Bradford, the 43rd county created by the Commonwealth, was named in honor of William Bradford, the second attorney general of the United States. With 37 townships totaling over l, 100 square miles,Bradford is ranked as the third largest county in the commonwealth. Its size and geography offer some of the best hunting and trapping opportunities in the state.
With an elevation low of 660 feet along the well-known Susquehanna River, to a high of 2,409 feet above sea level on Armenia Mountain, the county is part of the great Allegheny plateau. River bottoms, farm country, and rugged mountains create a diverse topography that is home to plentiful populations of big game, small game, migratory birds and furbearers.
While the majority of the land within its boundaries is under private ownership, public access to tens of thousands of acres of state forest and state game lands provides plenty of elbow room for sportsmen who might seek solitude or a taste of wilderness. There are 12 state game lands in the county with Tract Number 12, with 24,479 acres, being the largest. Its next-door neighbor, Tract Number 36, contains another 18,617 acres.
What sets these expansive tracts of land apart from other game lands in the northeast is their wide areas of field openings. These herbaceous openings offer a valuable source of both forages and ideal habitat. Mowing, planting, and maintaining these open areas adds a diversity of plants that can meet the needs of an extremely wide range of wildlife.
As one of the top big game harvest counties in Pennsylvania, Bradford County is rich in deer and bear hunting traditions. America’s most popular big game animal, the whitetail deer, is also the county’s most hunted species. Mandatory antler restrictions, combined with the management practices that many landowners are conducting on their properties, have significantly reduced the harvest of immature bucks, allowing them to reach older age classes. The results of these restrictions and practices ultimately accounts for more hunters tagging bucks sporting antlers that exceed the minimum scores for acceptance into the Pennsylvania Record Book — the complete official listing of all trophy big game animals taken in the Keystone State.
So how does Bradford County measure up to the other 66 counties in the state?
According to Bob D’Angelo, Pennsylvania’s Big Game Scoring Program coordinator, Bradford County ranks number one in the state for the amount of trophies entered in the Pennsylvania Record Book each year. It’s worth noting that the current state record typical whitetail scoring 189-0/8 was taken in Bradford County. In 2015, a whitetail taken in Smithfield Township scoring 200-7/8 became the largest non-typical ever recorded in the county, and now ranks 13th as Pennsylvania’s largest non-typical. To date, 70 whitetails taken in Bradford County during the bow and gun seasons have qualified for either the Boone and Crockett or Pope and Young clubs. By researching the record books, hunters can easily pinpoint what townships are the top trophy producers.
Think the finest trophies are only roaming around on private land? Think again! Several record book whitetails have been tagged on state game lands, while some probably never get in front of a hunter. In 2010, while working on Tract Number 12, commission employees discovered a shed antler that scored 71-2/8.
With parts of Bradford County included in three Wildlife Management Units (WMU) a generous allocation of nearly 80,000 tags also allows hunters to easily draw one or more anter-less licenses.
Turkey and black bear hunters can expect ample opportunities to hunt these species in the county as well. Fall turkey seasons in all three of the county’s WMUs run two weeks plus, with spring gobbler providing another length season through the month of May. Hunters who pursue black bears with archery gear or firearms can sometimes expect a full two weeks of fall hunting depending on which WMUs are open during the extended season
The largest black bear ever taken in the county scored 22-11/16 and was a former number one state record. That bear weighed 604 pounds. The heaviest black bear, according to the Bradford County Trophy Deer and Bear Club records, had an estimated live weight of 638 pounds. Thirty-nine black bears listed in those records have qualified for the Boone and Crockett Club, which illustrates Bradford County’s recognition as a trophy bear-hunting destination. Annual bear harvest totals in the county often exceeds 100 animals.
Whether it’s big, small, varmints or furbearers, the hunt is always on in Bradford County.