Sportsmen pursue elk in Pennsylvania based on their assigned elk hunt zone.
Pennsylvania elk are moving into areas where they’re wanted. Pennsylvania elk hunters aren’t always doing the same.
That’s behind some changes.
Pennsylvania Game Commissioners allocated 125 elk licenses – 26 for bulls, 99 for cows – for the 2018 elk hunting season.
That’s up from 118 last year, when 25 bull and 93 cow tags were issued.
Part of the reason for the increase is the addition of a new hunt zone to the elk range.
Elk hunt zone 14 is in the northeast corner of that range, in the area around Kettle Creek State Park. There are at least 81 elk living there now, said David Mitchell, director of the commission’s northentral region office.
“So it has a good population of elk. And it’s increasing,” Mitchell said. “It will be able to sustain hunting pressure and still allow that herd to grow there.”
The zone offers plenty of opportunity in another way, added Chris Rosenberry, chief if the commission’s deer and elk section.
“Hunters should find plenty of area to hunt, as this zone is 86 percent public land,” Rosenberry said.
One other zone is getting fewer tags, meanwhile. Elk hunt zone 5 – centered around Weedville – got 24 elk tags in 2016. It got only 10 in 2017 and is getting just six this fall.
That prompted some questions.
“Is there something wrong in that zone?” asked commissioner Jim Daley of Butler County. “It just seems like a huge change. We’ve got a quarter of what we had two years ago.”
That’s a reflection of success, Rosenberry said.
Two years ago, the commission got lots of complaints from landowners in that area concerned about elk damage. The agency responded by sending in hunters to remove some of those animals. it also extended the season there.
That all worked as hoped, he added.
“We’re not seeing as many elk in that zone,” Rosenberry said. “There are still elk there. But the numbers and the complaints aren’t there, so that’s why it was cut.”
As for elk hunters, the biggest change for them – and it’s not necessarily a huge one, but perhaps an important one – involves elk hunt zone 7. That’s the one around the elk viewing areas, like Winslow Hill and the Elk Country Visitor Center.
No tags were issued for zone 7 for this fall.
That’s a continuation of the norm. No tags gave ever been issued there.
But this year, the commission changed some of its boundaries, to make it clearer to hunters where they can and can’t go.
That’s wasn’t necessarily always the case, Mitchell said.
Some of the zone boundaries were “really small roads through game lands.”
“They were essentially like two-track roads. It was very easy to walk across them without seeing them,” he said.
Moving forward, the commission is using more established township roads as boundaries.
It will also be posting some areas, like around Winslow Hill and the Woodring Farm, a commission-owned area near Winslow with a hiking trail, as closed to hunting to eliminate potential for confusion, Mitchell added.
“So we won’t have to worry about any conflicts with elk viewers and elk hunters,” Mitchell said.
In the meantime, the elk herd seems to be doing well overall.
As of late April, with some searching still to do because an elk pregnancy rate survey had things behind schedule, the commission had found 17 of 37 collared elk, Rosenberry said. It had counted 774 elk overall.
But that number will climb, he said.
Elk hunt zone allocations
Pennsylvania’s 2018 elk season will run Nov. 5 to 10. And additional week of hunting, from Nov. 12 to 17, is available in certain areas for elk hunters who didn’t score in the season’s opening week.
In all cases, licenses will again be awarded by lottery.
To get into the drawing requires buying a non-refundable, $10.90 elk application. Winners then need to buy an actual license.
Here’s a look at the licenses available by hunt zone. Listed is the zone and total number of tags, followed by the number of bull tags and then cow tags.
- Zone 1: No tags, but it is open to all hunters
- Zone 2: 27 tags (2 and 25)
- Zone 3: 7 tags (2 and 5)
- Zone 4: 7 tags (2 and 5)
- Zone 5: 6 tags (3 and 3)
- Zone 6: 9 tags (2 and 7)
- Zone 7: No tags
- Zone 8: 9 tags (2 and 7)
- Zone 9: 9 tags (2 and 7)
- Zone 10: 13 tags (2 and 11)
- Zone 11: 4 tags (2 and 2)
- Zone 12: 20 tags (3 and 17)
- Zone 13: 8 tags (2 and 6)
- Zone 14: 6 tags (2 and 4)
This is the elk hunt zone map for 2018.