Friday, November 4, 2011

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


paulstan said...

willard... Thanks for keeping us up to date...

Unknown said...

very informative and well written. I whole heartedly agree with your comments and conclusions