JERSEY SHORES, Pa. With leaf drop, it's a good time to go into Pennsylvania's denser forests for bucks. They'll feel suddenly exposed, but will also probably be in rut toward the end of this period, and thus on the move in the Tioga and Tiadaghton state forests.
Situated one above the other in the north-central portion of the Keystone State, they're also some of the commonwealth's largest forests.
Spread across two counties, Tioga contains 161,600 acres while Tiadaghton is the state's third largest forest. It covers 215,800 acres and it is mostly in Lycoming County.
Sprawling across Bradford and Tioga counties and wrapping around Pine Creek and the Pine Creek Gorge, this state forest represents a mountain experience, though some of its deer are of the farmland variety large bodied and broadly antlered. That's because some of the forest backs up on and/or is surrounded by high-country farms.
A major cash crop in the area west of Pine Creek and south of Route 6 is the potato. But grown along with it are the crops that whitetail love, particularly corn.
Take, for instance, an area south of Route 362 around the Grand Canyon State Airport.
In three directions are working farms either on the highest ground or slightly dipped into high valleys. But to the west of the airport, traveling along Darling Run and then up 362, there are sidepieces of the big state forest.
The deer in this area stand out in the open at sunset then go back into the forest, some around Mount Tom. There are trails circulating all through the mountain, which is just southeast of Ansonia. T
he parcel also backs up on Pine Creek, so expect to find tracks along the silty shores if you go down the steep slopes that are the hallmark of this terrain.
You'll need to take side roads up the hills to get deep into this portion of the Tioga State Forest but there are quite a few of them. Three roads that will do just that are Asaph, Strait Run and Canada Run, and higher to the north, Baldwin Run Road.
Asaph Road climbs again Asaph Creek but when the creek forks into the Left and Right Asaph, so does the road, also using the name Right and Left Asaph Road.
At the intersection of the two creeks is a very nice campground (no electric); call the Asaph Run Park at Jack Dams. They are heavy, steep, hemlock woods all around this area, surprisingly lacking in mountain laurel.
Following Right Asaph Road the creek takes on an even higher gradient for a time and it flows down a high-banked gully. Climb the banks above the road and you are into a whole 'nother world. White birch and many other hardwoods predominate in this area.
As you climb Right Asaph Run the land is really hardwoods and then there is a large swamp to the west of the road. Before the road leaves the state forest and into private hands, there are line cuts across which you can see for many rolling miles.
If you were to follow the pipeline cut southwest, it would take you into the Black Ash Swamp; follow it northeast however, and you stay on solid, rocky ground with plenty of rolling hills. At that is just Right Asaph Road.
Left Asaph Road is far from shabby as well. Follow it and the initial distance is along a similar steep gully as Right Asaph Creek, however continue along and it takes you to two trailheads. These sites are very advantageous.
Follow the trails south, particular the Old Supply Trail and it runs hard and heavy through dense forestland. However, don't expect it to take you back to Left Asaph Run as you might expect.
I'd say there's nothing else besides Tiadaghton State Forest in Lycoming County, but that would get the residents of Williamsport, Jersey Shore and Montoursville not to mention little Waterville understandably upset.
The county is so big it takes three wildlife management units to cover it, WMUs 2G, 3B, and 4D.
Of the three, WMU 3B, which encompasses Lycoming's eastern half, had the best deer harvest in 2005, a total of 16,900 whitetails.
WMU 2G, which covers the part of the county discussed below (as well as large chunks of eight other counties), saw 5,000 antlered and 6,200 antler-less deer taken last year.
The sprawling state forest is divided into three blocks: the east, west and south blocks.
The largest of the three is the west block, which owns Pine Creek as its major feature. There are two types of forest in this region: mixed oak and northern hardwood. The latter is found closer to the Clinton and Potter county lines.
The west side of the western block is accessible along Route 44, north of Jersey Shore.
For a time, Route 44 runs along the bottom eastern hunk of this chunk but Pine Creek stands between you and the secondary access roads.
Proceeding north from Woolrich, there is access by way of Old Coudersport Pike and Big Spring Road.
A little further north on the west side of Pine Creek, against Short Mountain, there's a trailhead for the Mid-State Trail. The trail hits high ground and heavy woods here.
Another trailhead for Mid-State can be found off Bull Run Road, past the second spur. This connection is a great place to park two or more vehicles one on Old Coudersport Road and the second on Bull Run Road.
Hunting this, you'll cross a substantial ridge then work down through a gap on the way to Bull Run Road.
Route 664 slides against the lower reaches of Tiadaghton State Forest between Springer Corners and Haneyville, where it meets Route 44, which has crossed Pine Creek and gone deep into the forest.
Unimproved roads such as Middle Hill Road and Ott Fork Road branch off Route 664 then climb high into the state forest. For one-way travel, they are quite good. Route 664 ends at Route 44.
After Routes 414 and 44 separate above Waterville, Route 44 connects with the state forest and also the Upper Pine Bottom State Park. There is no camping at this 6-acre park, but there is parking and it connects with a number of trails that work along Browns Run.
Continuing on the west side of the western block, follow Route 44 past Haneyville. Soon after there is a right turn from Browns Run Road, by way of the other side of this circuit. There are gated trails at the end of this road, and a right hand turn deep in the woods onto Sinking Springs Road is a major access road.
Sinking Springs Road leads across the ridges and connects with Route 414 on the west side of Pine Creek. The Sinking Springs Spur off the ³main road² leads to another important vista. The vista faces out to the Miller Run Natural Area and to the right more state forest.
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