7 elk taken in extended season [Photo]

Brian May, of Dillsburg, poses with the large 6×8 bull that he harvested in January. This was the only bull elk taken during the extended season. Photo courtesy Trophy Rack Lodge

Benezette, Pa. — Christmas came late for 15 Pennsylvania elk hunters. The lucky ones were the Elk Hunt Zone 5 permit holders who were unsuccessful during the recent fall season.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission granted them an extra seven-day season to hopefully make up for the extreme under-harvest in that management area. The season ran Jan. 7-14 (minus the Sunday). Hunters were allowed to harvest elk in either Zone 5 or Zone 1, the “open zone” that makes up the western edge of the elk management area.

Only eight of 20 Zone 5 cow permit holders were successful in 2015, and even fewer – just five  of 20 license holders – harvested antlerless elk this past fall. Commission elk biologist Jeremy Banfield was concerned that the under-harvest would lead to additional problems with elk in that area.

Elk Hunt Zone 5 is made up of over 56,000 acres of land in northwestern Clearfield County and southern Elk County. It is mainly the Route 255 corridor and includes the towns of Byrnedale, Force, Hollywood, Penfield and Weedville. According to the commission, it is an area of high human-elk conflict, including crop damage and vehicle collisions.

Dillsburg hunter Brian May, the only unsuccessful bull elk permit holder for Zone 5, was the first to make good during the January season.

May’s guides had located a large bull just before dark on a farm near Shawville in Zone 1.

“We were there well before daybreak on the opening morning,” May said. “A guide circled the area, checking for fresh elk tracks. He was trying to figure out if the bull left the area during the night.”

There were no tracks found, so the hunter and guides waited for daylight and the legal shooting time of 7:04.

“At about 6:45, the snow allowed my guide to just make out the form of an elk with his binoculars, but it was over 500 yards away,” May said. “We moved to about 300 yards, and it got light enough to make out the antlers. We moved 50 yards closer, and we determined by 7:10 that it was a good bull. I took three shots with my .30-06 – just to be sure. All three hit and the elk never left the field.”

The 6×8 bull had a huge 66-inch spread and a lot of mass. Unfortunately, about 17 inches will be subtracted from the total score because – under the Boone and Crockett system – the spread credit cannot be greater than the longest main beam, which in this case was 496⁄8 inches.

“I was so happy to be given a second chance and then to get a big bull like this was so exciting,” May said. “My guides didn’t even charge me anything extra.”

Cow elk permit holder Tammy Mowery, of Reedsville, was also happy with the second chance that she had been given. However, she was concerned that her husband might not be able to accompany her because of his recent hospitalization.

“Tim, my husband, was well enough to join me and that meant a lot,” Mowery said. “My guide placed us at a clearing before daybreak, but there were no elk. We then walked about a half mile back through the woods before spotting fresh tracks.”

The trio waited under a large hemlock tree, watching a brushy hollow in Jay Township. After about a half-hour wait, they spotted five elk slowly moving in their direction.

“The elk crossed the bottom of the hollow and got to within 50 yards. I picked the biggest cow and made the shot with my 300 Winchester mag,” Mowery said. “I’d like to thank the Game Commission and my guide for a great hunt, and the extended hunt was free.”

A check station was manned at the Moshannon State Forest maintenance building at S.B. Elliott State Park, near the southern edge of Zone 5. There, Mowery learned that her cow elk had an estimated live weight of 562 pounds.

According to Banfield, six of the 14 antlerless elk permit holders and the lone bull hunter were successful during the extended season. All of the cow elk were harvested in Zone 5.

“Of course, I wish that a few more elk had been harvested, but I think that the extended season was great,” Banfield said.

“Seven more hunters got the trophy of a lifetime, and we demonstrated to the local people in Zone 5 that we care about their concerns with elk damage. The seven successful hunters were ecstatic and very thankful for the second opportunity. Even the two unsuccessful hunters who I talked with were very appreciative.”

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