Here's where to find some great late-season bucks during the Keystone State's popular flintlock deer-hunting season. (December 2008)
Of all the members of Pennsylvania's deer-hunting fraternity, flintlock hunters are perhaps the least affected by any drop in deer density.
These hearty souls are accustomed to facing challenges merely by having chosen to hunt with flintlock rifles. And since the flintlock season opens after all the other deer-hunting seasons have closed, our few remaining whitetails are as skittish as they're going to get.
And then of course, there's the weather to contend with . . !
Not intimidated yet? Then grab your favorite flintlock and head for the following proven hotspots in the Keystone State for late-season deer:
KINZUA QUALITY DEER COOPERATIVE
Why not start with a hunt in western McKean County on the Kinzua Quality Deer Cooperative, totaling about 74,000 acres? This cooperative is a groundbreaking 10-year project between the Allegheny National Forest, a watershed authority, sportsmen and a few private timber-resource companies. Its goal has been to balance the habitat and the deer population for the benefit of all involved.
When the project began, deer densities on the KQDC area averaged about 28 animals per square mile. By 2007, that had been brought down to fewer than 12 deer per square mile.
As a result, forest managers were no longer erecting deer-exclosure fences around timber-harvest areas. Sportsmen were getting better access to the land because forest managers kept forest roads open throughout the hunting seasons.
This year, deer densities on certain parts of the KQDC have risen. These areas should provide fine hunting during this flintlock season.
"Most of the KQDC hasn't experienced that much pressure," said Ken Kane, a Pennsylvania state forester.
"Last year, I hunted on the Bradford Water Authority property. On the first day, most hunters stayed close to the road -- and that's on a 12,000-acre watershed! I was hunting on an 8,000-acre section of it. There just wasn't much pressure."
Kane assures hunters that there are always plenty of good bucks remaining for the flintlock season.
"The deer density has increased significantly on the KQDC between Route 346 and Route 59," he added. "That's where we're finding the heaviest concentrations of deer -- and where the population seems to be growing the fastest." (Continued)
Route 59 can be reached from the intersection of U.S. Route 6 at Warren or the intersection of U.S. Route 219 south from Bradford. Or to approach from the western side, take Route 346 south from Bradford.
In that area, the landowners are mostly Collins Pine and the Bradford Water Authority, along with some of the Allegheny National Forest. All of it is open to public hunting.
Deer populations on the national forest land aren't growing nearly as much as on the private lands because there's not as much timber harvesting going on.
"We've seen densities that are 100 percent higher -- actually double -- in cutover areas," Kane said.
Find specific areas to hunt by driving the back roads in this area. Turn off state Route 321 or Route 346 to look for timber-harvest areas. Obtain maps of the area at the Bradford Ranger Station at the intersection of state Route 59 and state Route 321.
Interested hunters can get information about local services from the Allegheny National Forest Vacation Bureau, Bradford Visitor Center, 80 East Corydon Street, Suite 114, P.O. Box 371, Bradford, PA 16701.
Or call 1-800-473-9370, or visit their Web site, www.visitanf.com.
STATE GAME LANDS NO. 159
On a state road map, State Game Lands No. 159 would appear to be anything but out-of-the-way.
As the crow flies, it's only about 10 miles northeast from the suburbs of Scranton. But there's no major highway running through it.
"Dyberry Creek runs right through the area," said Tim Conway, Information and Education supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Northeast Region. "Routes 6 and 191 out of Honesville provide access.
"Hunting pressure is light, but I know that over the last several years, there's been some extensive logging done up through there, and there are some thick areas."
This state game lands was recommended to Conway by a local wildlife conservation officer who agrees that the area is lightly hunted.
"Every year, he tells me it's a great place for deer," Conway said.
The terrain is rolling, and most of this 9,368-acre state game lands is forested. It's composed of two separate tracts. The Y-shaped southern tract is steeper. The northern tract has some wetlands and ponds.
For information about local services, contact the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, 1004 Main Street, Stroudsburg, PA 18360.
Or phone 1-800-762-6667, or log on to www.800poconos.com.
SGL NO. 24
For a flintlock hunter, could there be any place more fitting than Forest County? This is among our most unspoiled counties, and there probably are more deer than people in this small county. This is a very pleasant place to be for someone with a flintlock hunter's typical mindset.
State Game Lands No. 24 lies along the southern edge of Forest County and is bordered on the north by Allegheny National Forest. It lies west of state Route 66 south of Marienville and northeast of state Route 36 south of Tionesta.
The terrain on SGL No. 24 is generally hilly. The habitat is heavily forested in mostly hardwoods, but with some dense stands of hemlock.
Camping is not allowed on state game lands. But if you want the full backwoods experience, you can camp on Allegheny National Forest.
Get more information by writing the Allegheny National Forest office at 222 Liberty Street, P.O. Box 847, Warren, PA 16365.
Or phone (814) 723-5150, or visit www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/allegheny.
It's highly likely that there is no greater concentration of flintlock hunters than in the Pittsburgh area. This is appropriate because the
flintlock rifle played such a rich, integral part in Pittsburgh's history.
The most fitting hunt is along Laurel Ridge, where you can feel like a genuine Mountain Man while sitting on one of the fingers of the rugged ridge overlooking the most mountainous terrain in Pennsylvania.
Several public lands along Laurel Ridge include Ohiopyle State Park northward through State Game Lands No. 111, Laurel Ridge State Park, tracts of the Forbes State Forest and State Game Lands No. 42 west of Johnstown.
Kooser State Park and Linn Run State Park have cabin rentals that are available year 'round. For reservations, call 1-888-PA-PARKS from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. You can make reservations online at www.pa.reserveworld.com.
SOUTH CENTRAL REGION
In the Ridge and Valley Province of the South Central Region, state game lands lie mostly along the tops of rugged forested ridges and are bordered by agricultural valleys on either side. Serious flintlock hunters can expect to walk long distances from the access points where few other hunters go.
There is the problem of dragging a deer back, but where there are gated roads or trails along the ridgetops, a deer cart or other conveyance can be a great asset.
"Game Lands No. 121 is an example," said Don Garner, the PGC's South Central Region Information and Education supervisor. "Last year, the dispatcher had a guy in Lancaster call up to say he was just coming up in that country and asked where he could go, not to be overrun with people and have a good chance of seeing a deer. The dispatcher gave him directions to a parking area on SGL 121. The guy called up later and said, 'I shot the biggest buck I ever killed in my entire life down there,' and thanked him for the information."
SGL No. 121 lies in southern Huntingdon County. State Route 994 cuts through the northern section. There is access north of state Route 913 at New Grenada.
Get more information about deer hunting with a flintlock from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, 2001 Elmerton Avenue, Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797.
Or phone (717) 787-4250, or log on to www.pgc.state.pa.us, the agency's Web site. For more about lodging, contact the Pennsylvania Office of Tourism, Room 404, Forum Building, Harrisburg, PA 17120.
Or log on to www.visitPA.com, or call 1-800-VISIT-PA.