Why Hunt our Elk?

Considering that the small free-ranging Pennsylvania elk is a significant tourist attraction and that it benefits both the state and local economies and considering that according to the PGC’s 2006 Elk Management Plan neither the Biological Carrying Capacity nor the Sociological Carrying Capacity have been reached or exceeded, one must ask why then was some individuals so intent on creating and currently upon carrying on this modern-day elk hunt.

If one takes the time to research this subject they will find many answers offered; population control, elimination of human-animal conflicts, gathering of biological data, etc. Of course there are many reason for hunting these animals at this time, some have merit and others perhaps not so much.

A stated goal of the 2006 Elk Management Plan is to expand the Elk Management Area from its current size of 835 square miles to an area of 3,750 square miles, allowing elk to fill areas of public land where they currently do not exist. Why then is there a hunt?

Let us take a moment simply to consider the angle of money and the role it plays in the management of our states most magnificent wild animal.

First we must take a quick look back into the history of our herd. After initial stocking and limited hunting the hunting was eliminated and for many decades only a small population remained. During this time the population changed very little overall. What you might ask caused this tiny herd to grow into the healthy herd we have today? From the research that I have done it can primarily be summed up with one word, HABITAT.

Elk, while requiring the shelter of the forest also require herbaceous opening containing their preferred foods to prosper. Herbaceous opening do not just naturally occur in Pennsylvania’s elk range, they must be constructed and sometimes at considerable cost. Providing this habitat has been the key to growing our elk herd, it is the key to the current health of the elk herd. Habitat is the key, not the hunting as has been disingenuously offered by some who have both a macho and financial stake in the hunt.

Please remember that in most part our PGC is funded by the hunters and trappers of the commonwealth. Quoting from the 2008-09 PGC Annual Report: “As Pennsylvania’s wildlife management agency, the Game Commission is responsible for managing more than 460 species of wild birds and mammals. Primary attention, due to funding sources and limitations, is directed to select game species and the commonwealth’s most imperiled nongame species.”

In my opinion one of the primary reasons behind the current elk hunt is all about the money, not that the PGC is trying to fund other species or projects with elk tag and application monies, but rather to justify the large investment of money and resources into the elk management program.

As long as hunters and trappers are the primary source of funding for our wildlife management agencies, wildlife will be managed primarily for the consumptive sports and not necessarily in the best interest of the species being managed.


  1. We are having a debate in Idaho on how to have the non hunters and fishermen help support the non-game wildlife. It has become heated.

  2. I am aware, and always have been, that hunter's have always funded wildlife management & control. I learned all about this while in my hunting years.

    However, I never really had any interest in hunting big game animals such as the Elk. The reason for this is that I'm not too fond of the meat, so harvesting a animal such as this, would make no seance for me. On top of that, taking this huge animal just for a trophy would be out of the question. I find that there is no reason for doing this, other than to have something like this hanging on your wall that would just gather dust. However, keeping the Elk herd thinned out so all can survive is another thing.

    I would much rather see and shoot these magnificent animals with my Camera.

  3. Very interesting. Actually, I think most "things" boil down to MONEY, the root of all evil.

  4. I have been in Elk county now for some 10 years but the last couple of years has really been hard for me. As the hunts continue as they are and now maybe even longer I may lose more of my friends ten I wish to. Some of these elk and I have become friends so it seems to me. When one can just walk right up to these monster guys and girls and walk with them and talk with them then I have to ask myself, why do we hunt them.

    The kills have taken a few of my buddies, as I think of them away from me and thats so sad that the almighty dollar, yes thats how I feel
    about what is going on in the Benezette area. Needless slaughtering of these prime animals is senseless to say the least.

  5. We witnessed an archery "hunt" of nearly tame, habituated elk in Colorado. Although I've always had a difficult relationship with hunting, that incident sealed my view of state game policies. Here in California, we have a similar edict because of funding. Many of us who work with wildlife would like to see a fee structure implemented for non-lethal activities relating to wildlife and habitat -- much as revenue is acquired through hunting supply purchases. The hunters with whom I debate this issue use the funding as their trump card. I believe they'd be reticent to see additional leverage in the non-hunting camp. But I'd like to see our current paradigm changed, even if its so entrenched as to seem (at times) insurmountable.