Written by Tom Shank
To witness a mature bull elk during the mating season is a remarkable sight.
Weighing between 600 and 1,000 pounds and carrying a set of antlers several feet in width, a bull elk is one massive animal. Hunters and non-hunters are amazed at these animals as they bugle their heads off in a mating ritual that can be heard for miles.
Cow elk make sounds too, but not as loud or intimidating as a bull elk.
Sometimes bull elk will fight another bull for dominance which results in pushing and shoving, as the dominant bull who is the victor, can claim the cows and be the “king” of the harem. I recently witnessed all of the above in the area of Benezette, Pennsylvania.
Fortunately for all of us, watching elk in their nature habitat can be seen in the north central region of our state. The counties of Cameron, Potter, Clearfield, Elk and Clinton contain the largest population of elk east of the Mississippi River.
Each year a very limited lottery of licenses are given out to hunters to remove some elk and to keep the herd at manageable levels. I never have been successful in this lottery, but that doesn’t deter me for visiting elk country and to carry the camera instead of a gun.
My cabin is located about an hour from the little village of Benezette. This small village is located along Route 555 in Elk County. A beautiful elk visitors center is found at 950 Winslow Hill Road, Benezette. This is a recommended stop for all folks attempting to see elk.
The entire area is maintained for elk and easy access is made to walk to specific viewing spots. Keep on the walking trails that lead to open fields and you would be amazed at what you might see. Elk from the largest bulls to cows and calves can be viewed. Bugling and violent antler clashes from fighting bulls can highlight your visit there. The visitor center itself is a wonderful place to go inside and see the exhibits of nature and the history of our Pennsylvania elk.
When I made my visit to Elk Country, I saw more than 100 elk. Most of my sightings were from the elk visitors center-controlled areas, but don’t stop and spend your entire time there. Travel and explore. From the visitors center if you take a right turn onto Winslow Hill Road, be on the lookout for parked vehicles and brake lights, that is a sure sign of elk.
The biggest elk I saw came from being at the right place at the right time. Suddenly, the vehicle in front of me stopped and brake lights came on. There directly in front of my truck, I could see a large protruding brown shape that made the vehicle in front of me stop. I knew it was an elk, but when he cleared the vehicle in front of me: Holy cow! it was a gigantic bull, following a cow toward a dirt driveway. Only several feet from my passenger window stood both elk.
The cow slipped easily underneath a cable that stretched across the lane, but the trailing bull wasn’t so lucky. His antlers got stuck and he made quite a ruckus trying to untangle himself. He shook violently and after several minutes of being stuck, he freed himself to continue following the cow elk.
The pictures were taken as the bull elk was seen by me, as it got caught in the cable, and finally as it walked away. As you can see he was one large bull elk.
I continued my drive up Winslow Hill Road to several other elk viewing areas and areas adjacent to the hard road I was on and saw elk at about every location.
That highlighted my trip to Elk Country. I suggest that if you never experienced seeing elk, you should put this visit on your bucket list. You won’t be disappointed.
Much information on viewing Pennsylvania elk can be retrieved on the websites of the Pennsylvania Game Commission or Elk Country Visitor Center, Pennsylvania.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 November 2016 16:41
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Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 June 2016 15:28