By Aaron Hepler
When a conversation steers to elk hunting in a northeastern state like PA, it doesn’t hold the robust popularity of western states. Many non-resident hunters, or even general public for that matter, have no idea that PA holds the largest elk herd in the northeast. Let me tell you, we’ve got some biggins!
By the 1870s elk were considered extirpated from Pennsylvania. With the creation of the Pennsylvania Game Commission in 1895, elk began to be a focus of concern. Beginning in 1912 a plan was put into motion for the reintroduction of Pennsylvania's elk herd. The crowning achievement was the introduction of 177 elk from Yellowstone between 1913 and 1926.
Our elk herd is now approximately 1,200 in a range spanning more than 3,000 square miles in the PA Wilds. The herd is full of big, healthy animals.
Ask local Russ Gleixner, an avid outdoorsman who has a passion for following these elk around and finding sheds in the spring. In spring 2019 Russ picked up a set of sheds from an elk deemed "Tippy" by elk country locals. Tippy is a 400 inch 12-year-old bull. The sheds for this bull were included in the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation display at the Great American Outdoor Show this past spring. Also speaking to the health of this herd are the multiple typical bulls in the 350 inch range with non-typicals reaching into the 400s.
Pennsylvania has had a sustained hunting season for elk since 2001 via a lottery with a preference point draw system. The system is available for non-residents as well as residents.
For the last 5 years standing, bulls have maintained a 95% success rate with cows being about 70% or better for the last 3 years.
Entering the lottery can be accomplished when buying a PA hunting license. The deadline for entry is July 31 with the draw occurring in mid-August. There are 3 separate elk seasons: September for early rut archery, a general November season, and a late season in January (cow only).
The fee for entry into the lottery is $11.90 for each season, $35.70 for all three. The license needed for hunting elk is a general hunting license. The cost for non-residents is $101.9; the archery license add-on NR fee is $26.90. The cost of an elk license is super low at $250 for a non-resident and $25 for a resident.
New for 2020, elk licenses have been increased by 100 percent with 164 tags available (36 bulls and 128 cows). Draw odds can be found at pgc.pa.gov.
What to do if you don’t draw but want to know what’s up in the PA elk range? Opportunities for exploring the PA wilds abound. This northwestern corner of PA is home to the largest section of public land PA has to offer. With two elk visitor centers, miles of hiking trails, multiple state parks, and state forests, PA elk country is a great place to take your family and experience the most remote areas in PA.
PA Game Commission: https://www.pgc.pa.gov/Pages/default.aspx
PA Wilds: https://pawilds.com/
Elk Country Visitor Center: https://elkcountryvisitorcenter.com/
PA State Parks: https://www.dcnr.pa.gov/StateParks/Pages/default.aspx
Bulls like this are common in PA's herd.
The Elk Visitors Center in Benezette, PA.