Sandy Mush Game Land contains 2,600 acres of low elevation mountain habitats. The Game Land is actively managed with prescribed fire to restore native warm season grasses (NWSG) and forbs to benefit Northern Bobwhite and associated early successional species. The Turkey Creek and Sandy Mush Creek Gorges offer a unique opportunity to view various warblers, Wood Thrush and Acadian Flycatcher. Early successional species may be observed in the adjacent fields at the Martin Candler Road parking area. During winter, food plots attract numerous finches and winter sparrows, such as Field, Fox, Savanna and White-crowned Sparrows. On the north end of Cedar Hill Road, several parking areas are available next to fields and forested areas, where Mourning Dove and Wild Turkey may be observed. Check the power lines along Cedar Hill Road for Eastern Kingbird and Eastern Bluebird. At the Turkey Creek parking area on Old NC 20, the adjacent fields are excellent examples of the restoration management being conducted. The most diverse area is the clear-cut off Bear Creek Road. It was timbered in 2001 and is being managed to keep a shrub-scrub stage with NWSG fields intermixed. Prairie Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and Northern Bobwhite are all abundant in this area. There are several roads that traverse the clear-cut, offering the birder outstanding viewing opportunities.
Species of Interest (Full Bird List)
Northern Bobwhite, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Kingbird, Prairie Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat, Field Sparrow
early successional, oak forest & mixed hardwoods/pine, floodplain forest, rocky outcrop
Hunting is allowed on Sandy Mush Game Land during certain times of the year. Birders should be aware of current hunting regulations and seasons, and take adequate safety precautions during those times. For more on hunting precautions, see the hunting season information at the beginning of this guide.
Access and Parking
The Game Land can be accessed daily during daylight hours. Entry is prohibited in and around any structures, such as barns, springhouses and old home sites.
In Leicester, from the intersection of New Leicester Highway (NC 63) and Alexander Road, go east on Alexander Road for 3.5 miles, to the intersection of Old NC 20. Turn left on Old NC 20 and go north 1.6 miles, to the junction of Cedar Hill Road. Old NC 20 bears left while Cedar Hill Road goes straight. Go straight (north) on Cedar Hill Road for 0.5 miles, to the junction of Martin Candler Road. Turn left on Martin Candler Road and go west 0.7 miles to the Martin Candler Road parking area on the right. Five additional parking areas can be found back along Cedar Hill Road, north of Martin Candler Road. Directions to other parking areas are as follows: From the intersection of Bear Creek Road and Old NC 20 go west 0.8 miles on Old NC 20 to the Turkey Creek parking area on the left, just past Turkey Creek. Keep going west on Old NC 20 for 1.3 miles to the junction of Jarrett Farm Road. Turn left on Jarrett Farm Road and go west 0.3 miles to the junction of Bear Creek Road. Turn right on Bear Creek Road and go north. There are places to park on the left at both cemeteries and at 1.0 miles is the clear-cut parking area.
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