Those looking to gain perspective into Pennsylvania’s wildlife, habitat and hunting heritage will have several opportunities in the coming weeks to take one or more tours being offered by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Sunday driving tours of several tracts of state game lands across the Commonwealth are planned for Oct. 5, Oct. 12 and Oct. 19. The tours of state game lands provide an opportunity to talk to the personnel directly responsible for managing and protecting game lands, and four-wheel-drive vehicles are recommended for those taking driving tours on some tracts.
Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said the tours provide an opportunity to show the public the many things being accomplished for wildlife and for Pennsylvania’s hunters. With autumn nearly here the tours should provide a splash of color and some of the best scenery the Commonwealth has to offer. The state game lands system has a long history in Pennsylvania. The Game Commission in 1919 was granted authority to purchase lands for the protection, propagation and management of wildlife, and provide areas for public hunting and trapping. With few exceptions, state game lands were purchased using revenues from hunting and furtaker license sales. Today, tracts of state game lands exist in all but Philadelphia and Delaware counties. Collectively, game lands make up a land base greater in size than the state of Delaware. Information on the tours is as follows:
GAME LANDS TOURS
- Bedford and Blair counties: Sunday, Oct. 12, from noon to 3 p.m., State Game Lands 26, which encompasses 12,062 acres in a four-county area. This popular tour highlights mountainous terrain and fall foliage. The 7-mile, self-guided auto tour begins at the parking area on the northeast side of Route 869, between Pavia and Beaverdale, and concludes near the village of Blue Knob. Tour participants can scan the scenery for mounted wildlife specimens strategically placed along the route, as well as identification tags placed on examples of tree and shrubs beneficial to wildlife. Game Commission personnel will be on hand to answer questions relating to Game Commission programs and activities.
- Berks and Schuykill counties: Sunday, Oct. 19, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. A vehicle tour of State Game Lands 110, which encompasses nearly 10,150 acres of historical, scenic and recreational property. The nine-mile trip will begin at the agency’s parking lot on Mountain Road, midway between the Shartlesville exit of Interstate 78 and Route 61. The tour will exit onto Route 183, north of Strausstown. Game Commission officers will be on hand to answer questions relating to Game Commission programs and activities. Also please note that due to the previously announced construction project on Ellendale Forge Road, the State Game Lands 211 tour will not be held this year. State Game Lands 211 is in Dauphin and Lebanon counties.
- Bradford County: Sunday, Oct. 5, State Game Lands 12, from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. (rain or shine). This is a 28-mile, self-guided, circular driving tour through State Game Lands 12, and will take about two hours to complete. State Game Lands 12 consists of nearly 24,480 acres in Bradford County. The route will start at the game lands parking lot on top of Wheelerville Mountain on state Route 154, just south of Canton, Bradford County. Roads are passable for most vehicles, four-wheel drive is not needed but a good ground clearance is advised. The route travels east to the Barclay Cemetery, then down the hill to Laquin before turning west onto the railroad grade to Wheelerville. The tour ends at the intersection with state Route 154 in Wheelerville. From there, those on the tour can travel north on state Route 154 to Canton, or south to Shunk in Sullivan County. The tour goes by Sunfish Pond County Park so a picnic lunch may be the order of the day! Those taking the tour are sure to find the local history of the mountain and the Game Commission’s refuge system is intriguing. A pocket guide full of historical information and photographs will be provided to each vehicle at the start of the tour.
- Cambria County: Sunday, Oct. 19, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., State Game Lands 108, consisting of 23,086 acres. This 7.5-mile, self-guided, one-way, driving tour will highlight mountainous terrain and fall foliage on the Allegheny front. Items of interest along the tour route include a rehabilitated strip-mined area, which has been converted to small-game habitat. The area also serves as a study area for grassland nesting birds, including the Henslow’s sparrow, a grassland species of special concern. Northern harriers and endangered short-eared owls also inhabit the study area. Also highlighted are tree and shrub identification, wildlife habitat food plots and a deer exclosure fence. Each tour participant will be provided a brochure with directions and information about features along the tour route. The tour begins at the game lands access road three-tenths of a mile north of Frugality, along state Route 53, in White Township. Watch for the sign. The tour will conclude on state Route 865, near Blandburg in Reade Township. Game Commission land management, forestry, wildlife management, and law enforcementpersonnel will be on hand to explain the various habitat improvement projects on this state game lands, and to answer questions.
- Carbon County: Sunday, Oct. 5, State Game Lands 141, which consists of nearly 17,048 acres. Registration will be held from 8 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the large parking lot along state Route 93 on State Game Lands 141, Nesquehoning Township. Game Commission personnel will be on hand to explain various points of interest, including wildlife habitat-improvement projects. Four-wheel-drive vehicles with high clearance are recommended for this 9-mile, self-guided driving tour. The tour will begin at the large parking area on the east side state Route 93 and travels east on a game lands road toward the Lehigh Gorge State Park, and back to state Route 93, exiting at the parking lot across from the game lands shooting range. The tour will pass habitat-improvement projects completed by the game lands Food and Cover Corps crew located in Carbon County, along with the National Wild Turkey Federation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Ruffed Grouse Society. Representatives from the Game Commission and conservation organizations will be on hand to explain the projects and answer questions. Directions: Take state Route 93 north from state Route 209 and proceed 3.5 miles and turn right into the parking lot. Proceed through the gate on a dirt road. Each vehicle will be provided a map and brief explanation of wildlife and habitat management programs being carried out on this magnificent tract of public hunting land.
- Elk County: Sunday, Oct. 12, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., State Game Lands 311. Start at the state game lands gate at the end of Dewey Road on Winslow Hill. For more information, contact the Game Commission Northcentral Region Office at 570-398-4744.
- Luzerne and Wyoming counties: Sunday, Oct. 5, State Game Lands 57, which consists of nearly 44,600 acres. Registration to be held from 7:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the headquarters building complex on State Game Lands 57, Ricketts Station, Forkston Township, Wyoming County. Game Commission personnel will be on hand to explain various points of interest, including wildlife habitat-improvement projects. Four-wheel-drive vehicles with high clearance are required for this 30-mile, self-guided driving tour. The tour will pass habitat-improvement projects completed by the State Game Lands 57 Food and Cover Corps crew, along with the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Quality Deer Management Association and Ducks Unlimited. Representatives from the Game Commission and conservation organizations will be on hand to explain the projects and answer questions. Directions: Take state Route 487 north from state Route 118 and proceed 7.5 miles. Turn right onto the dirt road near the game lands sign on the right. Travel 0.1 miles to “Y” intersection and proceed 0.3 miles to the headquarters complex. Each vehicle will be provided a map and brief explanation of wildlife and habitat-management programs being carried out on this magnificent tract of public hunting land.
In addition, on September 28, the Game Commission will host tours on each of its four game farms.