Sunday, February 14, 2010

Wintering PA Elk

I spent Friday with a friend touring the Benezett PA area looking for elk.  We did not see any in the normal spots, but the weather was cold and there was some hard wind.   We did observe over 80 elk from the Winslow Hill viewing area.  The herd bull was still showing rut behavior.  He was bugling and was "sniffing" the cows.  They initially were laying in the hollow below the viewing area.  The bull did his rounds and got the herd up and herded them to the top field to feed.  He was a fair sized 6x6.

We headed to Gray Hill from there and we found 11 bulls wintering together.  This is in the hunt zone and is said by some to be more remote and that the elk there are more wild.  My friend was amazed when I got out of the vehicle and set up my tripod and walked to where I could get some good pictures of some of the bulls.  The bulls remained standing or laying where they were and paid no attention to me. My friend and I stayed with them photographing them for well over an hour and they were not the least bit afraid of us. The elk in Pennsylvania have not learned to fear humans and continuing to hunt them in the scale that has been done in the past few years will only deplete the population of large bulls and will not create  real fair chase hunting.

One of the bulls had a malformed right antler.  He looked to be an older bull and had a very handsome left antler.  There were two other bulls that also had a short deformed stub for a right antler and a well formed left antler. They appeared to be younger and I would suspect that they were offspring of the larger bull with the deformed antler.

Having hunted elk in the western states, I can say that the behavior of the eastern elk is very different than those found in the western states.  The elk in the west, even those around Yellowstone Park are more wary of humans and are easily "spooked".  My friend (who is also a hunter) asked me how anyone could hunt the elk that we saw and with good conscience kill one of them in the name of fair chase.  I did not know how to answer his question.


Brad Myers said...

It looks like we both had the same idea. My son and I arrived in Benezette around 2 p.m. on Saturday and stayed until this morning. We seen the large herd you mentioned and I will be posting a photo of the same bull tomarrow and I think my son is also.

We counted at least 75 in the herd but we know there was more. Both times we seen them they were in the area of the Elk Diner. The bull bugled numerous times and was often answered by a rag horn with the group. He tried a few times to mount a cow while we were watching.

Other than that herd there was a herd of about 20 in the Medix Run area and a small herd in Benezette. I do not know where Gray Hill is so we missed them. We still had a great time, to bad we did not get to meet. Brad

JimB said...

I hope we get to meet sometime--we will be back there the weekend of March 5 and 6.


Coy said...

If the deformed antlers are a result of genetics then perhaps one would be safe to assume that bulls such as this will become more common in the coming years as few hunters would consider taking one of these thus allowing deformed antlered bulls to breed throughout their natural lifespan, just one more problem with having a “trophy” hunt on such a small isolated population of animals.

JimB said...


I agree. I saw this on a ranch in Montana that focused on trophy mule deer hunting and they did not cull the bucks with genetics that only produced massive fork horns. They ended up with massive fork horns dominating their herd and then had to take action--a few generations too late.

Having three animals wintering together with such a common deformity is more than coincidence and certainly would provide a sound basis for the argument that it is indeed genetic.

Willard said...

Excellent photos, and a good presentation of the issues, Jim.