My first hunting excursion over 58 years ago was on some Clinton County State Game Lands. Over the years, I've hunted 95 percent of the time on public lands and have been profoundly grateful for those who had the foresight to buy up land for public hunting.
In 1919, the Game Commission was granted authority to purchase lands for the protection, propagation and management of game and wildlife, and to provide areas for public hunting and trapping. Since that time, the Game Commission has acquired more than 1.4 million acres in 65 of the state's 67 counties (Philadelphia and Delaware counties being the exceptions). Almost all State Game Lands were purchased using revenues from hunting and furtaker license sales.
So beginning early next month, many tours of State Game Lands will be offered to the public and I strongly urge you to take advantage of them.
In Cambria County the tour will be held Oct. 2, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., State Game Land 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 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.
Kids will enjoy a stop along the tour where they can see and touch some of the furs, skulls and mounts of local wildlife that can be found in the area. Each tour participant will be provided a brochure with directions and information about various features along the tour route. The tour begins at the State Game Land access road three-tenths of a mile north of Frugality, along State Route 53, in White Township. Watch for the sign. The starting point is just minutes away from the main beach at Prince Gallitzin State Park, where the annual Apple Cider Festival will be taking place on the same weekend. The tour will conclude on State Route 865 near Blandburg, in Reade Township. Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officers, Land Management personnel and foresters will be on hand to explain the various habitat improvement projects on this SGL and to answer questions. A high ground clearance vehicle is highly-recommended to participate in this tour. And don't forget the binoculars and camera. You'll need these items.
Bedford/Blair counties: Sunday, Oct. 9, from noon to 3 p.m., State Game Land No. 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. Youngsters will enjoy the opportunity to locate and identify mounted wildlife specimens placed in their natural habitat along the drive. Game Commission personnel will be on hand to answer questions.
One of the highlights of these tours will be the habitat improvement projects that the Game Commission and special interest groups such as the Wild Turkey Federation, Ruffed Grouse Society and others have cooperated to do. Many tree plantings provide winter food for many species of wildlife, clearings for turkey and grouse and other bird species to find insects and grass, plus bluebird boxes and much more are done with the funding raised by and volunteer manpower provided by these groups.
These are vehicle tours, usually over lands that are gated off to motorized travel most other times of the year so you don't have to fret about doing any hiking. It's a great opportunity to see just what lies back of the places you usually park. It's a time that can be used for scouting as well as sight-seeing.
No, you won't be able to take off into the woods to scout but along the side of the roads, look around for tracks and droppings and early buck rubs and/or turkey scratchings. Of course all the traffic will obliterate any tracks on the dirt roads themselves but looking just to the side, in muddy spots will reveal a lot. Those who know what they are looking for will notice prominent deer trails. You'll spot promising wooded hollows and small clearings; not them in your mind or a notebook for further investigation.
While Tropical Storm Lee did raise streams to good water levels for fall fishing, flooding forced the closure of state offices in the Harrisburg area last week, so the 56 lucky recipients for an elk license were drawn over a week later than usual.
The event was webcast and drew 599 viewers, and served as a means to enable more people to view the public drawing. All 56 hunters selected to receive a license will be mailed a confirmation letter within about a week. No news will not be good news in this instance.