Elk Watching and Recreation The secret to maximizing your chances to see elk is knowing where to go, when to go and what to do and what not to do when you get there. You don't need to be an expert in elk biology or intimately familiar with the region's topography or roads to find them.
Be safe. Be considerate. Be respectful. Because elk viewing is better in some areas than others, it stands to reason that the largest numbers of wildlife watchers will be in those areas with the best viewing opportunities. However, when wildlife viewers congregate on the shoulders of rural roads and are focused on watching elk rather than oncoming traffic, problems can arise. Your actions ensure all elk-watchers, landowners, law enforcement and conservation officials have fewer problems.
Elk Hunting The application period for the 2015 elk hunt will open June 8 and close July 31. The annual drawing for elk licenses will take place on August 15 during the Elk Expo at Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette, along with seminars, exhibits, vendors and entertainment.
To check the status of an elk application: Successful applicants who provide a phone number will be notified by phone. Hunters can check on the status of an elk application and preference points through the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS) at www.pa.wildlifelicense.com. Click the first radio button, scroll to the bottom of the page and click Start Here and follow the prompts.
Note to license recipients: Elk are large animals. An adult bull may weigh 600-1,000 pounds and an adult cow may weigh 400-600 pounds. Part of your hunt plan should include how to field-dress and move the animal from the kill site to your vehicle and on to the check station. Regulations prohibit the use of motorized vehicles, including ATVs on state-owned property, with few exceptions. The animal may be skinned and quartered and packed out by horses or mules or on pack boards. Hunters should bring plenty of help. Any number of unlicensed persons may accompany hunters as long as they wear the required fluorescent orange and do not participate in the hunt itself or carry a firearm. Persons just accompanying an elk hunter are not required to have an elk guide permit.
Elk Guides: Elk Guides are regulated by the Game Commission and the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources and offer various services to the hunter. Those individuals drawn for elk licenses will be provided a list of permitted guides before the hunt, although guides are not required. Employing the services of an elk guide/outfitter is completely up to the hunter.
Preference points: Hunters can check on the status of an elk application and preference points through the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS) at www.pa.wildlifelicense.com. Click the first radio button and follow the prompts. Preference points are accumulated for each unsuccessful application; you won't see an accumulated point for the current year's application. If you believe there is an error, please contact the License Division at 717-787-2084.
Frequently Asked Questions & Answers I forgot to apply for an elk tag this year, will I lose my preference points? No, preference points are only lost if you're successfully drawn for an elk tag, however you must apply in the current year to be entered into the drawing.
Where can I get detailed information about individual elk hunt zone boundaries? There are several options for this, but the best place to view the elk hunt zones in detail is through the Pennsylvania Game Commission's online Mapping Center, with instructions on how to use it. Through the online mapping program hunters can add a variety of backgrounds including aerial photos, topographic maps and roads. A second option is to download a detailed .pdf directly from the Game Commission's website. And a third option is to examine State Forest maps available online or at each State Forests headquarters.
What's the best elk hunt zone to select as my "preferred" zone? This is really a matter of individual preference. Hunters have successfully harvested elk in every hunt zone. We'd suggest a careful examination of each hunt zone considering road access, the percentage of public and private land, and the relative area encompassed by each zone before making a decision. Please note that selecting a hunt zone during the application process is a "preference", and has no influence on your chances of being drawn. For example, if you select Zone 2 and are drawn after Zone 2 has been filled, you'll simply be assigned to the next available zone.
Why does the Game Commission radio-collar elk? Research and data collection are a fundamental part of elk management in Pennsylvania. Radio collars are specifically used to estimate three things: age specific survival, habitat use and population.
How many elk do we have in Pennsylvania? As of January 2015, there are about 900 elk in Pennsylvania.
How long do elk live? This varies with geography. In Pennsylvania wild cow elk live and average of 10 years, while bulls live an average of 8 years. The oldest known cow in Pennsylvania was 32, and the oldest bull was 15. Captive elk live longer than wild elk.
Do elk have any natural predators in Pennsylvania? Yes, bears and coyotes will prey on elk calves, but cow elk have a strong maternal instinct to protect their calves and predation accounts for less than 2 percent of elk calf mortality. People are the only predator of adult elk in Pennsylvania.
Do elk compete with deer for food? To some degree, nearly all Pennsylvania wildlife compete for resources. Elk are primarily grazers while deer are primarily browsers, however, elk will seasonally shift to a browse-based diet, particular in winter. Nevertheless, the Game Commission puts a tremendous amount of time and effort into improving elk habitat, which inevitably benefits deer and other wildlife.
When is the peak of the elk rut? The elk rut is triggered by photoperiod (day length) and generally begins around the middle of September and carries through the early- to mid-October. If a cow is not bred in her first estrus cycle, she'll recycle approximately every 21 days providing up to three additional opportunities for conception.
What's the best time to view or hunt elk? Elk are crepuscular, moving more during dawn and dusk. So whether you're trying to view or hunt elk, you'll have more success if you go early in the morning or late afternoon/evening. The most popular time of year to observe elk is during the rut because they are very active.
When are elk calves born? Cow elk usually begin calving the last week of May through the first two weeks of June, with the peak around June 5th. Every year one or two newborn calves are seen later in the summer (July or August) and these animals are from cows that were bred after the peak of the rut (September).
What is the average weight of a calf? At birth calves generally weigh between 33 and 45 pounds, with males being heavier than females. A calf's birth weight is correlated to the health of its mother, which is dependent upon the quantity and quality of the available habitat and seasonal variation in weather patterns.
How long do calves keep their spots? Calves grow very quickly, and by late September they will lose their spots as their summer coats are replaced with winter coats.
Do elk have twins? Very rarely, twinning is possible but occurs in less than 1 percent of elk births. There is only one record of twins occurring in Pennsylvania and they were still-born.
When do bull elk shed their antlers? Most bulls tend to lose their antlers right between March 10 and 25; there are always exceptions. Changes in photoperiod (day length) cause a reduction in testosterone that ultimately causes a bull's antlers to drop off.
If I find an elk shed can I keep it? Yes, collecting sheds from public lands (except National Parks) or land you own or have permission to be on is legal. However, it is not legal to pick up any parts or bones of an elk you found dead, including skulls and antlers.
Where should I go to look for sheds? Finding an elk shed is about 90 percent luck. There are a few tips that might improve your chances. First; think about where elk spend time when sheds are dropping. Elk home ranges shift seasonally, so searching for sheds where you've seen elk in the summer is generally a poor strategy. Second; go slow and try to develop an "eye" for sheds. Walk slowly through an area scanning back and forth and look for the white tips of the antler sticking up. Third; put your time in. The people that seem to find sheds every year are usually the ones that spend hours walking around the woods.