By Danielle Taylor | Photos courtesy of the Double Diamond Deer Ranch
A few miles south of Cook Forest State Park on PA Route 36, the popular Double Diamond Deer Ranch has long served as a must-stop destination in the Cook Forest area, and thousands of ecstatic youngsters have made unforgettable memories feeding and petting the friendly deer at this one-of-a-kind attraction. For nearly three decades, owners Rusty and Shorty Snyder have invited “dear families” to get to know their “deer family,” and in raising three generations of whitetail deer and inviting the public to interact with these creatures, they’ve educated multitudes of fascinated visitors on Pennsylvania’s state animal.
The idea for the ranch stemmed from Rusty and Shorty’s interest in trying to learn how long a whitetail deer could live, as hunters cull many before they reach old age. The Snyders realized that others may also be interested in learning about deer up close, so they developed their ranch as a public attraction and have welcomed visitors from the start. Today, their herd numbers 13 bucks, seven doe, and one fawn, ranging in age from 19-year-old Pebbles, a beautiful piebald (three-color) doe, to seven-week-old Vixen, a white whitetail fawn born at the ranch. Visitors can also find blue-eyed deer among the tan, piebald, and white individuals in the ranch’s 16-acre enclosure.
“Lots of people become attached to one deer on their first visit, and they come back year after year to watch them grow up,” says Rusty, pictured at left and known as “The Deer Lady.” “We love hearing them share their memories.”
Guests particularly enjoy bottle-feeding new fawns during the summer and early fall, and Vixen is a voracious eater! Through Labor Day, visitors can help with his afternoon bottle and also hand-feed treats to the adult deer — always a hit with humans and deer alike. In fall, the deer are kept in individual pens, which offers easy viewing for guests and added safety for the deer. Covered walkways allow visitors to see the deer in any weather.
The ranch also features a wildlife-oriented gift shop with fine art and crafts made by local artists, an impressive wildlife museum with more than 100 taxidermy displays, and a kids’ play area with a real fire truck, tractor-trailer, limousine, and police car. Guests can explore everything for $8 per person, which provides all-day admission, and kids age 4 and under get in free. On Saturdays and Sundays through the summer, visitors can also enjoy the ranch’s indoor glow-in-the-dark mini golf course for an additional $5 per person. Kids age 4 and under get in free to this attraction as well.
When you visit Cook Forest, stop in at Double Diamond Deer Ranch, open seven days a week through October and on weekends in November. Learn more and find other interesting places to visit in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region by going to VisitPAGO.com or calling (814) 849-5197.