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.