Sunday, February 3, 2008

PGC To Discontinue Controversial September Elk Hunt!

The first September elk season was held in 2006. It was preceded by an intensive public relations offensive, to sell the concept to the public. It was portrayed as a win-win situation for hunters and landowners alike. What is unclear is exactly who requested the season in the first place!

It doesn’t seem that most farmers did, or if they did they didn’t take the hunt seriously. An elk guide told me “off the record” that most of those farmers didn’t need or want any help with the "elk problem". They took care of it quite handily at night with tractors, rifles, and spotlights.

He guided hunters on this hunt and on at least one occasion removed his clients from the area, as there were a lot of hunters, with magnum rifle slugs flying everywhere. Two elk were killed during that season, but according to the guide, The PGC termed it “an outstanding success”. In the two years that the September season has been held, 20 hunters killed a total of four elk.

Some critics of the September hunt considered it to be a trial balloon floated by the PGC to determine the public’s reaction to a September hunt, and had the hunt, been successful it would have been extended to other areas of the elk range.

Such a hunt would disregard the thousands who flock to the north woods to view the elk during the rut.

The November hunt continues with a proposal to issue 45 tags being considered. As of yet there has been no decision as to the sex breakdown or the number of animals in each elk hunt zone.

The final September hunt will be held in 2008 as the licenses were issued in last year's drawing, and this years hunt was already approved.

For the official story read PGC News Release: 007-08


Anonymous said...

I am happy for the elk.

Kerri Farley said...

Wow! This is GREAT NEWS, right??? I'm with OML above...I'm VERY HAPPY for the ELK!

Willard said...

Hi Abe and Kerri,

It is a start in the right direction, but there is still the major season in early November. There is also good news on that front as they didn't drastically increase the amount of tags issued as rumor had indicated that they might. It would have been better yet had they reduced the number available!

Tom said...

Like you say Willard it's a start... now it's a matter of chipping away at the November Hunt Season.. it will be pictures and reports show in public that might help that cause. Sounds to be as a battle as been won but the wars still going on.
Good Luck with this quest my friend.
Peter as a friend who is a 'Game Keeper in the Highlands of Scotland who takes part in Deer culls and Hare culls, he as sent a few pictures by email and I'll try to put a post together on Peters Blog as soon as I get some information sorted. The 'Rich' pay very good money to go deer stalking and do get to kill certain ones.

Coy Hill said...

Although true that the ending of the September hunt may be see as a victory of sorts the true intentions of the PGC is quite evident in their recent action of renaming the Elk Management Areas to Elk Hunt Zones.

imac said...

So they breath a little longer.
Hope the next hunt ends the same way.

Quick quiz2 now up.

Marvin said...

Elk were introduced/re-introduced into my area of Arkansas a dozen or so years ago. I won't litter your blog with the details, but there has been nothing but controversy ever since.

Kekiinani said...

Yeah for the Elk. Love reading your narratives they are always so interesting. Nice elk shot!! :)

Willard said...

Salty is right on about the implications of renaming the management units. I think that gives a clear indication of some official's thinking.

You are welcome to share any info. you like I am aware that they were re-introduced to your state and if I understood correctly they were hunted from almost the beginning so that people would view them as a huntable resource right from the start.

Marvin said...

You're right, Willard. The initial re-introduction was onto federal land, but it was paid for by a private hunting group. Hunting was the intention from the start.

In the beginning, many were opposed to the re-introduction, including the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. They claimed there wasn't enough suitable elk habitat available for the herd to thrive and become sustaining. (I really don't know if this was a legitimate concern or if the whole thing was just a state versus federal controversy.)

A few years passed, the elk did thrive and multiply and it was decided elk hunting could begin. Once the state got to start issuing a limited number of elk tags, its initial reservations were quickly forgotten and AG&F climbed aboard the elk hunting bandwagon.

However, all along the owners of adjacent land have complained about the damage elk do to their property. Elk are not very good at recognizing where federal land ends and private property begins. If there's a fence, they just go through it. Elk are also not very good at recognizing the difference between elk cows and beef cows. A contest for supremacy between a bull elk and a beef bull is no contest at all.

Now, both the state and the feds want more elk so there can be more hunting. They have proposed major alterations to existing forests (i.e. making them prairies) so the elk can expand. Environmentalists have joined with land owners to oppose this. (Around here, land owners and environmentalist are usually at odds. Only the government could get them on the same side.)

So, no one is objecting to elk hunting per se. Landowners are objecting to expanding the herd. Environmentalist are objecting to destroying existing habitat so that the elk can expand.

I like the elk and have gone to the area hoping to see them several times. However, it does seem wrong-headed to manage our natural resources in a way that benefits only one game species so that species can be more extensively hunted. That's my opinion anyway.

Willard said...


Thanks for sharing! Very interesting commentary and I was not aware of most of the details that you brought to light.

As elk is one of my major subjects I won't write too much here,about the Pennsylvania situation but will discuss it in future posts in detail.

In a nutshell Pennsylvania had a small elk herd with a good percentage of monster bulls. As there was little agricultural land in the range most of the damage problems were in a few isolated localities.

The PGC and DCNR then developed many areas on public lands into more suitable elk habitat by planting foods to attract the elk from private lands where they were causing damage.

This worked to a certain extent, but it also resulted in a population surge. The big problem I have with the current situation is much like the objection you have in your case. It boils down to they tried to make more elk for hunters to shoot. What they had in the first place was a unique natural treasure that was admittedly causing a few problems, but provided a great outdoor experience for many, but the quality of this experience has been degraded to provide a small amount of hunters the opportunity to shoot a large animal and thereby reduced the number of large bulls available for viewing and photography.

Again thanks for your information and I hope to explain our Pennsylvania situation in depth as time goes on.

Michael Serafin-St. John said...

Hi, Willard. A big thank you for your great photography. I live in Michigan and the only difficulty I am aware of is a matter of location of the elk herds... far away "UP NORTH" where I can't afford to "visit" them! But they are away from population centers and major farmland so I guess our conflicts have been few. I was once a state Park Ranger and you seem to be a kindred soul. I'm putting a link to your site on
so I can easily come see you again!


It seems once again that you are stating that since the elk hunt was started that there is a decrease in the number of "monster bulls". I have quite a few problems with this statement. First, on average the game commission is issuing between two to three anterless tags for every one antlered tag, yet all you seem worried about are the "monster bulls". This mentality sort of reminds me of the people that are making the majority of the money of the tourism end of the elk herd. Their common thought is if there aren't elk standing in every yard in Benezette that people are not going to come and see them.... and in turn spend money. The second problem I have with this thought is that it is wrong. If you are talking about the area right around Winslow Hill then I understand you are seeing less elk and not just bulls. One reason is that the PAGC and the DCNR in conjunction with the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation have improved surrounding habitat, so that the Winslow Hill area and the yards and farms are not the only herbacious openings. This has caused the elk herd to disperse,which is healthier then being bunched up in one little area.I'm not sure how old or what kind of shape you are in but if you get of the beaten path you will find that not only are there more elk now but the hunts have not scraped the surface of the mature or trophy class bulls. This past sesaon is a perfect example. There were fourteen bulls taken out of fifteen tags, of those fourteen bulls only two were mature bulls. Believe me when I tell you this is not because there is a shortage of mature bulls but a combination of other reasons. Its funny that this hunt is looked at to be easy or canned yet in the history of the hunt there hasn't been a year that the tags were 100% filled.
Love your video and pictures just hope you can get the correct information on what's going on with the hunt.
Jack (Elk Co Outfitters)

Michael Serafin-St. John said...

If our experience in Michigan is worth anything, we've found that it takes several long years following any change in location and/or environment to level out and give you a clear picture of an elk situation. This means any changes in hunting pressure, food supply, range, numbers, anything. It's fluid and ever-changing, of course, but time is needed, several seasons at least, before things shake out and you see reality.

Willard said...

Thanks for your input.

Pennsylvania actually had a lot of interaction with Michigan in developing the plan for the current elk hunt. Y

What I seem to be seeing is that we are at the point where most bulls are being harvested at the stage at which they reach maturity but not their maximum potential, with a few slipping through to reach their full potential.

The three "monster bulls" I saw on Winslow Hill this year were all survivors from the pre-hunt days.

Willard said...


It is good to hear from you and to read a well-reasoned response from “the other side”. I also thank you for the comment on the video and pictures.

Let’s deal with this point by point although we will not cover it all at present as I intend to cover much of this in future posts.

Yes, it is the large bulls that I am worried about. The population is being contained at between 500-700 animals (if anyone has an accurate count). There are not less elk. My outlook corresponds to the mentality of the tourist industry to a certain extent. (For the record, I do not own any tourist related business or am related to anyone who does) I suppose I could be classed an eco-tourist although I think that there is a significant difference between the average tourist and me.

I grew up and still live in a remote rural section of southcentral Pennsylvania. I began hunting at an early age and continued doing so until 1997-98, when I shifted completely from rifles to cameras. (With such a background I completely understand your position and the position of the hunting community) When I go to photograph elk, I divide my time between the traditional tourist areas along the roads and the backcountry. I have not spent a large amount of time in The Quehanna Wild Area and have refrained from criticizing the hunt in this and other areas like it. If a trophy hunt is to be held, areas like this are the place. I cannot compare a hunt in areas like this to a canned hunt!

It is a different story in the case of Winslow Hill. I will grant one thing up front. If one ends up hunting or photographing in an area that elk are not utilizing, then it is difficult to find them, whether they are acclimated to humans or not, but once they are found the situation changes. The hunting stories tell of the difficult stalk and how the shot was made before the animal bolted. My problem with this is that I have often photographed the same animal under similar circumstances with him being aware of my presence during the entire proceeding and he did not run. The only difference in the case of the hunter is that season was in. If this was the elk’s first encounter with hunters that year he would react no differently than before. I think the no hunt zone should be larger to minimize this type of situation. {I explained my thoughts on that in great detail in the post of Thursday December 6th.}

Several of the large bulls that were killed since the season began, frequented the viewing areas on The Hill, walking about, often in close proximity to people and ignoring their presence. Now they are not there because they were killed. In the case of the last monster, there has not been another to replace him as of yet. I am not in to Boone and Crockett scoring on either bull elk or whitetail, bucks but simply go by the overall impressive look of the rack. From that perspective I can think of no elk killed this year that compares to many I have seen.

It seems to me, that we are at the place that most bulls are being taken at the stage where they are just ready to be contenders for true trophy status. I have heard this concern voiced by some members of the elk hunting community. I have also heard that the elk biologist voiced a similar opinion in an interview or newspaper article, but I have so far been unable to find the article. Billie Cromwell was the person who read the article and if he said he saw it, it is in existence and he would certainly be accurate as to what he read.

I have always had the opposite take on hunter success rates. This is a good illustration of where different points of view enter into the matter. To keep things in perspective lets just compare November seasons to November seasons. In the first hunt in 2001 27 of 30 hunters were successful for a success ratio of 90%. In 2007, 33 hunters out of 40, or 82% were successful during the November seasons. If one factors in the September hunt then the number drops to 35 successful out of 50 or 70%. I would suspect that the most likely reasons for failure are hunting an area the animals are not using, not being familiar with the area and not using a guide, or not finding an animal to meet the hunters’ expectations. The September hunt skews the success rate downward because of the factors discussed in the post about it. This seems to be a high success ratio, especially when the September hunt is not included.

We basically get to the point that it is a matter of, are there still sufficient bulls of trophy size, and just how visible should these bulls be to the general public? On this I don’t think one can ever get the tourists, landowners, and hunters to agree. Aside from our varying perspectives though, I would appreciate more input as to how “the hunt has not scraped the surface of the mature or trophy class bulls”.

Again thanks for discussing your views!

Michael Serafin-St. John said...

Thank you, Willard, for keeping so tightly attuned to our wildlife. I personally feel that no matter how we debate and hem and haw, rules need to be carefully and conservatively laid out to protect the most mature animals possible.

Willard said...


Also if my figures are correct the success rate on bulls this year was 93%. Due to the number of permits issued the next step would have been 100%.