Special new elk tag is being auctioned

Some are calling it the working man’s elk tag.

This year, for the first time in what will become an annual event, the Keystone Elk Country Alliance is raffling off a bull elk hunting tag. The winner will get 60 days to hunt, from Sept. 1 through Nov. 8, starting with the onset of the rut, with the chance to take a 400-inch class animal.

Legislation signed into law earlier this summer created the new tag. One such tag will be raffled each year.

This year’s is pretty special, though. In honor of this being the first such tag ever available, there are some perks involved.

One of the guiding outfits that’s been involved with the elk hunt since its return in 2001 is giving the raffle winner a six-day fully guided hunt that includes meals and lodging.

A DuBois taxidermist is offering a free shoulder mount, while a local production company, has offered to film the hunt, too.

The cost for all that?

A $25 ticket.

That’s what it will set hunters back for a single raffle ticket. You can spend more if you like, though. You can get six for $100, and there’s no limit on how many raffle tickets a hunter can buy.

“There aren’t many tags like that in the country. In fact, I don’t know where else in the country you might go to get something like this,” said Rawley Cogan, president and CEO of the Keystone Elk Country Alliance.

“To be able to hunt during the rut, across any elk hunt zone, for 60 days, that’s pretty unique.”

Time to get a raffle ticket is running out, though.

The deadline to purchase tickets is midnight Aug. 15 if you get them online at www.Experience

ElkCountry.com. Printed tickets mailed to the elk center must have been postmarked by Aug. 11.

A winner will be chosen at a public drawing set for Aug. 17 at this year’s Elk Expo, set for Aug. 16 and 17 in Benezette.

Two other options to get an elk hunting license have already closed.

The same legislation that created the Elk Country Alliance elk tag also reauthorized the special elk “conservation tag.” Like the Alliance tag, it’s good for a bull across 60 days and all hunt zones.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission awards the tag to a sportsman’s group each year, with that group raffling it off to the highest bidder.

In years past, the tag was raffled off at the national conventions of groups like Safari Club International, National Wild Turkey Federation and Rocky Mountain Elk

Foundation. It’s traditionally gone for lots of money. The Elk Foundation raised a combined $60,000 in auctions held in 2010 and 2013, for example.

The law re-authorizing the auction was signed too late for that to happen this year; all of those groups have already held their conventions.

The Elk Foundation auctioned the tag off between July 31 and Aug. 5 in an online auction, however. No word on how much the tag went for was available by presstime.

However, the Elk Foundation is giving it all away.

The money raised typically gets split between the commission and the auctioning sportsmen’s group. This year, the Elk Foundation is giving all of the money to the commission for elk management and habitat development.

“RMEF appreciates this opportunity to raise funds to benefit Pennsylvania elk and Pennsylvania elk country,” said its senior regional director, Dave Ragantesi.

“We want to thank our conservation partners at the Game Commission who will receive 100 percent of the proceeds from the auction to put back on the ground. RMEF will absorb any administrative fees associated with running the auction.”

The third opportunity to get an elk license, also closed, involves the Game Commission itself.

It allocated 108 elk licenses this year. Twenty-seven are for bulls, 81 for cows. That’s up from 86 last year.

Hunters who draw a commission tag will be allowed to hunt during the Nov. 3-8 season.

The deadline to enter the drawing was July 31. The drawing to see who gets those tags is still upcoming, though.

Conducted at the commission’s Harrisburg headquarters and webcast from there in past years, it’s going on the road this fall. The drawing will be held at 2 p.m. on Aug. 16, the first day of the Elk Expo.

It will still be webcast for the sake of those who can’t be there.

All of those who win or draw an elk tag will have plenty of animals to hunt. The state’s elk herd is estimated to number at least 900 to 1,000 animals right now, according to Jeremy Banfield, the commission’s elk biologist. Many are big bulls. He said the herd contains about 33 to 34 branch-antlered bulls for every 100 cows.

To put that in perspective, many larger but heavily hunted elk herds in the West contain 10 branch-antlered bulls per 100 cows, he said.

Those roaming the Keystone State countryside are among the biggest anywhere in the world, and certainly in the East, he said.

“I would put money on that,” Banfield said.

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