COVID-19 continues to affect outdoors world
Although I was hoping not to have to mention the COVID-19 virus again this week, the statewide response to that health crisis ramped up dramatically statewide last week with unprecedented cancellations and business closures, many of them directly affecting us in the outdoors community.
And all indications seem to point toward many of those stoppages and sanctions lasting at least for several weeks, possibly longer.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission announced last week the Mentored Youth Trout Day will occur on April 11 and the opening day of trout season will be April 18 statewide for 2020.
For the past several seasons, 18 counties have had a regional opening day of trout season and mentored youth day two weeks earlier than the rest of the state. This year, the regional Mentored Youth Trout Day was scheduled for March 28 and the regional trout opener was scheduled for April 4.
The remainder of the 2020 trout stocking schedule will be accelerated, and no volunteers will be permitted to help with those stocking efforts. The county-by-county stocking lists have been removed from the PFBC website.
According to PFBC sources, “stockings will be prioritized to deliver trout to regions of the Commonwealth that are predicted to be affected most severely by COVID-19 that could result in restrictions on travel.” In many areas of the state, volunteers provided valuable manpower and assistance to help carry the countless buckets of trout to the streams. To execute its new stocking program without the traditional volunteer manpower, the PFBC has said it “will modify stocking methods for this year.”
Many PFBC employees will be transferred from their regular duties to help with trout stocking. Some streams will receive both their preseason and in-season allocations of trout in one large stocking.
On March 16, the Pennsylvania Game Commission announced it would be closing its Harrisburg headquarters and all regional offices around the to the public for at least two weeks. All free in-person Hunter-Trapper Education classes that had been scheduled between March 16 and March 31 were also postponed.
For first-time hunters 11 and older who need to complete a class in order to obtain their hunting licenses for the upcoming spring turkey season, they will be able to take the online Hunter-Trapper Education course without charge. Since 2016, online hunter-trapper education classes have been available in Pennsylvania to students 16 and older for a nominal fee. The waiver of the fee and lower age limit will remain in effect until at least March 31 and possibly longer until in-person hunter-trapper education courses can be offered again.
No change for now
The Board of Game Commissioners meeting to be held April 6 -7 at the game commission Harrisburg headquarters was still scheduled at the time this column was submitted. This spring meeting is one of the more important board meetings of the year. At this time, the seasons and bag limits for the upcoming hunting seasons are set along with antlerless deer license allocations.
Further restrictions with the Disease Management Areas for chronic wasting disease are also a possibility. If the Game Commission offices are forced to remain closed for an extended period, the agency is considering alternative ways to conduct this essential meeting.
One of the many social gatherings in our area that fell victim to the mass cancellations caused by the CORVID-19 pandemic was the annual Wild Game Feast sponsored by the Altoona Alliance Church. This popular event had been slated for yesterday evening.
I know how much time and effort is required from the dedicated crew of volunteers at the church to gather and prepare all the wild game and other foods as well as assemble so many wonderful door prize to make this a wonderful night of fellowship and inspiration each year.
I’m happy to report that Pastor Tim McGarvey contacted me last week to inform me that the Wild Game Feast will be rescheduled rather than canceled this year with the new date being Saturday, June 13. All other details will remain the same. Mike Tison, a sought-after motivational speaker, author and ordained chaplain from Goodrich, Michigan, will remain the featured speaker for the evening. Doors will open at 4 p.m., followed by dinner at 5 p.m.
All original tickets will be good for the new date. Because the event is always a sellout, folks who are unable to attend the alternate date can return their tickets for a refund of the $15 suggested donation price. Returned tickets will be resold for the June event. Call the church office at 944-0171 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for information on ticket availability.