FOLLOW THE MAP TO WHITETAILS
Scouting for deer is all about looking for sign.
And this year, hunters also can look for signs – green-and-yellow paper placards reading “Deer Hunter Focus Area” – and follow them to some of the best whitetail habitat on state game lands.
Sections of game lands posted as Deer Hunter Focus Areas recently have undergone timber harvests or other habitat modifications that typically cause deer to concentrate because of an abundance of newly available food. Many of these areas are off the beaten path, and have been posted to alert hunters to their presence and the potential they hold.
“Some of the best places to hunt deer on state game lands are in remote, often mountainous, areas where forest-management practices have opened the canopy to promote increased plant growth,” said Dave Gustafson, chief forester for the Pennsylvania Game Commission. “However, these areas often are in remote destinations, some distance from roads open to public travel.
“That’s where this new program intends to help hunters. Our goal is to guide hunters within a half-mile – or less – of game lands locations where deer are taking advantage of these habitat improvements.”
In large tracts of forestlands, deer are drawn – almost immediately – to wherever any thinning of the forest canopy occurs. Such places quickly offer increased amounts of browse – forest plants and other succulent vegetation that are an important part of a deer’s diet. Thinned forest areas usually provide sufficient cover, too.
But drawing enough hunting pressure to these areas is key to maintaining that habitat. And as part of the program, more game lands roads will be opened to vehicles. That should help hunters cut the time it takes to travel and hike to their hunting spots, whether they’re hunting in a Deer Hunter Focus Area or somewhere else.
“By getting hunters into these areas, we can keep deer numbers in balance with available food, and the land can continue to provide for deer there, making these places ideal hunting spots for years to come,” Gustafson said.
Of course, as a result of this new program, there also will be hunters who end up with more company where they hunt currently in game lands interiors. But the program, in its first year, will occur on only 30 or so tracts of game lands. Hunters seeking to avoid the crowds still have plenty of room and places to hunt on most forested game lands.
Signs identifying Deer Hunter Focus Areas contain a yellow keystone, surrounded by a green background with images of deer silhouettes in all four corners.
Maps of state game lands with sections posted as Deer Hunter Focus Areas can be found on the Game Commission’s website, www.pgc.state.pa.us. Go to the homepage and select Deer Hunter Focus Area link.
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