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The Great Outdoors: Exploring State Game Lands in Elk County

Sunday, October 22, 2017 @ 01:10 AM

Posted by Scott Shindledecker

state game land 311Having space to roam and explore is critical to outdoors lovers and a large part of that in Pennsylvania is the State Game Lands system.

The Pa. Game Commission began buying land nearly a century ago in 1919 for the benefit of hunters and wildlife.

Today, those two groups still enjoy the most from Game Lands, as bird and wildlife watchers, hikers, mountain bikers, anglers, and others who enjoy the outdoors have 1.5 million acres to do their thing. Here in our Great Outdoors region, that includes Clarion, Jefferson, Forest, Elk, and Cameron counties, we have more than 163,000 acres.

I have spent many memorable days and evenings on state Game Lands throughout the region over the last four decades. How could I ever forget an evening more than 20 years ago on SGL 311 on Winslow Hill in Elk County?!

My dad and mom and our little beagle/dachshund mix, Ginger, were beyond the gates where the hill rose up from the valley. The elk were in the heat of the rut. Bulls were bugling everywhere as they challenged each other for dominance while guarding their harems of cows.

It was a crisp, clear evening and a little cool. We had walked to an area locals called the “Saddle” because of the contour of the land. Elk gathered there frequently and still do; however, on that evening, they were behind us, so we headed back in the direction we had come. To our right, a good-sized bull elk approached from a dip bugling at a larger bull with a group of about 20 cows. We soon realized that we were in a position that could cause problems. Being between two rut-crazed bull elk that each weight 700 or 800 pounds wasn’t necessarily part of the plan. Still, there we were, so we quickly hustled to a more advantageous and safe spot from which to view the show.

Those bulls carried on for a while as the sun began to set. They never did come to blows, but the anticipation of it was thrilling. As the sun dipped below the horizon, I excitedly snapped away with my camera, hoping to catch the moment forever. The photos turned out well, and while I haven’t looked at them in years, the images are crystal clear in my mind.

I could go on and on with memories.

The first coyote family I ever saw in the wild was on state Game Lands.

I have memories of being on the elk range, of great hunts for small game, deer, and wild turkeys with friends and family, and paddling down streams and rivers that coursed through the public lands.

It’s really quite remarkable that we have so much to enjoy. I can’t recommend enough taking a trip to an area Game Lands. Getting behind a gate is a great way to see an undisturbed critter, and even if you aren’t too mobile, many Game Lands have unlocked the gates to provide better access.

To see where to go, check out the Pa. Game Commission’s website at http://www.pgc.pa.gov/HUNTTRAP/STATEGAMELANDS/, There you will find PDF maps of the hundreds of Game Lands in the Great Outdoors Region, as well as the mapping center where you can make personalized maps.

Happy Exploring!

For trip planning, including places to stay, places to dine, and other things to do in the Great Outdoors Region, go to VisitPAGO.com

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“The Great Outdoors,” sponsored by the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors, is a weekly blog by exploreClarion.com’s Scott Shindledecker. Plan your next outdoor adventure at VisitPAGO.com or call (814) 849-5197 for more information.


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