Last week, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl Roe put out good pre-season advice for hunters and trappers: "Take the time to scout for [game animal] food sources and trails before the seasons open. It'll greatly increase your chance of harvesting game.
In the Marcellus shale regions, drilling sites have dramatically changed food sources availability as well as wildlife behavior and movement patterns. In eastern Pennsylvania, flooding due to Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee have also altered the natural landscape and many back roads.
"The 'Big Woods' area of north central Pennsylvania, home to many of the traditional hunting camps, lies within the area being explored for Marcellus Shale natural gas. It has seen a dramatic increase in drilling," says Roe.
"Northeastern Pennsylvania also has seen a large volume of Marcellus Shale activity. Both of these regions experienced more disruption in traditional hunting and trapping areas from drilling activity."
Decisions about when drilling activities on State Game Lands occurs are largely dictated by who owns the oil and gas rights. In many instances, the Game Commission owns only the surface rights. A separate party owns the oil and gas rights under State Game Lands, he points out.
"When the Game Commission owns the oil and gas rights, the agency exercises much greater control and oversight of drilling operations. Then we have the ability to stipulate that no drilling-related activities occur during peak hunting seasons."
Where the Game Commission owns those state game land mineral rights, drilling-related activities aren't permitted for the following: opening day of archery deer season; opening day of any youth or special-use hunting season; opening day of early fall muzzleloader deer season; opening day of early small game season; opening day of general small game season; the first three days of the antlered and antlerless or concurrent antler/antlerless firearms deer season; opening day of fall turkey season; all Saturdays of firearms deer season; opening day of spring turkey season; and opening day of bear season.
Significant flooding impact
Roe also noted that there have been significant impacts on wildlife and the environment from weather beyond gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale layer. Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee wrecked havoc on thousands of Pennsylvanians.
At the same time, access to certain areas of State Game Lands and other hunting and trapping locations may require hunters and trappers to use alternative plans or routes to reach their intended destinations. Roadways and bridges in many areas are impassable.
So check access to your favorite spots as soon as possible. Avoid any last-minute surprises that could keep you away from areas you plan to be in this fall and winter."