Last week, I had to opportunity to tour much of the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area.
Located on the Lebanon/Lancaster county line, this 6,254-acre project was created in 1973 with one of its primary objectives being the establishment of special hunting opportunities for Canada geese. That objective might sound a little misguided to many folks today, given the fact that Canada geese are quite common almost everywhere in the state, and in some areas so numerous as to be considered a nuisance. But 40 years ago, Pennsylvania had few resident geese, and the big birds were typically only seen here during their spring and fall migrations.
The centerpiece of the Middle Creek project is a 756-acre propagation area that surrounds a 400-acre manmade lake. Unlike most Game Commission properties that provide nearly unlimited access for hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts, the propagation area is a sanctuary set aside for nesting waterfowl where neither hunting nor any other human is activity permitted. That small percentage of land set aside as a refuge, however, produces incredible benefits for all kinds of wildlife, both game and non-game species alike.
Because I was at Middle Creek as part of a special class on wildlife conservation, my fellow classmates and I were permitted inside the propagation area for a few hours to observe Game Commission biologists live-trapping and banding ducks. Each summer, these scientists capture and band about 400 ducks at Middle Creek, most of which are mallards and wood ducks. The information gained from the banded birds helps provide valuable data used to manage waterfowl populations in not only Pennsylvania but also the eastern U.S.
Middle Creek offers a large controlled hunting area in which special goose blinds are assigned to hunters via a drawing prior to the hunting season. Deadline to submit blind applications for this year is Sept. 14. Public hunting areas are mostly woodlands and are open for most small game and deer during those seasons, although there are locations that offer pass-shooting at waterfowl. Middle Creek is not open for the early goose season, however.
The annual migration of snow geese has become a signature event for Middle Creek in recent years. In a given year, as many as 100,000 to 200,000 of these birds use Middle Creek as a stopover during their spring migration to their breeding grounds in northern Canada. Viewing the waves of the large, white birds is a unique natural spectacle that every wildlife watcher should see. Mid-February through early March is the best time to view the invasion of snow geese at Middle Creek.
The visitor center is another "must see" during a visit to Middle Creek.
Not only will you find a wealth of maps, brochures and other information to help get the most from your time at the facility, but you'll also want to plan to spend some time touring the center itself. The spacious, modern building houses a museum of Pennsylvania wildlife. Mounted specimens of virtually every species of Pennsylvania birds and mammals are on display there - even the now-extinct passenger pigeon - along with many other interpretive and educational displays. For more information regarding all the hunting, recreation and educational activities available at Middle Creek, see the Game Commission website, www.pgc.state.pa.us.
If you are looking for something to do over the upcoming Labor Day weekend, I'll pass on a reminder that the folks at the Blair County Game, Fish and Forestry Association will host their 73rd annual ox roast on Sunday and Monday, Sept. 4-5. The club is located at Riggles Gap just outside of Altoona. I spent most of the day there last year and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Activities start each day at 10 a.m. and include something to interest every member of the family such as kid's games, bingo, arts and crafts vendors, a sportsmen's flea market and hayrides. Shooting events available will be trapshooting, 3D archery, running deer and a variety of novelty shoots.
And of course, there's always plenty of great food, including the traditional ox roast sandwiches.
For more information, call the lodge at 942-8522 or online at www.blaircountygame.com.