Last updated: October 26. 2013 10:27PM - 1424 Views

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There’s still time to take a hunter education course, buy a license and go hunting this year.

But the clock is ticking.

While courses are scheduled into November, and a number of seats remain available for some of them, others have already filled or are nearly full.

And once the remaining scheduled courses fill up, those looking to buy a Pennsylvania hunting or furtaker license for the first time will have to wait until next year, when additional courses are scheduled.

“There have been opportunities all summer for prospective first-time license buyers to become certified through a basic Hunter-Trapper Education course, and time still remains,” Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe said. “But the number of available seats is shrinking daily, and in some cases by the hour or minute, and those who still need to reserve a spot might not want to risk waiting any longer.”

Basic Hunter-Trapper Education (HTE) is mandatory for anyone, regardless of their age, who purchases a Pennsylvania hunting license for the first time. There is no fee charged for the course, and youngsters must be at least 11 years old to receive HTE certification.

There has been an increased demand for HTE in recent years and, in particular, a demand for more courses as the calendar creeps toward Thanksgiving and the opening of the annual firearms season for deer. The Game Commission has responded by adding more courses to the October and November schedules, and this year, a record number of seats in HTE courses have been made available.

The Game Commission also has tried to make HTE courses more convenient for families by scheduling more classes on Saturdays and Sundays.

HTE courses generally are about six hours long and are completed in one or two sessions.

For those who are seeking certification, but who can’t attend a traditional HTE course, there is an independent-study version of the course. The independent-study course requires a greater time commitment overall (8-10 hours), but the actual classroom time is for test-taking only and lasts about two to three hours.

All registration for traditional and independent study HTE courses can be completed online through the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us. Click on the “Hunter Education Classes” icon in the center of the homepage, then click either “Hunter-Trapper Education” or “Hunter-Trapper Education Independent Study.”

Since 1959, more than 1.8 million students have been certified through Pennsylvania hunter-education courses.

Reduced license fees for veterans

The State Senate has unanimously approved legislation to offer disabled Pennsylvania veterans reduced-fee hunting and fishing licenses.

Senate Bill 1102, authored by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, would reduce the cost of fishing licenses for disabled veterans to $1 for an annual license.

Senate Bill 1090, authored by Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee Chairwoman Lisa Baker, would reduce the cost of hunting licenses for disabled veterans to $1 for an annual license.

“Expanding this bill to include any veteran who is rated as disabled will eliminate confusion, simplify the process and expand the benefit to many more veterans,” Baker said. “Offering a chance for them to enjoy the homeland that they have protected with their lives is a small but meaningful way to express our gratitude.”

Senate Bills 1102 and 1090 reduce the cost of annual hunting and fishing licenses to $1 each, for all disabled veterans in the commonwealth. Currently, Pennsylvania law allows for free hunting and fishing licenses only for veterans who are either certified as 100 percent disabled, or who have lost the use of one of their arms or legs.

Any Pennsylvania veteran eligible for disability compensation as determined by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs would qualify for the $1 licenses. Veterans certified as having a total disability would continue to qualify for free licenses. Pennsylvania currently offers $1 hunting and fishing licenses to certain active duty military personnel as well.

Senate Bills 1102 and 1090 will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Cornell looking for bird enthusiasts

Project FeederWatch citizen-science project kicks off on Nov. 9, and anyone with an interest in birds and nature is invited to be part of the action. FeederWatch also has a fresh new look for its 27th season, plus new web tools that make participation and exploration even easier and more fun.

Join the tens of thousands of people who keep tabs on the birds that come to their feeders from November through April. Participants submit their observations to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This long-term data from across North America could not be gathered any other way. Observations help reveal important patterns in bird distribution and numbers that may be changing over time at a continental scale or in a participant’s own backyard.

New and returning participants are urged to sign up now at www.FeederWatch.org.

“We have a new interactive tool called ‘Common Feeder Birds’ that allow people to learn about the food and feeder preferences of nearly 100 species, based on data collected by participants,” FeederWatch project leader Emma Greig said. “The tool can be used to predict what birds can be attracted to an area so you can offer foods strategically to attract desired species.”

Observations from a record number of participants last season helped scientists follow the changes in woodpecker and nuthatch populations in the Midwest, where trees were infested with invasive emerald ash borer beetles.

“We need continued FeederWatch data on woodpecker and nuthatch populations throughout North America to better understand the long-term consequences of this beetle invasion,” Greig says. “We also need renewed FeederWatcher effort to monitor the health of house finches, which are susceptible to a disease that causes swollen eyes. Our participants will be asked to report whether they looked for the disease and whether they saw sick birds.”

To learn more about joining Project FeederWatch and to sign up, visit www.FeederWatch.org or call the Cornell lab toll-free at 866-989-2473. Project FeederWatch is a joint research and education project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada.

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