Once again the Pennsylvania Game Commission will highlight its ongoing habitat improvement initiatives to the public through its annual upcoming tours of several state game lands. The tours are free and will be held between September 29 and October 20. Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe said the tours offer a glimpse of what state game lands have to offer. Regionally there are tours in Carbon County, Dauphin/Lebanon and Berks/Schuylkill counties.
The state game lands system has a long history in Pennsylvania. In 1919, the Game Commission was granted authority to purchase lands for the protection, propagation and management of game and wildlife, and to provide areas for public hunting and trapping. Since that time, the Game Commission has acquired more than 1.4 million acres in 65 of the state’s 67 counties (Philadelphia and Delaware counties being the exceptions).
With few exceptions, state game lands were purchased using revenues from hunting and furtaker license sales; state game lands timber, coal, oil, gas and mineral operation revenues; the state’s share of a federal excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition, known as the Pittman-Robertson Program; from Working Together for Wildlife artwork and patch sales; and from the Pennsylvania Waterfowl Management stamp and print sales.
Carbon County: Sunday, Oct. 6, on State Game Lands 141. Registration will be held from 8 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the large parking lot along state Route 93 in Nesquehoning Township. Four-wheel-drive vehicles with high clearance are required for this nine-mile, self-guided driving tour. The tour will begin at the large parking area on the east side of state Route 93 and will travel east on a game lands road toward the Lehigh Gorge State Park, and back to state Route 93, exiting at the parking lot across from the game lands shooting range. The tour will pass habitat improvement projects completed by the game lands Food and Cover Corps, the National Wild Turkey Federation, The Nature Conservancy, and the Ruffed Grouse Society. Representatives from the Game Commission and conservation organizations will be on hand to explain the projects and answer questions. Directions: Take state Route 93 north at the intersection with state Route 209 and proceed 3.5 miles and turn right into the parking lot. Proceed through the gate on a dirt road. Each vehicle will be provided a map and brief explanation of wildlife and habitat management programs being carried out on this tract of public hunting land consisting of about 17,050 acres.
Dauphin/Lebanon counties: Sunday, Oct. 20, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at State Game Land 211, which encompasses more than 44,400 acres in a three-county area. This popular tour starts at the Ellendale gate in Middle Paxton Township, Dauphin County, 7 miles east of the Borough of Dauphin. Follow the road along Stony Creek to the gated entrance to the interior of the game land, which will be manned by Game Commission personnel. The one-way (easterly), 17-mile trip will be made along the abandoned railroad bed known as the Stony Valley Railroad Grade, a popular bike path, and will exit onto Goldmine Road in Lebanon County. Game Commission personnel will be on hand at tour stops to answer questions. You’ll be able to visit remains of several ghost towns including Rattling Run, Yellow Springs Station, Cold Springs Station (an optional guided walking tour of the old Cold Springs Hotel site will be offered) and Rausch Gap Station. Get there early, because the crowds get quite large and driving on the one lane trail is extremely slow with all the traffic.
Berks/Schuylkill counties: Sunday, Oct. 20, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at State Game Land 110, which encompasses nearly 10,150 acres in the two-county area. The nine-mile trip will begin at the agency’s parking lot on Mountain Road, midway between the Shartlesville exit of Interstate 78 and Route 61. The tour will exit onto Route 183, north of Strausstown. Game Commission officers will be on hand to answer questions relating to Game Commission programs and activities. At the top of Blue Mountain you can take a short hike to the Auburn Lookout, a mountaintop outcropping which offers a panoramic view of Schuylkill County and access to the Appalachian Trail. “Food plots”, fields which were planted specifically for wildlife are visible for several miles along the tour. Also, look for stone structures (called rabbit hutches) which were built as cover for rabbits.