of a tree stand. However, some people are unaware of the regulations surrounding the use of stands on public land and hunter access properties.

Below you will find helpful information on tree stand usage:

Tree Stands on State Game Lands and Other Land

Tree stands are legal to use on state game lands under certain parameters.

It is unlawful while hunting or preparing to hunt to

1) damage any tree on public or private property by constructing a tree stand or using a portable tree stand or device to climb a tree; Tree damage is defined as any penetration to the cambium layer of the bark.

2) use or occupy a tree stand which when constructed, damages a tree. This does not apply to landowners constructing stands on their own property, or persons who have received written permission from a landowner to build or use a tree stand;

3) tree stands on state game lands can be placed out not more than two weeks before and must be removed two weeks after any deer season.

In addition, keep in mind that one’s tree stand does not make that area exclusive to the owner. Other hunters can hunt in that area as well.

Tree stand regulations can be found on page 29 of the Hunting & Trapping Digest. Tree stand information can also be found in the January 2014 Game News article by Joe Kosack.

Tree Stands on Hunter Access Property and Private Property

On any private land, even if enrolled in the hunter access program, permission from the landowner is required to put up any type of stand. Hunter access property cooperators are not required to allow the use of stands.


115th Christmas Bird Count

redheadedWoodpecker Photo: Jacob Dingel

Did you register for the 115th Christmas Bird Count?

The Christmas Bird Count is the longest running Citizen Science survey in the world. This year it runs from Dec. 14, 2014 through January 5, 2015.

What is the Christmas Bird Count?

It is a census of birds in the Western Hemisphere, performed annually by volunteer birdwatchers and administered by the National Audubon Society.

Counting Methods

Each count is performed on one day during the specified date range in a count circle with a diameter of 15 miles. Each count circle has at least ten volunteers. These volunteers break into small parties and follow assigned route, counting every bird they see and hear. Some volunteers may count from feeders at their homes.


The results are then submitted to Audubon. The data collected by observers allows researchers to study the health and status of bird populations across North America. It also allows biologists to see how bird populations have changed over the years.


The bird count data can serve as an indication of environmental health. A decline in bird populations may indicate habitat fragmentation, groundwater contamination, or negative effects of pesticides.


The research from this count can also be used to manage bird populations. In the 1980s the data documented the decline of wintering populations of the American Black Duck. Therefore, hunting pressures on this species were reduced in an effort to conserve the species.

How to Participate

Search the Audubon map for a Christmas Bird Count circle near you and contact the local compiler in advance of the count day to arrange to participate. Birders of all experience levels are welcome to participate. Inexperienced birders will be paired with seasoned bird counters. There is no fee to join the Christmas Bird Count..

If you haven’t already registered, you may be too late to register for this season. As an alternative, you may be interested in the Great Backyard Bird Count which takes place President’s Day weekend each February. During this count you may count the birds in your backyard and enter the results online.

You can learn more about the Christmas Bird Count in this video.

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