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State game lands tours to resume this fall

Commentary

The Pennsylvania Game Commission announced last week that they will be again offering self-guided driving tours of several state game lands around the state during early fall.

In 2016, the agency canceled its annual autumn game lands driving tours. The reason cited was “financial constraints.” The resumption of these tours provides a welcome opportunity for hunters and non-hunters alike to see the interior of some of the 1.5 million acres of state game lands that we hunters have purchased for all citizens of Pennsylvania to use and enjoy.

All tours are free, held rain or shine and open only to vehicles licensed for travel on public roads. Nine game lands tours are scheduled throughout the state during October, two of which are here in our region.

A tour of State Game Lands 26 in Bedford County is scheduled from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 10. The 7-mile tour of this 12,000-acre tract begins off Route 869 near the Bedford/Cambria County line. Featured on the tour will be various habitat improvement projects by the PGC in partnership with cooperating organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation.

A tour of State Game Lands 108 in Cambria County is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 17. This 7.5-mile tour is a wonderful chance to see the interior of the 23,000 acres SGL 108, which includes reclaimed strip mines converted to small-game habitat where the PGC now stocks pheasants each fall.

Also featured on the tour will be several forestry projects and herbaceous openings planted to provide food for wildlife. Participants in the tour will receive a brochure highlighting points of interest along the route.

Game Commission personnel will also be available at various points along the tour route to discuss some of the habitat improvement projects and answer questions. A sign will be posted at the tour starting point at the game lands access road three-tenths of a mile north of Frugality along Route 53 in White Township. The tour will conclude on Route 865 near Blandburg in Reade Township.

I have taken both these tours in past years and can recommend either of them as a great way to spend an autumn Sunday afternoon. Remember to bring a camera to capture some of the spectacular scenery and fall foliage you will be likely to see along the way.

Although the gravel and dirt roads on the routes are good for the most part, vehicles with four-wheel-drive or high ground clearance are recommended to avoid any problems.

Our 1.5 million acres of state game lands throughout Pennsylvania are a wonderful resource not only for hunters but also all those who enjoy wildlife and the natural world.

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. These special game lands tours offer all stake holders a chance to see how those hunting license dollars are spent.

The other state game lands tours scheduled for this October include: State Game Lands 290 on Haldeman Island on the Susquehanna River in Perry County and State Game Lands 57 in Luzerne and Wyoming counties on Sunday, Oct. 3; State Game Lands 12 in Bradford County on Sunday, Oct. 10; State Game Lands 252 in Lycoming and Union counties, State Game Lands 110 in Berks County and State Game Lands 211 in Dauphin County on Sunday, Oct. 17; and State Game Lands 169 in Cumberland County on Sunday, Oct. 24. More information regarding these game lands tours along with other state game lands can be found on the Game Commission website, pgc.pa.gov.

Digital time

For most of my life, we had to wear handwritten paper hunting licenses on our backs while hunting in Pennsylvania.

Now, we have taken a giant leap into the twenty-first century as the PGC has authorized hunters to carry digital licenses and permits on a smartphone or other electronic device. Hunters and trappers can download a PDF copy of their licenses and permits from the new online licensing system HuntFishPA (https://huntfish.pa.gov) by logging in to your profile and accessing your Purchase History.

Those who provide an email address in their profile will be emailed a PDF version of any license purchased from now on whether the license was purchased online or from an issuing agent.

An important point to remember, however, is there are no electronic harvest tags. Therefore, if you are hunting deer, bears, turkeys or bobcats or trapping bobcats, fishers or otters you must be in possession of and use the paper harvest tag supplied with the proper license or permit.

Harvest tags will be mailed for those licenses or permits purchased online, so allow time to receive the tags before hunting or trapping those species.

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