The Pennsylvania Game Commission's Northeast Region office is offering deer hunters another tool as they prepare for the Nov. 26 opening day.
The agency has recently updated maps for all Game Lands in the region, updating roads, parking lots, access points and even habitat types, affording hunters a better opportunity to know the area they hunt.
The agency's GIS Specialist, Dan Jones, spent five months collecting data from foresters, land managers and food and cover employees to update the agency's maps, which are now available in two forms: topographical and aerial.
The map for each Game Lands is printed on a 24-by-36 sheet on waterproof stock. Because of the size of Game Lands, prior maps were pieced together in several sheets.
We have a single map for each of the 54 Game Lands in the region, Jones said. We started collecting data in February and our goal was to have them ready for hunting season.
Mapping the roads that traverse Game Lands was particularly time consuming Jones, as they are broken down by section – those open to the public, owned by a township or restricted to agency use only. Jones said he has mapped thousands of miles of roads and thousands of parking lots, all of which have been updated to reflect current conditions.
The aerial maps are photographs of the Game Lands taken in the wintertime. Hunters can use them to seek out specific habitat types that may be beneficial while afield.
The intent was to illustrate some of the management practices on Game Lands to give hunters a better idea of where to go, Jones said. You can see every detail, including specific stream drainages that carry a coniferous component which could be a good natural funnel for deer.
There are plans to expand the maps with more specific details, such as forest types by tree species, the particular crops planted in food plots and swamp types. Those maps will be primarily used by the agency's habitat managers, but Jones said he is working on maps for hunters that highlight areas that were clearcut or burned.
We'll map those areas with the date when the work was done and hunters will know in five years there's a place to look for grouse, Jones said. Some of the habitat work we do is miles from an access point, and we want hunters to know the opportunities that are out there.