Here's a look at where to go for some of the best late-season muzzleloader deer hunting in Pennsylvania. (December 2005)
Photo by Billkenney.com
Harvest statistics indicate that good muzzleloader hunting is available across the state, but with a strong emphasis on the western side.
The best wildlife management unit for antlered deer was the Southeast Region's WMU 5-C, with 110 bucks harvested. Because all deer hunters scored well in Unit 5-C, that is certainly an area to consider this season. However, the second and third best antlered areas, as well as the top three antlerless zones, were in the western region, with WMU 1-A, 2-C and 2-D all taking honors.
Here is a look at some public hunting areas that typically attract their share of muzzleloader hunters each fall.
In the southeast corner of the state where other special firearm regulations apply, muzzleloading rifles are permitted for deer hunting. Blackpowder enthusiasts take advantage of this rule to hunt where modern rifles are not permitted. Some of the favorites in WMU 5-C are Nockamixon State Park and adjoining State Game Lands 157.
Some 3,000 acres of huntable land are available at the park. Most of the terrain is typically flat shoreline around the lake. However, a few parcels spreading toward SGL 157 are more wooded.
One area that doesn't get much attention is south of the dam off South Park Road. This region is bisected by Tohickon Creek and is even more heavily wooded compared with most areas of the park along Route 563.
SGL 157 contains over 2,000 acres of public land on the northeast border of the park. This game lands is thickly wooded and contains some modest hills. However, it also encompasses Haycock Mountain, the second highest point in Bucks County.
Access to SGL 157 is from Sawmill Road and Top Rock Terrace off Route 563.
Probably the most popular muzzleloader area in Unit 5-C is close to its Route 10 border at French Creek State Park and adjoining SGL 43.
The park offers over 6,000 acres of huntable land, much of it heavily wooded and quite hilly. A good area to get started is along Shed Road between Red Corner and the intersection of Route 345. There is steep, wooded ground along both sides of this road. Parking is available.
Muzzleloader hunters should also do well off Route 345 south of Kulptown.
SGL 43 is connected to parkland south of Harmonyville Road below Hopewell Road. SGL 43 contains an additional 2,300 acres of public land.
The second highest muzzleloader harvest for both antlered and antlerless deer occurred in WMU 1-A on the western side of the state. This area produced 100 antlered deer and another 1,860 antlerless deer for muzzleloader hunters.
One of the key hunting spots in WMU 1-A is Moraine State Park, which surrounds Lake Arthur. This Butler County territory offers muzzleloaders a substantial 13,600 acres of huntable land. The state park encompasses all types of terrain from open shorelines to moderately dense woods.
Many firearms hunters avoid hunting in state parks because of multiple-use policies. Moraine State Park is no different in that hunters must contend with hikers, snowmobilers and horseback riders. But this park has some areas that, while not entirely free of non-hunting intrusions, have some less-visited land where ill-timed interruptions are less likely.
One such area is in the northern zone of the state park west of Route 528 between Covert Road and West Liberty Road. There is a substantial parcel of land here with a good feeder stream and ground that rises to 1,300 feet. In addition, on the east side of Route 528, hunters will find the park's North Country Trail. The land farther east of the trail is substantially wooded and less visited.
An area that provides easy access for muzzleloaders is west of Route 8 along Swamp Run Road. The road leads to a parking area and a gate that borders a game propagation area where entry is not permitted. But a trail north of the gate leads to high wooded hunting grounds. Another way into this area is to take Route 8 to Muddy Creek Road and then south to North Country Club Road. There is a gate and parking area at the end of the road with a considerable amount of huntable land surrounding it.
If you'd enjoy some steeper terrain for your muzzleloader hunting, try the south shore of the park west of Route 528. The Wyggeston Trail leads off a trailhead on Christley Road and winds across a 1,400-foot elevation. If you get off the trail, you'll be heading straight down to the shoreline -- a fairly fast drop in some places.
Last year, the leader in muzzleloader antlerless hunting across the state was WMU 2-D. Encompassing Armstrong County and portions of Butler, Indiana, Jefferson, Clarion, Venango and Westmoreland counties, this region produced 2,350 antlerless deer and 90 antlered deer last season.
Undoubtedly, most of these deer were taken on private lands, but the region does have some public hunting, particularly in the northwest boundary between Armstrong and Butler counties.
The largest public hunting area in Armstrong County is SGL 105. Under a 2001 oil rights contract that increased SGL 105 to 2,673 acres, muzzleloader hunters now have more access to land along the Allegheny River in Brady's Bend Township.
State Route 4099 cuts through the heart of SGL 105, while Pine Run Road provides access on the western side. Both roads are reached from Route 68 west of East Brady. Another way into this wooded river land is from Frogtown and Route 268 from the south. Follow Route 268 north to state Route 4099. A number of rural roads to the east lead into SGL 105.
West of Route 268 at Foster Mill is a very small game lands. SGL 259 contains just 351 acres, but the terrain is rolling and lightly wooded and great for deer hunting.
In the southeast corner of the state where other special
firearm regulations apply, muzzleloading rifles are permitted for deer hunting.
SGL 259 is off state Route 4013 south of Browns Crossroad.
Not far over the Armstrong-Butler county line is SGL 304, another small public ground with
457 acres. This public land is east of Fenelton along Ibwin Road.
SGLs 259 and 304 are relatively close together and worth checking out, particularly because there is a dearth of public land in this part of WMU 2-D.
Ranking third in the state for muzzleloader antlerless deer harvests, WMU 2-C contains some of the most rugged land in the southwest corner of the state.
It also contains a substantial amount of public land. There are state forests and state park lands along Laurel Ridge, and WMU 2-C also encompasses Ohiopyle State Park and surrounding SGLs 111 and 51.
Ohiopyle State Park has over 18,000 acres of huntable land, much of it mountainous and heavily wooded. Muzzleloader hunters looking to work portions of the park that aren't as heavily visited as some of the areas near the famous waterfall should head west to the Greenbriar region west of Bruner Road and north of state Route 1055. The area may also be reached by taking state Route 2019 west from the popular falls area.
Another parcel that is less traveled lies on the northeast side of the Youghiogheny River. A designated trail above the river actually connects at least three township roads on this side of the river. The Laurel Highlands Trail crosses T-896 near the Somerset-Fayette counties border, then winds west to T-868, and continues on toward T-523.
Once clear of this latter area, the ground above the trail and the land below the trail heading down toward the river is huntable.
The Laurel Highland Trail also leads into a portion of SGL 111. To get to this section, use T-896. SGL 111 is a substantial holding with over 10,500 acres. The bulk of this land is along Laurel Hill and presents a rugged challenge for muzzleloader hunters.
SGL 111 is crisscrossed with trails, many of which may be accessed from the Drakestown area on the eastern side of the ridge and from roads north of Bidwell Station on the western side.
In addition to these game lands, there is also huntable ground in Laurel Ridge State Park west of Scullton.
Wildlife conservation officers working in the area say the only thing that stops the Laurel Highlands from producing more deer is a lack of hunters.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
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