Once again, the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is making easier for hunters who pursue deer on State Forest District Land to have easier access.
Beginning with today's opening of the three-day, statewide black bear season, which continues Monday and Tuesday, the DCNR will open additional roads in 18 of the 20 state forest districts it oversees. In all, more than 460 miles of state forest roads normally open only for administrative use will be available to hunters on state forest lands.
Additionally, these roads will remain open in the wildlife management units where fall turkey season reopens Thanksgiving Day for three days and during the statewide, two-week firearms deer season, which opens Monday, Nov. 29, and continues through Saturday, Dec. 11. Some of these newly opened roads are in Deer Management Assistance Program areas where properly licensed hunters may take additional deer in areas foresters want to see a reduction in the deer population.
DMAP permits still are available at Hickory Run State Park in Carbon County and Nescopeck and Ricketts Glen state parks in Luzerne County. Permits also are available for hunting in Bald Eagle State Forest, headquartered in Union County; Delaware State Forest, Monroe County; Forbes State Forest, Westmoreland County; and Lackawanna State Forest, Lackawanna County.
Hunters should check on availability by contacting the state parks or state forests where they wish to hunt. Details and open road listings, effective dates and district office telephone numbers can be found on the Web at www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry.
"Hunters are an invaluable tool in wildlife management and forest stewardship, and those hunting big game in our state forests will find more than 90 percent of all state forestland is now within one-half mile of an open road," DCNR Bureau of Forestry director Dan Devilin said. "Some hunters may encounter the effects of Marcellus Shale gas drilling, especially in north-central state forest districts, but our district foresters are working with companies to set restrictions and provide guidance.
"We are strongly encouraging the industry to abstain from any heavy hauling from bear season through the end of deer season. We are particularly concentrating on certain periods of the three-day bear season, Thanksgiving Day, the first three days of rifle deer season and the two Saturdays of rifle deer season."
Aside from these dates, heavy hauling during the three-week period will be permitted on a case-by-case basis. Hunters are strongly encouraged to inquire about possible restrictions or road closings in effect by contacting the appropriate district office, and drill-site safety zone and other regulation postings should be observed closely.
Although hunters will find 3,040 miles of roadway open in state forestlands, access to some state forest roads also will be determined by local weather and road conditions. Hunters should contact district offices in advance for up-to-date information.
Some roads only will be opened for the second week of the traditional rifle season because they cannot withstand the expected heavy traffic of the first week. Two- or three-month-long openings will be in effect only where the threat of damage or deterioration to road surfaces or forest surroundings is minimal.
Regionally, in addition to Hickory Run, hunters have the choice of prime state forest lands for hunting big game at Lehigh Gorge State Park in Carbon County and Locust Lake and Tuscarora state parks in Schuylkill County.
Most of Hickory Run and Lehigh Gorge state parks are open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs during established seasons. Hickory Run adjoins State Game Lands 40, 129 and 141, and Lehigh Gorge adjoins SGLs 40, 141 and 149.
Approximately 1,728 acres of Locust Lake are open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs during established seasons. There are also some special regulations areas allowing only archery hunting and hunting only during the post-Christmas flintlock muzzleloader season in the park.
Tuscarora State Park has approximately 1,100 acres open to hunting, trapping and the training of dogs during established seasons. It also has special regulations areas allowing only archery hunting and hunting only during the flintlock season.
For hunters looking to travel, many state parks, especially those in the 10-county Pennsylvania Wilds region, offer inexpensive camping and access to top-quality hunting in nearby state parks and forestland. For the adventurous, there are also wilderness camping opportunities.
For information about the 44 state parks offering lodging at campgrounds, rustic and modern cabins and yurts, or to make reservations through Saturday, Dec. 11, visit the on the Web at www.visitPAParks.com or call toll-free at 1-888-727-2757.
For information about all state forests and parks, visit on the web at www.dcnr.state.pa.us.