Our Hotspots For November Grouse

Our Hotspots For November Grouse

Try these well-managed public lands for hot upland gunning this month. Stick to the edges and be ready -- these areas contain some of the best grouse cover in the state! (November 2009)

There is good news for Pennsylvania grouse hunters and their bird dogs this fall.

"I am optimistic that grouse numbers are trending upward," said William Palmer, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's upland bird biologist.

According to last season's grouse-hunter surveys, the 2008 flushing rate increased from 1.25 birds per hour of hunting to 1.42, the best since 2001. The greatest success was enjoyed in the state's North-Central Region, but increases were also detected in the South-Central, Southwest and Northwest regions.

Palmer and other researchers also noted increased drumming and encountered more grouse this spring than last.

"Logging is a huge controlling factor for deer and grouse," according to Palmer, noting that both species thrive behind the chainsaw. Unfortunately, early successional habitat presently comprises only 10.5 percent of Pennsylvania's forests. But that factor can help grouse enthusiasts narrow their search and find good hunting action by locating recently timbered areas of the state's wealth of public lands.

Here are some hot prospects for locating the king of game birds in the Keystone State this fall:

SOUTH-CENTRAL REGION
SGL 104
State Game Lands 104 is in the southwestern corner of Bedford County, northwest of Hyndman and west of U.S. Route 96. Once busy farmland, these 9,000 acres of reverting fields and orchards offer good grouse gunning in a mix of cover strips and varied age clearcuts. Periodic forest fires have also contributed to conditions favoring grouse.

The game lands lies atop the Allegheny Plateau with rolling topography that is easy to hunt. The best access is off state Route 96 via Tiger Valley Road north of the town of Hyndman. Follow the paved roadway to a gravel game lands access road to the right that leads to a parking area (total distance about 1.5 miles).

A normally closed roadway leads out of the parking area and is open to public travel during the fall hunting season. Travel this road .5 miles into the heart of some superb grouse habitat. See DeLorme's Pennsylvania Atlas & Gazetteer, Map 88, A-2, for details.

Camping is available nearby at Shawnee State Park at (814) 733-4218 and at Friendship Village Campground at (814) 623-1677.

Motels, restaurants and sporting goods are available in Bedford. Contact the Bedford Visitors Bureau at www.visitbedfordcounty.net, or call (800) 765-3331.

Rothrock State Forest
Rothrock State Forest is vast and diverse with extensive timbered areas and a user-friendly network of forest roads to facilitate easy hunter access to its 35,000 acres. This vast forest stretches across much of northern Huntingdon County and into Center and Mifflin counties.

Grouse hunters will find large areas of grouse-friendly, varied-age timber cuts along Pine Swamp Road, Greenlee Road and Beidleheimer roads that are easily accessed out of Whipple Dam State Park. The park is south of State College and north of Huntingdon east of Route 26.

Pine Swamp Road is lined with extensive cutover areas with some woodcock habitat for some mixed-bag action.

Farther south, via Route 26 at the town of Jackson Corners, is the Martins Gap area, with many more acres of grouse-friendly forest. Access is by turning east on East Branch Road a short distance to Martin Road. Martin Road leads southwest into the forest and to Flat and Turkey Hill roads.

All three roads are edged with timber cuts and good grouse-hunting opportunities.

A separate and smaller tract of Rothrock State Forest, the Trough Creek section, surrounds Trough Creek State Park on the east shore of Raystown Lake, where grouse hunters will find extensive cutover areas edged with uncut buffers that shield the cuts from roadside view.

These borders serve an aesthetic purpose and offer more edge effect for grouse and grouse hunters. The cutover areas are easy to locate and access by using the numerous gated roads designated as snowmobile trails marked by wooden signs.

A real bonus of the Trough Creek section of forest is its gently rolling topography that makes it an easy hunt.

For details, see DeLorme's Map 75, B-7.

For more on Rothrock State Forest, call the forest office at (814) 643-2340.

Camping is available at Trough Creek State Park, including 29 full electric sites. Call (814) 658-3847 for more information.

Raystown Lake
Raystown Lake is surrounded by 2,100 acres of forest that, according to the U.S. Corps of Engineers, is subject to a fully sustainable forest management program designed to progressively improve forest habitat for wildlife. This translates into good grouse hunting on much of the land, with four areas of special interest to grouse hunters. Each is manicured, with the financial and scientific assistance of the Ruffed Grouse Society, to suit the needs of ruffed grouse.

The Jim Bashline Habitat Demonstration Area along the Seven Points road two miles east of Route 26 and six miles south of Huntingdon, consists of 50 acres containing 6- to 20-acre timber cut blocks.

Look for a large sign on the north side of Route 26. Also, check out DeLorme's Map 75, coordinates A-7.

The Jim Bashline Habitat Management Area near the Weaver Falls boat launch ramp at the lake's south end contains 140 acres with 3- to 5-acre clearcuts and some timber stand improvement cuts.

From the boat launch site north of Saxton, take state Route 3003 south along the river to Gate No. 35.

For more details, see DeLorme's Map 75, coordinates C-6.

The Susquehannock Campground access road intersects with T-430 north of the Seven Points Road and leads eastward to the lake. This road is bordered on both sides with superbly managed grouse cover that holds plenty of birds. Check out DeLorme's Map 75, coordinates: A-7.

The High Germany area along the service access roadway to Nancy's Boat to Shore Campground, north of Route 994 and east of Route 26, also provides some good gunning.

For details, see DeLorme's Map 75, coordinates: B-6.

Maps of these areas are available at www.raystown.org.

Camping is available within the Raystown complex. For information, contact the Raystown Lake office at (814) 658-3405.

For lodging and other travel information, contact the Huntingdon County Visitors Bureau at www.raystown.org, or call (888) 729-7869

SOUTHWEST REGION
Forbes State Forest
Forbes State Forest's 58,000 acres are in 14 separate tracts in Fayette, Somerset and Westmoreland counties. Forest personnel state that grouse hunting is "good overall" in the vast forest but "best" in the cutover forest cloaking the Mount Davis section. The topography surrounding the peak can be steep and physically challenging, but intrepid hunters are certain to be rewarded for their efforts.

The hunter-friendly Forbes State Forest staff has created what may be the first-of-its-kind hunting map showing not only the locations of forest clearcuts and shelter-wood cuts, but the dates of the timbering as well. This enables hunters to target prime areas for optimum grouse hunting, such as the Blue Hole area near the famous Seven Springs ski resort.

A downloadable PDF of this map will soon be available on the forest's Web site. It may be requested by e-mail at fd04@state.pa.us, or the staff will mail a copy in response to phone requests at (724) 238-1200.

Access to the Mount Davis section of Forbes State Forest is via Route 219 south from Somerset to Meyersdale and then west on Mount Davis Road to intersect with Wolf Rock Road within the forest.

See DeLorme's Map 87, coordinates: B-5.

The Blue Hole Road area is accessed via route 281 south from Somerset, through New Centerville and then north on Ream Road to Blue Hole Road. See PA Atlas & Gazetteer page 87, coordinates: A-4.

Camping is available at nearby Laurel Hill State Park. Call (814) 445-7725.

Contact the Laurel Highlands Visitor's Bureau at www.laurelhighlands. org, or call (800) 333-5661.

NORTHWEST REGION
State Game Lands 54
State Game Lands 54 west of Brockway in Jefferson County contains a special grouse management area based upon the Gordon Gullion timbering system for grouse habitat. It is also the former location of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Ross Leffler School of Conservation.

Both areas offer grouse hunters exceptional opportunities. The school site features food and cover strips containing a cornucopia of grouse foods, while the grouse management area contains blocks of uneven-aged timber cuts and grouse-friendly aspen stands.

The school site is easily accessed by traveling west from Brockway on state Route 28 to Game School Road. Turn right and continue about three miles to an obvious historical marker at the entrance to the former school's driveway. This drive ends at the former PGC academy.

The 640-acre grouse management area offers a checkerboard pattern of 10-acre timbered blocks, each containing four 2.5-acre varied-age blocks with the kind of "edge effect" that grouse love. The area has been thus managed for 35 years and as recently as two years ago.

The best access is via a game lands road eastward off state Route 949 east of Cooks Forest and just shy of the Jefferson-Elk county line. Travel this road one-fourth mile to a parking lot, and then continue on foot to another service road that leads right and toward Williams Run. Hunt the aspens and the edge cover for good grouse action.

For details, see DeLorme's Map 45, coordinates: B-7.

State Game Lands 24
This grouse-rich area is along the Forest-Clarion county line east of Newmansville and west of Marien­ville. It contains 8,390 acres of specially managed forest aimed at encouraging oak species regeneration and benefiting ruffed grouse. Numerous uneven-aged timber cuts blanket the game lands and are dissected by several roads and utility rights-of-way offering ample grouse-friendly edges and easy access to hunters.

The game lands also features a good number of apple trees that draw grouse like magnets in fall, and hemlock thickets to provide winter roosting cover.

Several streams cut through the area. Coon Creek is bordered by a wetland buffer that can offer some bonus woodcock action during the early November overlap of the seasons.

The best access is via state Route 3004 off the north side of state Route 66 west of Marienville. State Route 3004 west passes through the Allegheny National Forest and leads to a state game lands maintenance headquarters building on the left. Continuing west, there are three gated game lands access roads leading to the south and into the midst of some very grouse-friendly habitat.

A large tract of the Collins Pine Company property is directly adjacent to SGL 24 and is open to public hunting. Signs along Route 3004 identify the property and welcomes hunters to more grouse cover in reverting forest.

For details, see DeLorme's maps 45 and 46, coordinates: A-4

For more Jefferson County information, visit www.visitpago.com, or call (800) 348-9393.

NORTH-CENTRAL REGION
State Game Lands 62
State Game Lands 62 in central McKean County may be the best of the best for grouse hunting in the Keystone State. McKean County grouse hunters logged the highest flushing and hunter success rates in the state last fall, and thanks to continued logging activity, that happy mix should hold for years to come.

The game lands consists of two sections near Kinzua Bridge State Park east of Mt. Jewett.

Varied-age timber cuts on each tract, as well as numerous food plots, stream and roadway edges offer prime grouse habitat and some of the best upland hunting in the Keystone State.

Stream courses on the generally level northern section can offer bonus woodcock action in early November.

Access to the northern section of SGL No. 62 is via Route T573 east from U.S. Route 219, north of Lantz Corners and then south on state Route 3009 at Riterville to the game lands.

The southern section lies directly adjacent to Kinzua Bridge State Park and is 2.5 miles east of Mt. Jewett, via state Route 3011

For more details, see DeLorme's Map 32, coordinates: B-2.

State Game Lands 61
State Game Lands 61 west of Port Allegany in McKean County is another grouse hotspot that features numerous timber cuttings, food plots, stream drainages, gas well sites and a network of roads

that provide easy hunter access. The area is easily accessed off Route 6 along its northern side or via Route T488 along its southeast side.

For details, see DeLorme's Map 33, coordinates B-5.

For McKean County lodging and camping information, log on to www.vistanf.com, or call (800) 473-9370

Loyalsock State Forest
In Sullivan and Lycoming counties, and generally northeast of Williamsport, Loyalsock State Forest is a sprawling 114,494-acre expanse of wild mountainous land interspersed with numerous varied ages and sizes of timbered areas.

The best way to find the forest's optimum grouse-hunting opportunities is to interview the very helpful staff of the Hillsgrove Ranger Station that is two miles south of Hillsgrove and one-fourth mile east of state Route 87 on Dry Run Road.

Some good hunting may be found by continuing east on Dry Run Road from the ranger station to High Knob Road and turning left into an expanse of varied timber cuts that contain some of the state's very best grouse cover.

But that's not all, not by a long shot.

Mill Creek Road, west of Hills­grove, provides access to miles of grouse-hunting opportunities. Some of the best cover may be found within fenced cutover areas.

For details, see DeLorme's Map 50, coordinates A-4.

For more information, contact the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau at www.endlessmountains.org or call (800) 769-8999.

Moshannon State Forest
Moshannon State Forest's 109,000 acres is a very large haystack in which to find the elusive needle: ruffed grouse. For starters, try the area along Blackwell Road in the forest's northeast corner. The area's topography is generally flat to moderately sloped and is heavily cut over. Hunters will find ample grapevines, mixed oaks, mountain laurel and hemlock -- and plenty of grouse, too.

In recent years, the forest added 4,000 acres of heavily timbered land and reverting contour strip mine property bordering Blackwell Road. According to forest personnel, grouse abound on this former hunt club land. The strip-mined land has reverted into black locust thickets with densely tangled grapevines, cover that is a magnet for grouse.

Access to this grouse hotspot is via Route 255 north of DuBois. Go through the small town of Hollywood, and then turn south on Tyler Road to its intersection with Blackwell Road, which leads northward.

For details, see DeLorme's Map 46, coordinates C-4.

Camping and rental cabins are available at nearby Parker Dam State Park at (814) 765-0630.

For more information on the state forest, contact the Moshannon State Forest office at (814) 765-0821.

For other lodging information, visit the Clearfield County Recreation and Tourism Authority Web site at www.visitclearfieldcounty.org, or call (866) GO-WILDS.MAPS

Maps of Pennsylvania's 20 state forest districts may be obtained via e-mail requests to paforester@state. pa.us or by mail to the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, 6th Floor, Rachel Carson Building, P.O. Box 8767, Harrisburg, PA 17103-8767.

Requests are limited to six maps and mailing is free.

State game lands maps may be downloaded from the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Web site at www.pgc.state.pa.us. Game lands maps may also be ordered by mail from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17101-9797, or by calling (717) 787- 4250.

The fee per map is $1 and includes mailing costs.

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