2011 was the third year that PA has had a Conservation or "Govenor's" tag for elk. Next year, 2012 will be the fourth and final year unless the officials that make these decisions continue the tags forward from here. The first year the tag went to the NWTF, last year the RMEF, this year it went to SCI, and next year it is supposedly going to The Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep or what ever they are called now.
I would like to thank the people that have bought or won these tags over the last three years. I have been involved with the elk hunt from the second year of it's inception and can tell you first hand that the hunt is not hurting our herd but helping them to thrive and branch out into areas that haven't held elk in the past. But the argument of whether or not our herd is in better shape, do we have more or less trophy bulls etc., now or before the hunt is for a different time. I see that our hunt has switched from private ground or more correctly stated "yards" to food plots that are up to three miles back in behind gated roads. The majority of our elk now are found in the vast state game and forest lands instead of along the route 555 river bottom. These elk that have been pushed out of the more residential and agricultural areas during the early hunts are now staying in the woods and vast wilds of our biggest tracts of unbroken land. One of the main reasons for this has been the work done by the PGC, DCNR, RMEF, KECA, and countless volunteers. We have an almost endless amount of herbacious openings, "food plots" that not only benefit our elk herd but all other wildlife as well.
The money raised by not just hunters in general but by the elk applications every year (from almost every state) and now over the last three years conservation tags is what has funded this work. Yes, conservation tags are not available to everyone but the fact that 80% of the money raised from them goes directly into the elk program and thus into our state game lands makes the improvements available to everyone.
I recently had the opportunity to hunt with this years tag holder and can tell you first hand that we had an absolutely fantastic time. We looked at literally hundreds of elk and had mornings where we laid eyes on upwards of thirty bulls. We had elk in bow range that were in the 400" mark and great shot opportunities at bulls in the 380's and 390's. We saw alot of our nicest and wildest country and hunted around 14 days, all with the bow and scouted at least double that, it was an amazing time in the PA Wilds. We got to chase elk through the peak of the rut and hear countless bugles and witness firsthand battles over harems of cows. We laughed alot and cried a little when we did hit a bull and the next day did not find it. So to put the rumors to bed after hitting the elk we then committed our time to finding it. We notified the PGC so they could be kept abreast of the situation, and after hundreds of man hours looking for the animal we were told that according to the letter of the law that we put in a reasonable effort into recovering the animal and if we wanted to we could continue on with the hunt, the hunter made the call that we would look for this animal and try to relocate it, and we did 4.5 miles from were we originally hit it.
So, I just want to say thank you to all the guys that helped with this hunt. Eric, Dad, Gary, Bryan, John, Ron, Brady, Jarad, Greg, Harry, Sean and the rest of the guys, the landowners that give us permission to hunt every year, and my wife who lets me skip work and what puts food on the table to run around and chase elk. Mostly, thank you to Mike and his hunting buddy Darren for letting me be a part of your hunt and allowing me to chase elk in the rut here in PA. Thank you for the contribution to conservation here in PA.
Jack Manack ECO
Mike and his 10 X 8 that scores around 390
Mike and Darren
Mike and Eric