From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

Hummingbird Visitors this Winter?

Rufous Hummingbird by Sandy Lockerman

Rufous Hummingbird.

As colder weather arrives in Pennsylvania, energetic little visitors from the west may be arriving in our state. Several species of hummingbirds that normally spend the winter in the southern United States and Central America are now being recorded in the eastern United States, as stray individuals are migrating in a different direction than expected. Scientists are studying these birds by capturing and banding them when possible, in order to better understand what may be driving this notable behavior pattern. 

Colorful hummingbirds, such as Rufous Hummingbird, Allen’s Hummingbird, Black-Chinned Hummingbird and Calliope Hummingbird are showing up in people’s backyards and taking advantage of sugar water feeders left hanging, long after our native-nesting Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have departed. These diminutive birds are adapted to handle cold weather, and supplement their diet with small insects and spiders that they find on plants. 

An excellent summary of the “Wintering Western Hummingbird” phenomenon in Pennsylvania may be found on the eBird citizen science page for our state.

If you or someone you know has a hummingbird show up in their yard this fall or winter, you are encouraged to contact one of the five certified hummingbird researchers who are based in Pennsylvania:

 Scott Weidensaul,

Sandy Lockerman,

Bob Mulvihill,

Wayne Laubscher,

David Hauber,

Male Rufous1

Male Rufous


Video: How to Find CWD Information Online

Having a hard time finding specific information about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Pennsylvania? The Game Commission’s CWD Communications Specialist Courtney Colley provides a step-by-step visual guide on how to find some of the most sought information online. Click the video above, or here, to view the video guide.

Courtney starts this video by walking viewers through resources available on the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s website, including how to find a copy of the most recent executive order about CWD in Pennsylvania, which describes Disease Management Areas (DMAs) and lists other CWD positive states. There’s a link to Title 58, which provides regulations currently in place in Pennsylvania related to CWD. There’s also a public event schedule on the Game Commission’s website of related events. A link to a 30-minute webinar on CWD is there, too. Another great resource is our interactive map – helpful for hunters who will be hunting in a DMA. We also have a comprehensive FAQ list on our CWD page.

The next helpful site Courtney outlines on the program is the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Laboratory System, which is a subsection of the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, which conducts CWD testing in Pennsylvania. Courtney mentions a CWD FAQ list on this site, which can also be helpful for hunters, including information on getting a deer tested for CWD.

The final site Courtney highlights is the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance’s page, which is a great resource for hunters who intend to hunt out-of-state. This alliance is a collaborative project between the Boone and Crockett Club, the Mule Deer Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and more, with the intentions of providing scientifically accurate information to the public related to CWD. The alliance’s recent news section is a great way to keep up-to-date with the new CWD cases in North America, as well as regulations in other states. There’s a helpful U.S. map at the bottom of the homepage for hunters who hunt out-of-state. You can easily find other CWD-positive states and regulations.

Still not finding what you’re looking for?

Courtney has a few other site resource suggestions:

Wishing Our Bowhunters Safe Days Afield


The time has almost come! Pennsylvania’s statewide archery deer seasons begins tomorrow, Saturday, Sept. 29.

This exciting day marks the start of a brand new hunting season, where archers will be afield and have the opportunity to make lifelong memories in Penn’s Woods. We wish all of our bowhunters lots of luck while hunting safely throughout the season.

Statewide, properly licensed archers can hunt for antlered or antlerless deer from Sept. 29 through Nov. 12, and again during the late archery deer season, which runs from Dec. 26 through Jan. 12. (The statewide season was moved to end on a Monday this year so it could include the Veterans Day holiday.)

At the time of the statewide opener, archery hunters in three urbanized areas of the state will have had a two-week head start to their seasons. An early season for antlered and antlerless deer in Wildlife Management Units (WMU) 2B, 5C and 5D kicked off on Sept. 15 and ends Nov. 24. Properly licensed bowhunters in WMUs 2B, 5C and 5D also may take antlered and antlerless deer during an extended late archery season, which runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 26.

In order to make safety a first priority, archery hunters should…

  • Make sure someone knows where he or she is hunting and when they expect to return home. Perhaps even leave a note or topographic map describing their whereabouts.
  • Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for all equipment and check their equipment before each use.
  • Always carry broadhead-tipped arrows in a protective quiver.
  • Avoid walking with a nocked, broadhead-tipped arrow or bolt. Cocked crossbows should always be pointed in a safe direction.
  • Always keep their index finger away from the trigger when drawing, when using a mechanical release.
  • Keep themselves in good physical condition. Fatigue can impact judgment, coordination and reaction time, as well as accuracy.
  • Carry a whistle to signal a passerby in the event the hunter becomes immobile. Carrying a flashlight, compass, matches and tinder are also essential survival gear items to have.


Hunter Safety Awareness Harness Logo RGB

Archery hunters using a tree stand…

  • Should always use a fall-restraint device – preferably a full-body harness – when hunting from a tree stand. The device should be worn from the moment they leave the ground until they return. Don’t climb dead, wet or icy trees. Stay on the ground on blustery days. Remember: Hunt Safely. Wear a Harness.
  • Should use a haul rope to pull gear, including unloaded firearms and bows, to the tree stand from the ground once safely and properly positioned.
  • Should be prepared to self-rescue, should a fall occur. We recommend carrying a screw-in step or a relief strap so hunters can hang comfortably until they are rescued, or so they can rescue themselves.
  • Should practice climbing with his or her tree stand before dawn on the opening day of the season. Consider placing non-slip material on the deck if it’s not already there.
  • Should not sleep! Hunters should return to the ground if they experience fatigue while in the stand to prevent potential injury.


Group 1

In order to hunt ethically and legally, archery hunters…

  • May use long, recurve or compound bows, or crossbows. Bows must have a draw weight of at least 35 pounds; crossbows must have a minimum draw weight of 125 pounds.
  • May use illuminated nocks for arrows and bolts; however, transmitter-tracking arrows are illegal.
  • Must conspicuously mark tree stands placed on state game lands with a durable identification tag that identifies the stand owner. Tags may include the owner’s name and address, the CID number that’s on their hunting license or a unique identification issued by the Game Commission.
  • May not use tree stands and climbing devices that cause damage to trees and are unlawful to use or occupy unless the user has written permission from a landowner. It is unlawful to build or occupy tree stands screwed or nailed to trees on state game lands, state forests or state parks.
  • Are urged to take only responsible shots at deer to ensure a quick, clean kill. They should take only broadside or quartering away shots at deer within their maximum effective shooting range.

Related Information

The Game Commission encourages hunters to spend as much time as possible afield this fall prior to and during the hunting seasons to pattern deer movements and identify areas where fall foods are abundant. Food availability changes from year to year, and in areas where food is spotty, deer move to find it. Hotspots change from one year to the next, even from early to later weeks of the season, so tracking deer activity and their keying on food sources is important to success.

Click here for information about archery season venison care.

Click here for information about hunting in a Disease Management Area (DMA).

What is a DMA?

To all our archery hunters heading afield on Saturday and beyond, we wish you the best for a successful, safe and fun 2018 archery season!

Group 2



What is a “DMA?”


Photo credit: Jacob Dingel.

Because we know there are a lot of acronyms posted on the Internet, we want to take a moment to explain some of our most important ones.

Chronic wasting disease, also commonly known as CWD, infects deer, elk and moose, specifically their brain and nervous system, eventually resulting in their death. It can be passed from one animal to another by direct contact, or indirectly when a healthy animal comes in contact with the prion that causes CWD, which is shed by infected animals.

When CWD is detected in a new area, the Game Commission responds by designating a Disease Management Area, or DMA, within which special rules apply regarding the hunting and feeding of deer.

As new cases emerge near a DMA boundary, those DMAs are expanded to encompass larger areas.

CWD first appeared in Pennsylvania in 2012, when it was detected in deer at a captive facility in Adams County, then a few months later, in free-ranging deer in Blair and Bedford counties. Since then, it has been detected in dozens more captive and free-ranging deer. The disease itself was first identified in 1967.

Since last year at this time, DMA 4 has been formed, spanning parts of Lancaster, Lebanon and Berks counties. Meanwhile, DMA 2 and DMA 3 have both been expanded.

DMA 2 now totals more than 4,614 square miles and includes parts of Juniata, Mifflin and Perry counties, in addition to all or parts of Adams, Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Clearfield, Cumberland, Franklin, Fulton, Huntingdon and Somerset counties.

DMA 3 has been expanded to more than 916 square miles. It now includes parts of Armstrong, Cambria and Clarion counties, as well as parts of Clearfield, Indiana and Jefferson counties. Maps and turn-by-turn descriptions of DMA boundaries can be found on the CWD page at the Game Commission’s website.


With archery season right around the corner, the Game Commission is taking part in several informational events across the three DMAs where the disease has been detected and special rules are in place to help the public better understand CWD and what it means for Pennsylvania’s deer and deer hunting.

DMAs serve to limit CWD’s spread. Hunters who harvest deer within a DMA are prohibited from transporting the deer outside the DMA unless they first remove the carcass parts with the highest risk of transmitting CWD. The meat, the hide and antlers attached to a clean skull plate may be removed from a DMA.

High-risk parts include the head (including brain, tonsils, eyes and lymph nodes); spinal cord and backbone (vertebrae); spleen; skull plate with attached antlers, if visible brain or spinal cord material is present; cape, if visible brain or spinal cord material is present; upper canine teeth, if root structure or other soft material is present; any object or article containing visible brain or spinal cord material; and brain-tanned hide. The use or field possession of urine-based cervid attractants, and the feeding of deer also are prohibited within DMAs.

Hunters who harvest a deer within one of Pennsylvania’s three DMAs can deposit the head of their deer into any CWD Collection Container, pictured below, for free testing and for biological surveillance purposes. The harvest tag must be filled out completely, legibly and physically attached to the deer’s ear. The head must be placed in a plastic garbage bag and sealed before being placed in the collection bin. Hunters will be notified of test results. Skulls and antlers will not be returned.

CWD bin

To date, there have been no reported cases of CWD infection in people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But the disease is always fatal to the cervids it infects. As a precaution, CDC recommends people avoid eating meat from deer and elk that look sick or that test positive for CDW.

Currently, there is no practical way to test live animals for CWD, nor is there a vaccine. Clinical signs of CWD include poor posture, lowered head and ears, uncoordinated movement, rough-hair coat, weight loss, increased thirst, excessive drooling, and, ultimately, death.

If you have questions about CWD or a DMA, contact your region office.



Venison Crockpot Stroganoff


It’s Wild Game Wednesday!

Do you have extra venison in the freezer you’ve been meaning to use? Archery season opens statewide this weekend, Sept. 29, so if you’re looking to cook the meat before this year’s deer season, this recipe might be perfect for you!

On Wild Game Wednesday, we take a moment to recognize one of the most important reasons people take to the woods and fields to hunt: to fill their freezers with types of fresh, organic meat.

These weekly posts include delicious, easy and in-season wild game recipes from the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Game Cookbook that you and your family can prepare.

Let us know if you try this recipe. Enjoy!


If you are interested in more wild game recipes submitted by people from around Pennsylvania, visit to purchase the second edition of the cookbook for less than $10!

We Need Your Help to Keep Our Bald Eagles Alive


Photo credit: Jacob Dingel.

Did you know that hunters are responsible for the return of the bald eagle in our state? In the late 1970’s there were only TWO or THREE bald eagle nests in our whole state. Today, with the success of the Game Commission’s recovery program, we proudly have more than 300 nests here at home!

Photo credit: Charles Campfield, historic recovery program.

Unfortunately, we have recently lost a number of bald eagles here due to lead poisoning. We need our hunters help to keep our eagles alive. Lead is an easy metal to use for a variety of purposes. As a result, humans leave behind a lot of lead when interacting with their environment. But lead in the environment is dangerous to eagles and can be fatal if levels within their bodies become high enough.

To help do our part to keep the eagles safe, we are sharing a few suggestions for our hunters. Together, we can help keep our eagles from being an unintended target in the field.

The easiest way to keep our eagles safe is to use a non-lead ammunition when hunting small game. However, we do understand that a lot of hunters still prefer lead ammunition. If you do use it, we kindly ask that you bury any leftover carcasses or cover any gut piles with sticks. This will, at least, detract eagles from ingesting any lead fragments.


Photo credit: Jacob Dingel.

Lead that causes toxicity in bald eagles is acquired through ingestion. Research shows that most lead acquisition comes from unretrieved carcasses – gut piles, varmint carcasses left in the field and carcasses of game that couldn’t be located. Bald eagles ingest lead ammunition fragments distributed in the tissues of these carcasses. When the lead hits the bird’s acidic stomach, it gets broken down and absorbed into their bloodstream where it can be distributed to tissues throughout their body.

Lead can affect bodily function, the nervous system, muscular-skeletal and digestive systems and the function of the brain, liver and kidneys. Birds with lead poisoning may be weak, emaciated and uncoordinated. They may not be able to move, fly or walk. They may have seizures, refuse to eat and appear blind. Bald eagles with lead poisoning often do not respond at all when approached.

The bald eagle is proudly lauded as our national emblem. It symbolizes great strength and dignity. Anyone who has ever witnessed a bald eagle flying overhead can tell you how exciting it is to witness one in the wild. We want memories like that to continue to generations to come. As conservationists, and people who love wildlife, we know we join you in wanting to preserve these special birds. We thank you in advance for your assistance.

Click here to learn more about bald eagles in Pennsylvania.


Photo credit: Jacob Dingel.


Plan Your Fall Trip to View Pennsylvania’s Elk Herd

media13192Photo credit: Jacob Dingel

Saturday marks the official start of fall and the elk rutting season is underway in Pennsylvania. Many people from across the state and beyond will be making their way to Benezette, Elk County, to witness the elk during their most active time of year.

This is an exciting, not to mention beautiful time of year to visit the northcentral region of our state. It’s a great opportunity to get yourself or your family and group of friends outdoors to enjoy the fresh autumn air!

Before you head out to the elk range, consider a few of our tips below. You can maximize your chances of seeing elk and having a safe and enjoyable visit by knowing where to go, when to go, what to do and what not to do.

Safety First – For You AND Wildlife

media07154.jpgPhoto credit: Jacob Dingel

First and foremost, it is absolutely critical that those visiting the elk ranges understand that these are wild animals. Rutting season runs from mid-September through October and during this time bull elk are very protective of their harems and can be extremely aggressive. Please be safe, considerate and respectful of the elk. Give them space. Wildlife watchers often congregate in areas with the best viewing opportunities. Problems can arise when folks gather on the shoulders of rural roads and are focused on watching elk rather than oncoming traffic. Your actions help all elk-watchers, landowners, law enforcement and conservation officials have a good experience.

  • Keep a Safe Distance – Elk are wild animals. Always observe from a safe distance, and at the minimum of 100 yards (the length of a football field). Risk of serious injury or death can occur if a safe distance is not observed. If you cause the animal to move, you are too close.
  • Do Not Block Traffic – When viewing elk from your vehicle, park completely off the roadway or view elk from designated Wildlife Viewing Areas.
  • Respect Private Property – Elk know no boundaries, but humans do. Please respect private property when viewing elk.
  • Do Not Feed Elk – Feeding elk in Pennsylvania is illegal.

Best Elk Viewing Destinations

media10811Photo credit: Jacob Dingel
  1. Winslow Hill is one of the best places to see elk, hands down. You may need binoculars, or they may be close to the viewing station and/or the road. That’s part of the fun. You won’t know where they’ll be until you get there! Take Winslow Hill Road, three miles from its intersection with State Route 555 in Benezette to get to this spot.
  2. Elk Country Visitors Center is a state-of-the art facility that opened in 2010 and features great interpretive and interactive exhibits about the elk herd. There are also two large viewing stations by the center. The address is 950 Winslow Hill Road, Benezette.
  3. Hicks Run Viewing Area overlooks high-quality elk forage area, and elk are commonly present there early and late in the day year-round. This is a great place to photograph fall foliage. The viewing area is along State Route 555, about 12 miles east of Benezette, near Hicks Run Road.
  4. Woodring Farm is a nice place to park if you would like to take a short hike. This is a ¾ mile easy trail, which circles 81 acres of the elk’s habitat with a lookout. From State Route 555 in Benezette, turn onto Front Street, then turn onto Winslow Hill Road and follow it for about 2.6 miles.
  5. Thunder Mountain Equestrian Trail is a good option for those wanting to ride through elk country on horseback. It’s a 26-mile loop, with shorter route options, through the Elk State Forest. The trailhead and day-use parking for equestrians are along East Hicks Run Road about 3.75 miles from its intersection with State Route 555, and 12 miles east of Benezette.
  6. The Hoover Farm Viewing Area of Moshannon State Forest has a handicapped-accessible viewing blind overlooking food plots and wildlife openings maintained by the Game Commission. Located at the intersection of Wykoff Run Road and Quehanna Highway, the viewing area is owned by the DCNR and annually draws elk from the nearby big woods.
  7. State Route 555 runs through the heart of elk country, so whenever you’re on the road between Weedville and Driftwood, traveling through the scenic Bennett Branch of Sinnemahoning Creek corridor, keep an eye out for elk, especially around Caledonia, the lower end of the Quehanna Highway around Medix Run, Benezette and Dents Run.

FREE Edutainment on the Elk Range

The below events are scheduled to run through Columbus Day, unless otherwise noted.

Hands-on Guided Trail Hike at the Woodring Farm — Every Friday and Saturday night at 5 p.m. and Sunday morning at 10 a.m. Meet at the trailhead. No hike scheduled for Sept. 22 and 23.

Guest Speaker Presentations at Dents Run View Area, on Winslow Hill — Every Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

  • Sept. 22, PA Elk Management, Jeremy Banfield, PGC Biologist
  • Sept. 29, Chronic Wasting Disease, Tony Ross, PGC Biologist
  • Oct. 6, PA Bats, Michael Scafini, PGC Endangered Mammal Specialist

Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Great Elk Tour; Winslow Hill Viewing Area — Sept. 22-30, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Children’s Wildlife Crafts; Winslow Hill Viewing Area — Every Sunday, from 1-3 p.m. No crafts scheduled for Sept. 23.

Where to Eat or Stay?

Find hotels, restaurants and activities near the Pennsylvania elk range on the PA Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau website.

View the Live Elk Cam

We realize not everyone will be able to visit Benezette this fall, but we still want you to have the elk-viewing opportunity. The live elk cam streaming on our website lets you be able to watch for elk from the comfort of your own home! WATCH IT LIVE HERE. We’ve had a very active elk cam season so far this season, so be sure to check it out. The best times to view are at dawn and dusk. You may also see white-tailed deer, turkeys and groundhogs. This stream is the product of the coordinated efforts of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, HDonTap and the North Central Pennsylvania Regional Planning and Development Commission.