Fall Reminder: Game Lands – Hunting Grounds First

With the calendar now flipped to October, and the fall hunting seasons all to open soon, restrictions are back in place on all tracts comprising Pennsylvania’s 1.4 million-acre state game lands system.

Unlike state or county parks, or even state or national forests, the primary purpose of Pennsylvania’s state game lands is to provide habitat for wildlife, and hunting and trapping opportunities for Pennsylvanians.

While many secondary recreational uses of game lands unrelated to hunting or trapping traditionally have been permitted during summer months, such uses are tightly restricted beginning the last Saturday in September, which typically occurs just before the start of the statewide archery deer season.

The restrictions remain in place through the third Saturday in January, a date that ensures the game lands system adequately serves hunters through the close of the flintlock muzzleloader deer season.

During the restricted period, the recreational riding of horses and bicycles on game lands is permitted only on Sundays. On Mondays through Saturdays, only riding related to active hunting and trapping is permitted on game lands.

Recreational riding of horses and bicycles on game lands is permitted only on marked, designated trails. Designated trails that are approved for snowmobile use don’t open to snowmobiles until the third Sunday of January, and they close April 1.

Off-road vehicles including ATVs are not permitted anywhere or at anytime on game lands.

Hiking is permitted on game lands throughout the year, however, hikers are advised that game lands are hunting grounds where hunting activity is likely to be occurring. Additionally, during the month surrounding the deer and bear firearms seasons – a period from Nov. 15 to Dec. 15 each year – hikers, as well as all other secondary users of game lands, must wear a minimum of 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material on the head, chest and back combined, and the orange material must be visible from 360 degrees.

The requirement doesn’t apply on Sundays, when hunting for most game species isn’t permitted.

Totaling more than 1.4 million acres, Pennsylvania’s state game lands system wouldn’t exist without the state’s hunters and trappers. Tracts for game lands are purchased with hunters’ dollars, derived either from the purchase of hunting and furtaker licenses, from a federal excise tax on sporting arms and ammunition, from lands or funding donated to the agency by its many conservation partners, or from things like timber sales and energy leases on existing game lands.

With the exception of the orange requirement, restrictions on game lands use apply neither to those hiking the Appalachian Trail in areas where the trail crosses game lands, nor to users of some recreational trails, such as Rails to Trails, that are established by cooperative agreement.

Restrictions on the uses of game lands are intended to protect wildlife habitat, preserve the tracts as prime hunting and trapping locations and make game lands safer for all, said Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough.

“The beginning of October and the coming of autumn is always among the most-anticipated time of year for hundreds of thousands of hunters and trappers in Pennsylvania, many of whom use state game lands,” Hough said. “We wish them success in their ventures afield, and we wish all game lands visitors a safe and enjoyable season.”

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