“To err is human.” That’s always true, with one obvious and redemptive exception. It’s equally true to say, “To complain is human,” and the evidence is everywhere. Dissatisfaction seems deeply connected to our humanity. Humans relentlessly complain, no matter how tiresome it gets or how unwarranted our complaints are.
One common complaint from hunters is about public land. Many hunters think public land is crowded, that it’s overhunted, and devoid of game. Many think private property offers far better opportunities. But if you live in one of the northern tier counties of Pennsylvania or one of the southern tier counties of New York, your complaints should fall on deaf ears. The truth is we have plenty of great public land hunting opportunities, and instead of complaining we should take advantage of them.
Public lands and the terms of hunting them vary from state to state. We tend to think of the wide open western states as having abundant public land with few hunters, and that’s true, but much of it is not the kind of land you can hike out on for an afternoon-to-evening hunt. Some of it involves advance planning and major effort to access, maybe a day in and a day out, so it’s not practical for many hunters — especially for aging hunters.
Some public land in more populous states isn’t freely accessible. You need the requisite parking permit. Before that, a lottery system might determine who gets to hunt there, plus when and where you can hunt on it. If you’re one of the eight, or 20, hunters (or whatever number is chosen depending on the size of the property), be there on your day or someone else can take your place. If a family emergency or a work-related situation comes up, or poor weather prevents you from hunting, tough luck.
Here in New York and Pennsylvania we have abundant free opportunities and you can hunt when and where you want. Do you want to hunt Pennsylvania’s State Forests, State Parks, State Game Lands, or the Allegheny National Forest? All of these properties are managed by different agencies, and all have abundant game. Maps are available online, and no permission is required. Little planning is necessary, and you can hunt any of it as quickly as you can get there. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a state resident or not.
Likewise, many state lands in New York’s southern tier are open to residents or non-residents for fee-free hunting, including Wildlife Management Areas, State Forests, Forest Preserves and State Parks. You can drag a nice buck out of the massive Allegany State Park, or one of the many smaller properties. Like the Park, some properties are mountainous including the South Valley State Forest and the Hill Higher State Forest. Others are smaller and easy to access. Some are swampy and difficult to get into, but that’s why bucks grow old and big in places like Watts Flat and Hartson Swamp.
And crossing the state border doesn’t mean hours of driving. For some properties it doesn’t mean any extra driving. For others, maybe you’ll need an extra 20 or 30 minutes. No big deal. Even an hour’s drive isn’t much of a sacrifice.
Whether you live in Pennsylvania or New York, double your hunting opportunities by crossing the line. Non-resident hunting license fees are reasonable in both states*, and although hunters complain about complicated regulations, New York and Pennsylvania actually have some of the simplest regulations in the entire nation.
Sometimes when we complain, we’re actually saying we don’t know how good we have it.
*Pennsylvania hunting licenses went on sale June 13, and the antlerless application process has begun. New York licenses go on sale the week of August 1.
When “The Everyday Hunter” isn’t hunting, he’s thinking about hunting, talking about hunting, dreaming about hunting, writing about hunting, or wishing he were hunting. If you want to tell Steve exactly where your favorite hunting spot is, contact him through his website, www.EverydayHunter.com. He is a field contributor to Deer and Deer Hunting magazine, and won the 2015 and 2018 national “Pinnacle Award” for outdoor writing.