March Madness is in full swing right now as well as spring training baseball. As we root for Pitt and wonder if the Pirates' upcoming season will be another losing one, we are still mindful that trout and spring gobbler are heading for us fast.
Remember to send for your second gobbler license. You can do it online at the Game Commission's website right up until opening day. Also, Hunter Safety classes are springing up everywhere right now and again,you can check the locations and times are other pertinent info on the Commission's website. If you can't find a local site for one, keep checking the website because they update that information daily.
Sometime during 2011, the agency will be launching a new program, Successful Turkey Hunting, which is designed to provide the knowledge and skills needed to be successful in both spring and fall seasons. It will give first-time hunters a huge step toward bagging a bird. Veterans will learn methods and techniques that will make them a better hunter, too. Students will receive a 140-page student guide and a diaphragm turkey call as part of the program.
Look for most classes to be up and going before the fall season this year. In the future, classes will start in the spring and continue through the summer and early fall. A $15 fee is being charged to offset costs.
The Game Commission is also planning to offer additional advanced courses in the future focusing on specific sporting arms and certain species-specific seasons, such as Successful Muzzleloading and Successful Wingshooting,We will be working with interested groups of sportsmen specializing in each of the areas to develop curriculum and solid hands-on training that will emphasize methods and tactics for success in these fields.
Obviously, then, the Commission is also interesting in adding qualified instructors in these fields to help with these educational programs. There are qualifications for being an instructor but they are not that difficult so give some thought to volunteering your knowledge to this effort. Again, get to the Commission's website for more information.
Before I moved to Altoona a little over 25 years ago I lived in Bradford County, PA in Sayre. I hunted SGL 12 and 36, knew every nook and hollow in those gamelands so they are very special to me. On those gamelands I bagged my first wild turkey in the fall and then my first one in the spring. It's allso where I got my first nice 8 point buck a lot of years ago. So when I got a news release from the Game Commission about a massive poaching case just concluded in Bradford County, in Armenia township where I once hunted so much, I was heartsick.
Following a six-month investigation by the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, five residents of Maine, four adults and a 17-year-old juvenile were charged with more than 250 counts of violating the Game and Wildlife Code and the Crimes Code in the one of the largest wildlife crime sprees ever detected in the Commonwealth history.
The group is charged with multiple counts of killing deer at night with a light, killing deer in closed season and killing deer in excess of season bag limits in Armenia Township and surrounding municipalities, Bradford County. During the months of October and December, the group is accused of killing dozens of deer unlawfully, including three large-racked bucks, during the state's early muzzleloader season and regular firearms deer seasons.
The group also has been charged with numerous wildlife crimes in Maine. This investigation is a prime example of why it was so critically important for the General Assembly to have enacted legislation to increase the fines and penalties for chronic poachers.
The increased fines and penalties addressed the exact type of violations allegedly committed by these individuals, which involved killing multiple deer out of season, at night with spotlights and significantly over the bag limits. A joint investigation between the Game Commission and the Maine Warden Service was initiated and continued throughout the deer hunting seasons in both states. Game Commission Special Operations Division investigators conducted surveillance on the group's illegal hunting activities in Pennsylvania during the white-tailed deer hunting seasons.Good interagency communication and teamwork was what made the investigation a success, These individuals showed complete disregard for the wildlife laws of both Maine and Pennsylvania.
In January, a team of Game Commission investigators traveled to Maine to accompany Maine Warden Service investigators on the execution of five search warrants as a result of the investigation. During the execution of these warrants, investigators seized hundreds of pounds of deer meat, firearms, deer antlers, bows and arrows, spotlights, a mounted hawk and owls, a computer, documents and other hunting-related equipment.
There were more charges filed against these thugs than I can list here but possible penalties add up to $15,000 and up to 36 months imprisonment PER COUNT. It will be awhile before they can get out to do this kind of stuff again.