The opening morning of pheasant season broke clear, cold and windy. It was predawn and I was a bit surprised when we pulled into the Meade Run (Shawmut) section of State Game Lands 44 (SGL) in Elk County to find the parking lots literally full of vehicles. It was an interesting mix of hunting dogs and sportsmen. There were pointers and retrievers of all breeds. The hunters consisted of men and women, young and old. The SUV’s and pick up trucks hailed from points a great distance from Elk County and even some from out-of-state. There was an excitement in the air that I had not felt prior to a hunt in a long, long time as the groups prepared to head out into the amply stocked grass lands and wood lots that made up that section of SGL 44.
In many states, sportsmen will look far and wide for good hunting ground. The fact that Pennsylvania has so many miles of public land available makes us the envy of the country. This section of SGL 44 was added to the Game Lands in August of 2008. It encompasses over 6,500 acres and added to the existing 17,000 acres of SGL 44. It also connected with SGL 54 in nearby Jefferson County. The purchase is a mix of reclaimed surface mining land and wood lots with the majority being old strip mine.
With a tremendous amount of effort from both the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) Food and Cover Division and various sportsmen and hunting organizations, this parcel has been turned into beautiful habitat for all types of game. Huge fields of lush grasses provide great cover for game from predators and ample room for the volume of hunters that headed afield. It was not long after daybreak that the cackling of cock birds and the report of shot guns could be heard with regularity.
Yes, sportsmen are very fortunate in the Keystone state. In total Pennsylvania has over 4 million acres of public land available to hunters. Pennsylvania’s public land consists of the State Forest System run by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) is in excess of 2.2 million acres, SGL equate to 1.4 million acres, and the Allegheny National Forest boasts 500,000 acres of public land respectfully.
In order for our hunting heritage to continue, it is critical that sportsmen have access to places to do what they love. Of equal importance is the investment made by hunter’s license dollars and the work and planning done by the PGC to maintain these lands so they are able to support wildlife in the quantities that lead to an enjoyable experience afield.
If my experience of opening day 2013 is any indication, our state agencies are doing quite well in that regard.
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