Hunting Elk in Pennsylvania

Did you know there is a big enough population of elk for a controlled hunt to take place in the state Pennsylvania? In fact there is enough elk for 18 lucky hunters to be able to have a hunt of a lifetime and chase an antlered (bull) elk in the state of Pennsylvania. There is also 38 antlerless (cow) licences issued for a total of 56. This hunt takes place in 10 total units thought the state. The non typical elk in Pennsylvania new state record was just killed in unit 9. According to the harvest statistics from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, from 2001-2009 there has been 465 total licences issued with a harvest total of 375. That is a 81% harvest percentage. The bull harvest during that period was an incredible 94%. Those are some great harvest statistics for a state that is not known for its elk hunting.

Elk hunting in PA is not just for residents alone, nonresidents have an equal opportunity in the drawing as well. A drawing fee application of $10.70 buys you a chance for this random drawing. All hunters who do not draw can be entered into a preference point system helping your chances in the following years drawing. Once drawn a license fee of only $25 for residents and $250 for nonresidents has to be purchased. After winning the draw there is 5 ineligible years before you can be drawn again for the antlered (bull) license, this ineligibility does not apply to antlerless (cow). To apply online click here online application.

A Little History on Elk Hunting in PA

Elk once roamed throughout Pennsylvania, but rapid settlements and exploitation by early immigrants destroyed the herds. By 1867, elk had been completely eliminated from the state. Unregulated hunting and habitat loss were the biggest factors leading to their demise.

In 1913 the Pennsylvania Game Commission began reintroducing elk in Pennsylvania. Today’s elk herd originated from 177 elk that were trapped and transferred to northern areas of Pennsylvania. The reintroduction of elk took place from 1913 through 1926. The releases in north-central Pennsylvania were successful and the herd now numbers more than 800.

Non Typical Elk in Pennsylvania New State Record

With a estimated 20,000 applicants the odds are slightly stacked against you but for Bill Zee, it only took took a decade of applying to win the chance of a lifetime. Even though the hunt didn’t take place until November Bill started his preseason scouting in September. The typical rutting elk behavior was observed thought the scouting trips making the wait for November even harder.

As November came Bill had a small platoon of about 25 guides and scouts helping to comb the Pennsylvania woods and fields for bulls. Because it’s so hard to draw a tag, many hunters who get hooked on elk but didn’t draw, spend the fall scouting just to be part of the hunt. With a small army combing the hill side a giant bull was spotted before the opening morning. Proper permission was obtained for the opening day of the hunt. At twilight Zee could see his massive antlers silhouetted against the sky. The wind played it’s normal trick and allowed the bull to sneak out on the first stalk attempt. Only glimpses of the impressive rack were viewed as his dreamed slipped away.

They hunted the field again that night with no luck. Knowing that the big bull wouldn’t come out to the field in the daylight, they got permission from a landowner to hunt a hollow about 300 yards back into the woods. They knew that the bulls were bedded in a stand of thick pines high up the hill and they would pass through the hollow to get to the woods. Unbeknownst to the hunters, a herd of nine cows had also moved into the area. As the sun started to sink, the elk got up to feed. “It sounded like someone was driving a truck through the pine trees,” Zee said.

As they set up Cows started filtering through the hollow and with about 15 minutes of shooting light left, Zee spotted the bull. Cows farther down the trail had cut Zee’s scent and started barking in alarm. The bull stopped at 75 yards. Then he turned and Zee was sure he was going to head back up into the pines. He didn’t have a clear shoulder shot, so he steadied his crosshairs on the big bull’s neck and squeezed the trigger. The bull flinched and then ran past Zee and his guide. Zee swung his .300 Mag. on the bull and took a broadside running shot. The bull dropped dead less than 100 yards away. Everything about this elk is impressive. He scored 442 6/8 and had an estimated live weight of 930 pounds. He’s a 9X8 and stretches the tape 69 inches from tip to tip. Biologists estimated that the elk was 8 1/2 years old.

Things to think about if you draw an elk tag in Pennsylvania

  • Check all the rules and regulations prior to hunting in PA
  • 24 hr mandatory check in after harvest
  • Guides are allowed but have to be licensed through the state
  • There is limited public land so do your research on boundaries
  • Get permission from local landowners
  • Elk behavior is a lot like Mideastern whitetail unlike Western elk.
  • Use a larger caliber rifle 25-06, 30-06, and .300 are preferred for hunting big game
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