Keystone Elk Country Alliance-A New Partnership

We recently linked to a press release date Dec. 21, 2009 by The Rocky Mountain Elk "Foundation regarding a new PA chapter in Elk Conservation. This was concerning the founding of a Bloomsburg/Danville chapter.

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

John Geissler
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: jlgeissler@peoplepc.com
Members of the Board Hm# 814.866.6421
Keystone Elk Country Alliance Cell# 814.602.4901


SPE and Elk County Outfitters Engage In Debate

Recently several members of SupportPaElk engaged Jack Manack, Jr. of Elk County Outfitters in an extended discussion of the issues surrounding our elk herd, and elk management.

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."

My response:

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


PA makes top 10 list of places to find "monster elk"

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.


Another Guide Responds

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.


Pa Elk; The PGC & the Money

Bull 8A

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.


An Elk Guide Responds To Elk Hunt Critics

"Whatever bro! You klnow who I am. Who are you? I'd love to debate you further. You know why we take zone two hunters. Because we can take the verbal abuse from people like you & because we have nothing to lose. Don't mess with somone who has nothing to lose. Get it! I never did anything to you, don't slam me. If I can find elk,bear,deer,& wild Turkey I can also find you. "Verbatim quote by someone posting as Jpg207 on You-Tube. According to the profile This person is Jarrad McCarthy of Elk County Outfitters. This was in response to a comment by me concerning the shooting of the 9x8 bull on the first day of season.For those who have not seen it, the video may be viewed by clicking Here.

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

I almost forgot. Check out my new vid that supports the PA Elk Herd.
pawildlifephoto (21 minutes ago) Show Hide
This was truly an elk "shoot" not a hunt. This animal could be approached to within spear range. He spent the last days of his life lying in a nearby lawn and it seems likely from eye witness reports that those involved in the shoot stood on the boundary of the property and observed this animal in the lawn throughout the weekend before the "hunt".

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.

ipg207 (10 minutes ago) Show Hide
Whatever bro! You klnow who I am. Who are you? I'd love to debate you further. You know why we take zone two hunters. Because we can take the verbal abuse from people like you & because we have nothing to lose. Don't mess with somone who has nothing to lose. Get it! I never did anything to you, don't slam me. If I can find elk,bear,deer,& wild Turkey I can also find you.

Jeb141 (1 hour ago) Show Hide
Its more a look of "thats it?"

Watch all the other "hunters" come out of the woods near the end.

They are probably only a few hundred feet, if that, away from a road or truck.

This is not a hunt.

This animal was docile, it had been filmed and approached by a thousand people. It spent the last few days of it's life in someones yard.
These "guides" are a joke.
These elk
 should be protected from the trophy hunters not exploited like they are here.

PA elk Hunt- Garbage!

ipg207 (30 minutes ago) Show Hide
Hey There.
Thanks for the comment. I'd love to debate you on the subject, but someone with no rocks in their pants hides behind their words. You know
 who I am. Who are you. I have an idea. Send me your address, I'll mail you the balls off next years bull. Then you can face me to comment further.

supportpaelk (4 hours ago) Show Hide
I have heard that when a hunter shoots a magnificent "trophy bull," the exhilaration is overwhelming... one of the most emotional experiences of their life. This video does not depict that whatsoever... it actually looks as though the "hunters" are relieved it's finally over. They must have been tired from all of the scouting and hand-feeding of the elk in the weeks leading up to the hunt. I wonder if Boone & Crockett would classify this as a fair chase.
ipg207 (17 minutes ago) Show Hide
Thanks for the comment. You know who I am. Who are you? I'd love to debate this more, but someone with no balls hides behind their words. I can send you a pair from next years bull if your old lady won't return yours. Then we'll talk turkey. You know why we guide in zone two. Because we can take the abuse from cowards like yourself & because we have nothing to lose. Never mess with people who has nothing to lose. Remember that.
Jeb141 (12 hours ago) Show Hide
The elk that is taken in this video was so acclimated to people that you could literally walk up to it, within a few feet, and the animal would not even care.

 is evident in the video. The "hunter" and his entourage certainly were not stealthy, or quiet as they pretty much tromped right up to this magnificent bull elk and shot it at close range.
The Pa elk "hunt" is a sham and those who call themselves hunters should not participate and be outraged by the actions of these "guides."
More analysis of this incident coming soon!


The Shooting Of the 9x8 On You Tube

The Famous 9x8 In Woods At Close Range
A Special thanks to Rob, a regular reader, who notified us that The McCarthy Brothers, Eric and Jarrad, elk guides affiliated with Elk County Outfitters, have recently posted a video to You Tube, of the shooting of the 9x8 that we have been discussing. The elk was killed on the first day of the 2009 season by Gary Kolenski.

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:

All elk license recipients will receive in the mail two copies of the Game Commission’s videotaped elk hunter orientation program, which the hunter must view prior to the elk hunt. The second copy must be viewed by their guide, if the hunter chooses to use a guide.
Those seeking elk guide permits also should consult with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources concerning special guiding permits and requirements on state forest or state park lands.

To the best of my knowledge there is no educational effort directed toward protecting the large bulls and most hunters when given the chance will shoot the largest animal possible under the circumstances.


PA Elk: Two Compelling Reasons To Expand The No Kill Zone

Acclimated 9x8 Bull: Killed In 2008 Season A Short Distance From This Spot
Protecting Acclimated animals is a must, but there is at least one more compelling reason to expand the No Kill Zone

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.


Pa Elk: As Wild As Any?

Pennsylvania’s elk herd is portrayed by some as providing a fair chase hunt when the hunt is conducted away from the no kill zone.

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.


Thanks for Inviting Me to Join Support PA Elk

I am anxious to participate in helping convince the Pa Game Commission to expand the No Kill Zone for Pa Elk Hunting.  The experiences my wife and I have had in the Benezett area are very enjoyable and these elk are very "tame".  They can be approached with ease and they exhibit none of the natural tendencies of wild animals to flee in the presence of humans.

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.

 She also got a great closeup of the action:

We have large lenses that we normally use for wildlife photography, but that day Joan was using  70-300MM lens and I was using a 70 to 200MM lenses.  Being able to photograph elk around Benezett this close is a normal occurrence.  This type of elk behavior certainly does not create hunting that would be considered sporting or fair chase. Shooting (notice I did not say hunting) these majestic bulls actually hurts the sport of hunting by creating a perception that all hunting is like the elk hunting in Pennsylvania.

I strongly urge all of those concerned to write to the Pa Game Commission and the Boone and Crockett organiztion with your comments and concerns.  Remain courteous and factual with your writings and use any actual examples of elk behavior that you have witnessed that supports your feelings concerning the elk being "tame".