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Best in what way? Best unit for success? Best unit for an easy hunt? Best unit for a trophy bull? Best unit for not walking far from the vehicle and being into elk? Best unit for hiking a lot in remote country, and hunting more wild, more skittish elk? Best is subjective. We need to know what you're looking for in order to give you the "best" answer.
 

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Didn't you like the unit you were successful in the last time you got drawn?

The success rate is pretty good in all of the units but some of them not only offer but require different hunting styles. One of the units would almost require using guide service to get access to some of the private lands where the elk in that area tend to spend much of time. Most of the units have enough public land though it is simply a matter of time, effort and luck figuring out how to be in the right place at the right time.

Good luck Buff! I know you have the hunting skills to be successful if you are lucky enough to get drawn again.

Dick Bodenhorn
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks Dick. The unit I had was old unit 9, it was a large area. The units have since changed. I think I'll put in for a unit around Caledonia.
 

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Buff said:
Thanks Dick. The unit I had was old unit 9, it was a large area. The units have since changed. I think I'll put in for a unit around Caledonia.
That is a good area. You just need to make sure if you want to do an unguided hunt you don't select a unit that is mostly private land. There is one unit that has so much private land it almost requires a specific guide service to get access to where the elk are most likely going to be found. There is some public land in the unit though so a person can find a place to hunt with at least some chance of harvesting an elk on a do it your self hunt, just not as good a chance as some of the other units.

If you are looking for a guided hunt though that same unit would perhaps be the best choice. It is all in what type of hunt you are looking for and how much money you are willing to spend on it.

Dick Bodenhorn
 

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My dad drew for zone 11 last year and we did it unguided. There was a lot of private ground but most of the landowners were more than happy to let you hunt as long as we were not guides or being guided. But he ended taking his bull on public ground anyhow. We spent every chance we could get from the time he drew till the hunt scouting and asking permission. It was a really rewarding and fun hunt.
 

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R. S. B. said:
That is a good area. You just need to make sure if you want to do an unguided hunt you don't select a unit that is mostly private land. There is one unit that has so much private land it almost requires a specific guide service to get access to where the elk are most likely going to be found.
Are you saying that the only way to get access to hunt on private land is through using a guide? Why would they turn down a hunter who was seeking permission on their own?

BTW there is public land in every elk unit...
 

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eyefromthesky said:
R. S. B. said:
That is a good area. You just need to make sure if you want to do an unguided hunt you don't select a unit that is mostly private land. There is one unit that has so much private land it almost requires a specific guide service to get access to where the elk are most likely going to be found.
Are you saying that the only way to get access to hunt on private land is through using a guide? Why would they turn down a hunter who was seeking permission on their own?

BTW there is public land in every elk unit...
Certainly a hunter can make contact with land owners and get permission to hunt if the landowner grants the permission. In most of the units elk hunters are pretty successful at doing just that. You are also correct that all of the units have some public land open to all hunters. Some units have a lot more public land than other units.

There is one unit though with both a lot of the better bulls and also a high percentage of private land. If a bull hunter get drawn for that unit they are going to have a pretty tough hunt unless they hire a guide service because the guides have developed pretty much exclusive hunting rights to a lot of the private land where the elk spend a high percentage of their time. That is not to say a do it yourself hunter couldn't be successful in the unit it just means it might be considerably more difficult in that unit than some of the others.

By the way there is a good article in this months Game News on this very subject.

Dick Bodenhorn
 

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R. S. B. said:
There is one unit though with both a lot of the better bulls and also a high percentage of private land. If a bull hunter get drawn for that unit they are going to have a pretty tough hunt unless they hire a guide service because the guides have developed pretty much exclusive hunting rights to a lot of the private land where the elk spend a high percentage of their time.
I'll admit it was kind of a loaded question that I asked. Basically what you're saying is that the exclusiveness comes down to money? Finders fees and whatnot? Scratch my back and I'll scratch yours? Cahootage run amuck? lol

BTW I think it's ridiculous that the PGC is advertising for nonresidents to enter the elk drawing in a national magazine while there are tons of PA hunters that have yet to get drawn. That's not directed at you, just a general comment.
 

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You know, if there is an entire elk management unit that is basically controlled by a guide outfit to suit their own agenda, that doesn't really seem right. I mean, if a solo hunter doesn't have a reasonable chance to harvest an elk or gain access to private property to hunt in the unit because all private land is locked up to benefit the guide service, perhaps the PGC shouldn't issue any bull tags for that unit. Let them get off on harvesting cows. You don't control the population through bull tags anyway. Take the ego, entitlement mentality, and competitiveness out of it. There is enough of the 'good old boy club' mentality going on with the elk and their management, whether anyone wants to admit it or not.

There is a lot with this hunt, and I use that term loosely in some instances, that could be changed for the better. It seems the PGC is more concerned with creating a certain image of the hunt, a facade if you will, though it doesn't hold water when you begin to dig deeper in many instances. Heck, people involved with the hunt regularly put blatant game law violations out there for all the world to see in print and video but it doesn't seem to apply to this hunt as it would for someone hunting deer, bear, or whatever. As long as the PGC meets their harvest quota and creates their elk hunting image, that is all that seems to matter. I realize they can't be everywhere to enforce everything but frankly, to me as a hunter who is not against the elk hunt or hunting bulls, it is embarrassing.

I guess that is my rant for the day...
 

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Discussion Starter #14
sq32 said:
What unit are you talking about.
Unit 2 around St Marys area is tough to get permission. I should say, it used to be. I don't know about today.
 

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eyefromthesky said:
BTW I think it's ridiculous that the PGC is advertising for nonresidents to enter the elk drawing in a national magazine while there are tons of PA hunters that have yet to get drawn.
 

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eyefromthesky said:
You know, if there is an entire elk management unit that is basically controlled by a guide outfit to suit their own agenda, that doesn't really seem right. I mean, if a solo hunter doesn't have a reasonable chance to harvest an elk or gain access to private property to hunt in the unit because all private land is locked up to benefit the guide service, perhaps the PGC shouldn't issue any bull tags for that unit. Let them get off on harvesting cows. You don't control the population through bull tags anyway. Take the ego, entitlement mentality, and competitiveness out of it. There is enough of the 'good old boy club' mentality going on with the elk and their management, whether anyone wants to admit it or not.

There is a lot with this hunt, and I use that term loosely in some instances, that could be changed for the better. It seems the PGC is more concerned with creating a certain image of the hunt, a facade if you will, though it doesn't hold water when you begin to dig deeper in many instances. Heck, people involved with the hunt regularly put blatant game law violations out there for all the world to see in print and video but it doesn't seem to apply to this hunt as it would for someone hunting deer, bear, or whatever. As long as the PGC meets their harvest quota and creates their elk hunting image, that is all that seems to matter. I realize they can't be everywhere to enforce everything but frankly, to me as a hunter who is not against the elk hunt or hunting bulls, it is embarrassing.

I guess that is my rant for the day...
Should they stop issuing deer tags where there are large blocks of private property where only select hunters can gain access as well?

It is just as important to use hunting to control the elk populations around the larger blocks of private lands as it is around the public land. Even if some areas are not as easy for ALL hunters to gain access it still appears that enough hunters are gaining access, even if through paying a guide service, to control the elk populations in the unit. From a management standpoint that is the most important issue.

It is not the Game Commission's business to mandate who is or isn't allowed to hunt on private land. Nor would it be right for the Game Commission to intentionally turn away from promoting the best possible harvest objectives on private land simply because not everyone can hunt there.

As I already said though, even the unit with the most private land also has a lot of public land where hunters can be successful. It is just that it is sometimes harder on the public land than it would be on the private land in the unit. For that reason I would probably select a different unit as my first choice if I was set on a do it yourself hunt. If I was looking for a guided hunt though I might select that unit as my first choice.

Dick Bodenhorn
 

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Should they stop issuing deer tags where there are large blocks of private property where only select hunters can gain access as well?
Well, just to clarify, as far as I know you cannot guide for deer here in PA and there are no guide outfits becoming land barons for large chunks of private deer hunting lands. Hardly a good comparison. Secondly, as I stated, cow tags keep the population in check, not the two or three bull tags they issue for a unit. Those are the tags that create the land-grabbing mentality. If someone wants to shell out two grand to hunt on one of those controlled lands and possibly pay the landowner extra, so be it.

Somehow I have to believe that when the elk hunt was reinstated, the concept of elk guides were along the lines of someone helping a hunter unfamiliar with the area. Over the years it has morphed into something way beyond that.
 

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eyefromthesky said:
Should they stop issuing deer tags where there are large blocks of private property where only select hunters can gain access as well?
Well, just to clarify, as far as I know you cannot guide for deer here in PA and there are no guide outfits becoming land barons for large chunks of private deer hunting lands. Hardly a good comparison. Secondly, as I stated, cow tags keep the population in check, not the two or three bull tags they issue for a unit. Those are the tags that create the land-grabbing mentality. If someone wants to shell out two grand to hunt on one of those controlled lands and possibly pay the landowner extra, so be it.

Somehow I have to believe that when the elk hunt was reinstated, the concept of elk guides were along the lines of someone helping a hunter unfamiliar with the area. Over the years it has morphed into something way beyond that.
You are wrong about the land being bought up by guides and also why the elk guide permits came about.

The private land was private and for the most part posted long before there was an elk season. All that happened was the elk guides make contact with the landowners and got the permission to take their hunters on it. Whether they pay for that privilege I don't know and don't really care. The fact is that hunters gaining access to it for hunting both provides a quality hunting experience for people who might not otherwise have been hunting there and also affords the ability to better manage the elk as a resource within those areas and units.

The elk guiding permit came about because the law very clearly states that an unlicensed hunter can't aid in the harvesting of game or wildlife in this Commonwealth. Since only a very small number of people get an elk license, without a guide permit system the only people who could aid an elk hunting in finding and harvesting an elk would be another licensed elk hunter.

So, for that reason the elk guide permit came into existence. With the guide permit the licensed guides can go out find the elk and then take the licensed hunter to where they know or knew the elk had been. It would not be legal for someone who doesn't have an guide permit to do that. To help keep the playing field as equal as possible though the Game Commission made it illegal to drive elk so the guides couldn't drive them off of public land and onto private land they had access to and the other hunters didn't.

And, yes if you are a licensed hunter you can guide deer hunts for others. You can even charge for your service if you want. You do have to be careful about commercial operations, which is what charging for guide service would be, when hunting on DCNR property. You also have to have a bobcat guide permit if you are doing it commercially anywhere in the state. But, for most hunting you can charge for your guide service if you want as long as you have a license to hunt what you are guiding other hunters to.

A don't see anything underhanded or unethical about the elk hunt is being handled on the public or the private lands. If seems to me it is about as fair and even handed as it can be while still working to effectively manage a valuable wildlife resource.

Dick Bodenhorn
 

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Well, here is the thing, how many non-guided hunters get turned down to hunt private lands because the elk guides have 'exclusive' access? They may still have been turned down anyway but with the exclusive access there is zero chance.

I always thought there was no guiding commercially on public lands unless you were an elk guide? I believe another WCO told me as much on here awhile back, I could be wrong.

If you don't see any unethical behavior in the elk hunt you surely haven't been looking very hard. Let me ask you this, if a WCO catches me helping a hunter locate game via radio, cell phone, or whatever, will I get in trouble for it. Yes. I just read an article last year of someone recounting their hunt and they were basically driving around looking for a certain bull, then they were contacted by a 'scout' via radio or cell phone that it had been located. They drove there and shot it, what a hunt!

Portable, two-way radios and cellphones may be used for general communications with another hunter, but may not be used to direct or alert another hunter of the presence or location of live game or wildlife. The use of electronic communication devices to alert hunters to live game not only is a violation of the Game & Wildlife Code, but violates the concept of fair chase.
It is also illegal to locate game by vehicle. If you don't think this happens during the elk hunt you may want to take off the rose colored glasses.

Any yes, there are stories of guides driving elk onto another hunt zone, keeping them in a certain area by surrounding them so they can't leave before their hunter gets there, and so on. I know some of the guides take a lot of crap but they seem to do a good job of bringing it on themselves. Go out and hunt the [censored] animals for crying out loud. Round the clock surveillance on a bull is not scouting, it is SUPPOSED to be hunting, not an assassination plot. Show them some respect instead of looking at them as a paycheck, bragging rights, or quick easy money with minimal effort. There are photos out there on the internet of elk guides feeding bull elk ears of corn by hand for crying out loud. They may be removed now but I assure you they exist.

It's certainly not all of the guides but yes, they are out there doing these things on a regular basis. If you didn't know that you are talking to the wrong people.
 
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