Bull elk hunters have 100 percent success
Karthaus, Pa. — Charlie Ulrich eased up over the top of the ridge and saw three bull elk in the scrubby reclaimed strip mine below. A nice 7X7, a respectable 6X6 and a smaller bull were feeding undisturbed about 75 yards away.
He and his guide, Carey Bollman, from Elk County Outfitters, glassed the elk from their position on the tree line – sizing up the largest bull.
“Should I shoot?” whispered Ulrich.
“It is a nice bull,” Bollman answered. “But we might be able to find you a bigger one.”
“But, should I shoot?” asked Ulrich again, while watching the nervous elk.
“It’s your tag, so the decision is yours, but you need to make your mind up quickly, because these elk are going to spook,” his guide advised.
This was certainly the moment of truth for Ulrich – and one shared by most of the other elk hunters who had drawn permits for the event. Pennsylvania’s 12th modern-day elk hunt, involving 55 fortunate permit-holders, ended Nov. 10.
According to Pennsylvania Game Commission deer biologist Chris Rosenberry, by late afternoon on Nov. 9, all 19 of the hunters who had drawn antlered elk permits on Sept. 14 had been successful at harvesting a bull elk.
Eighteen of the hunters were Pennsylvania residents and one of the successful bull hunters came from Virginia.
Dan Barto, an overhead line crew leader for Duquesne Light Co. in Pittsburgh, took the bull with the largest antlers in Gibson Township, Cameron County. Its 8X7 antlers green-scored 4057⁄8 inches gross – 3823⁄8 inches net – using the Boone and Crockett system.
“When they score over 400 gross, you are usually talking about a nice trophy elk, and this is a nice elk,” said Tony Ross, a Game Commission employee and the official B&C scorer who measured Barto’s massive elk.
The elk can be officially scored after a 60-day drying period and should place very high in Pennsylvania’s record books.
Using the most current data available, 28 of the 46 hunters holding antlerless elk permits were successful and had already brought their elk to the commission’s check station in Quehanna by Friday afternoon.
One of those cow elk was harvested with a Pennsylvania longrifle – a muzzleloader used by early settlers in this country. Todd Plank, of Gardners, Cumberland County, made the 60-yard shot, dropping the 430-pound cow with his .54 caliber ball.
Plank hunted without the aid of a guide.
Ulrich also made it to the check station – a successful hunter.
“I actually started planning and hoping for this hunt when I built our house in 1996,” Ulrich said. “I have a cathedral ceiling in the living room and I told my wife – the elk goes over the fireplace.
“I’ve applied for an elk permit every year, so I was particularly happy to be drawn for a bull permit in Zone 7 this year. I would have my chance to fill that empty spot over the fireplace.”
Almost every week this fall, Ulrich drove about 80 miles from his home in Allenwood, Lycoming County, to study the elk. He also hired a guide to increase his odds.
“It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I didn’t want to blow it,” he said.
Earlier that morning, Ulrich’s guide located him nine bull elk, but they were over 300 yards away and just outside of Zone 7. They were also just beyond the hunter’s maximum comfortable shooting distance, so he passed on that opportunity, rather than waiting and hoping that the bulls would cross the line into Zone 7 from Zone 9.
That led him to this field near Keewaydin, Clearfield County.
Ulrich rested his Savage rifle on a shale bank and centered the elk’s chest in his 3x9 variable scope.
“I had a steady rest; the bull was only 75 yards away and broadside,” Ulrich related. “How could it get any better than this?”
With a nod of approval from his son, Brandon, Ulrich fired his Savage rifle chambered for .300 Winchester short magnum – its loud report echoing across the rolling terrain. The large elk ran about 30 yards and dropped.
At the check station, Ulrich learned that his bull had an estimated live weight of 729 pounds. The 7X7 elk green-scored 3566⁄8 inches gross and 3354⁄8 net. One antler measured 61 inches long – more than 5 feet. It was the largest bull measured that morning, only later being bested when Barto’s elk was brought in.
With another successful elk hunt under its belt, the Game Commission is already planning for next fall’s hunt.
“The elk population is very healthy,” noted Commission Executive Director Carl Roe, who spent the opening day at the check station.
“I think that the commissioners will be looking at offering more elk permits next year – specifically addressing areas where we have had increased conflicts with landowners.”