Pennsylvania Game Commission officials are urging wildlife enthusiasts to join the tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the United States in the Audubon Society's 111th Annual Christmas Bird Count, which will take place, Tuesday, Dec. 14, through, Wednesday, Jan. 5.

Local counts will occur on one day between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5, and volunteers can pick the most convenient circle, or participate in more than one count. There is a specific methodology to the CBC, but everyone can participate in the count within "Count Circles," which focus on specific geographical areas.

Each circle is led by a "Count Compiler," who is an experienced birdwatcher, enabling beginning birders to learn while they assist. Those who live within the boundaries of a Count Circle can even stay at home and report the birds that visit their backyard feeders, or join a group of birdwatchers in a local field.

To view instructions on how to search for a circle and sign-up for an open count, visit the PGC website at www.pgc.state.pa.us [1], click on "Wildlife" in menu bar at the top of the homepage and then choose the "Christmas Bird Count" under the "Wild Birds and Birding" listing. Information also can be obtained from Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count website at www.audubon.org/Bird/cbc/ [2] or on the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology's website at www.pabirds.org [3].

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This fall, Pennsylvania Game Commission Southeast Region employees have released pheasants on three separate occasions in numerous areas in both Lehigh and Northampton counties to provide quality game bird hunting opportunities.

Now, birds are also scheduled to be released in Lehigh County in mid-December for the late season, but due to the trend of declining suitable pheasant habitat, particularly in the late season, as well as declines in hunt able areas and hunting pressure the mid-December, stocking of pheasants slated for Northampton County will not occur.

"In order to maximize the resource, we need to be conscientious about where we release the limited number of birds that we have," Southeast Region director Doug Killough said. "We want to release those birds in areas that provide both suitable habitat and maximum hunting opportunities.

"Conditions have changed over the last several years, particularly during the late season, in areas that we previously stocked in Northampton County. Because of this, it became necessary to re-access where birds are released."

To date, 1,280 cock birds and 820 hens have been released in Lehigh County and 410 cock birds and 440 hens have been released in Northampton County. There will be a late season release of 220 hens the week of December 13 in Lehigh County on State Game Lands 205, located along Route 100 in the New Tripoli area, and a portion of this stocking will include birds that were previously allocated for the late season stocking in Northampton County.

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Seminars focusing on predator hunting and outdoors winter activities will be held at Cabela's in Hamburg. "Predator Classic Weekend" will be held, today and Sunday; "Winter Weekend" will be held, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 18 and 19, and will have seminars on muzzleloader hunting, ice fishing, reloading and long-range shooting for predators.

For information and seminar schedules, visit on the Web at www.cabelas.com/Hamburg [4] or call the store at (610) 929-7000.

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First Frontier Militia, the muzzleloader arm of Bowmanstown Rod and Gun Club, will hold a muzzleloader shoot, Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Bowmanstown Rod and Gun Club is located on Gun Club Road, off Route 248, Bowmanstown. For information, call Roger Fisher at 610-377-2812.

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"Must Have Outdoors" host Andrew Howard is today's guest of Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association member Doyle Dietz on "Experience The Outdoors," from 7:30-8 a.m. on Oldies 1410-AM; Sunday, from 9:30-10 a.m., on WMGH, 105.5-FM; and on the Web at www.wmgh.com [5] by clicking the "Experience The Outdoors" link.

A new Youth Hunter Education Challenge chapter is forming at Friedensburg Fish and Pine Grove YHEC is reforming at Game and Roedersville Fish and Game for youth between the ages of 12-18 who have successfully completed the Pennsylvania Game Commission's hunter-trapper education course.

Registration for the newly formed "Coal Region YHEC" will be held Sunday and Sunday, Dec. 19, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., both days, at Friedensburg. For information, call Wayne Dinger at (570) 345-9299 or Bruce Umverdorven at (570) 527-0979.

Membership is open to all those meeting the requirements, regardless of county or town of residence. For more information on YHEC, access the Pennsylvania website at www.payhec.org [6].

A trap shoot will be held, Thursday, Dec. 16, beginning at 6 p.m., at Orwigsburg Gun Club, Gun Club Road, off Route 443 East, Orwigsburg. For information, e-mail jafone@comcast.net [7].