Any Pennsylvanian who enjoys hunting, trapping, fishing, wildlife, or just being outdoors in general should be justifiably proud of our state game lands system. Since 1919, when the Game Commission was granted authority to buy land specifically for public hunting access, more than 1.4 million acres have been set aside in the public trust for the protection, propagation and management of wildlife.
All the sportsmen and women of our state can take an extra measure of pride in knowing all that land was purchased almost entirely with hunting license dollars rather than general tax money, yet hunters and non-hunters alike are free to use and enjoy these lands year-round.
Our state game lands offer vast areas for both hunters and non-hunters alike to enjoy the outdoors year-round here in Pennsylvania. Throughout the fall and early winter, about 400 miles of access roads that are normally closed to vehicle travel are opened to allow increased access to parts of certain state game lands. Some of these seasonal road openings will occur in in time for the start of archery season later this month, while others will open for the regular deer season and usually remain open through the end of the late flintlock season. Complete information on the "where" and "when" of all the game land road openings can be found on the Game Commission website, pgc.state.pa.us, by clicking the box marked "State Game Lands Mapping Center" in the center of the homepage, which will take you to links of the seasonal road openings grouped by region.
In recent years, the Game Commission has offered tours of selected state game lands around the state during September and October. The agency offers these tours each fall to showcase habitat improvement projects that are in place or under way on those game lands. State law mandates that the Game Commission use $4.25 from each resident and nonresident adult general hunting license and $2 from each antlerless deer license sold each year specifically for habitat improvement. That money helps to fund many worthwhile projects on state game lands throughout the Pennsylvania. So if you would like a firsthand look at where some of your hunting license dollars go, these tours are a great way to do just that.
This year, we have just one game lands tour in our area. That tour will be on Sunday, Oct. 6, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at State Game Lands 108 in Cambria County. I took this 7.5-mile tour myself last year, and it was a wonderful chance to see the interior of the 23,086-acre SGL 108, which includes reclaimed strip mines converted to small-game habitat, and to enjoy the fall foliage along the mountaintop. Participants in this self-guided tour will receive a brochure highlighting various points on the route, and Game Commission personnel will be posted at various points to provide additional information and answer questions. The tour begins at the access road three-tenths of a mile north of Frugality along State Route 53 and will conclude on Route 865 near Blandburg.
Information on other game lands tours scheduled for other regions of the state can be found on the Game Commission website. Three of the upcoming tours will be on the elk range as part of the 100th anniversary of elk restoration in Pennsylvania. Those will occur at State Game Lands 14 in Cameron County on Sept. 29; State Game Lands 321 in Clinton County on Oct. 6; and State Game Lands 311 in Elk County on Oct. 13. For more information on these tours, contact the Game Commission Northcentral Region Office at 570-398-4744.
On a more somber note, we learned last March that the first cases of chronic wasting disease infecting wild deer in Pennsylvania were confirmed here in our region. Three deer taken during the 2012 regular deer season tested positive for CWD during routine sampling of hunter-killed deer by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. One of those deer was killed in Bedford County, and two were taken in Blair County. In response to this outbreak the Game Commission defined a disease management area that comprises parts of WMU 2C, 4A and 4D in Blair, Bedford, Huntingdon and Cambria counties. This DMA covers about 900 square miles, and maps with information showing the exact boundaries of it can be found in the "Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping digest" that comes with your hunting license and on the Game Commission website.
Hunters who take deer within the DMA during the upcoming deer seasons will be subject to many special restrictions and regulations regarding the transportation and disposal of certain parts of deer carcasses. In addition, feeding any wild deer or the use of any urine-based deer attractants within the DMA is prohibited. I'll discuss all those restrictions in detail next week, and complete information about CWD and the DMA restrictions is available on the Game Commission website.
The Game Commission will also be holding two public meetings in our area to explain the DMA rules that apply to hunters and to answer general questions about CWD.
The first of those meetings will be this Wednesday, Sept. 25, at the Spring Cove Middle School in Roaring Spring. The second will be on Oct. 28 at the Northern Bedford High School in Loysburg. The meetings will begin at 6:15.