Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thoughts On Pennsylvania Elk Hunting: An Interesting Comment

A Potential "Great" Pennsylvania Bull

On July 7th, I received a comment from Jim B , which is as follows:

"I enjoy looking at your photos and my wife and I enjoy visiting Benezette and photographing the elk. I have been a hunter for over 45 years (and I am deeply involved in the firearms industry), but what PA calls an Elk Hunting Season is anything but a hunting season. The elk in PA regardless of where you see them are acclimated to humans and have not developed a healthy fear of humans as the deer have.

I think your film did some good and we need to do more to convince the Game Commission that other means of population control is needed versus leading the public to believe that the elk season provides "elk hunting". I at least wish that the TV stations would avoid filming the "hunts" that certainly would cause those that do not hunt to just have more examples to share on why they do not believe in hunting."

I appreciate Jim's comment and wish to elaborate a bit.

I find that most of the people I personally know, that do object to the elk hunt as it is currently implemented, seem to agree with much or all of what Jim has to say. Many also come from a hunting background and most still hunt.

A prime example is a retired biologist and college professor who hunted Elk in Colorado, but opposes the Pennsylvania Hunt. He told me it was far different to hunt elk in a state with a large herd (247,090 after the 2005 season according to "Rocky Mountain Game and Fish"), than in one with a herd numbering considerably less than 1,000 animals. (an estimated 700-750 animals in October of 2007, according to a report on the PA. Game Commission Website). He felt the hunt was likely to damage the genetic makeup of the herd as there was extreme danger of removing too many of the biggest and best animals from such a small herd.

He related this to me as we stood on an Elk County hillside, with several bulls ranging about pursuing a cow in heat. This was after a few years of elk hunting. He pointed out that at a casual glance this seemed like a great situation, but if one looked closely, second tier bulls and not the prime animals of a few years before, were doing much of the breeding activity, as too many of the mature animals had been removed by the hunting season.

Jim B. touches on an interesting point concerning the videotaping of hunts. Those who do so should should look closely at the resulting footage, not just from the standpoint of a hunter, but they should ask, "does this portray a negative image to those not involved in the sport"? It is quite common for the participants to look only at the successful aspect of the hunt and miss seeing things that the more critical observer will take exception to. More importantly they should review the situation with a critical eye and make every effort to insure that any negative aspect does not occur again on future hunts.

One episode comes to mind in which a hunter fires several shots at a bull from what appears to be moderate range. Some shots miss and some hit. The bull runs some distance and collapses. After quite a bit of talking, and congratulatory backslapping, the hunter reloads his rifle and they approach the fallen elk. As they approach the dead bull, the camera cuts to a smaller bull standing in the area where the first animal fell and the hunter thinks that the bull he shot got back up. Luckily the guide knows it is a different animal and the hunter does not shoot. The animal stands there for quite some time while the hunting party approaches before running away.

I have heard comments from numerous persons who have seen this episode. We must bear in mind that it is possible that events were re-arranged somewhat in editing, or re-staged for the camera after the situation was resolved, but if the story is taken as presented, some come away with a less than positive view of the situation.

The most common reactions include the following points.

1. Would the hunter have shot the second elk by accident if an experienced guide had not been present?

2. Why was so much time spent before the party approached the fallen animal?

3. The behavior of the second elk is not exactly that of a wary animal and does not support the view that "Pennsylvania elk are as wild as any"!

I welcome comments from all points of view about our elk herd and elk hunting, as long as the discussion is respectful!


Louise said...

Not a hunter. Never have been. Never want to be, but realistic about population control. But the difference in population sizes should account for something, and some thought to the gene pool SHOULD be given. If only more would pay attention.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Hello WIllard. I do not hunt although my husband used to and I do not know your laws well enough to comment. We do had strict rules and regulations here too for hunting of animals although those on special private breeding reserves make their own rules.

What I really wanted to say was congrats on the marraige of your daughter. Coy did a wonderful job on the photographs which he posted.

Anonymous said...

I like this photograph, Willard. I think it is magnificent.

Leedra said...

Not a hunter, except with camera, and I sure do admire the photos in the last several post.

Anonymous said...

Hunting PA elk is NOT a sport. No one should take pride in it.
As far as population control goes, I have seen injured and sick elk. Those elk should be put down in a humane way, instead of being left in the wild to suffer. That would help the elk, and also help the population control issue. It's funny how no one wants to help an injured or sick elk, because you have to let nature take it's course. But then many are in favor of killing a healthy elk for no reason.
Another thought.....places like Benezette, PA thrive mainly because of the elk. The town would not get as many tourists, which equal money, if there were no elk to view. If elk are "hunted", and they become so afraid like deer, then no one will come to Benezette to see them. The draw to that town is the amazing opportunity to see these wonderful creatures up close. If they all run away in fear of being shot, then there will be a huge decline in tourists to that area.
I cannot imagine how anyone could shoot an animal that is standing right in front of them, so trustingly. That is cruel.

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Willard: I must say you are more of an expert on this subject then I. I agree with your thought on the subject. I would have a hard time hunting for a deer now except with my camera.

Ranger said...

I think we both know the real truth about the elk hunt. It is just a ploy to get as much money from application fees as possible. It's a shame that the agency has fallen to these measures. keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Wow! what a admirable photo! The shot is so neat and clear.


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Marvin said...

Ranger sums up the situation well. It's the same here in Arkansas, except worse considering our western elk were introduced just so they could be hunted. State agencies should not be in the Hunting Park business in my opinion.

richard l coy said...

Just before the elk hunt in Elk county 3 weeks that is before. I photographed 3 elk 2 bulls and 1 cow. They are now history due to the hunt. All three of these elk I was in distance of under 10 feet, wild?? I think not. I do not call this a sportsman hunt as some do I call it a slaughter of innocent animals. The sooner some changes are made in this area the better.

Anonymous said...

Being an elk hunter in Colorado I can tell you that the reason we wait to approach the animal after it has been shot is so it can expire. Elk are not deer if you approach an elk to soon it will run for miles before it expires. As far as needing to take multiple shots a good ethical hunter practices with there weapon and makes the shot as quick and clean as possible. None of us in the ethical hunting community want to see an animal suffer hence the reason we practice with our weapon to ensure an ethical harvest