Written by Danielle Taylor | Above trail cam photo by Bob Imhof, captured west of Ridgway

Hunters often harvest trophy bucks in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region.

If you haven’t grasped what a big deal the start of buck season is in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region, just look at the calendar for any of the local school districts. Because so many kids and teachers would take the day off to hunt, schools here are always closed the Monday after Thanksgiving. Many sportsmen and -women from outside the area also fill their tags here, taking advantage of the plentiful wildlife and striking natural scenery found across more than a million acres of woodland in the region.

In addition to white-tailed deer, the area is also home to a wide array of other wild game including black bear, elk, turkey, and a number of other furbearers and fowl, giving hunters a large range of opportunities for their harvest. Because of the region’s wild nature and its huge swaths of forests and fields, animals here have abundant habitat and plentiful food sources, which in turn leads to robust herds and healthy individuals. Hunters play a critical role in keeping these wildlife populations at sustainable levels, which helps reduce overgrazing, crop damage, spread of disease, vehicle-wildlife collisions, and other negative outcomes.

The region offers hunters and trappers another great advantage with its proliferation of public lands open to permitted hunters. More than 140,000 acres of state game lands can be found here, which the Pennsylvania Game Commission owns and manages specifically for the purposes of maintaining wildlife habitat and providing lawful hunting and trapping opportunities. Other public lands in the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors that allow hunting and trapping include the Allegheny National Forest, Clear Creek State Forest, Cornplanter State Forest, Elk State Forest, Moshannon State Forest, Sproul State Forest, Clear Creek State Park, Cook Forest State Park and the Clarion River Lands, Elk State Park, Sizerville State Park, and  Sinnemahoning State Park. Check with the appropriate game land, forest, or park manager for hunting information specific to your destination to ensure you comply with the law and enjoy a safe hunt.

Pennsylvania black bears can reach up to 900 pounds, although 200 pounds is closer to average. Photo: Timothy Rudisille.

The Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region spans across Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 2D, 2E, 2F, 2G, and 2H, and the regular firearms season for antlered deer in these areas spans from November 26 to December 8. The regular firearms season here for antlerless deer runs from December 1 through 8; however, if you’ve secured a DMAP (Deer Management Assistance Program) permit, you can also harvest an antlerless deer in your specified unit for the full length of the antlered-deer firearms season. The regular firearms season for bear is November 17 through 21, and turkey hunters who haven’t already filled their tags have one last chance November 22 through 24. Additional seasons are also available for archery, muzzleloader, and flintlock hunters, junior and senior license holders, members of the military, disabled people, and certain WMUs. For more information on seasons and bag limits, visit the Pennsylvania Game Commission website.

If you want to spend some time on the range to sharpen your skills or need to stock up before heading out for this year’s hunt, Long Shot Ammo & Arms near New Bethlehem features an indoor range along with a wide variety of firearms, ammunition, archery equipment, and accessories for sale.

Pennsylvania hunters can harvest wild turkeys in both the spring and fall.

Although hunting seasons are limited, wildlife watchers can enjoy seeing these animals in their natural habitat all year round. The Pennsylvania Great Outdoors region features a number of public lands for you to explore as well as several educational destinations where you can learn about the area’s wildlife and even interact with these beautiful creatures. Click here for more information. You can also find a wide range of lodging options here for hunting season or any time of year, and it’s not too late to take advantage of some great winter lodging specials.

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.

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