After writing the first part of The United States of the Great Outdoors: Pennsylvania, I was approached on social media by a PA local. Basically, the conversation revealed that I could write a great tourism pamphlet for outdoor lovers. It also revealed that I overlooked some unknown (at least to me) gems of outdoor activity in the Keystone State. So I talked with Bob Chase, Vice President of Pennsylvania Hunting and Fishing Addicts (PAHAFA). He is also the guy who contacted me on Facebook. We talked hunting, fishing, and all the other things outdoors in Pennsylvania.
Hunting Runs Deep
Hunting runs extremely deep in Pennsylvania. A lot of the hunting, and styles of hunting, have been passed down generationally and is a family affair statewide. “The first day of deer season is considered a holiday”, Bob told me; “and most schools are closed that day.” The traditions of deer season run just as deep as the activity. “Many hunters follow strict traditions of things like ‘deer camp’, their ‘spot’ that they hunt and even what to do with the deer meat.”
The Keystone State also harvests some serious sized bears. Bob told me about a member of his bear hunting gang who took an 800-pound black bear. Bob himself has been hunting since he was a kid and took his first bear after tracking a different bear through 3 counties in a snowstorm. “The things I learned that year…” says Bob, “…have seriously increased our odds on bagging bear”. Since then, Bob and his hunting group have taken about 20 black bears.
The most unique part about hunting in PA? To Bob, it’s not any certain type of hunting. “Just how we hunt. We mostly drive bear and it is more of a team effort”. He also gave a piece of advice to out-of-state hunters; “As far as the actual hunting, I would have to say it would be better to hunt with a local friend rather than just pick a spot out on a map and hunt it”. Even Bob has hunted in parts of PA that look good to hunt just be let down because of hunting pressure, logging, or poachers.
More to PA Than Bass
In a state known for Smallmouth fisheries, Pennsylvania adds its own hidden style to that reputation. “Just like New York, Pennsylvania has a smaller salmon run in the Erie tributaries”, Bob informed me, but thinks the steelhead fishing is bigger around Erie, “its not like any kind of fishing”, Bob says. “You use extremely light gear, like 2-lb test line for those big fish.” In addition to the salmon run, the sucker and lamprey eel run happens in the spring, which Bob recommends for bow fishing.
There is also a shad run in the Delaware. “They are mean fighting fish and, pound-for-pound, one of the strongest fighters”, Bob says. Ice fishing is also big but don’t expect hints on good spots, its every angler for themselves. Bob tells me “guys will fight for a good place to catch panfish and wont tell you where they get them”.
The Full Outdoor Experience
Along with the Appalachian Trail and the Poconos, where Bob grew up, he said PA has a bunch of small hidden treasures. “We have a lot of small parks with natural waterfalls, caves, boulder fields, lakes, nature preserves and hiking trails.” He adds that “there are many that are out of the way and hidden.”
So what is Bob Chase’s biggest piece of advice for the weekend warrior? “Overall, I would say PA is a place to explore and find your own adventures.” The list Bob gave for other outdoor activities is extensive. From hunting shed antlers and making maple syrup in the spring, to finding swimming holes to explore in the summer. Rattlesnake season just opened almost 2 weeks ago as well. There are even waterways you can explore with a mask and flippers on.
Outdoor Tradition as Deep as Freedoms History
Pennsylvania, by all means, has something for everyone. Locals like Bob Chase encourage people to explore the outdoors, especially kids, which is one focus of PAHAFA. Along with being the VP of PAHAFA, Bob is the assistant fire chief for his town where he started a cadet program to get kids involved in positive civic duties. His resume is about as extensive as his love for the outdoors. It is just one example of the deep tradition that is Pennsylvania’s Great Outdoors.