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Small-game hunting declines in Pa.

CALIFORNIA, Pa. — Small-game hunting can be a big challenge.  Some small-game species have become scarce in Pennsylvania -- and so have hunters who like chasing after them.

About 150 hunters used to take part in the California Hill Gun Club's 23 annual "Small Game Hunting Classic" in mid-January. This year's event drew only 73 hunters.

"It's been trickling down for the last few years," said J.R. Anderson, a club officer who runs the contest.

Reports from the Pennsylvania Game Commission and wildlife conservation officers confirm the trend. Game-take surveys show that the number of hunters who pursue rabbits fell from about 350,000 in the early 1990s to about 75,000 in 2014 and the number of grouse hunters has dwindled from about 240,000 to 50,925 in that time.

"Participation in small-game hunting has declined over the past couple decades," said wildlife conservation officer Shawn Barron, whose district includes southern Fayette County and part of Somerset County.

Most of the hunters who took part in this year's event have been doing for a long time and enjoy hunting with their dogs, Anderson said. Most are middle-aged and some hunted with kids, but no young adults participated.

"Same guys year after year," Anderson said. "No 20-year-olds like there used to be."