The Great Outdoors: Buzzard Swamp A Must-See Outdoors Destination

buzzard-swamp-2Allegheny National Forest’s Buzzard Swamp in Forest County is a must-see destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Last weekend I spent Sunday hiking and watching wildlife on a portion of it….What a place!

I’d heard about Buzzard Swamp years ago from acquaintances that fished for bass in the area and thought one day I’d head there myself. It took a much longer period of time to get there than anticipated, and all I can say is that I regret not heading there earlier.

Buzzard Swamp is not aptly named.

It’s a beautiful landscape of ponds, mature forests, food plots, and a cover for wild bird and game species of many varieties. It is all connected by a 9.6-mile system of trails that gives all of us a chance to hunt, watch wildlife, cross-country ski, mountain bike, or go fishing.

More than 50 years ago, the National Forest people got together with the PA Game Commission to build 15 ponds and develop several food plots that are a significant source of quality forage for many types of wildlife.

During my hike, I saw 30 white-tailed deer and at least seven bucks while making the nearly four-mile loop from the parking area at the end of Forest Road 157.

I got started a little after 7 am, and the sun was already brightening the landscape.

A deer was off the trail, but I didn’t see if it was a buck or doe. It snorted repeatedly as I passed by, but I couldn’t see it behind the cover of the pines. It was one of the few deer I didn’t get a good look at.

The trail is actually an old access road that is level and easy to negotiate for just about anyone. For about the first mile, the area to the right of the trail is closed to people because it’s a propagation area for wildlife, mainly to ensure waterfowl can nest and raise their young without human interference.

Once I got near the end of this no-entry zone, the landscape opened up into a series of fields planted with food for critters, and it was easy to see a considerable number of deer. Adult does with their fawns were numerous. I couldn’t get over how fat and healthy they all looked. There’s a tremendous acorn and apple crop this year. Of course, those food plots don’t hurt, either.

I also saw a lot of small birds and heard others, not all of which I could identify.

As I walked, the deer just kept popping up. I spied a small fork horn buck, then a few does. Finally, after I was nearly two miles from the parking area, a group of bucks came into view. What a sight! There weren’t any Boone & Crocket bucks in the bunch, but they all sported antlers that made them legal game during the hunting seasons. There were a pair of 6-point bucks that were practicing for the very real fights they will be having soon.

Now, bucks are in bachelor groups, but as the does go into heat in the coming weeks, the same bucks will fight to see which ones get to do the majority of the mating.

The two bucks clacked horns a few times as I watched, but then, the one on the right put some muscle into it and pushed the other buck back. It really doesn’t get much better than that when you are watching wildlife. Before long, one of the bucks spotted me, and it wasn’t a minute before they all high-tailed it out of sight.

As I walked, I saw numerous bear scat along the path, which was not surprising. Forest County has always been a black bear hotspot. Hunters do well there, and most of the time, what is harvested is a mere fraction of what lives there.

I saw some Canada geese and heard many more, but there weren’t many ducks around. Spring is the best time to see greater numbers as various species migrate north. Ducks will also make their way back through as they head south for the winter.

The one thing I didn’t do was take my fishing rod with me and next time, I may. The ponds have small and large-mouth bass, perch, catfish, crappie, and bluegill. Boating is permitted on the ponds, but no motors are allowed. The nearest pond is one-mile from the trailhead, and since no motorized vehicles are allowed within the swamp, boats must be carried or carted in. This remoteness can mean there are large fish in some of the ponds.

In August of 2000, an angler caught a large-mouth that weighed 9 pounds, 4 ounces. The current PA state record is 11 pounds, 3 ounces.

So, I highly recommend a trip to this area. The trails are easy to walk, the views are great, and the wildlife is abundant.

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“The Great Outdoors,” sponsored by the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors, is a weekly blog by exploreClarion.com’s Scott Shindledecker. Plan you next outdoor adventure at VisitPAGO.com or call (814) 849-5197 for more information.


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