Elk hunting grows in popularity in Pa.


Elk once roamed freely all over the state of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, the growing settlement of the area and subsequent exploitation by of the elk by these early settlers the herds could not survive.

It’s estimated that by 1867 there were no more elk to be found in Pennsylvania. Unregulated hunting and habitat loss were the biggest factors of their demise.

In 1913 the Pennsylvania Game Commission began reintroducing elk into Pennsylvania. The elk herd we witness today came from 177 elk that were trapped and transferred to northern areas of Pennsylvania. This reintroduction of elk took place from 1913-1926.

Today, we admire herds across parts of the state that are estimated to be well over 1,000. All of this elk originated from the first 177 transplants of the early 1900s.

Then, in 2001, many Pennsylvania hunters placed their name in the proverbial hat for the chance to draw an elk tag. The first year that would be open to elk hunting since the state’s restoration efforts had established a sustainable herd. That year, only 30 tags were issued statewide. Given out were 15 tags for each gender and 27 of the 30 hunters drawn managed to take an elk that year.

As herds have grown, so has the annual number of tags issued and the number of applicants each year. Tags would jump from 30 in 2001 to 70 in 2002, and then 100 in 2003. Starting in 2004, the number of tags issued dipped back down into the 40s, 50s and 60s, mostly due to the successful harvests of hunters who drew tags. It would stay at that trend for a while, but then in 2013, that number of tags jumped to 86, and would sail north of 100 in 2014, where it has stayed ever since.

In 2019, there were 142 tags issued to be used over the course of three separate seasons: 32 antlered and 110 antlerless tags will be issued for archery, general firearms, and a late firearms season throughout 13 zones. Each application costs $11.90, so applying for all three seasons would cost a total of $35.70. If you happen to be entering the drawing for the first time, The Pennsylvania Game Commission has your odds of drawing a bull elk tag listed at 1:7,665, a cow elk at 1:1,168 and either sex is listed at 1:1,013 odds.

When entering the drawing, you have the opportunity to be as specific, or as broad as you wish to be. You can select a preferred zone, a preferred season, and a preference on sex of the elk you would wan to hunt, or you can simply choose the “any” option for each one and leave it all to chance. The annual drawing for 2019 took place on Aug. 17 at the Elk Expo, which is held each year at the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette.

In all, since the start in ’01, the state has issued 1,313 elk licenses in all, and an impressive 83 percent of those hunters have managed to harvest an elk over the years. Even more staggering is that of those hunters, those who have drawn a bull elk tag have seen a 97 percent success rate compared to a 77 percent success rate for female elk.

A lot more information on how to enter, the answering of basic questions on an FAQ, and other statistics, can all be found online.

Hunt hard, hunt safe, and shoot straight, friends.


John Knouse writes about the outdoors for The Sentinel.