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South Williamsport, PA
United States

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Pennsylvania, a Leading Elk Destination?

It’s true. Pennsylvania’s elk herd attracts plenty of attention however not just from those who travel to central Pennsylvania to see and photograph them but hunters from all over are also in pursuit of a Pennsylvania elk. While around 400,000 visitors travel to the Winslow Hill area each year to see the elk there were

It’s true. Pennsylvania’s elk herd attracts plenty of attention however not just from those who travel to central Pennsylvania to see and photograph them but hunters from all over are also in pursuit of a Pennsylvania elk. While around 400,000 visitors travel to the Winslow Hill area each year to see the elk there were also 41,240 hunters purchasing elk-license applications in 2019. Those purchasing elk-license applications were from all 50 states including Alaska and last year one successful applicant was from Colorado and one from Florida. That being said however about 90 percent of those applicants being selected in the drawing were from Pennsylvania.

I remember as a young man growing up in the 60s near Pennsylvania’s original elk territory and seeing one was not all that likely since the herd probably numbered less than 60 animals at that time. We would see one now and then but the thought of actually hunting them in our state never entered our minds. Today’s Pennsylvania’s elk herd numbers around 1,400 elk and we now have three different seasons in which to bag an elk. The general one-week season runs from Nov. 2 through 7; 26 bull and 78 antlerless tags have been allocated for that season. Sept. 12 through 26 is the archery season open only in certain Elk Hunt Zones and 10 bull and 16 antlerless tags have been allocated for that season. Finally, 34 antlerless tags have been set aside for the late antlerless-only season from Jan. 2 through 9.

The drawing for tags is in mid-August and the cost is $11.90 per application for each of the three seasons. Each year you apply however is a bonus since your name stays in the drawing for each application so you can accumulate bonus points. Don’t count yourself out because the odds seem to be against you. In 2009 there were 20 bull tags made available and I believe there were around 70,000 applicants-not much chance, right? Well, I was the last bull tag to be drawn and to make a long story short I bagged one of the largest bulls that year on the second day of the hunt-an 8X8.

If you are fortunate enough to draw a tag are you not required to hire a guide; that’s a question I often get from people who are interested in applying. Some statistics from 2019 show that about 70 percent of the elk hunters used a guide or outfitter with a 92 percent success rate-pretty good to say the least. The much smaller percentage of hunters without guides had an 82 percent success rate-still pretty good. In 2009 when I got my bull tag, I chose not to use a guide service. Entering into that decision however was the fact that I had killed a nice 6X6 bull in Montana years before while hunting alone from my tent sight high up in the mountains. Another factor that made me go without a guide was the fact that I knew I could spend a fair amount of time scouting the area the several weeks prior to the actual hunt.

The bottom line is if you are fortunate enough to get that tag and if you can’t do your own scouting and if you don’t have some elk hunting experience you might be wise to hire a guide. Trust me, if you are picked, you’ll get plenty of inquiries from guide services. In the meantime, even if you can’t go hunt them with a gun or bow you can still enjoy some great viewing and photography opportunities this fall especially when the bulls are still engaged in combat.

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