Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Rush To An Elk Season

7x7 at Hicks Run Winter 1998: Minolta XE-7 400mm Vivitar

Rawland Cogan directed the development of a Management Plan for Elk in Pennsylvania that was approved in 1996. The plan also advocated the implementation of hunting as a means of population control. It was decided to explore the possibility of holding an elk hunt in the near future. At first the target was 1998, but it was decided that this was too short of a time frame to put the necessary mechanism in place.

Instead The Commission concentrated on a trap and transfer program designed to alleviate overpopulation in the central elk range, while at the same time expanding the elk herd into other areas.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation funded a study gauging “The Economic Impact of Pennsylvania’s Elk Herd”. Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, and Penn State, research interns conducted the interviews. This study also included a survey of public sentiment about a limited elk hunt away from the major viewing areas. (Strauss, Tzilkowski, Lord, - The School of Forest Resources The Pennsylvania State University -University Park, Pennsylvania 9/30/99)

In either 1997 or 1998 I encountered the interns when I returned to a PGC parking lot after a morning of photography. A large crowd of tourists was there and I was not one of those selected to participate in the survey. For some reason I did not videotape this and thus missed recording an important moment in the history of Pennsylvania’s elk herd.

The report is extremely detailed, but the results on hunt approval can be condensed to the following:

1. 53% of those surveyed approved of a possible hunt.
2. 62% of hunters approved
3. 39% of non- hunters approved
4. Of those surveyed who expressed approval, the most common membership affiliations were with The National Rifle Association and The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

During this time frame PGC Commissioner George Miller toured the elk range. I learned of this from Dr. Perk. He was impressed with Mr. Miller, but this was before Miller allegedly made a remark to the effect that a hunt must be held soon or public sentiment would be so against it that it would be impossible in the future.

The PGC adopted the position that a hunt would soon be needed to control the expanding population, so an Elk Hunt Advisory Committee was formed in 1999 with Cogan as chairman. The committee included representatives from the Pennsylvania Game Commission, hunters, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; tourism and agricultural interests; the legislature and other stakeholders in the elk program.

Perk could see the world as he knew it coming to an end as these events unfolded and he was extremely unhappy as the rush toward the first modern day Pennsylvania elk hunt began. As it turned out he was not alone!


Tina Leigh said...

You are killing me Willard! I 'm afraid I might die before I get the whole story! So they polled JUST the people that were out that day? I've got to re-read. Sounds like a poor system. Nice photo...he really looks WILD.

Anonymous said...

I do think that the Shawnee Forest in Southern Ohio could use a herd or two of your elk if the governor decides he wants to transfer some around.

Nice photo.

Willard said...


It was a two-year study, with a total of 904 on-site interviews which were conducted over the course of 78 survey days. The majority of the survey days and data collected was in the fall which is when most visitation occurred.

na said...

Nice shots there, I like them, what kind of camera are you using, and lenses?

Love to meet other photographers, and I do a little bit of wildlife work, you have have a look here if you want

Tom said...

Keep the info coming Willard... it makes great reading, both the posts and the comments. And the bonus is we all get to see more of your pictures.

Sharon said...

Another beautiful picture. I love wildlife photography. Your unfolding story is interesting!

Kekiinani said...

Aloha Willard, Love checking out your blog and reading your commentary... Not to mention your images are AWESOME!! Wishing you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
Aloha, Renee :)

carl in ga said...

Willard, do you have any estimates on the PA elk population? And what is the annual tag distribution for hunting? This is starting to sound a lot like Maryland's rush to it's first bear season since the 1950's several years back. As a hunter, I was against this as most of the bears were transient anyway. PA/WVA/VA bears just passing through. Maryland did not give enough time for resident bears to get established. Just my thoughts.
Great photo!!!
MERRY CHRISTMAS to everyone up there!!!

Willard said...

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

The herd ranges between 500-700 animals. The most tags they issued was 100, but it has been less recently. This year it was 50 tags.

They are maintaining a stable population with this amount of hunting, but the problem is that too many of the bulls are being taken before they reach maturity and they are hunting too close to the tourists areas where most of the elk are acclimated to humans.

Willard said...

I'm using a Canon 40D at present with a 70-200mmf2.8 IS, a 300mmf4 IS, and a 500mmf4 Is as my telephotos. Also I am using a 28-135mmEF for an all purpose lens, but I need to upgrade from it.

I did visit your web site and I like your photography a lot!

Willard said...

That's what he should do, if he thinks there are too many in this state. You would enjoy photographing them!

lv2scpbk said...

Beautiful strong looking animal.

Merry Christmas!

Dave said...

Hunting with a camera... What a great way to preserve and AND nature! Great photos!

Have yourself a great Christmas! :-)

Kerri Farley said...

Merry Christmas Willard!!