IntroAccording to a pretty recent Quality Deer Management Association survey, Pennsylvania tops the list of US states for hunter density, with 20.5 hunters per square mile. With so many hunters it can only mean two things: terrific game and awesome hunting lands, which is why we’re devoting the latest article in this series to the ‘Keystone State’.
To be more specific, there are 4.5 million acres of public hunting land, much of which we’ll look at in detail in our countdown of the top 5 public hunting spots in the state in the second half of this article.
And when it comes to game, be aware that each year hunters in Pennsylvania bag more than 300,000 animals. These include some of the world’s largest black bears, great whitetails and world-class elk, not to mention wild turkeys, grouse, pheasant and squirrels aplenty.
And to make life easier, don’t forget to pack a trail camera with you on your next hunt in Pennsylvania. For a solid, reliable option, take a look here at our 22MP, 0.3-sec trigger speed WingHome 350C trail cam. You can contact us by email or chat with us directly on Facebook or Twitter any time to learn more about our trail cameras.
So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at some of the huntable species Pennsylvania is most famous for…
Elk hunting in Pennsylvania
Native to Pennsylvania, elk numbers were drastically reduced in the 19th century, only to come back slowly in the 20th, to the point of an elk hunt being re-introduced in 2000. Last year, 125 elk licenses were allocated, with a new elk hunt zone (14) added to the elk range.
Therefore, as with most states, you’ll have to apply for a draw, which costs just $12. If you’re a winner you’ll then have to buy the actual hunting license, which is $25 for residents and $250 for non-residents.
For those thinking about applying, it’s worth noting that even though quantity is low, around 1,100, the quality is hard to beat, with branched bulls making up about a third of the population.
Pheasant hunting in Pennsylvania
Pheasant hunting in Pennsylvania was, at one point, part and parcel of life. Due to urban sprawl, however, and the loss of habitat, numbers of naturally occurring pheasants are unfortunately not what they once were.
Don’t worry though, pheasant hunting is still alive and well in the state, with around 50,000 pheasant hunters taking to the field last year during the season. This is down to the Pennsylvania Game Commission releasing pheasants in the Wild Pheasant Recovery Areas (WPRAs), of which there are three, located in Franklin, Northumberland and Schuylkill counties.
Turkey hunting in Pennsylvania
While the majority of Pennsylvanian hunting takes place in the northern part of the state, if it’s turkeys you’re after, head for the south-eastern region.
And it’s well worth it. Owing to excellent habitat, conservative fall turkey hunting seasons and a strong turkey hunting tradition, turkey harvests are higher than most other states in the US.
To increase your chances of success, always remember to scout whichever land you’ve chosen prior to the start of the season, keeping an eye out for potential food and water sources and roosting areas. State Game Lands 145 and 156 are particularly well-known for their gobblers, so you might want to target them first.
Whether it’s elk, deer, bear, pheasant, turkey or any other kind of animal you’re after, you’re going to want to know when you’ll be able to hunt them, which brings us to…
So, here is the countdown of the top hunting lands in Pennsylvania by size…
5. Bald Eagle State Forest
Size: 193,424 acres
Bordering Rothrock State Forest to the west and Tiadaghton State Forest to the north, Bald Eagle State Forest is located in Laurelton, Union County. There are five State Parks contained within the forest: Poe Valley, Poe Paddy, R. B. Winter, Reeds Gap, and Sand Bridge. Note though, that despite its large area, only 4,910 acres are open to hunting.
Hunting: white-tailed deer, turkey, rabbit
Address: 149 Main Park Road, Howard, PA 16841-3508
Phone: (814) 625-2775
4. Elk State Forest
Size: 200,000 acres
Named after the great elk, once so numerous in the state, that especially thrived here. Elk can still be found and hunted in the forest to this day, as you stalk through its hardwood and oak trees.
Elk from the Rocky Mountains were reintroduced to the forest between 1913 and 1926 and the herd today has over 600 animals, up from a low of just 35 elk counted in the 1970s.
Hunting: elk, deer, bear, turkey. grouse, squirrels and rabbits.
Address: 258 Sizerville Rd Emporium, PA 15834-3944
Phone: (814) 486-3353
3. Rothrock State Forest
Size: 215,500 acres
If you choose to visit this astoundingly beautiful State Forest, don’t be surprised to see college students lounging around, since the main Penn State campus is only a few miles away.
With Bald Eagle State Forest to the east and Tuscarora State Forest to the south, hunting is permitted throughout the forest, excepting a few safety zones around buildings and picnic areas.
Hunting: deer, turkey, grouse, squirrels, rabbits, and black bear
Address: 181 Rothrock Lane, Huntingdon, PA
Phone: (814) 643-2340
2. Susquehannock State Forest
Size: 265,000 acres
The spectacular mountainous terrain of this state forest allows for some of the best outdoor recreational activities in the state. Including, of course, hunting, with a special emphasis on grouse.
Opportunities for hunters is facilitated by over 60 miles of gated roads, open for vehicle traffic, plus over 120 acres of wildlife food plots. Of special note is the over-4,000 acres open for use by disabled hunters.
Hunting: deer, turkey, bear, and grouse.
Address: 3150 E. 2nd Street, Coudersport, PA 16915
Phone: (814) 274-3600
1. Sproul State Forest
Size: 280,000 acres
Part of the Allegheny Highlands forests ecoregion, this massive State Forest is named after the former Pennsylvania governor, William C. Sproul. It should be top of the list of any hunter, with huntable species found in good numbers throughout.
Hunting: Black bear, whitetail deer, and wild turkey.
Address: 15187 Renovo Rd, Renovo, PA 17764
Phone: (570) 923-6011
It’s easy to see that Pennsylvania, as one of the original US states, is keeping that most traditional American past-time of hunting alive and well. Let us know your experiences hunting in Pennsylvania.
Send to us, together with any trail camera or hunting related questions, on Facebook or Twitter, where we’ll be happy to respond.
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