It is no secret that there has been much discord among Pennsylvania RMEF members, with some regarding the RMEF's withdrawal from the Winslow Hill Visitor's Center as a positive thing, while other members have been very displeased.
We recently received information pertaining to the founding of another new organization, Keystone Elk Country Alliance, which is not affiliated with The RMEF.
SPE extends a special thanks to Jeff Thomas for providing this timely information!
Keystone Elk Country Alliance
John Geissler, Chairman
3539 Reichert Road
Erie, PA 16509
Elk Creek Chapter Chair
3539 Reichert Rd
Erie, PA 16509
December 12, 2009
Dear Chapter Chair and Volunteer Committee Members
As Chapter Chair and Committee Volunteers, you are probably aware that RMEF has abandoned Pennsylvania by terminating a 30 year signed agreement to partner with the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources to own and operate our state of the art Elk Country Visitor Center in the heart of PA’s Elk Country. This also applies to the ownership of the pristine Elk Mountain Homestead. As an 18 year member, Life Member, Habitat Partner, Committee Chair, State Leadership Team, and member of the Visitor Center Building Committee I was devastated by this news. The RMEF to this day has been at best disingenuous with the volunteers by keeping this “poor administrative decision” as low keyed as possible. Many of the great volunteers across the state are totally unaware this has taken place. This action by RMEF has resulted in the resignation of Mr. Rawley Cogan, RMEF Lands Manager; Sue Meehl, State Chair; the PA Leadership Team; and many volunteers and committee members. Because of these developments a new entity has been formed to finish what RMEF carelessly gave away.
Please allow me to introduce the “new kid on the block”:
Keystone Elk Country Alliance!
John “The Sheriff” Geissler, Chairman Ron Alcorn, Vice Chairman
Randy Kimmel, Treasurer Mike Odasso, Secretary
Rawley Cogan, Project Manager
Keystone Elk Country Alliance is our new Pennsylvania entity. We will be holding great fundraising banquets, special events and raffles and now ALL of the fundraising proceeds will stay right here in PA!! The focus is on completing the Elk Country Visitor Center as was originally promised to our volunteers and donors.
RMEF has transferred the property to PA DCNR. The donors who contributed to the Homestead property insisted it stay with the Visitor Center project. Because RMEF terminated the agreement, the Keystone Elk Country Alliance has now partnered with DCNR to complete the project and become involved in the operation of the Visitor Center and the Elk Mountain Homestead in the near future. Our Elk Country Visitor Center is well underway and we will see it finished for a 2010 Summer Grand Opening.
We are starting out the 2010 Banquet Season with several committees stepping up to hold banquets under the Keystone Elk Country Alliance and would ask you to consider this option as well, as we move forward. The goal of this alliance is to join strength all across the State to continue our great conservation education heritage, work with our youth in habitat enhancement, and continue to be great stewards of “your” Elk Mountain Homestead and to provide a multitude of people of all ages the “premier, state of the art” Visitor Center in the United States.
We have a team ready to meet with any committee for further explanation and details of the Keystone Elk Country Alliance. We would sincerely welcome you joining your fellow PA Volunteers and lending your support to fulfill a given promise and commitment. This is exciting! Join the 2010 Banquet Season of the Keystone Elk Country Alliance line-up and be listed as “Founding Chapters” – what a legacy to have noted in the Pennsylvania history archives!!
Yours in Conservation and Education,
John “The Sheriff” Geissler, Chairman Contact Info: email@example.com
Members of the Board Hm# 814.866.6421
Keystone Elk Country Alliance Cell# 814.602.4901
Mr. Manack raised some interesting points, and today we will deal with one of them.
On Dec. 20, 2009 Jack Manack, said,
"Maybe the most important thing here to remember is this hunt is a legal hunt and if people really have a problem with it the people to talk to are the Pa Game Comm. Just remember to have a better way to manage the elk herd ready to present to them. One that does the same that the current one does now..... strengthen and help the herd to be better and healthier than it is today."
I have always been aware that this is a legal hunt and that The PGC is the agency that is responsible for managing the resource.
Expressing one's ideas by word and print is a time-honored American tradition. While it is true that private citizens should write their legislatures, state agencies, etc. about matters of public concern, opinion columnists continually write articles for publication in newspapers and magazines to spark awareness and discussion of issues of importance. They do not write letters to, or confront politicians on a daily basis. With the internet gaining in importance, editorializing on it has become commonplace. It is in the best traditions of free speech and advocacy of worthy issues that SupportPaElk has embarked on a discussion of elk management in this type of forum.
I did set forth a alternative management plan, in the documentary film, The Truth About Pennsylvania's Elk Herd". This plan advanced concepts for correcting the current over-harvest of mature bulls. In light of our exchange with Mr. Manack and other information that has come to our attention, it seems that perhaps we were underestimating the gravity of the situation and there may be a need to call for wider, more encompassing reforms.
Reliable information has it that the PGC is also concerned about too many large bulls being taken and that the management plan is being updated. Now more than ever, it is important for those who are concerned about the future of our largest species of wildlife to become involved with the issues and raise their voice in support of their concerns.
Willard C. Hill
Click HERE to read the press release dated December 21, 2009 by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation regarding new PA chapter in Elk Conservation.
This is big news and is sure to spark some debate here on Support PA Elk. Please let us know your thoughts on this development.
EJM has responded by posting a comment to My Profile On You Tube:
After one brothers offensive rants and threats, the other brother now has a message to deliver. These gentlemen are the ultimate goodwill ambassadors for the hunting community.
Here is the comment in its entirety:
"Mr Hill, You have brother number 2 here. We were just laughing at your blogs. I only have one comment for you sir, If the elk hunt is a joke to you and we are a joke as guides, and we shoot tame barnyard elk. Then how can you possibley sell a video that features tame barnyard elk. Are you a wildlife photographer or a livestock videographer. Anyone could do that. So, to you sir, if we are a joke, then you and your time scouting and your movie is a joke to us. By the way I have personaly witnessed a camp full of hunters fall asleep to your joke. Maybe you would like to see the perfect 200 yard first shot on that 9x8 bull and thats no joke. By the way sir how close did you get to that elk? When you filmed him, may be he was stunned by your camera flash. I think he was acclimated two people trying to feed him, cameramen, and barnyard videographers."
Happy Hunting EJM
We thank EJM for his response. It is most enlightening.
The Pennsylvania elk herd has benefited greatly from a considerable amount of habitat improvement work in the Elk Range. Much of it has been financed by donations from organization such as the RMEF, NWTF, as well as private donations. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has been very active in this work as well as the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
As the agency responsible for managing all of Pennsylvania’s wildlife, the PGC has invested considerably in the biological research of our elk herd. Numerous animals are fitted with numbered collars, radio tracking collars, and ear tags. Biologist, Jon DeBerti, is assigned full time to this most important work as was R. Cogan before him.
The work of the PGC has taken place at a time when the agency is cash strapped by the lack of a hunting license increase in ten years. Hundreds of acres of abandoned strip mines have been reclaimed and converted into first grade elk range with areas of cover interspersed with herbaceous opening. The habitat improvement work allows the range to now support more wildlife than it did previously while helping to keep the elk away from agricultural areas. As anyone reading this well knows the cost of labor, equipment, fuel and salaries has raised considerable during this time but the PGC’s major source of funding has not.
The revenue from the elk license application fees and the license fees are the only monies the PGC derives directly from the elk herd. Tourism, while contributing more to the region’s economy than the elk hunt, contributes nothing to the PGC, an inequity that should be addressed.
This sparked a string of commentary which finally got to the point of where jpg207 posted the above response. I responded by asking him exactly who he was, whether he was actually Jarrad or Eric McCarthy and did his views represent the views of Elk County Outfitters. I informed him that I am Willard Hill of PA Wildlife Photographer and I am interested in discussing issues in a rational manner.
Coincident with this he had posted a video titled "Support PA Elk Rebuttal", which shows several scenes of dead elk hanging from a meat pole and at the elk check station, elk being gutted, elk with the skin partially removed, etc. Titles are superimposed which say, "Support Them With Chains",Support Them With Rope", "Support Them With Large Poles" it has a shot of a family posing with a bull and the caption,"Supported by Families". It ends with a portrayal of a newspaper with a bull elk photo in the top central portion of the paper, but where the title of the paper would ordinarily be, it has"Support This Bitches", which then cuts to another shot of the same paper with the elk photo blacked out and the title, "Support That Bitch"
After I posted the second comment, he suddenly removed all comments from view and made the video we just discussed private so that the general public could not see it.
I will paste the comment string here. It is somewhat difficult to follow as one needs to start at the bottom and read to the top to have the correct chronology in which the comments were posted and even then it is not certain what particular individual Jpg 207 is responding to at a given point.
My comment is the one by pawildlifephoto and his response to me is directly under my comment as it shows up in my You Tube Profile as a response to my post. It is also the quote that appears at the beginning of today's post. My last comment is not present as he removed the comments from view before I was able to save it.
ipg207minutes ago) Show Hide
This was a"legal' activity if all rules and regulations were followed, but it stretches the imagination to classify it as a fair chase hunt.
More analysis of this incident coming soon!
The video begins at Camp Nick, the headquarters of Elk County Outfitters. It soon progresses to the field and shows the shooter maneuvering in open timber to get a clear shot at the 9x8. The bull could not care less about the entire proceedings. He calmly feeds while the hunter delivers the killing shot at close range.
If you can, watch the video closely and form your own opinion about the proceedings.
There is the indisputable point that thousands thrilled at the sight of this animal during the past year, but no one will do so again.
To view the video Click Here
Also thanks to Harry for participating in the discussion. He raises questions about what it takes to be an elk guide and what education the PGC provides.
The Hunting Digest does not have detailed information on this, but I will research it more in the near future. I do know they are required to carry a substantial liability insurance policy, which is prohibitively priced for most individual guides. I am told is the reason that many of them are operating with Elk County Outfitters. I
As to what education that the PGC provides to guides, according to PGC News Release #101-08:
A careful analysis of the ongoing controversy surrounding the Pennsylvania Elk Season as it is currently implemented brings forth at least two compelling reasons to expand the No Kill Zone.
First, from a moral and ethical standpoint, it is imperative that the "acclimated" or "habituated" elk near Benezette and the viewing areas on Winslow Hill receive more protection. It is said that bulls travel from long distances to utilize the traditional breeding grounds on Winslow Hill and then disperse when the rut is over. This is true to an extent, but the history of the hunt since its' inception has shown that a large number of bulls that were either exceptional or had the potential to be so, were killed within a short distance of the area in question.
Killing acclimated animals is not something to be proud of, yet many persist in doing so-often paying thousands of dollars for the questionable privilege. It may be legal, but it is neither moral nor ethical to kill such an animal and portray the activity as a fair chase hunt.
In talking to many elk viewers over the years, I have encounter a wide spectrum of views. Most do not favor the elk season as it is currently implemented, but more if not most seem to support the concept of more protection for the bulls, and cow harvesting ONLY to control an actual overpopulation, not just for the sake of having an elk season each year, whether it is actually needed or not. (Keep in mind that at this point we are talking only about the area where we consider more protection to be essential and not the elk range as a whole)
Another class of viewer will proudly inform you that they put in for their tag each year. Here are the sentiments that I heard one person express while viewing several bulls and cows by the roadside at the Dudley property on Winslow Hill. I n his own words as I recall them, "I had two of them big SOBs walk right past me here a few years back, went right by me just a few feet away. I've put in for a tag every year but ain't got one yet, Man, would I like to kill one of them big SOBs." Obviously in such a case as this, the easier the experience the better, the concept of fair chase does not enter the equation.
An equally compelling case can be made for increased protection, without considering the "habituation" issue. There is no acceptable reason for targeting the elk that frequent the viewing areas as they were in the past. The elk in this area needs more protection whether they are truly wild, or tame as barnyard cows. Again we will agree that some do travel moderate to long distances and will be taken, even if the boundaries of the NKZ are greatly expanded, but increasing the size of the NHZ would go a long way toward improving the situation, just as eliminating the combined hunt zones this past year was a major step in the right direction.
There has been a recent push to educate the public about the evils of elk feeding and habituation, with some viewing the elimination of the "habituated" elk as being the solution, but that is a subject for another day.
Follow this link to view Pennsylvania Back Country Elk Hunt Part 6. Pay attention to the audio listening carefully to the conversation at the very beginning of this clip. Secondly pay close attention to the bull’s reaction once he is shot and then of the other bull as the hunting team approaches the downed animal.
If you have the time search YouTube and view parts 1 through 5 of Pennsylvania Back Country Elk hunt. Fair chase? Elk as wild as any? You be the judge.
Joan took a picture of me photographing two bulls fighting in the kill zone the weekend before season opened. There must have been a crowd of at least 20 people around making noise and within 25 to 30 yards of the elk. A couple of gentlemen at a camp right there were throwing apples to them to eat when they rested between sparring bouts.
Pennsylvania has had some of the largest bulls found in North America. Today it is becoming well known that if one desires to view or photograph free ranging “wild” elk in the Eastern United States, Benezette Pennsylvania is the place to be. The elk here see numerous non-threatening tourists daily and during the rut tourist numbers grow exponentially. These animals become very trusting of humans. This trust allows viewers and photographers a great nature experience while interacting with and viewing these amazing animals.
Tourist visits the area to see the elk and mature bulls in particular, the very same animals that are targeted during the limited annual hunt that takes place here each November.
I have had the great pleasure to photograph the bull pictured here over the past three years. An image I captured of this bull along with a small cow in 2008 graces the September page of the 2010 Pa Game Commission calendar.
This bull will most likely thrill thongs of visitors to Pennsylvania’s elk range in 2010, but the big 8x9 that dominated the Gilbert viewing area this year, and could have continued thrilling visitors for a number of years, will not. Will this bull be killed in the 2010 season? I certainly hope not but you can rest assured that without a change in the hunting regulations he will be targeted.
It takes many years for a bull elk to grow into a mature majestic animal and only a moment to take him down.
The time to increase protection of the elk around the tourist areas is now. It is unconscionable to go on allowing “trophy” hunters to continue targeting the “easy prey” that provides the main tourist attraction to the Benezette area.