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October 24, 2007

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100 Best Public-Land Hunts: Pennsylvania

State Game Land 232
: southwest Pennsylvania
Size: 5,230 acres
ZIP: 15365

Since the mid-'90s, bowhunters in Pennsylvania's southwest corner have rewritten the state record books, posting five top-10 typicals and five top-10 nontypicals. Antler restrictions initiated four years ago (bucks need four points or better on one side in five western units) have further improved prospects for trophy deer, says Doug Dunkerley, land manager for the Pennsylvania Game Commission in Allegheny, Beaver, Greene and Washington counties. "Everyone I talk to mentions how many big deer they've seen," Dunkerley says. "A couple of pretty decent springs provided lush vegetation, and we seem to getting some pretty nice bucks." Game Land 232, in Washington County, plants more row crops (2,000-plus acres) than any public land in Dunkerley's region, and another 300 acres of reverting farm fields and 160 acres of forest clear-cuts produce abundant browse. Hunting pressure can be high during firearms season, though last year a pair of nine-pointers were taken on the final day. Archery pressure is much lighter-not bad for an area only 40 minutes from Pittsburgh on I-70.

State Game Land 223
: southwest Pennsylvania
Size: 7,200 acres
ZIP: 15370

Hardwood forest tangled with wild grapevines dominates this area on either side of I-79 in Greene County. "There are a lot of deer on the public area, and they don't seem to be hard to hold," Dunkerley says. Reverting farm fields and old apple orchards help keep bucks put, as do 200 acres of crop fields and numerous clear cuts that are the result of vigorous timber sales. Game Land 223 is about 70 minutes from Pittsburgh, and Dunkerley says the greater distance seems to lighten hunting pressure a bit. The area produced a 178 Boone and Crockett buck two years ago, and someone snapped a photograph of a 190-class bruiser in 2006. "As far as we know he wasn't killed last year," Dunkerley says. "He may still be out there."

Cooperative Farm-Game Program and Cooperative Safety Zone Program lands
: southwest Pennsylvania
Size: 5,000 acres
ZIP: 15122-15223

Lots of states say some of their biggest bucks are found near urban areas, but not many offer hunters a chance to harvest them. Pennsylvania does. The Farm-Game and Safety Zone programs lease private property for public access, and about 5,000 acres are in Allegheny County. Many of these plots are undeveloped urban lots within the Pittsburgh city limits or small farms just outside it, and they can be hunted with a bow, muzzleloader, or shotgun. "Most people wouldn't take a second look at some brushy area between a couple of industrial parks," Dunkerley says, "but there are a lot of 160-class bucks killed every year in the city of Pittsburgh." A road-kill buck Dunkerley picked up last year near the 1,000 acre Consol Energy Farm-Game site score 170, and bow hunters harvested three Boone and Crockett bucks in the last two years. It will take some Web browsing to map the spots, and some footwork to track down the landowners (some areas offer open access, but others require permission). The payoff is worth it: Pressure is very light.


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I used to go up to my Uncle's deer camp in North Central PA, and bring five or six non-resident hunters with me. Not anymore. These guys used to walk miles to get into remote spots, and now they won't even go to Pa because they don't see any deer. Thats about one grand per season in Non-Resident licenses that the Gameless Commission will never see again. We used to get 15 guys up for deer season, now we get four or five. Good news, in three days of hunting the five of us saw a deer!

russell Schuchman

Wow. It appears that there are a lot of unhappy hunters in Pa now.

I am coming up to hunt in a couple of weeks from Florida I used to live in Pa, and we would see a decent number of deer during the season.

Now it appears the deer herd is down to very low numbers, and most people are not seeing deer. However, the ones they are seeing are big deer.

It really appears to be the quantity vs quality debate. I myself was happy to shoot a spike or small 4 pt, but many other huntersseem to want to shoot big bucks. I guess it really depends on whether you are a meat hunter or a trophy hunter. Oh well....


wow is right all i have been hearing for several years now is there are no deer left in pa woods actually the days of seeing 80-100 deer a day are long gone but there are deer to be taken out there but you have to actually hunt them imagine that you have to work hard for your deer become a hunter and find your deer and stop crying i hunt public land in montgomery county 25 mins out of phila you see 10 hunters for every 1 deer you see but every year i take a buck and 1-2 does off this property hunt smart you will find them


I am looking for some advice, I own a vacation home in the Poconos that is only 100 yards from Brady State Game Lands, I recently started renting this home and would like to rent it to hunters. How and where is the best place to advertise. Already have a site on Homeaway.com Thank you


matt you should place your add in philly papers lots of hunters in the city looking for some place to go ihave hunted that same game land for a couple of years i believe it is gamelands 127 27000 plus acres over near tobyhanna state park are some excellent areas ihave taken 2 bucks with a bow off this ground and never see to many hunters here even during gun season


Matthew, why don't you post an email address here so interested hunters like myself can contact you about renting your property



accountable for my own actions

Man, reading through this makes me want to go buy a bunch of crying towels. What a bunch of whiners. If you spent half as much time scouting as you do crying, you would be on the other side of the argument. I hunt in south central pa, as well (part of the michaux actually), arguably one of the most pressured parts of the state. I see deer every day. The trick is, don’t hunt like you have be taught (by your father or grandfather). The woods are not the same, as they were even 20 years ago. There are now clear cuts everywhere, all in a different stage of re-growth. Get off of the couch and get out there, most people don’t hunt where they can’t see 300 yards in every direction around them. Deer are smart; when they get scared they retreat to these areas. If you really have to see that far, go up in the air, but please be ready to take that long shot, I am tired of finding gut shot deer at the end of the first week, either because some jack ass took a shot he shouldn’t have or because he has no idea how to track an injured animal. If you’re scared to examine other options to your wide open hunting style or won’t go up in a tree, stay home I’ll send you a picture Monday afternoon. Oh yeah by the way, the first day, I’ll bet you there will be 20+ (no lie) cars where I will be parked. I have not seen a single one of these “sportsman” while scouting. They will be the ones walking under me at first light, now that is frustration.


Mr. Accountable,
I'm glad that you have deer in your neck of the woods, because here in Carbon, Monroe counties we don't. Correction, there are a lot of deer in the developements. There are a lot of deer on posted land. On public land they are EXTINCT!!! Please do not act like the PGC and think you know what goes on through out the state. One question "jack ass", are you on public or private land? Around here, if you can't get on posted land, you will not even see a deer. I don't care how much scouting you do, Daniel Boone!!!!!!!!!


You said,
"I guess it really depends on whether you are a meat hunter or a trophy hunter." Things are so bad here in Carbon-Monroe counties, we will shoot,skin,and eat your dog if you run him on our game lands.


What is the NRA doing for us hunters? During the presidential campaign, West claimed to be an NRA member and supported Obama. If you look up our great game commissioners, most of them claim to be life long NRA members. The NRA apparently has no standards for membership, other than paying the dues.

accountable for my own actions

I have never once, not in 22 years of hunting, ever hunted on private land. Again, public land is the only place I hunt. I honestly have no doubt that Daniel Boone could find deer. Extinct huh ?, you mean, not one person killed a deer on public land in Carbon or Monroe counties ? Don't exaggerate just be honest. If they are hard to find look harder, they are there.

accountable for my own actions

I just reviewed game lands 127, 129, 141, 186, 221, Also Delaware State Forest, Lackawanna Forest, and Promised Land, Beltzville, Big Pocono, Tobyanna, and Gouldsboro State Parks. All of these allow public hunting. I also reviewed the topo as well as goegraphical maps of all of these areas, and have found many accessible sights in which to hunt. I'm not sure how far of a drive these would be, but the maps alone make them worth checking out, especially the knobs that over look both swamps and "food plots". If you can find clear cuts near any of these you have a winner.


Mr. Accountable,

I do not believe you and I do not care if you believe me. If one hunter out of 500 shoots a deer in rifle season, that's close enough to extinct for me to know that I will not see a deer in rifle season. I know people with handicap access, shooting multiple deer from vehicles, on public and private land, in the early seasons. I'm bitter because I work, play by the rules, and get no special privileges. How can you tell when a game commissioner is lying? His lips are moving.


Anyone have information about NJ hunting, say Delaware Water Gap, Worthington State Forest area? I'm wondering if the added expense of an out of state hunting license is worth it. It sure can't be any worse than the audubon society inspired hunting in Pa. is. I wonder if there are any deer on the public land in New Jersey. Or is all private hunting like in Pa.

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