Most of Warren County, the part for which it is best known, is Big Woods. This includes a large portion of the Allegheny National Forest, and a smaller forested, hilly area that is the very northeastern edge of the Allegheny Plateau. When tourists come to Warren County this is the type of scenery they hope to find.
But all of Warren County is not forested hills. A fairly large portion, somewhere between a quarter and a third, is completely different, although even some folks who live here may not look at it this way. The topography of this area was greatly altered by Ice Age glaciers. In contrast to the forested hills terrain, in this area is much more gently rolling. It is dotted with swamps and other wetlands. Land use is more agricultural because soils are richer and in other ways more suited to cultivation.
So what does this have to do with deer hunting?
The glaciated corner produces proportionately many more trophy bucks. This is a direct result of the richer soils which lead to a more diversified, more reliable, more abundant diet for deer. Deer are larger by weight and the bucks grow larger antlers.
That portion of Warren County is in Wildlife Management Unit 1B, where bucks must have at least four points on one side to be legal game for adult hunters. And it may be the area where some local hunters unexpectedly got antlerless licenses.
On the down side, not much land is open to public hunting, and as with private land elsewhere, that amount is decreasing. More and more posted signs have been appearing. No longer are hunters welcome, or even tolerated.
Warren County has five state game lands in the WMU 1B section, SGL 143, SGL 97, SGL 306, SGL 291, and SGL 272.
Best known among these is SGL 143, which is located near Garland. It actually looks more like the Big Woods than it does the rest of Wildlife Management Unit 1B. Hills are high and steep, and mostly covered by forest. This forest has been intensely managed for the benefit of forest wildlife. It is in various stages of maturity.
Hunting pressure is about as heavy as it gets in Warren County. Many hunters come from Erie because it is the nearest large, forested state game land. Although large forested areas are not necessarily the best deer habitat, probably a majority of hunters associate white-tailed deer with forest habitat. And regardless of that hunting pressure, SGL 143 continually has good deer density compared to other similar areas.
SGL 197 lies adjacent to the New York border just west from Bear Lake. This is real Wildlife Management Unit 1B habitat. The focal point is Tamarack Swamp. No little puddle of a swamp is this. Deer can get into it and never be seen. Only a few regulars feel comfortable in the worst of this inhospitable habitat.
SGL 306 is another state game land based on swamp habitat, although part of it lies between Route 6 and the Railroad tracks. That part is managed largely as pheasant habitat.
If anything the heart of SGL 306 is even less penetrable than Tamarack Swamp. It lies along the railroad tracks east from Columbus. Cut off Route 6 onto Swamp Road to access the swamp side. This bumpy dirt road is a fitting gateway.
SGL 291 shows a different view of Wildlife Management Unit 1B. Though it lies along a long ridge, still it is not as high nor as steep as most of the Big Woods. This may be the most overlooked state game land in Warren County, perhaps because it is so close to Erie County, and off the beaten path. It is located west from Spring Creek. Surrounded by dairy farms, it is a mix of forest and fields.
SGL 272 is even more overlooked by residents of Warren County even though it is less remote than SGL 291 because it is situated in the southwest corner of the county in an area more associated with Titusville. It straddles the Warren County/Crawford County, and Route 27 west from Grand Valley. Although I have driven through it often, I have never thought of it as being in Warren County.
Not mentioned among the state game lands listed previously as being in the Wildlife Management Unit 1B portion os Warren County, SGL263, which is mostly in Erie County, does extend a short distance into Warren County. This is brushy, wetland habitat that is great habitat for big bucks. It is located near SGL 97, north from Corry.
So if you are still looking for your buck, why not give one of these state game lands a try. You just might find a new place to add to your list of favorite hunting areas.