Saturday, November 14, 2009

Hunters Harvest 44 Elk In 2009:PGC News Release 116-09

9x8 Winslow Hill: Photo W.Hill
Yesterday The Pennsylvania Game Commission released information on the recent elk hunt.  Please visit the PGC website for more information about elk and other wildlife in Pennsylvania.

Release #116-0 Source: The Pennsylvania Game Commission

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe today announced that 44 of the 60 licensed elk hunters were successful during the 2009 elk season. Of that total, 20 were antlered elk and 24 were antlerless elk.

“Elk are one of North America’s premier big game animals,” Roe said. “Pennsylvania is privileged to offer this unique hunting opportunity, a product of successful wildlife management that helps to finance wildlife conservation and supports Pennsylvania’s rich hunting heritage. It’s an unparalleled experience for hunters, particularly those who can’t afford to go on an expensive one- or two-week guided elk hunt out West.

“This year’s overall success rate was 73 percent, which is down slightly from the past year, which I believe that this can be attributed to the improved food conditions this year throughout the elk range, thanks in large part to the decline in gypsy moth defoliation.”

Along with extracting samples needed for disease testing, the agency also collected samples necessary to examine food preferences and habitat use by elk. Also, hunters collected liver samples that will be evaluated for mineral contents.

The largest antlered elk was taken by Reed Bamburger, of Graysville, Greene County. He took a 652-pound (dressed weight), 8x9 on Nov. 2, in Covington Township, Clearfield County.

Those hunters rounding out the top five heaviest antlered elk harvested, were: Lisa Banasick, of Connellsville, Fayette County, took a 643-pound, 9x11 on Nov. 5, in Gibson Township, Cameron County; Ronald Werkheiser Jr., of Hellertown, Northampton County, took a 617-pound, 7x7 on Nov. 4, in Karthaus Township, Clearfield County; Kenneth E. Hunter, of Muncy, Lycoming County, took a 604-pound, 8x8 on Nov. 3, in Jay Township, Elk County; and Alvin Hubler, of Munson, Clearfield County, took a 589-pound, 6x7 on Nov. 3, in Benezette Township, Elk County.

The heaviest antlerless elk was taken by Larry Davis, of Fairborn, Ohio, who harvested a 474-pound (dressed weight) antlerless elk on Nov. 3, in Benezette Township, Elk County.

Those hunters rounding out the top five heaviest antlerless elk harvested were: Gary Weikert, of Arendtsville, Adams County, who harvested a 444-pound antlerless elk on Nov. 4, in Covington Township, Clearfield County; Randolph Maus, of Halifax, Dauphin County, who harvested a 413-pound antlerless elk on Nov. 5, in Gibson Township, Cameron County; Ronald VanDyke, of Harrisville, Butler County, who harvested a 403-pound antlerless elk on Nov. 2, in Gibson Township, Cameron County; Scott Hite, of Port Republic, Maryland, who harvested a 398-pound antlerless elk on Nov. 5, in Gibson Township, Cameron County; and Adam Palyo, of Jefferson Hills, Allegheny County, who also harvested a 398-pound antlerless elk on Nov. 6 in Grove Township, Cameron County.

Roe also noted that Jim Nyce, of Green Lane, Montgomery County, who was the successful bidder for the first-ever Elk Conservation Tag, harvested an antlered elk, as well. Nyce harvested a 6x6 on Oct. 14, in Benezette Township, Elk County. Nyce purchased the Conservation Elk Tag during the National Wild Turkey Federation’s national conference in early 2009, and was able to hunt from Sept. 1-Nov. 7.

For more information on elk in Pennsylvania, visit the Game Commission’s website (, choose “Hunting,” and then click on the photograph of an elk.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pennsylvania Elk Hunting-A Letter From Jim Borden

9x8 Gilbert Viewing Area: Evening of September 27, 2009

I recently received a copy of a letter from Jim Borden of Borden Custom Rifles. Mr Borden wrote this letter to a Mr. Jacobs of WNEP PA Outdoor Life concerning a program which they broadcast last year.

Here is the letter published by permission of Mr. Borden:

Mr Jacobs

I am writing to express my concerns with any publication of the Pa Elk Hunt. I grew up in Pennsylvania as an outdoors man and hunter and hunted for 45 years. All of the game I hunted was done fair chase and for animals that were wary of humans. The elk hunt in Pennsylvania is a disgrace to hunting. The PA Elk are not wary of humans and can be easily approached at all times of the year. The video broadcast on WNEP PA Outdoor Life last year would leave hunters and non-hunters alike concerned about calling the Pa Elk hunt a "hunt". . It was easy to see the elk were not afraid and it was like shooting cattle on a farm. This type of publicity does hunters no favors and in fact harms the impression that the general public has of hunters. The Pa Elk Season is NOT fair chase hunting. Bull Elk #47 has been reported as being killed. He walked up to "hunters" and "guides". Furthermore, on Gray Hill on the first day it has been reported that a group of 20 hunters approached 10 bulls together. This is very sad and I hope that you no longer use Pa Outdoor Life to advertise, promote or report on the hunt as a hunt.

My wife and I enjoy traveling to the Benezett area to view and photograph the elk. In all of my visits there over the past two years it has been apparent that the elk do not have normal wild animal fear of humans. Many of my hunting friends and clients share the same views.

Lets keep hunting as hunting and shooting as shooting.


Jim Borden

My thoughts on the situation:
There are more aspects of this situation than can be discussed in one blog post or several. In fact this subject has been the basic reason for the existence of this blog and its primary focus, although of course I like to pursue the discussion of other species and subjects. I will concede that it is possible that a fair chase hunt may be possible in the areas well away from Winslow Hill, Gray Hill, etc. I do not know! I ordinarily do not go afield in these areas and at present do not have experience there, but I do have more experience than most with the elk in the areas we are primarily concerned with.

We will pursue this subject in more depth in the very near future, but for today's photographs I will post a series of photos of the 9x8 that was killed in the Devils Elbow area. This animal was shot in elk hunt zone 2 on the first day. It was only a short distance from the Dents Run Viewing Area.

In this case the animal was photographed during the peak of the rut and persons were able to walk about freely in front of him. All of the persons involved were seasoned outdoorsmen and did not intrude on the animals personal space so as to cause him to alter his behavior.

17-40mm lens at 17mm-Bull in Center of Photo

17-40mm at 40mm

70-200mm at 200mm: Note photographer's out of focus shoulder in lower left of photo

It would have been possible to kill this animal from long range with a rifle or to walk to within spear range of him. At that point in time, it would have been possible to walk to almost any distance one chose. * Did he turn into an elusive, cunning animal in a few short weeks?

It appears from reports and photographs that we have received that this animal spent a significant portion of the last few days of it's life lying in the lawn of a nearby Bed And Breakfast. One of the persons staying there photographed the animal extensively on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday before elk season and noticed that two people spent a lot of time along the border of the property and appeared to be watching the elk closely. The animal did not appear on Monday and the person wondered why it did not. As I understand it, the bull was killed on State Game Lands quite close to the property on Monday morning, the first day of elk season. It seems likely that the persons seen observing the elk were the hunter and his guide.

We try to be fair and will permit persons of opposing viewpoints to comment or they may submit longer articles to be posted. The only requirement are that they must state their actual name, the tone of the article/comment must not be offensive, (no name calling), and must be an intelligent discussion of the issues.

In this vein, we especially invite a response from someone who can present a good ,valid reason that we should be shooting the trophy bulls that are acclimated to humans in the Winslow Hill, Gray Hill areas.

I am also interested in hearing a response from someone who was involved in the incident on Gray Hill on the first day, that can explain this incident in a manner that addresses the ethical and legal concerns that the situation seems to raise.

*Note: that I am not promoting or endorsing approaching these animals closely as the unexpected can always happen.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Updated Elk Hunt Results: Courtesy Of Carol Mulvihill

It was cloudy with rain in the forecast as I drove up Winslow Hill on Friday morning October 2, 2009. This was the last morning of a nearly two week trip to document the Pennsylvania elk rut. The area around the Gilbert Viewing Area had been extremely active during the last few days, but much of the vegetation was freshly planted grasses or grain, which made excellent food for the elk, but somewhat less than ideal backgrounds for photographs.

Fellow outdoor blogger Brad Myers ,of Bradley Myers Photo Blog, and I found a solitary bull with a small group of cows in a portion of meadow that was reclaimed two years or more ago, and had more photogenic appeal than much of the surrounding area. It began raining lightly as we worked into position and settled in for an excellent photo session with these animals.

As best as Ronald "Buckwheat" Saffer and I have been able to determine, this animal is bull #40. I saw this animal a few years ago when he still had a collar, but the numbers were torn off. At that time Buckwheat identified him as #40, as he had seen him when the numbers were visible and thought it was the same bull. Since that time he lost the collar entirely. In short there is slight room for error in stating that this is in fact bull #40, but the preponderance of the evidence points to it being him. If anyone knows differently please let me know.

Bull 40: The Final Encounter

I ran into bull #40 almost everywhere I went this year, but it seems that this would prove to be the final encounter. Again this was an animal that had no fear of humans--at least when he was in the Winslow Hill area.

At any rate, noted outdoor writer and elk enthusiast Carol Mulvihill (the elklady) was kind enough to provide us with a summary of the results of the elk hunt as she knew them as of November 9th and included in the report is the fact that #40 was taken this year.

She spent the first three days of season at the check station and also interviewed elk biologist, Jon DiBerti on Thursday of that week. She received the final summary of the hunt from Mr. DiBerti early this week and will be reporting on this in this Saturday's edition of The Endeavor News, a newspaper which covers events in Potter and Cameron Counties and surrounding areas. Ms. Mulvihill is a regular columnist for the paper. After two weeks, stories are available to the general public to be read in their entirety online(only the beginning portion is initially available). One may purchase a subscription to the online edition of the paper and read the article immediately upon publication.

Here is the information that Ms. Mulvihill provided us:
There were 59 licenses for the regular season 6-day Nov. PA elk hunt 2009, 20 bull tags and 39 cow tags. A total of 43 elk were harvested in the regular Nov. season this year: 19 antlered and 24 antlerless.

This compares with 45 licenses for last year's (2008) hunt, when 40 tags were filled during the regular season, 17 bulls and 23 antlerless elk were taken, and 5 antlerless tags remained unfilled.

So even though there were more licenses issued for this year's elk hunt, the harvest was very similar to last year.

These are the collared animals taken:

Collared bulls harvested: 9B, 5C,13, 47, 23, 7B, and 40 (remember this big bull #40, Willard? He lost his collar in the rut a couple years ago, still had ear tags. He came from Quehanna to Winslow Hill ( a distance of 18 air miles) each year for the rut, and then returned home.

Bull 7B was the 10 x 11 bull from Sinnemahoning State Park. It was seen at Hicks Run Cemetery and near Grant, during and after the rut. This bull was killed by woman elk hunter Lisa Banesick late on Wed 11/05/09., guided by Cody Ball, Janet Colwell's daughter, of Hicks Run Outfitters. It was brought in to the check station on Thursday -- it's the one that Jeff Thomas told you about.

Collared cows harvested: 80, 28, 3C, 48, and 74.

According to DeBerti, the highest green-scored bull this year was taken on day-one (Monday) in Frenchville by Reed Bamberger, guided by Jack Manack. The antler net green score of his bull was 422 in the non-typical category. Lisa Banasick's bull, taken Thursday, was not green-scored at the check station.

PGC regional staff, Rick Macklem and Tony Ross did the green scoring at the check station on Mon-Wed, then had to return to the regional office Wed. afternoon. The scoring drew a big crowd and was fascinating to watch.

Anyway, the net green score of 422 for Bamberger's bull is significant. Remember John Shirk's bull from 2006 hunt, that is currently #1 Non-Typical record elk in Pennsylvania. Ultimately, after being challenged and rescored, it ranked 13th in the World, instead of 7th in the World.

After rescoring, the final net Boone and Crockett net score of Shirk's bull was 425 and 2/8. Since then, some of the world records have been broken, but Shirk's bull is still #1 Non-Typical bull elk in PA. I know this because I was at the PGC awards ceremony when he was honored in Sept. 2008.

Bamberger's bull will receive a final Boone & Crockett score after a 60-day drying period. Usually several inches fall of the score due to shrinkage that occurs.
Above Information courtesy of Carol Mulvihill

Coming Soon: Some thoughts on the elk hunt as expressed in a letter by a prominent member of the firearms and hunting community.