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.


  1. Great post once again Willard! I always love how well you put exactly what I am thinking!

  2. So what is the best way to get this done? A full on blitz to the game commotion? A couple hundred people walking around the area in question on the first day of elk season so the hunters cannot shoot the elk there?

    What do we do to organize?

  3. At present we are following an educational approach and trying to reach as many as possible with a view toward getting them to ask the same questions that you are, but at some point it has to go beyond that if we are to meet with success.

    Any ideas are welcome and hopefully a specific course of action will become more clear in the near future.

  4. Great post, Willard. Thanks so much for all you do for the elk (and the deer!)
    I agree, wild or tame, these elk should be protected. Of course, an expanded NKZ would not totally solve the problem, but it would help a great deal.
    I think it should be widely expanded around the vacation rental properties. First, for the safety of the renters and secondly, so that these elk are not just set up for an easy kill. I won't mention why they hang around rental properties, because that's a subject for another time. But, anyway, they shouldn't be targeted in those areas.

  5. Right now on a www.huntingpa.com is a post in the message board section with pictures of the "hunter" and his kill (i believe this is the same elk anyway). The guide says he was invilved in ten hunts this year.

    Just so you know he is doubling the size of the hunting camp he guides out of, doubling the size guys so he can take more of the elk next year.

    The post is under the bear and elk hunting forum, the post title is 2009 elk hunt w/ pics

  6. Thanks for commenting, Harry.

    The elk in the first two photos of the Hunting PA forum is a 9x8, but it was collared and was larger than the one killed on Winslow Hill that is pictured on the blog. (this is the post that was updated last by Elk County Outfitters-the Winslow Hill 9x8 may have been shown in an earlier post)

    It is my understanding that the guide in the killing of the 9x8 on Winslow Hill was also affiliated with Elk County Outfitters.

    Some in the guiding industry are really making an effort to promote the trophy bull hunting.

  7. Willard,

    You are right, I see the collar now, it's off in the photo of them hanging by thier hind legs.

    What qualifications does it take to be a guide for an elk hunt? Does the game commission provide education?
    The guides that are taking the trophy bulls should be the first to understand that the herd is limited, and it takes years for these bulls to mature and develop.

    Perhaps a program should be developed to teach the guides what they are doing to the herd?

  8. Go to youtube. Search for this video: PA Elk Hunt 2009- McCarthy Brothers

    Thats our bull.

    Thats the "hunter"

    Look hows they all come out of the woods after the shot from a whole 50-60 yards.

    Video evidence that it was not a fair chase.

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