WELLSBORO – For those looking for a unique hunting experience during the first week of Pennsylvania's statewide firearms deer season, the week-long concurrent bear season in Wildlife Management Units 2G and 3A is a viable option.

While there are several potentially prime areas to target, one is truly "grand." That is the area of the 47-mile Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, which is certainly the most breath-taking attraction in the portion of the state that has become known as "God's County" because of its many natural wonders and beauty. Considering the state's number of resident hunters, relatively few, however, have actually taken the time to discover the rewards that can be had for those willing – and physically able – to challenge the Canyon and its surroundings.

Last year, members of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association attending the organization's spring conference had the opportunity to sample some of those rewards in the form of turkey hunting, fishing, hiking and even a photo safari for rattlesnakes. Adding to the enjoyment was learning about the history of the area and getting an understanding of how glaciers carved this natural wonder that has become a haven for wildlife and paradise for outdoors enthusiasts.

Serving as one of the hunting guides during the conference was retired Wellsboro High football coach Russ Manney. He said the area's combination of open farm land and the Tioga State Forest makes it productive for bear and deer hunting.

Last year, hunters took 184 black bears in Tioga County, which ranked No. 3 in the state. According to Pennsylvania Game Commission estimates, last year hunters took a combined total of 894 bears in Wildlife Management Unit 2G, which includes the area where the Canyon is located.

Of the 10,400 total deer taken, 6,800 were antlered and 3,600 were antlerless. A breakdown by seasons shows firearms hunters took 5,600 antlered deer and 2,500 antlerless for a total of 8,100; archery hunters took 1,140 antlered and 350 antlerless for a total of 1,490 and muzzleloader hunters to 60 antlered and 750 antlerless for a total of 810.

Even during the deer seasons, many take advantage of the fishing opportunities in Pine Creek, which winds its way through the Canyon, some 800 feet below the rim, and other nearby streams, such as Marsh Creek, Stoney Fork Creek, Asaph Run, Straight Run and Four-Mile Run, which is along the Turkey Path Trail. In addition, there are several small lakes in the area that allow electric motors and are stocked by the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

At its deepest point, Pine Creek Gorge is 1,450 feet, and on the west rim is the 368-acre Colton Point State Park, which has approximately 100 acres open for hunting and was established in the early 1900s. Colton Point was named in the late 1800s for lumberman Henry Colton, who supervised the timbering of trees in the area and the logs floated down Pine Creek to the sawmills in Williamsport.

Colton Point State Park was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps from 1933-36, when it was opened to the public. Among the CCC projects still visible are the five stone and timber pavilions in the park, three of which have fireplaces, and in 1988, the CCC-built facilities were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

On the east rim of the Canyon is the 585-acre Leonard Harrison State Park, which has 250 acres open for hunting, modern facilities, a visitor center and the famous lookout where most of the scenic photographic views of the Canyon are taken.

Harrison State Park is named in honor of Wellsboro businessman and banker Leonard Harrison, who developed the area as a 121-acre public picnic grounds known as The Lookout. In 1922, he donated the area to the state, which was further developed by the CCC in the mid-1930s and additional land added to the park in the late 1940s.

For those who enjoy the tradition of deer hunting and the history of Pennsylvania, traveling to the Grand Canyon is a trip worth making.

For information on Leonard Harrison State Park or Colton Point State Park, call toll free at 1-888-727-2757 or e-mail leonardharrisonsp@state.pa.us