New bird hunters learn habitat, GPS, and “Where am I?” at mentor hunt training
The Allegheny Chapter (Kane) of the Ruffed Grouse Society (RGS) offered the second phase of its New Hunter Mentor training to ten new bird hunters on Saturday, Aug. 4, at Kinzua Bridge State Park. This training is open to any potential hunter or existing hunter that is interested in fine-tuning their skills for upland bird hunting. The August training started with classroom instruction as to how to read a map, how to use a compass, learn to trust the GPS unit, and key habitat components for wildlife, particularly upland birds. Ten students from Elk, McKean, and Jefferson Counties attended the training sponsored by the local Allegheny Chapter of the RGS. Instructors were Rich Elliott of Brockport, Jonathan Wirth of Port Matilda, Holly Dzemyan of Smethport, and Christine Haibach of Wattsburg. Once the trainees became familiar with the classroom learning, the entire group headed out to the woods to visit an area currently being worked on by the RGS Allegheny Chapter to improve habitat for Young Forest wildlife on Collins Pine Company lands. Out there in the woods, the students could really see how sustainable forest management not only produces Young Forests for wildlife, but could also see how the mosaic of Young Forests interspersed with older forests, riparian areas, and forest openings serve as the cornerstone of wildlife habitats. It’s out there in the woods that the students got to identify trees and shrubs, and learn what birds will use the habitat those trees and shrubs provide. Jonathan gave all students a hands-on experience in how to navigate with a GPS, how to orient the GPS to the maps he had pulled off the internet the day before, and how to return to your vehicle after a day of hunting. JoAnne Schiafone, one of the trainees, said, “I had some of this figured out before I took this course, but I didn’t know “why” things worked the way they did. This course filled in some blanks for me.” Randy and Lucas Russell, grandfather and grandson, learned to identify Tartarian honeysuckle and got to see firsthand how the invasive honeysuckle was shading out the blackberry and raspberry brambles attempting to grow on the side of the roadway; habitat loss explained visually in real life. “I’ve always wondered what those red-berried plants were; now I know,” said Randy. The third, and last, session on Sep. 8 will concentrate on dogs and their use as hunting companions. New hunters of any age that complete all three sessions will be eligible to attend a mentored grouse and woodcock hunt in nearby forests in October.