Gazette writer Zeke Wilson

Hunting licenses went on sale Monday for the upcoming 2020-21 hunting seasons and license application processes. A hunting license may be purchased at a participating retailer locally or online through the Pennsylvania Game Commission website ( www.pgc.state.pa.us). Your current hunting license will expire at the end of the month.

Approaching antlerless deer license application deadlines and information on the elk license drawing are incentives to get your license months before big game seasons begin. The new hunting license will also be required at gun ranges on state game lands, although users may also purchase a permit specifically for range use. All gun ranges on state game lands are now open for use and offer the opportunity for a safe place to shoot.

• Those who hunt small game may enjoy a summer of woodchuck hunting with their newly purchased license.

Groundhog populations are healthy, and a hunter should not have to look too far before finding a suitable hunt area. Once a groundhog or two is located, hunters should have ample opportunity at hitting their target.

Perhaps the biggest problem with groundhog hunting is finding vegetation that allows for a view of the quarry. Hunting bean and corn fields before the crop emerges too high is an option, although the bulk of fields will soon be higher than a groundhog.

Waiting until hay is harvested exposes the woodchuck and can provide

multiple days of exciting hunting.

Harvesting a groundhog can be a challenge, and doing so from several hundred yards away boosts a hunter’s confidence. Accuracy is something that improves with practice.

Once the majority of groundhogs have been harvested from a field, the hunter must find another honey hole. Because of the excitement available with groundhog hunting, the competition can be noticeable, making it at times tough to gain permission to hunt private land. Because of the rodent’s destructive den digging behavior, many property owners are willing to grant permission to respectful hunters.

Groundhogs feed during the cooler parts of the day and are especially active after a rainstorm. If you are watching over a hunting area at 7 p.m. and do not see a groundhog, it might be wise to find another hunting spot because they are quite active in the early evening. If a woodchuck is missed, chances are good that it will reappear and offer another shot.

The rodent typically does not stray far from its hole, which often can be seen at a distance as a bare dirt area. When the habitat is good enough for one groundhog, typically there will be a handful in sight. Patience is

important, and a hunter may wait 15 to 30 minutes between shots,

depending on the day.

Shooting skills improve greatly when hunting woodchucks, and it is an excellent way for a new hunter to gain ability.

Harvesting animals in the heat of summer takes some forethought because flies and spoilage come almost immediately.

• A fish-for-free day in the state will be held on July 4, allowing adults to fish without purchasing a license. For those who have drifted away from angling or never tried it before, the free day offers a chance to revisit the sport.

Fishing licenses are reasonably priced, and if fishing is of interest, I would encourage taking the financial plunge and purchasing one.

A variety of fish can now be kept for the table, and it would be wise for an angler to have a regulations booklet on hand if unfamiliar with the seasons and limits. Having a tape measure along is often necessary when hoping for a fish dinner because often the difference between legal or not may be only half an inch.