Quehanna, Pa. — Light was fading, and a monster bull was bugling at 45 yards. The hunter’s crossbow rested on a shooting stick. He hoped for a good shot, but the bull was facing him – bugling furiously.
Armstrong County hunter Dave Kammerdiener had been waiting for this moment for a long time in Pennsylvania. He had been entering the elk lottery every year since the beginning, but he almost forgot this year. Fortunately, for the hunter, “almost” was the key word.
“It was just two weeks before the deadline and I remembered that I hadn’t yet entered,” Kammerdiener said. “So, I applied online for the first time.”
And, it was lucky that he did, because his name was one of 14 drawn for an antlered elk permit for the September archery hunt. Kammerdiener, a 66-year-old retired carpenter from Templeton, drew a permit for Elk Hunt Zone 10.
At over 160,000 acres, Zone 10 is one of the largest zones, spanning parts of Clearfield, Cameron and Elk counties. It includes much of the Quehanna Wild Area.
Before dawn on the opening Saturday, Kammerdiener, his lifelong friend Bud Slagle, and Trophy Rack Lodge guide Matt Lutz found themselves at the western edge of Zone 10, walking along a gated road on State Game Land 34.
This forested parcel of the game land contains many herbaceous openings managed for elk.
They saw several bulls that day, including a monster non-typical, but could not get closer than 72 yards. On Monday, Sept. 12, they encountered a beautiful 7×7 elk, but Kammerdiener couldn’t get an ethical shot.
The scenario repeated itself each day through Thursday morning, with the party seeing bulls and cows, and many flocks of turkeys each trip.
Hunter and guide liked their odds on State Game Land 34 – each morning and evening they walked into and out of the Pebble Run area – putting quite a few miles on their boots.
The hike in the morning and out that evening happened in the dark without flashlights. But a chance event on Wednesday morning changed that.
“I just happened to turn my flashlight on for a moment to see exactly where we were,” Lutz said. “There on the road, just 6 feet away was a large rattlesnake. It would have surely nailed one of us if I hadn’t turned on my light.”
No surprise, “flashlights-on” was the favored method of travel after that.
On Thursday afternoon, they altered their plans.
“The plan for Friday morning was to walk the entire way into the far food plots at Pebble Run, so we decided to take it easy and hunt the food plots closer to Ardell Road on Thursday evening,” Lutz said.
Another factor in that thinking involved a hunter having had a close encounter with the monster non-typical in neighboring Zone 11 – not far from their chosen spot for that evening.
“It was getting late, but we could hear a bull bugling nearby,” Kammerdiener said.
“All of a sudden, another bull bugled in challenge and seemed to be moving our way. The first bull that had been bugling left the area, and my guide took that as a sign that the other bull was big.”
The challenger entered the field where the hunting party waited. Sure enough, that bull was big – it was the monster non-typical that they had encountered on the opening day. This led to the scenario described in the opening paragraph.
Fortunately for Kammerdiener, after what seemed like an eternity, the bull turned broadside and his guide cow-called, hoping to hold it there.
“Light was fading, and the monster elk was bugling at 45 yards, while my hunter was trying to get a shot,” Lutz said.
“I noticed that when the bull bugled, the huge drop tine covered much of the vital area, and I prayed that he would take the shot when the elk wasn’t bugling.”
The bull stopped bugling and Kammerdiener made a shot with his Excalibur crossbow. They heard a sound like the arrow had hit a hollow bucket. It sounded like a good hit. Not wanting to push the elk, they went back to the lodge and returned about three hours later.
“It was nerve-racking, tracking the elk. There was a great blood trail at first and then it stopped, Lutz related. They located the blood trail again and the bull was found dead about 200 yards from where Kammerdiener had shot.
“I thought that the 6×6 bull that I shot in Colorado 12 years ago was big until I saw this one up close,” Kammerdiener said. “I felt lucky when my name was selected in the lottery, but when I saw this elk, I felt like I had won the Mega Millions.”
Lutz arranged for Steve Perrine, of Frenchville, to drag the elk out with his draft horse. It was after midnight when they got the elk back to the lodge.
“Dave was just an amazing hunter,” Lutz said. “Over the five days, we walked 46 miles back and forth into Pebble Run. And then, when the time came, he made the perfect lung shot.”
Kammerdiener is building a trophy room with a cathedral ceiling onto his house to accommodate his two elk and other mounts. He noted that this elk’s massive antlers weighed 40 pounds. He is looking forward to the official scoring of his trophy in November.
“We green-scored this bull at 4674⁄8 inches,” Lutz said. “The rack will shrink a little during the 60-day drying period, but the current Pennsylvania record is 400 inches, and I have no doubt that Dave’s bull will be the new archery record. “
Lutz thinks it may even eclipse the rifle record-holder. (The Pennsylvania firearm non-typical elk record is 455 inches, set by Duane Kramer in 2020.)
The current Boone & Crockett world record is a Utah elk that scored 4785⁄8.