With an 89 percent success rate during the latest Pennsylvania elk hunting season, and with bulls weighing over 800 pounds, why would you spend your hard-earned money paying for an expensive elk hunt out West or New Mexico.
Yes, those are some of the numbers reported by the Pennsylvania Game Commission of hunter success during the latest elk season that ended Nov. 4. The PGC said that 104 elk were taken by hunters during the regular one-week season. And for those licensed to hunt antlered elk, also known as bulls, the success rate was 100 percent.
The 2017 harvest included ten bulls, each were estimated to weigh 700 pounds or more, with three of them going more than 800 pounds. The heaviest bull taken in this year's hunt was estimated at 833 pounds. It sported an 8-by-7 rack, and was taken Oct. 30 by Shawn Latshaw, of Franklin.
Missing that one by a pound, Robert Cook, of Earlville, NY, managed to down an 832-pounder with an 8-by-9 rack. Close by was an 803-pounder with a 6-by-7 rack shot by Alfred Hake, of Manchester.
Not all of the bull elk taken in the hunt were measured and green-scored by rack size, said the PGC. But Cook's bull had the highest green score at 431 6/8 inches, according to Boone & Crockett big-game scoring standards.
Official measurements of bulls taken in the hunt cannot be taken and recorded until the antlers have air dried for at least 60 days after the animal was harvested. This holds true for antlered deer as well.
The PGC points out that there also were some large antlerless elk taken in the harvest. Nine of of the 79 cows taken by hunters during the one-week season weighed over 500 pounds.
There were 59 elk taken on the Oct. 30 opener, and consisted of 12 bulls and 47 cows.
To participate in the elk hunt, hunters must submit an application, then be selected through a random drawing and purchase a license. The drawing annually attracts more than 30,000 applicants.
Pennsylvania’s statewide, four-day black bear rifle hunting season gets underway Nov. 18. And as with big elk, Pennsylvania also harbors some very large bears. In fact, the Keystone State has become known nationwide as a big bear state and ranks No. 2 among all states and Canadian provinces in number of black bear entries in Boone & Crockett Club records. Ten percent of those bears, boasts the PGC, were taken in Pennsylvania.
Last season, 3,529 bears were harvested (typical success rate is between 2-3 percent), and it ranked as the state’s fifth best. Keep in mind this is out of an estimated population of 20,000 bears with 170,000-175,000 licenses sold. The state’s all-time largest harvest occurred in 2011 when 4,350 bears were taken and this was during the first four-day season format.
During the 2016 season, 60 bears topping 500 pounds were taken. The largest was shot by Dusty Learn, of Home, whose bear tipped the scales at 740 pounds. He took is with bow-and-arrow.
But there are still bigger ones out there according to Mark Ternent, PGC bear biologist, who claims 800-pound bears have already been taken. He explains that it takes about nine years for a bear to reach 500 pounds, so 800-pounders are older, wiser bears.
And this season, Ternent says there’s an abundance of fall foods and with warm weather stretching into the first week of November, bears will be on the move (like the one spotted going into Cementon Playground a few weeks ago). The uncommon warm weather, he went on to say, have given bears reasons to stay out of dens.
In 2016, bears were taken in 58 of the state’s 67 counties with the largest bear harvests occurring in Lycoming County (243); Clinton County (220); Tioga (169); Potter (149); Warren (131) and Somerset (116).
If you’re lucky and bag a bear, don’t forget to have it checked at a check station that are listed on the agency’s website www.pgc.pa.gov. The PGC also recommends having a plan to get your downed bruin out of the woods. It's a tough job to do by yourself, especially if you bag an 800-pounder.
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Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.