Friday, November 4, 2011

Pennsylvania Elk Season 2011-Part 2 Results as Of Noon Thursday

Bull Harvested In Saddle Monday Morning
As promised we will soon get to the elk season statistics as of noon on Thursday, but first a bit of information about the bull harvested in the saddle on Monday.  He was captured as a calf in Bear Hollow, fitted with  numbered ear tags, and released.  He was 41/2 years this fall.

The check station was very quiet when I stopped by slightly before noon on Thursday while headed back home.  This was in marked contrast to the day before when several bulls were brought in to the checked.between 10:00 a.m.  and noon. 

Elk Check Station
At noon Thursday there were 3 bull tags and 16 cow tags that had not yet been filled out of a total allocation of 56.  The following is a breakdown of some of the more pertinent statistics:

Allocation Harvested
Hunt Zone Bulls Cows Bulls Cows
1 Open Open

2 4 12 2 10
3 1 2 1 1
4 1 1 1 1
5 Closed Closed

6 Closed Closed

7 4 6 1 2
8 4 6 0 4
9 2 9 2 4
10 2 2 2 0
11-Open Zone

Total 18 38 15 22

Explanation: Hunt Zone 1 has no specified allocation, but is part of the open zone.  The open Zone is also called Zone 11 and is a portion of the Elk Management Area as defined on page 88 of the 2011-12 Hunting and Trapping Digest issued with hunting licenses by the PGC.  The closed area is the portion of the Elk Management Area also described on the same page where elk hunting is not permitted this year.  I do not think the bull killed by the holder of The Governor's Conservation Tag is included on this chart.  If not 3 bulls were shot in Zone 2, but this bull was recovered in Zone 10.

It is my understanding that hunters are required to hunt in the Hunt Zone for which they are drawn, with the exception that they may choose to hunt in the open zone instead if they so desire.  It is interesting to note that 6 bulls were harvested in the open zone, which has to mean that the hunters were originally given another hunt zone but chose not to hunt there.  Surprisingly Zone 2 had yielded only 1/2 of its' bull allocation, while Zone 8 had none killed. and Zone 7 had 1 of its' 4 tags unfilled.  It would be interesting to know what zones the hunters who harvested bulls in the Open Zone were originally chosen for, but I did not think to check and see if this information was available at the time.

Based on statistics from past years, I would venture to predict that it is likely that most if not all of  the bull tags will be filled, but it is very likely that some of the cow tags will not.  According to Page 86 of the Digest there is an extended season from November 7-12, where those with unfilled tags may hunt for a bull or cow depending on the type of license issued to them, but only in areas outside of the Elk Management Area, which are areas where the PGC does not want an elk herd to become established.

Now for a few more statistics. The bulls fitted with numbered collars are listed by bull number and number of points, others by points only. NT means non-typical, while T means typical.

Largest Bulls

Bull 89 (8x9) -, Zone 9 Clearfield County: NT- Gross 440, Final 426 5/8
8x7- Zone 9 Clearfield County: NT Gross 405 6/8, Final 399 3/8
Bull 3B (8x7) Zone 7: T Gross 409, Final 333 5/8.
9x9-Zone 11 (Open Zone) Gross 409 1/8, Final 386 5/8.

The above information about the largest bulls is taken from my hastily scribbled notes and I hope that it is accurate.  I am not sure if the 9x9 listed last is typical or non-typical.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill

Pennsylvania Elk Season 2011-Part 1

I was in Pennsylvania Elk Country from last Friday afternoon until noon on Thursday, observing and recording events leading up to elk season, and of course the first 3 1/2 days of season.  I spent much of my time at the major viewing area on Dewey Road, which is also the only viewing area on Winslow Hill where elk are frequently harvested within plain view of the general public. This was a hot-bed of elk activity, with a large herd usually visible on the far hillside, which many know as "The Saddle".  I never paused to count the elk, but heard others talk about seeing 100 animals  in the area, which seems to be a good ball park figure.

I saw several bulls on the hill throughout the period, most of which were distinctively 2nd or 3rd tier bulls.  I did film a very respectable bull on Friday evening, but did not see him again.  There were two or more 6x6 bulls that looked much alike, making it hard to differentiate between them.  Saturday brought snow  and  excellent encounters with these animals.  One of the bulls was to figure largely in the events of Monday morning.

6x6 In Snow-Likely The Bull Harvested On The First Day

Many of the elk in the saddle, including several bulls, moved into the no hunt zone after feeding on Sunday morning, but in late evening they started working back toward the saddle and for a time elk viewing and photography was excellent along Dewey Road, but it seemed likely that by dawn most of this herd would rejoin the animals that had remained in The Saddle.

6x6 At Gilbert Viewing Area On Sunday Evening
My brother, Coy Hill of Country Captures arrived early Monday morning and 6:00 a.m. found us at the parking area at the end of Dewey Road.  A few vehicles were already parked in the lot and soon more arrived, with some towing horse trailers. For a time the parking lot was a bustling bee hive of activity. Elk County WCO Doty McDowell arrived before dawn and paused to discuss the situation. With 12 cow tags and 4 bull tags being issued for Zone 2, there was the potential for severe problems at this spot, but I was hopeful that a worse case scenario would not occur, as I had only seen guides from two different outfitters during the weekend, but this did not rule out that several tag holders operating on their own could appear.

I am sure that most readers have already read Coy's accounting of the first day's happenings, but if not go to Country Captures to read the details.

At this point I will continue with the assumption that you have read his posting and will comment a bit on the situation.

The fears of a massacre proved to be unfounded for a number of reasons, one being that as best as I can tell only two outfitters were in the saddle and there were no independent tag holders.  The outfitter that harvested the bull also had a client with a cow license.  Both animals were killed in the same time frame, with the first shot fired at the bull  being the signal for the client with the cow tag  to fire.  Each clients was escorted by an individual guide, who appeared to maintain tight control over the situation and ensured that all went smoothly.

The person that harvested the cow later in the morning was guided by a different outfitter who also appeared to operate in a very circumspect and discrete manner, and it must be emphasized that  the two groups of outfitters respected each others' operations and did not interact in a competitive manner

At no time during the weekend did I approach anyone with an elk tag or a guide and bring up the subject of hunting the elk on Winslow Hill, or even discuss elk hunting in general, but two guides did initiate discussion on the subject with me.    Each had a somewhat different outlook on the situation. (I must emphasize that everyone I encountered that guided or was associated with the guides/outfitters was courteous and respectful).

One guide was especially concerned about the prospects for a "massacre" on Winslow Hill and felt that the tame elk on Winslow Hill should not be hunted--at least on the hillside that is in plain view of the Gilbert viewing area and Winslow Hill Road.  It is my understanding that this guide did have Zone 2 tag holders, but placed them in other areas of Zone 2 and not near the viewing areas.

A guide who did participate in Monday,s happenings in The Saddle had a somewhat different take on the situation.  He stated up-front that he mostly agreed with what I have written and said about the situation in that area, but that if he didn't guide there someone else would, and since they had clients with Zone 2 tags and the saddle was in the hunt zone, then he would guide them there.  He also made the point that even though we could disagree on details that we could still get along.  I wholeheartedly agree with this, and his party and I  encountered each other several times throughout elk season, and maintained a cordial relationship.

I must emphasize again that the problem is not in most cases with the hunters and guides, or the PGC employees, but with the policy that permits this to occur.  There is no use to rehash the entire issue at this point.  If you are a newcomer to the blog, read through the archives or view  "The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd" and read and watch with an open mind.  Do not jump to the knee-jerk reaction of a few that this is anti-hunting propaganda.  It has been plainly stated quite often that we are discussing ideas that can result in a win-win situation for both the consumptive and non-consumptive user.

Elk Season Results for Monday through mid-day Thursday to be posted soon.

Originally posted at Pennsylvania Wildlife Photographer by Willard Hill