If there's one game animal that could use some additional attention in Pennsylvania, it's squirrels, according to state Game Commission biologists.
Squirrel season opens Saturday and runs through Nov. 24. The season reopens Dec. 10-24 and Dec. 26-Feb. 23. The daily limit is six.
Meanwhile, commission biologists expect ruffed grouse hunting to be average to slightly below average for the nearly 100,000 hunters who annually pursue the challenging game birds.
Squirrel populations have been enjoying the benefits of declining hunting pressure and the maturation of habitat in the state for some time. These factors have spurred fox squirrel range expansion and recovery.
The calculated squirrel harvest has been relatively stable over the past seven years, ranging from 530,125 to 784,741. Last year, an estimated 690,141 squirrels were harvested by hunters.
"Gray squirrels are our most abundant game species and are found throughout Pennsylvania," said Tom Hardisky, Game Commission biologist. "Look for mast-producing trees such as walnut, butternut, oak and hickory when searching for the best hunting areas. In agricultural areas, woodlots in the vicinity of standing cornfields often support large numbers of squirrels. They can be found throughout deep woods areas."
The first segment of the state's three-part grouse season also opens Saturday and runs through Nov. 24. The season reopens Dec. 10 to 24 and again from Dec. 26 to Jan. 26.
"Conditions for over-wintering, incubating and brooding should have supported good reproduction this year," said Lisa Williams, Game Commission grouse and woodcock biologist. "However, our Game Commission field staff observed fewer adult grouse and grouse broods this summer compared to prior years. Those sightings are often the best predictor of the season, so I advise hunters to hope for the best but keep their expectations realistic. Find areas of good dense cover and abundant food supply and you'll put yourself in the best position for success."
Pennsylvania's state bird is holding its own in areas of suitable habitat.
But "losses of young forest habitat over the last several decades have been bad news for grouse, woodcock and other species that rely on these habitats," said Ian Gregg, Game Commission Game Bird Section supervisor.