Public Lands & Waters photo

State Game Land 223
: southwest Pennsylvania
Size: 7,200 acres
ZIP: 15370

Hardwood forest tangled with wild grapevines dominates this area on either side of I-79 in Greene County. “There are a lot of deer on the public area, and they don’t seem to be hard to hold,” Dunkerley says. Reverting farm fields and old apple orchards help keep bucks put, as do 200 acres of crop fields and numerous clear cuts that are the result of vigorous timber sales. Game Land 223 is about 70 minutes from Pittsburgh, and Dunkerley says the greater distance seems to lighten hunting pressure a bit. The area produced a 178 Boone and Crockett buck two years ago, and someone snapped a photograph of a 190-class bruiser in 2006. “As far as we know he wasn’t killed last year,” Dunkerley says. “He may still be out there.”

Cooperative Farm-Game Program and Cooperative Safety Zone Program lands
: southwest Pennsylvania
Size: 5,000 acres
ZIP: 15122-15223

Lots of states say some of their biggest bucks are found near urban areas, but not many offer hunters a chance to harvest them. Pennsylvania does. The Farm-Game and Safety Zone programs lease private property for public access, and about 5,000 acres are in Allegheny County. Many of these plots are undeveloped urban lots within the Pittsburgh city limits or small farms just outside it, and they can be hunted with a bow, muzzleloader, or shotgun. “Most people wouldn’t take a second look at some brushy area between a couple of industrial parks,” Dunkerley says, “but there are a lot of 160-class bucks killed every year in the city of Pittsburgh.” A road-kill buck Dunkerley picked up last year near the 1,000 acre Consol Energy Farm-Game site score 170, and bow hunters harvested three Boone and Crockett bucks in the last two years. It will take some Web browsing to map the spots, and some footwork to track down the landowners (some areas offer open access, but others require permission). The payoff is worth it: Pressure is very light.