On this week's episode of the Pennsylvania Woodsman we have repeat guest Bryan Hale from Elk County Outfitters. If you tuned into the previous episode with Bryan, you know how devoted he and his team are to having quality elk hunting in the Keystone State. We begin by catching up with Bryan on the previous season's success and new records that were broken. Bryan transitions into discussing the updates within the states elk application and drawing.
For 2023, the drawing has been moved up to July 29th, and the application was opened back in February. Bryan discusses why these changes occurred based on his research with state officials. He also shares with us recent calf mortality data shared by the state and how this has impacted tag allocations. There is a ton of excellent information packed into this episode all centered around this majestic game animals that haunts North Central PA!
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[00:00:00] Welcome back everybody to another episode of the Pennsylvania Woodsman Podcast. I'm your host, Mitchell Shirk, and it is a different world around here. We finally got some rain, and of course, when it rains, it pours. Went from bone, dry, dead spots into my yard to having to empty water out of my pool because it was overflowing.
Got soaked in the process because I wasn't prepared and didn't have it hooked up right, and the pump came shooting water out at me, so that was fun. But hey, we've at least got some water. And it was long needed because food plots, crop fields, everything, every plant piece of plant life is really struggling.
This past week week and a half, I was seeing a lot of stress in corn and soybeans in my [00:01:00] daily travels. We're starting to see drought stress symptoms on corn, which I've never seen it in May, corn plants that are eight inches tall and they're shriveled up and look like pineapples.
It's crazy. I don't think it made major damage as far as yield. Yield's not gonna be determined in corn and soybeans for a couple weeks yet. We're approaching when the first determination of yield is gonna be met. But yeah I think there's still good potential out there for a lot of my growers and the people I work with.
The problem is now that we got rain, things are gonna happen really fast. To give you an idea of what's been happening, so we go through corn, soybeans, right? We do our first pass of herbicides, we clean the field up, we'll do a burn down application with a pre-emerge herbicide. We'll do that kind of a two for one deal.
And plant. And then we try to time the second herbicide application that it's it's gonna happen at a specific growth stage. Weeds are, two to four inches tall. We make that application clean. The weeds up the [00:02:00] crop canopies over soil isn't exposed anymore. So between the herbicide use and then just natural plants shading out and overcom competing weeds, we have clean fields.
And when we have these dry conditions, a lot of the herbicides that we use don't work the way they're designed to work. Most of the herbicides pre emerge herbicides, they need a little bit of rain to incorporate them and activate them in the soil. Or even your roundups, your two four Ds, those are herbicides that are systemic, so they move through the plant.
If we don't have water and active water in the soil moving through the plant and the plant's going through drought stress symptoms where it's shriveling up and conserving as much moisture as possible, it's not moving water. It's not moving nutrients through the plant so the herbicides don't work as well.
So all that to say, it's been pretty just. Stagnant. As far as field work, we haven't been spraying. Planting is pretty much wrapped up, so we haven't been [00:03:00] planting and we haven't been fertilizing. So we've just been sitting here watching the crop sit and not move for a number of weeks. Now that we got rain, what's gonna happen is this crop is gonna take off exponentially.
It's got a lot of catching up to do. It's gonna bolt out of the ground and then it's gonna mean all of the field work that we have to do prior to crop camping over is gonna have to get done in a short amount of time. So I'm anticipating sprayers to be rolling like crazy to be able to get all the acres covered and cleaned up before canopy.
And we also have fertilizing to do on corn. We'll usually split apply nitrogen to the crop. We have a lot of sources of nitrogen. I, it's part of my job. I'll calculate what has gone on in the field, understanding the type of the soil, the contribution from cover crops, how much animal manure, and how to calculate that.
You use conditions, A previous legume crop. We come up with all this to come up with [00:04:00] rates of additional nitrogen that are gonna be, advantageous for a grower. It's gonna be profitable to put on, and we usually like to do that when corn is about V five, which is basically knee high.
It's a great time because corn takes up a lot of nitrogen at that moment in time. At the same time when corn is, eight inches tall up to knee high at the same time we're trying to clean fields up. We also gotta be going across the field to put fertilizer on in a lot of these cases.
So it's just making a lot of work and a short amount of time it's gonna be pure oder chaos. For a lot of my growers, it'll be pure oder chaos for me, making sure I'm on top and ahead of things making sure we're. Going in the right chronological order based on weed pressures and yield potential and things like that.
So a lot of running around. That's what June always is, but hard to believe. We are halfway through June. Gosh, it's so scary. It is like all I've been doing lately is work house projects family. Repeat, and I'm loving it. It's [00:05:00] fun seeing the projects come through, and I love watching my boys grow and do fun stuff with them.
I'm hoping this Sunday on Father's Day, take him take my three year old fishing. I think that's gonna be something really fun to do, but I'm starting to get really anxious. I want to have cameras out. I want to have this done. I wanna work on this. And I truly looking in the future, have no idea where I'm gonna get anything done.
Like I, I truly am in a position right now where I think I am gonna get my tail handed to me this fall, just from lack of preparation. And I don't know I've never been in a situation where I had to do a lot of work in a short amount of time or basically do it as the season goes on. Basically scout and hunt my way through.
This is gonna be an interesting year. I don't know what to expect. But I'm looking forward to it. Embracing it for what it is. And I had another interesting thing. I, distant family to me who I haven't seen in years. We recently Reconnected with this winter, [00:06:00] and it's one of those connections on my mom's side.
And this her cousin, cousin's son has a young daughter who I got to meet and she's interested in archery. She does archery in the classroom. And outta nowhere. She reached out to me a few weeks later, she says Mitch, I would really to go hunting. But I don't know where to go and neither does my dad, cuz he's not a hunter.
Do you know any places to go or could you take me? So that's a whole new thing that just got thrown into my world. And, me being me, I like to encourage people to hunt, take new people hunting. So I'm already thinking, okay, how am I gonna swing this one or work this into the equation.
So just just interesting, fun stuff happening. But said it before, man. I've been seeing a lot of good deer in my travels and work a lot of really nice buck and it's getting me fired up. But with antlers growing there's also another animal that's growing antlers and it's growing a lot more rapidly.
And that's the center and focus of [00:07:00] today's show. This week we have Brian Hale back from Elk County Outfitters on the shell. Now, if you would've listened to the episode that we did with Brian last year, you could probably pick up that Brian and the team at E C O are extremely hardworking, extremely dedicated and just love the elk hunt.
Wanna do the best job they can, but they're genuinely interested in the elk. They're interested in the science the, all the biology and the hard work that goes into the decision making process. And then having people come and experiencing something that, they live with and.
We recap the 20 22, 20 23 elk hunting season at e c. They had some great hunts, some great bowls. They actually brought down a state record, which he talks about a little bit, but then we transition into kind of some updates that are happening within the state. Now, keep in mind, Brian, [00:08:00] is he's a heck of a nice guy, heck of a knowledgeable guy, and y I'm giving him.
The benefit of the doubt. He knows this stuff, but he's not the biologist. He's interpreting everything that he's d done with his own research and his communication with state officials and stuff. And he's so I don't, I, I don't wanna put him on the spot as he's telling us as the biologist something, he's just he's the messenger in this stuff that's happening and updating.
You can do all the research yourself because, I had to do my own research and check in on everything we were talking about. And, he's got his factory, he's a knowledgeable guy. He's he's just with it, with everything comes to elk and he shares with us what he's learned about the thing, some of the science that they're doing right now.
And the research calf mortality was a big one. And how that calf mortality study now is different than it was years ago and how that. Data is now used to influence the number of tag allocations. Really interesting stuff. We talked a little bit about how [00:09:00] the application window and deadlines have been moved up.
It used to be in August when the drawing would happen. Now it's July 29th. And we also had the opportunity residents, non-residents, to start putting your points in back in February this year. So a lot of changes there. And we go into a little bit more detail with that. We talk a little bit more about the application process zones, and then we just talk elk hunting and hunting stuff in general.
All centered around Pennsylvania elk. An incredible opportunity. Guys, if you haven't been putting in for the drawing for that, You're missing out. I've, I started putting in a number of years ago. Wish I would've put in before that. For whatever reason I didn't. So I'm slowly accruing and I hope that one day I'm able to be lucky enough and draw a tag and have the opportunity to hunt elk in Pennsylvania.
And I hope that I'm able to do it. With Brian and e c o because, I've been able to connect with him with our show, and I've really enjoyed talking with him on and off the air. And it'd be an [00:10:00] experience. I would like to continue. So I hope that's an option. But, this'll get you guys fired up, but, if you haven't drawn or applied for the tag.
This might be just enough fuel in your fire to make you want to do it. So without further ado, let's get to this episode. Before we do, we're gonna leave our shout out to the people who make this happen, and that'd be our show sponsors and guys, Radix Hunting. If you guys are looking for trail cameras, if you are looking to expand your trail camera arsenal, update trail cameras, switch cameras out, whatever it may be, check them out.
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I think what I'll be able to use from Spring Goler is gonna transition for most of Archer season. [00:12:00] And that would be the Elkins pattern. But or set up. But there's a lot of other options out there, guys. Check hunt worth out quality clothing. Keep you warm, keep you quiet keep you comfortable.
And without further ado, let's get to this episode.
Welcoming back to the show of repeat offender here. Brian Hale from Elk County Outfitters. Elk. Elk County, not Elk Country. I got that right. Correct. Yep. Elk County. Lots of folks say Elk Country, but it is Elk County Outfitters. Yep. Yep. Thanks for having me. Yes. Welcome back. I appreciate you having you.
How have you been? Oh, good. Good. What about everybody else is into Right now, it's just awfully dry here in pretty much all Pennsylvania. Oddly dry for this time of year, we're moving along. Bulls are starting to show a little bit of length. There's, they're still hard to tell exactly what you're looking at as far as velvet wise I'm referring to, they're still globby and bumpy, with points starting up on the tops and everything. But in another [00:13:00] month, usually around 4th of July is when I get serious about scouting velvet. Yeah. Just by then, they still have plenty of time to grow by 4th of July, but usually they're framed out pretty good by then.
And you have a pretty good idea what you're looking at overall and plus some of the bulls that are more recognizable by, at that point from year to year with certain antler characteristics. We're just hoping for some rain. We generally don't deal with drought conditions here.
In relation to antler growth like a lot of Western states do, but I don't know if, I wouldn't be awfully surprised if there's a little bit of a. Step back this year in antler production just because of the dryness and the quality of the grass and the forage and stuff on the landscape right now when you know when the animals need it.
For antler growth. So we'll see. And a ti time will tell this is definitely a little bit of an oddball anomaly for us Yeah. Up here. Speaking of the dry weather and the vegetation stuff. If I think about it from the agronomy side of things, this spring [00:14:00] into summer we've had again, Abnormally dry conditions and whenever we have that, typically I see lower yields for a lot of the guys.
As far as hay production, like my first cutting hay production was, almost half for some of my growers as far as the total amount. Now, the qualities there, but I have to think, perennial grasses and Forbes and stuff like that elk and deer are gonna feed on. The quality's gonna probably be there, but I'm just curious and I don't have the knowledge to know is the volume there to supply what they need given, assuming the qualitative.
Quality stays relative, print, native foragers are gonna be a lot harder than a planted non-native grass species or something like that's gonna be, but yep. I would still have to think that the even those deep root systems on a native plant, they're, they've gotta be struggling cuz they we're just running outta moisture, nose, lower the lower portion of the soil.
Definitely. And I think so, so up here around our area I, there are a couple I'll use the term farmers pretty loosely. They have some hay fields and they have some beef cows and they [00:15:00] loosely play around with farming and they just started laying hay down in a couple spots and boy just looks so thin and wispy and doesn't seem like there's volume there.
And it's funny, you look at a hayfield and you don't think a hayfield can experience crop damage, as opposed to looking at a cornfield or a soybean field. And you can obviously see when the deer and the bear or the Yelp get into those. There's, you can tell and see the damage, but I know a couple of those guys, they really, him and hall and harp on, on the essential grazing damage that elk do just on their hay fields.
They said you probably, you wouldn't really think. That they could hit grass like that and do that much of a damage, but they definitely do. And then that, the grazing stress combined with the dry weather, the lack of, the lack of water stress. It'll be interesting to see what hay looks like next year.
If we come through again with another dry spring it'll be interesting to see what a two year, two year event would be like. But hopefully it's not, [00:16:00] yeah, hopefully it's not bad. Hopefully it's nothing that the, trip the triggers on the farmers and they decided to, take some drastic steps.
Sometimes that does happen, but. They're within the legal right at that point to do that as long as they follow the steps that are in place. But ju just, yeah, it looked like it. Oh, go ahead. No, I was just gonna say just from that, that dry with statement, I've had more an anxious farmers calling me this year just because we came off of a dry year and you were talking about hay production.
The drought last summer, a lot of guys took their first cutting of hay off and then it just got beaten down with a lack of rain, no sun or a high sun, high heat, and really thin stands out. So now we're going into two years of this and it's gonna, it's going in and have same thing after first cutting.
It could really drastically change that from a farmer's perspective, but Absolutely. I don't think it's gotta take its toll on the, and I wouldn't have even thought about it from a crop damage perspective with elk, but absolutely. You think about a whitetails gotta take in I forget what the percentage of body weight is, but I think they average, what, five to six pounds of woody [00:17:00] brows a day for an adult.
Deer or something like that. So that's tenfold for an elk. Yep. As far as grazing well, yeah, so just think of, just imagine trying to cut hay out of a cow pasture. If you have a resident group of elk that frequent hay fields, they're grazing just like beef cattle would or milk cattle, any of the dairy cattle would.
And they can definitely keep stuff, subdued. They can keep growth subdued and keep it down. But luckily there's a lot of other stuff this time of year that can draw their attention that they don't focus totally on that grass. But it definitely is an issue and it's something that some of the farmers.
Kind of do pay attention to, and it's just another thing that they have to overcome, in their effort to survive or at least be productive. As, as farmers in the Elk range let alone when they actually try to. Plant some kind of an actual grain crop or anything like that, or corn or anything, from the dry side of things, thinking deer hunting. Last year a lot of my big woods, Northern Pennsylvania hunting for whitetails, I [00:18:00] I noticed that because of the drought, where did we have the most brows and the most forage, it was down low in creek bottoms and stuff.
So I'm already thinking that, I'm already thinking ahead for this year. Like we're set up for that exact same thing. I wonder if I'll see similar trends in some of the whitetail hunting, but, speaking on that trend of last season, Sam, how was last season for for Elk for you guys?
Oh man. It was good. It was another good year. We, you always we hit a lot of our goals, a lot of our milestones couple big bulls got away from us, that we know made it through all three of the seasons. We got a couple really big bulls. Actually last year we a, we ended up harvesting the new state record.
Typical wow. Firearm bull. It was a giant, giant six by six. It's a unicorn bull anywhere that elk live, but especially in Pennsylvania, just because, for the fact of it being a typical bull. When our bulls get up, 7, 8, 9, 10 years of age. In that prime window, [00:19:00] we generally deal with non-typical antler configurations, right?
There's splits on splits and there's drop times, and there's webbing, and there's extras here and there, and stickers. This bull was about the cleanest six by six I had ever seen anywhere, let alone Pennsylvania. He had two little kickers, one off of his left side, fourth and his fifth that are, that we lost a couple inches on our net.
Our net typical score but just a monster. Six by six. He nets 4 0 7 and four eight s. Oh my God. Which just crushes the previous record for Pennsylvania anyways, the previous Pennsylvania state record was 3 88 and 18. And that was taken by another E c O Hunter back in 2018.
And that bull was actually a seven by seven. A typical seven by seven. So we crushed that by nearly 30 points. 30 inches. And we essentially had two less points on each side. One less point on each side. So did he, was he just the whole package, mass length, everything? Oh my lord. [00:20:00] Yeah. He had great beams.
He had over 50 inch beams which is huge for us. He had the mass, all of his tines were long. Just a great bull and it was a bull we had a lot of history with. We had been, we had known of this bull for multiple years. We had hunted him multiple seasons with multiple clients. He just he just always seemed to know when to disappear or when did the get to the right side for him, the wrong side for us of the posters, on private property.
He just we had a lot of history with him over the years. We, so he was actually taken by this past season's auction tag holder or a lot of people call it the governor tag holder. But prior to us harvesting him with the governor tag Hunter, we actually hunted that bull with a general season archery hunter that we had in camp.
He had a tag for that zone and we knew the bull was there. And we saw the bull a couple times. Unfortunately, the hunter had some range limitations and had some mobility issues, and when we needed to zig, he couldn't quite zag with [00:21:00] us. And when the bull was just outta his range, he just, we weren't comfortable, sending one.
So we held off a couple times and as it ended up the bull made it through the general archery season. And then we were able to get on him a week or so later with the with the auction tag hunter. We actually hunted the him with the bow, the auction tag Hunter actually hunted with a bow for the majority of his hunt that year, or I'm sorry, last season.
Just a, as it ended up when we finally. Tightened the noose and was figuring out and narrowing down this bull. We knew the area where he was at. We might not get a chance to get it within bow range of him. Just he was working on post rut. He was winding down. He had left all the cows.
He was he had moved off of where he was with his cows and where he had rutted about a mile or two up on the side of a mountain, on a piece of private property that we had permission on. And as it ended up being the hunter did use a rifle. But he would've been an archery state record also if we would've been able to get 'em [00:22:00] with the bell.
But ju just an incredible animal again a 400 inch net. Typical six by six is just gigantic anywhere. It's it's just an incredible bull. And then we had another archery hunter, another archery bull hunter in camp under a different zone. Fella passed up 18 bulls. Wow.
And now 18 bulls everything from spikes to some shooter bulls. Out of those 18, I would say 10 of those from what the guys were telling me and the videos and everything they were showing me, 10 of those 18 were definitely shooters. So those other ones, were smaller bulls, rags, but bulls that just come crashing in the colon.
Some you hit 'em just right. Just like with turkeys, sometimes you hit it just right. You don't have to make very many calls, and then the gobblers just come running or the bulls just come charging. So the issue what ended up happening was they were hunting in an area that was just total chaos for about a week and a half with rod [00:23:00] activity.
No joke when I tell you they were hearing anywhere from a dozen to 20 bull, different bulls, bugling every day. And a lot of times they'd get in that scenario where, oh my God, where do you go? There's one bugling here. There's one bugling right there. There's one bugling right behind us.
What do you do? Where do you go? So they spent a lot of time chasing bugles calling in bulls. On multiple occasions they saw three different. 400 plus bulls. Now, they couldn't get shots at 'em, but they would see 'em, crossing a power line or a gas line ahead of 'em, or they'd catch glimpses of 'em in the timber, in the woods or something.
And that really lit the fire of the hunter and the guides that were with them. And they kept wanting to hold out. They kept wanting to hold out. The big guys are right here. Tomorrow's gonna be the day. Tomorrow's gonna be the day. Meanwhile, they're passing 3 40, 53 60 bulls almost daily, if not every other day.
And a, as the old saying goes, don't ever pass up on the first day what you would gladly shoot on the last day. [00:24:00] It got to be the last day. And unfortunately, that was the quietest day of the two week hunt. And although the tag went unfilled the hunter was just more than ecstatic and happy with everything.
He was totally fine and understanding. He knew there was lots of opportunities. But it, it was just, it, a lot of times people scratch their heads and wonder how in the world do you not fill a Pennsylvania elk tag? Historically, the historically the success rates are just phenomenal.
Bulls are nearly a hundred percent. Cows are usually in the upper sixties, 70%, success rate. So whenever anybody hears there's empty elk tags, of course, it's like what in the world were these guys even trying, there's a lot of factors that can go into that.
There's like that scenario I just mentioned there where they kept holding out and holding out, and in the end it ended up costing them the tag. Some guys, there's mobility issues. There really is and then sometimes you also have availability issues.
Hunters can only hunt so much time. Sometimes they just work schedules don't [00:25:00] allow. Family, family stuff. There's a, there's a lot of different factors that can go into an unfilled tag. It's just not always as easy as everybody likes to think it is. But I wanna circle back to something Brian.
So you were talking about the big 400 inch bull that was killed this year rifle, and you were talking about the history that you guys had with that bull. And I remember talking with you last year when we spoke that, you guys do a lot of scouting periodically. You follow bulls, follow their unique characteristics.
I've learned with Whitetails that if I get history with a specific buck I see trends throughout certain times of the fall where he might do something similar in a, in the, in a certain area at a certain time of year. To give you example, my the big buck I killed in 2020 he, I killed him within three days of when I had.
Pictures of him the year before, and he was doing the same trend in 2020, and I was just so happened to capitalize on it. So I'm curious, like when you have history with a bowl like that, do you find similar instances with elk? Do you find that they [00:26:00] do similar things in similar areas of certain times of the year?
Or is that no, not necessarily the case. Is it more food pressure related? Nope. Most definitely a hundred percent. Like you just said it, it's it's the elk are predictable at certain times of the year. So like this particular bull we have o over the years. 90% of our encounters and knowledge of him was during the rut.
He was a ghost in velvet. We knew the general area and a couple times some of the guys had gotten velvet pictures of him, but it was once or twice a year, that would be it. And it was big woods area where he would summer. There was pipelines and gas lines and power lines, but no food plots.
So it was hard to try to hone. We would we could point on a map and say he's somewhere here, in this area, but it was just vast woods. But then, like I said, during the rut, he would always become highly visible. He would come down, that's where the cows were. And then post rut, we would knew, we would always be able to [00:27:00] track him a little bit backwards, like as he was going back towards that summer area where he, then he would go to winter.
And then that's what ended up last year. We learned quite a bit about him. We thought we were gonna get him, we thought we were gonna take him last year with a late se, I'm sorry, with a general season rifle Hunter last year. And it ended up being the hunter shot a different big bull early or just before before we got to that, before we were able to find him.
All that knowledge from last year and the previous years, that all just compounds and just another piece of the puzzle. And eventually you finally find that last piece and it all clicks together, and you're a, and you're able to to get a shot opportunity at one of them. It's it's 100%.
A lot of the success on the really big bulls are, that's due to history. Know knowing bulls having pictures and video and sightings from our guys, from our friends, from our other folks out and about. It definitely. Definitely having a network of people and having a history [00:28:00] and knowing where how animals tend to move at different times of the year plays into our benefit a hundred percent.
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I would assume, I think about Big Woods [00:29:00] Whitetails, and there's a lot of fluctuation between hard mass crops and how they might utilize an area. But is it a little bit more consistent from an Elk perspective because they're grazers and they're looking for open grassland food plot type growth?
Yeah. Yes, it definitely can. Elk will definitely eat acorns. They can definitely switch to when the acorns are hot and heavy and falling usually they're around mid and late September, all the way through into October, and even the beginning of November, sometimes they can definitely switch to almost, it seems at least I'm not bi not biologic biologically speaking here.
But it anecdotally, it definitely seems they'll just go straight to eating acorns. Yeah they're, it's a, I think they, I think biologically and internally, they still have to eat grass. They still have to have something in there, but I think they focus mainly and more when the acorns are hot and heavy like that.
And that pulls them out of those open areas, the grass areas, the food plots, the power lines, the right of ways that are maintained. [00:30:00] And of course, it makes things a little more difficult. They're not as easy to see in the woods when they're out in the open, so we actually, so we just came off of last year a horrible, horrible gypsy moth infestation up here, most of the elk range.
And the year before that we had pretty significant but not as bad as this year. Now, this spring, the PGC and the D C N R. Had done, has done significant spraying. Up here. And we don't seem I don't see near the I don't see near the defoliation right now as we did the last couple years, this time of year.
But I have noticed, and there's 100% plain as day, it's easy to see. There's mortality out there, there's trees that took those two years of defoliation and they died. Yeah. You coupled it with the drought stress and then we also had that late frost. Yes. Yes. Yep. Right now there's a, there's certain areas that you couldn't, I don't think you could find a gypsy mouth on 'em right now, but there's dead oak trees that are, that were [00:31:00] alive, barely alive last year, and there's, now they're. Now they're dead. They succumbed, too much too much stress from the defoliation, stress from the dr the dry times and the drought. So they, so the acorn thing, flu, they're gonna go where there's acorns and I'll tell you what this, over this winter and even into the early earliest of spring here for shed season, I know Elk definitely seemed to be, and I use like air quotes here, different, they, they didn't, they elk weren't in what I would say would be their normal winter haunts.
Out in some of the big woods, public ground out in Quana and over in a bunch of other places, for whatever reason, I think it was lack of acorns. There, there wasn't whatever Acorns actually did get produced. They were already cleaned up and gone long before there was snow, so the elk the Elks seemed to be roaming a lot more, whereas in the past, you could find. If you would find like acorn pockets on benches or ridges or something, you could realistically find multiple bulls there that would be [00:32:00] hanging in there. And just as an example, around shed season, and you oftentimes could find sheds.
This year it seemed like you could see a group of elk, just catch 'em somewhere one morning and then next morning or two mornings later, they're four or five miles away in another spot. Just, and they're just like, on the move. They're walking and nipping and eating and digging and walking and nipping and digging and eating.
There're, there was a lot of scattered there, I shouldn't even say scout it. There really wasn't much for hard mask. Which they definitely try to, they definitely eat in the o over the wintertime. So shed season was interesting. I know a lot of the. A couple of the guys came on strong late.
They must have figured something out. But a couple of my buddies that are big time elk, shed hunters in general, but elk shed hunters especially, they struggled. A couple of the guys did find did do good here. The latter end of what I would say would be the elk shed season. But in general, yeah, a lot of folks, a lot of the guys that hunt hard and hunt a lot and hunt off [00:33:00] them they said they, they were having trouble, they were struggling finding elk and then when they did find them, they'd be gone the next day or within a day or so.
Probably a lot of that attributed to the mild winter. Yeah. So there was that, we did have in general, a mild winter. They weren't confined by any real weather but. There wasn't a lot of food on the landscape out there as far as hard leftover, hard masks or anything like that.
So they had to wander and wander around a lot. And of course, I say this all the time, just people. My lord, there's shed season any weekend in March, especially mid and late March, you take a ride out through a lot of the public ground up here in the Elk Range. And my Lord, you would think it might be the first day of bear season or buck season.
There's just vehicles at every gate. There's people everywhere. And they're just out, they're out looking for sheds. It's it's a fun pastime. And there's always that, of course, it's always, it's a pretty low percentage to actually find anything especially when you're just shooting from the hip.
But people are always out there, just trying to take that [00:34:00] chance. Like it's good cabin fever buster. And the first things in the spring where peop folks get back out out in the woods after being in for most of the winter. So it Yeah it's a fun activity, but man, it's a lot.
There's a lot of people and they get scattered around for sure. So talking earlier, you were talking about your client and, sometimes dealing with, when you get a client that gets a tag, we're, you're dealing with work schedules, you're dealing with families and you might have time restraints as far as when you can hunt.
And some of that's probably due to the way, the Pennsylvania. Does their tags with the allocation. You don't find out until, within a few weeks of elk season that you actually drew a tag. So you gotta make some short-term short-term plans to make that happen.
And this year we, the state changed how they do the points a little bit. And I know you've done a little, a lot more of that. You have a lot more of that knowledge than I do. And I was curious I, I know it, I think it started in February that you could apply for a point, right?
Y [00:35:00] yep. And so exactly. That's a good segue there for from one topic to the next there. So pretty much, yeah. So the application period for Pennsylvania Elk always used to be, prior to this year, it always used to be. When the new licenses would go on sale, which is generally right around mid end of June, at that point you could apply for your elk points and apply for your elk zones.
And then the cutoff or the ending of the application period was the end of July. And then in, usually around August twenties, somewhere in there, they would have the elk expo where the game commission would have the lottery reveal, where they would announce the winners. So yeah, that's a very tight window.
You're talking about, and then archery season would start, last year started, I believe it was September 10th. So you're talking about finding out that you went, you won an elk archery tag just as an example on August 20th last year. And the [00:36:00] first day to hunt is now September 10th. So there's three week win, barely a three week window there where folks have to make some huge concessions and ju juggle a lot of stuff around in their life, to take advantage of this tag that they drew.
And that, that right there was one of the most common complaints, and I'll say complaints that hunters would have was the short timeframe from when they were found. They find out that they won the tag until their season actually starts. Jeremy Banfield, the Game Commission, elk Biologist.
Every single elk hunter at the end of the seasons gets a, they will receive a survey from him. You can fill it out and paper and mail it to him, or you can do electronically online and multiple things in there. He asked about how your hunt went. Did you hunt private land? Were you turned away from private land hunt, public land, this and that?
Were you DIY or guided? And then there's a comment section just for, speaking your mind. And [00:37:00] he said overwhelmingly, almost everybody had issues with the timeframe from being awarded the tag to the start of the season. So he took all that feedback back to the commissioners and lobbied to change the drawing date.
So he wanted to, and he actually was successful two ways here. So Jeremy got the he got the. Elk drawing moved up. So the Elk Expo, which is in, is held at the Elk Country Visitors Center in Benette. There was some coordination had to do there because they had to reschedule their event.
So the the Elk Expo is pretty much a two day elk extravaganza I guess you would call it up there at the Elk Expo. Saturday's highlight is obviously the game commission lottery drawing, and then Sunday is the Keka drawing. There's vendors, there's local artists, there's food vendors, there's activities.
There's a pretty, it's a pretty good event. I encourage anybody that would be interested in it take a ride up [00:38:00] go attend it. It does get busy. It's, I wouldn't have thought that you could, that place would've be overwhelmed, but with people. But man, there's a lot of people.
It, it has, it's a big draw. It's a big, it's a big crowd. So I'm digressing there. The elk lottery drawing has to be held by law on the grounds of the Elk Country Visitors Center. It's actually written in the, in title 34 that the reveal or the elk lottery drawing has to be held there on the grounds of the Elk Visitors Center.
Gotcha. So when the game commission, when Jeremy wanted to change his drawing date, he wanted to move it up. He wanted to move it to the left in the calendar to allow more time for hunters to prep. He then had to coordinate, or he had to solicit the elk expo folks to see if they could move their whole event.
So they were successful. The Elk Expo is July 28th and 29th this year. So it is almost a whole month. It's pretty much three and a half weeks earlier. And then the first day of [00:39:00] elk archery season, Jeremy actually moved to the right on the calendar. So the first day of elk archery season this year is September 16th.
Gotcha. So folks are gonna find out on July 28th that they drew an elk archery tag and they now have an added four or five week buffer built in there to prepare for their hunt, whether they use that time for scouting or they use that time for soliciting outfitters and guides or what have you.
There's just now there's a little bit of more. Comfort build in there in, in, in the in the calendar to allow those guys time to prepare. So I know that's a big win. That's a big win for everybody. That's a big win for all the successful hunters. I don't mind it as a, as an outfitter because it gives us more time.
It's just a mad rush when you start trying to schedule meetings with guys and meet and greets and there's only so many weekends in between there. Most everybody has regular, 40 hour week jobs. It's hard for folks to get free and get away and come up and do their meet and greets, right?
[00:40:00] And just feel stuff out. So it definitely gives the outfitters a little bit of breathing room also where we're, it's still gonna be, it's still gonna be hectic there, there's no doubt about that. But there, there isn't as much of a sense of urgency, I would say what, with this later later season and earlier drawing.
So in turn, when they moved the Elk Expo up and the drawing date up they then in turn also opened up the application period farther and they actually opened it up, I believe it was the first or second week in February. The Game Commission had a social media announcement February 1st through July 16th.
I have here. Yep. They they had it on black. We, so some of us the Outfitters and the guides and kind of folks in the Loop, we had heard and knew that it was gonna be coming early January, February. But they the game commission just did a social media blast with it.
They, it was on their Facebook and on their Instagram and on their website and stuff. [00:41:00] And Of course right away fo there was a million questions. Wait a minute, why is this now? This all used to be like this all used to be in June. What's going on? And then it was almost a chicken little, the sky is falling.
Oh my God. We're gonna have so many more applicants now because we're giving 'em so much time. I don't know if I I don't know if I would fall, if I would fall into the, that camp or that train of thought. But I think there definitely is going to be more folks. But part of it is just from.
And I would just say the natural progression of people learning about Pennsylvania Elk. And I guess it would pertain, pertain a lot of, I think you'll see a lot of that growth in non-resident applications. There's way more folks out there that don't know that Pennsylvania has elk and then somehow they randomly hear about it, see about it through a social media page somewhere, or in a magazine somewhere or on, on the Pennsylvania Woodsman Podcast.
Who knows? Yeah, for sure. There's been a bunch of podcasts here late lately about PA p a l Cunning. Yep. Yep. [00:42:00] I think that's where we're gonna see a lot of our additional applications is gonna be from non-residents, and that makes a lot of people moan and groan. A lot of residents moan and groan.
And I'm there a little bit. I. I foresee, depending upon how this year's applications go I foresee the game commission instituting a, or I should say instituting a cap. Yeah. Instituting a cap on non-resident tags. So currently as it sits right now, there is no limit to the amount of non-residents that can draw a Pennsylvania elk tag, right?
So theoretically, all 144 of our elk tags could be drawn by a non-resident, but statistically that'll never happen. Last year I think was the most ELK tags that went to a non-resident that we had ever seen, and I believe it was. Oh boy. I should have had this sta I know I have it in a note somewhere.
I wanna say it was right around 20 or [00:43:00] 21% between archery, general and late. Wow. Between all three seasons. And prior to that it had never been over 10%. The highest that it ever got was like 9.8% and again, I attribute and then last year there was a lot more applications also than previous years.
So I really just attribute that to the natural growth. And people discovering Pennsylvania elk and being interested in it and for, and the fact that it's quite frankly, so cheap to apply. It's almost one of those why the hell wouldn't I do this? It only cost me it's peanuts really comparative to not really.
It is, and it's peanuts comparative to Western states and, different species applications stuff out there. So I think that. The cheapness of it the low cost along with the word, finally getting out there, more people knowing and learning about it. I think we're gonna continue to see our applications rise.
And then I do think. If we would, if we throw another year with a 15, 20% non-resident [00:44:00] allocation, I would look to the game commission to actually implement a, a 10% cap. And I would be on board with that, and I would likely jump up and down a little bit and speak my point of mind, my point of view to anybody that would have any authority that, that would listen well, the Western states are doing it.
You're seeing that happen across across the whole western part of the country where tag allocations and point creep and stuff like that's happening. And I'm all for opportunity. I love the fact that it's growing because it produces revenue and interest in our state, which is a good positive thing.
Y a lot of positives happen with elk, and I think some of that you're talking about growth in applications. Some of that's growth in knowledge, but correct me if I'm wrong the elk population's growing as well. Y yes. So that, that, that leads into another thing that I was gonna touch on here in a little bit.
There actually has been a little bit of a change. The elk biologists has actually pulled back a little bit from his allocation, actually reduced re reduced allocation reduced tags this year. So several [00:45:00] things have materialized over the last couple years. There was a recent calf mortality stu, a three year calf mortality study that was completed.
And then when the results were tallied and now all the data was analyzed and collected and whatever, however they what, however they do it it was determined that there was a much higher calf mortality rate than what was originally thought. So there was, there's been two previous calf mortality studies done in Pennsylvania, one back in the nineties, and then one back in the early two thousands.
And at that time the the folks that perform the surveys, they would utilize just the regular radio telemetry. I know if sometimes you see elk and the elk range that have collars on 'em, they're actually, it's actually radio telemetry. And it allows the game commission and the elk biologists folks to actually pinpoint exact locations, and find cows.
So those previous studies they would go out on the biologist and the [00:46:00] aids and the wardens and whoever else that they would go out on the landscape and locate cows that they thought should be giving birth at any time, just by visually looking at 'em and saying, all right, this cow is obviously pregnant, she should be giving birth.
And then you time that, right about the normal time that ca calves start hitting the ground, which is right around now early and mid-June. And they would actually just. Almost line up and perform like a little drive, so to speak, through tall grass and through woods, until they would find a calf that was already born curled up there, just trying to hide and do its calf thing.
And they would then perform their they'd take their measurements, they weigh 'em, they would look at their umbilical cord and there was I don't know. I know that's how they do it. I don't know exactly the ins and outs of it, but they could look at the umbilical cord that was left on the calf and they could pretty mu well gauge within a couple days how fresh that calf was how long they had been out.
So at that point, a lot of times they're dealing with calves that are already 2, 3, [00:47:00] 4, 5, maybe even a week old. And those were a lot of the animals that they were handling. And they would put a collar on them and then, Those were also three year surveys. And those surveys were turning up survival rate of like in the mid and upper 80%, which is just phenomenal.
It's unheard of, especially in Western populations. Of course we don't, and that's partly because we don't have the predators here. Yes, coyotes and bears do get some but we don't have, big cats. We don't have grizzlies, things like that. So our previous two studies showed, significantly high mortality, or, I'm sorry, significantly high survival rates.
And then we just came off of this last fawn mortality of fawn calf mortality study, and the penem actually swung the whole other direction. And at first from what I'm told and from talking to the biologist and some of the aids, it was very surprising at first. Like it was almost a step back oh, wait a minute.
What's going on here? How, why is this like this? How did we not [00:48:00] know this? And it's partly related to the technology that's now used to perform this study. It was just, it was provi. The study was just performed by Avery Kundi. She is a former elk biologist aide. And then during this, she did this survey as part of her master's program where she was actually darting cows in the wintertime with tranquilizer darts.
She had a mobile ultrasound unit. And so once the cow was down in immobilize, she could ultrasound the cow, see if she was pregnant. If she was, the cow would get fitted with the collar. And the cow would also receive what's called a vit, v i t. It's rough, but it's a vaginal implant transmitter, so it's exactly what it sounds like.
So when the cow's immobilized, she's pregnant, she gets her collar and then they actually insert this vit up in her vaginal cavity up against the cervix, and it doesn't affect her at all in her day-to-day life. But when [00:49:00] she goes to calf, that gets pushed out with the calf, and that little sensor immediately sends an email and a text notification to whoever's on the predetermined list.
So Avery had would tell me that she would wait when and when they would pop, when she would get that email and that text. She would always wait at least four hours before she would ever try to go at least minimum four hours before she would ever try to go and catch the calf. That gives mom that initial time to get the calf clean.
The calf would usually get its first suckling by then but it's still pretty weak and immobile and essentially it's a lot easier to handle. So what this new technology opened up was now where the previous two studies, we were looking at animals that were already into five, six a week, six days a week of life.
And on where their their chances go way up, even if they make it to that point. This vit technology [00:50:00] was allowing Avery and Jeremy and the other biologists and veterinarians that was giving them a look and insight into the very first moments and into the first few days of life for those calves.
And it, it sounds like what they were finding was a much higher mortality rate in those very early moments, hours and days of life. And that was never captured before because at that point, Those calves were already dead. And those previous two studies the biologists and the AIDS didn't even know it.
They weren't, there was no way for them to monitor or gauge that mortality previously. The technology just wasn't there. The thing, the those surveys weren't performed that way. So this new vit survey has really shed light on, on the overall calf mortality. And it's much lower, at least in this three year study, it was much lower than what was originally thought based off of the PTU previous studies.
And, FAW re, or I keep [00:51:00] saying Fawn calf recruitment along with the air, the yearly aerial survey. Those are two major factors that play into Jeremy's overall license allocation. So the aerial survey was performed again this year, and they actually counted fewer. They felt they had a higher accuracy rate, but they counted fewer animals.
So they base their accuracy rate. I'm sorry, did I glitch right there? I hope I didn't. You're good. The the accuracy rate is based off of the number of known collared elk that are actually captured in the aerial survey. So I believe so there, there was a graph I had saw it was in one of Jeremy's presentations, it was in his presentation back in January when he made the the initial, I'm sorry.
Or January. Or April, yeah. When he made the initial season proposals. And what they had found was they observed 99 of the 116 [00:52:00] collars that are out there Wow. On the landscape. So they figured out to be an 85% detection rate. Previously they were only ever right around 60% detection rate based on collars seen with the aircraft compared to what they knew to be on the ground.
They, even though they feel well, even though they counted fewer animals, they feel they're way more accurate in that count, with the 85% detection rate. So that, that combined with this, the results of the VIT study. That caused Jeremy to lower cow tag allocations significantly.
This year where there's only 70 cow tags allocated between archery general and late season whereas last year there was 118 cow tags. So it's lowered by 40. So they dropped 48 cow tags. Wow. Across all of the 14 zones and they actually bumped the bull tags up a little bit.
A couple of the zones, see some, saw some additional bull tags this year.[00:53:00] That's partly also because in that aerial survey then they're also able to identify the ratio of an branch antler bulls to cows. And I believe, if I recall the information right, were somewhere in the 70 bulls to a hundred ca 70 branch antler bulls.
To a hundred cows, which is extremely high. I believe the elk management plan calls for something more like in the 30 or 40 range. Not that it's bad to have more bulls, but we're definitely well within the management plan and the standard, to I guess to, to allocate some more bull tags.
Me personally I don't know. Of course, everybody wants a big bull when they're out there hunting, so that's what you're targeting and hunting and you're ta talking about taking five more potential big bulls out. It might not seem like much, but every year there's a couple more.
I don't know if there'll be another increase in bull tags this coming next year, but that it definitely I think in the long run we could see. I don't [00:54:00] know. It might be a bit of a bold statement to say it, but I could see, a big bull here, what we consider a big pool here might, the standards might be lowered in a couple years, okay. And that's not a doom and gloom thing, and I'm probably gonna catch some flack for that. I, that's just, that's my anecdotal personal opinion. I'll just put it that way. Correct me if I'm wrong, Pennsylvania's put on a pedestal a little bit as far as the caliber of bowls that we bring out of the state.
Let's face it, they're getting to an insane age class where they can express maximum genetic potential. Yeah. Relatively speaking, pressure is low for mortality in these animals. We've got hunting out there, but it's not like at Western states, there's a lot of things in favor to produce those, that maximum antler growth.
So the fact that we produce 400 inch elk on an annual basis is not normal. Correct. And I guess that might be, I'll probably, this is probably what I'm going to hear from some of the, from the folks that would disagree. Yeah. It's not normal.
And you [00:55:00] just can't have a 400 s bull behind every tree. Like when like they're used to like the good old days. Like you, you hear that all the time. The good old days. I know, I remember a couple years, 17, 18, 19 even 20, just, it seemed like everywhere we went and looked, there was just giant gober bulls.
Just, especially during the rut, when they're visible, when they're vulnerable. And now, and I know some of them bulls. I, they didn't show up. They've disappeared. They didn't show up in, in hunting harvests. So I don't know if that means they died of old age, they died of combat battles from the rut.
Or they died by a spotlight and they're up in the roof raptors of somebody's garage. That I don't know, but I know there's, I can think of four or five big 400 plush bulls right off the bat that have just went mia. And for two years in a row now I could justify, or I could rationalize, I should say, in my mind, not seeing a bull for one year [00:56:00] wouldn't mean that he's dead.
But two years in a row, not seeing him where he had been previously, two, three years in a row that makes you think crap something's up. This guy's a guy either died, naturally he didn't show up in Hunter's harvest, like I said unfortunately he might have met his doom with, met his maker with.
A poacher or just, mother nature, who knows. But it definitely does seem there just isn't the quantity. The quality's still there, there's still plenty of big bulls. Don't I would never deny that or say anything other than that. It's just there doesn't seem to be the quantity that there used to be.
Now they're there, there's still some awkward bulls that are out there, don't get me wrong. But it's just it's just like with everything the more opportunity is given Everybody want, like I said, everybody wants a big bull. The guys that get bull tags, of course they want a big bull.
They're, most guys aren't, just don't wanna shoot a rag just because they got a tag. And like a lot of guys would go out drug get some western tags, a lot of over the counter stuff. They're happy with a [00:57:00] three by three or spikes and spike only areas, or whatever. But that just isn't how it is here.
So sometimes guys hold out and then you end up finding that bigger bull. And you think about the management, I think about management. Brian, like you think about let's turn this back to whitetail. 2000 or 2001 was when we had antler point restrictions come into place for whitetail deer in the state.
And we we saw a change in the herd dynamic. We saw changes in the population. We saw deer get to an older age class more, two and a half year old deer. And I believe it was at one time, and it may still be that the goal within the whitetail management plan was to see deer get to that second birthday and change that.
Yes. Yep. However, nowhere in the plan or nowhere talking from a biological standpoint have I heard somebody say that our goal in the state of Pennsylvania is to get all bucks to the age of four and a half years old or to have that. [00:58:00] That top end top end quality may be flirting with that trophy management side of things.
Think with that logic back into the elk management program, sure. There's probably things that can be done to micromanage in order to allow that high trophy class level, which so many people get that, just that ideology of a trophy Mazda four inch bull. But is is the trophy management side of that, is that biologically sounded necessary.
And that's probably an argument that could be made of a lot of people. But my biggest thing, and My logic, if I'm ever fortunate enough to draw a Pennsylvania elk tag and draw a bull tag, I just want to have an experience where I see elk and see mature elk. Cuz to me the trophy is gonna be within the hunt and the hunting experience.
It's not gonna be measured in inch inches of antler because I was fortunate I killed a 300 and, like a 315 or 320 inch bowl in Montana one time. I was thrilled with that. And, if I killed a bowl of that caliber in [00:59:00] Pennsylvania, I would be ecstatic. And I think there's a lot of hundreds out there.
So it's flirting with that trophy management versus, quality herd management. Yeah and it's funny I see this every year in year out from the outfitter side of it. Like everybody talks about, I want a 400 inch bull. I want a 400 inch bull. Most guys don't know what a 400 s bull looks like, right?
And the first 3 23 30 bull, A 40 bull or 50 bull, they see, they're like, goo gaga, let's go. I'm ready to shoot. And you gotta. That's conversations you have to have with guys ahead of time. Look, if you're serious about this, we're gonna you're gonna be passing up some stuff.
And some guys, once the reality hits 'em, or once they actually see not a good bull, three 30 s forties, fifties type bull, they're like, man, I, that's, oh man, that's beautiful. That's exactly what I was looking for. It's not 400 inches, but that's exactly. Okay, then let's go, same thing happens at Whitetails.
How many people do you know that say, oh, I saw 140 inch buck the other night. And I know there's people out there I've had those conversations with [01:00:00] that said they saw a one 40 and I thought, wow, it's probably 115 inch buck. Yeah. Yep. Yeah. And I'll tell you I'm guilty to use the whitetail analogy.
I'm guilty. I, yeah, I'd love a one twenties, thirties, forties buck, but man, I'm gonna pound the first a hundred inch eight point. I see. That comes by, especially with a rifle. I, yeah. Nothing. I don't know why. Yeah. And. And it'd be ecstatic about it, I'll pass up some of the smaller bucks, even though they're legal.
But I if, and if I'm hunting public ground and I see a 14, 15, 16 inch wide eight point, that a hundred inch tight buck, bam. I can't that's I can't hold off of that. There's nothing wrong with that. Oh yeah. But I would have but I conversely, if you would go find yourself hunting somewhere else where the standard could be set a little bit higher, that's where you just have to control yourself, control your impulses, control your brain, your mind, and have expectations and understanding set ahead of time.
Yeah, a lot of guys say that 400 bullet funders bull, [01:01:00] then they end up shooting a 3 40, 3 50 bull and they're just bawling their eyes out crying. They're so happy, and that, that happens regularly, and see that all the time. Sure. And and there's nothing wrong with that.
As long as an outfitter and a guide I'm never gonna tell a client no. Now as far as if they see an animal and they like it and they're happy and they understand what they're looking at, I'm surely never gonna tell somebody no. But if somebody is in the scope on the shooting sticks and they look over and whisper, what do you think?
And I was like we probably could do better. We probably, he's right here. I'm gonna take him. Okay, that's fine. Go for it. Or, you know what? I, you're right. I see what you're saying about, let's go look for another one. Look for the other one. So really it's just that having that conversation upfront ahead of time with folks and being completely honest with him there's a lot of bies that goes on out there behind the scenes.
Promises made for 400 inch bulls. And I guarantee this, I guarantee that. And I just, I shake my head when I hear those stories after the fact. Cause I'm like, I just don't know how anybody does that in good [01:02:00] conscience how anybody can say that, but. As long as guys are happy at the end of the day, as long as hunters are happy at the end of the day that's all that matters.
Like you said, it's about the experience, it's about the hunt, the camaraderie, new friends, doing something totally different in a totally different area. A lot of folks that draw are from Pennsylvania that draw. They're within four or five hours of the elk range, but they've never been here.
So the woods looks totally different from where they're used to hunting at home. They've never been up. So it's all, even though it's they're not leaving the state, it's still an adventure to some extent for a lot of folks. And a lot of folks will, would never find themselves on a guided or outfitted hunt outta state.
So this is a way for them to. Tried to scratch that itch, so to speak, by staying at home, and the experience is it we work on that just as much too. The camaraderie aspect of it and hanging out at camp and good food and all that kind of stuff. It's all just as important as, when that animal hits the ground.
It's a very, it's a very [01:03:00] important aspect of everything. Man, from a 20 23, 20 24 elk hunting season perspective, is there anything else going into this season, whether it's from the state's perspective, that maybe we didn't brush over or from an e c o standpoint that you'd like to brush up on?
Like what are some things you're looking forward to or maybe some updates or changes? Geez, let me think about that for a second. So as far as e c goes we're we're still trucking 'em along. We've added a couple new guides a couple fellas that were already established elk guides that they've come on board with us.
A couple of the guys over the years have just faded. A couple of our longtime guides have just faded out just due to life changes, kids work responsibilities that sort of thing. So we're still right around that 35 to 40 licensed guide guides for E C O. Now, obviously, not everybody's there all at once.
Some, work, I've said this before in the past, [01:04:00] nobody makes a full-time living as an elk guide in Pennsylvania or as an outfitter. So we all have regular 40 hour week jobs or whatever. So some of our guys can only guide during archery season, or some of our guys can only guide during the general season.
So we have that number of guides but not everybody's always here at the same time and every one of the guys have their own little niche or their own little plate, their own little area of expertise, whether it be zone wise or whatever. Certain guys want to stay in guide in certain zones.
Some guys are just killers and they'll go anywhere and put tags on elk. And some guys are newbies. And I I'll always team those guys up with some experienced guys first for a season or two before I would turn them loose, a as a standalone guide. We still have all our guides.
We're, I'm trying to get us more into a position where. Where we I wanna be more [01:05:00] active in our community as Elk County Outfitters. And I say that by meaning, like I, I want to do more things to benefit local EMS services, local youth sports. But I, again, I go back to saying, nobody makes a living at this.
There, there's not a whole lot of meat left on the bone at the end of elk season till everything is paid off. And but I want, I'm getting ourselves slowly t chipping away to get us more in a position to be more of a, a, I dunno if I say pillar of the community. That's a little bit, that's a little bit of a long reach there.
But I definitely want to become, a lot more socially active. In the, at the community level. Just being grateful for all the stuff that the EMS services provide across the Elk Ranger. There's multiple fire departments and EMS services and search and rescue teams. They just do phenomenal work for a volunteer base for having a volunteer base.
They're, they have really good response times [01:06:00] and man, when shit hits the fan, those are the people that you need to be ready, and need to be on your side. And they're there. And I want to do what I can to support them, as E c O and as a group. We're getting more into I don't know.
So right now, we're right here in early June. I'm not sure when you're gonna be able to hit this on or have this on the podcast. But we're getting a little more active. We're sponsoring some Tar Archery targets at the Montage Mountain Archery Fest, which is coming up this weekend.
It's a brand new inaugural event. This is the first time it's it's held a Montage Mountain, which is up northeast Pennsylvania, up near Scranton. It's similar to a lot of the other big arches shoots that are around where it's on a ski slope. So you ride, there's a vendor village at the bottom, all kinds of vendors and and whatnot.
And then there's ar, there's various archery courses that are scattered throughout the ski slopes and the woods. And you ride the chairlift up the top of the mountain and shoot your way down. The same format as Total Archery Challenge and a [01:07:00] lot of those other ones. So we're getting involved with that event as Elk County Outfitters and helping sponsor there.
I think we're gonna also get involved. There is an archery shoot that's hosted up at the grounds of the Elk Country Visitors Center this summer last year was their first shoot. We didn't really do anything there but we reached out to them and they reached out to us. The, the folks that are putting that on.
So looking to get involved more in that, just more of a presence outside of just Elk season, I feel like being socially, or being socially and locally involved, with different things just benefits, benefits the group in the long term. Absolutely. Absolutely.
And just do doing whatever we can, being there and trying to help out any way we can, outside of just our, the regular elk hunting seasons. There's as far as game commission stuff goes, boy, I hope we get some rain because they're gonna be getting into their summertime planning cycles here soon.
And if we don't get some rain, it's gonna be tough. As they're doing their planting rotations for like clovers and turnips and, their annual, some of [01:08:00] their annual plantings, absolutely, I hope it all goes well for them there. But that's all up to Mother Nature. There's nothing much that we can do about that.
There's there, there's some interest within the game commission. They've been reaching out and talking to some of the outfitters just kinda. It seems like there might be a little bit of a internal push with them to try to foster or bolster, outfitter elk outfitter, elk hunter game commission relations.
So there, there's some neat stuff happening there. Hopefully we'll see what actually materializes from that, if it's not just all lip service. But without getting too much down of a rabbit hole there. But that's, that is an interesting thing that that, that's happening there. And then I, we didn't touch on this, so we, I mentioned earlier at the beginning about the non or the giant typical bull we killed with the governor tag last year just this past April.
This seasons the 2023 Elk Governor tag went up for auction. And we smashed a, we a new record a new [01:09:00] record. The auction was done online, which is different in the past. They've always been live auction items at elk banquets, fundraising events. And folks interested would call, they could attend or they could just call in as a phone bidder.
This year the Pennsylvania tag, along with a whole bunch of the other states they pulled their tags out of local banquets and live auctions and put 'em onto this online auction where essentially you're looking at a computer screen and you're just watching and refreshing and you're seeing the bids go up.
Now you can't see who bids, but you can see the dollar amount change. So this past season, Pennsylvania Elk auction tag went for $325,000. My goodness. Just, and and last year it was 275,000, so a $50,000 jump. And the crazy thing is, Mitchell, that would've went higher, but the number two guy, His wifi [01:10:00] glitched in the last seconds and he couldn't get his next bid in.
And so I can't imagine what it had went to. There was two guys that were hot and heavy and the number one and number two guy there, the number two guy's wifi glitched and he couldn't get his next bid in. And I remember, I never forget that phone call. He was just livid. He was just, he couldn't believe of all times for technology.
To take a craft on him. To me that sounds like it was, that sounds like it was meant to be wifi glitching, because I have a sneaking suspicion that one more bid could have maybe landed him a divorce or something like that. That, that, I don't know. I don't he did tell me that he was prepared to go to continue going significant of Mount Moore.
I don't know what the number one guy, what he would've went to, but this fella the winner, the lucky winner he is with US Elk County Outfitters. We had been in contact with him be well before the auction. He had done some research and he reached out to us and let us know that, He would be bidding on it [01:11:00] and we would be in touch.
So we had a couple fellas a couple hunters that were interested in it, and we knew that they were actively bidding. But when it came down to that last that, that last bid, he said his wifi glitched and he was trying to hit refresh and refresh and it wouldn't go. And he even told me he threw his laptop out the front door.
He was so mad. Oh my, yeah. Yeah. Good deal. Yep. So that is a huge chunk of money that's now going into the Game Commission Elk coffers by law I believe Rocky Mountain Elk Federation they put on the auction or host the auction. I believe by law they are allowed to maintain or to retain, I should say, 20% of those funds to cover their advertising costs to cover any administrative costs or anything.
And then the rest of that money by law is required to go back to the game commission to be used for elk specific projects. And from what I hear, a little birdie tells me that there [01:12:00] is a massive habitat project that's in the works for the game commission. And this tag is going to, I don't wanna say it's gonna fully fund it, but it's gonna definitely fund like the first phase of this.
It's a awesome, apparently it's hundreds of acres and it's multi phases and it's public ground improvement. I, a lot of people when they hear governor's tag stuff and they hear about the dollar amounts, everybody wants to roll their eyes and say, oh my God, a rich man, rich man's sport.
If you hunt. Anywhere in the elk range for deer, bear, Turkey, small game, anything you have one way or another and inadvertently benefited from governor's tagged monies that money is used to buy and maintain farm equipment for the game, commission, food and cover cores or to food and cover crews.
To buy newer equipment to be more efficient and more productive better usage of the time. It buys seed, it buys lime, it buys [01:13:00] fertilizer, it buys radio telemetry and Vic telemetry for the biologists, to do all the different research programs. They're we all benefit for it one way or the other.
A lot of folks like I said they get that hairy eyeball when they hear about governor tag stuff and how much money is spent. The beauty of it is the way that law is written, that money has to go on the ground for elk. So that it's a huge win for Pennsylvania Elk and Pennsylvania sportsman, good deal.
Specifically anybody that recreates here, in the elk range. It's it's a big thing. So yeah, it's that's gonna be a huge shot. It's a. I don't think it's really necessarily all that much known or air quotes public yet, but I know I've heard some talks and rumors and rumbling about this huge habitat project that's gonna be getting kicked off with a bunch of these funds, positive things happening.
That's a good thing. Positive things happening from that side. Summarizing too, we've got till I think July 16th until you can get your elk points and your zone allocations and all [01:14:00] that stuff taken care of. Ye yes sir. Yeah. Let's touch on that real quick. Yes. So July 16th is the cutoff date.
That's the ending. You can apply. At any point of sale. So anywhere you would buy a hunting license over the counter, whether it's Walmart or Bass Pro or Cabela's or any mom and pop sporting good store, you can apply for your Elk application right then. You can also apply for it firstname.lastname@example.org.
You just sign in. You have to create an account If you don't already have one you sign in and then you can actually do your El Elk application right there online. Also, you just follow the prompts and click the buttons. You can, you so it, it was a change a couple years ago and some folks still struggle or don't quite understand.
Used to be you could pick one zone and then if that zone was full and you get drawn, they would just give you the next tag if you were drawn. Now things have changed a little bit. I know we went over this once last year, so [01:15:00] you have to pick at least one zone for a preference and you can pick up to five zones for a preference.
Elk zones one through 14 with seven being a closed zone with no tags allocated. So really there's 13 different zones that, oh, I'm sorry. And one doesn't count either. One is an open zone. So really there is 12 different zones that you could choose from. You can choose one or up to five. And then as you go along at the end, you're going to have an option.
Something's gonna pop up called fallback, the fallback option. So essentially fallback means no preference. So let's just say hypothetical. Mitchell, you apply for elk zones 2, 3, 4, and five. All right, we're just gonna use them cause that's an easy number and you do not click fallback. So you have now applied for elk zones 2, 3, 4, and five.
Only. So if you would be, if you would get drawn, say you would be the very last bull hunter drawn [01:16:00] and zones 2, 3, 4, and five are already filled, the tag's already allocated. You do not get a tag. Now you do not burn your points up. You wouldn't even see that the computer would automatically internally, adjust for that and you wouldn't be awarded a tag.
Now, if you would apply for zones 2, 3, 4, and five and click fallback, fallback essentially means no preference. So now you're drawn last 2, 3, 4, and five are already filled. And just say hypothetically, the very last bull tag that's un awarded is for elk zone 14. Boom. You get elk zone 14 because you click fallback.
So what that's done is that has allowed folks so this year 20 this year, maximum bonus points would be 20. So folks could be carrying 20 bonus points over, plus this year's application. So there's a, there's folks that have a lot of time invested, not a lot, but they have a lot of points invested [01:17:00] and they want to draw a tag that they want now, even if, and even at the cost of not drawing a tag.
So let's just say. You apply for 2, 3, 4, and five, and that's all you want. You don't want a zone 14 tag, that's where you leave fallback empty or leave it blank. Guys don't, some guys don't wanna burn up their 20 points for a tag that they don't in a zone that they don't know about. So there's getting, so there's a little bit more customization there now.
With the way the zones the way you can pick zones at times of application. Yeah, and I really like that too because like for me personally, we've got three seasons, right? We've got the archery, the general, and the late. And my thought process is like my favorite thing in the world is archery, hunting.
And if I am ever. Given the opportunity to archery hunt elk in Pennsylvania, I wanna do it in a preferred zone, and I want it to be a bowl only. And I don't wanna lose those points for that, that archery hunt, for that specific experience. However,[01:18:00] I also apply for the general and the late season, and I've made the decision that it would be an honor to hunt elk in Pennsylvania at that time of the year, regardless of the zone, regardless of the sex of the animal.
The sex. So you can specifically pick it via season too. So like for me, when I put my application in, I have my four or five zones that I pick for archery hunting, and I have no fallback on that and it's a bowl only. But then my general and my late season, I pick my zones, but I also put a fallback and I'm an either or in, in sex.
My, that's my preference. Yep. There's so much customization that's available there now with this with this fallback and the five zone choices. And one of the things though that has adversely affected, and I guess, I don't know if adversely is the right word, but now there is no way to calculate odds of drawing at all because there's too many variables in there now with folks only applying for one zone and not choosing [01:19:00] fallback and either sex for one season and bull only for another and cow only for another.
They, the, they used to be able to analytically get a pretty good estimate of your percentage of draws, chances of drawing. But now with all these new, with all these new options and ways to customize your application, there's just, there's no way to calculate odds at all. But I think it's a plus.
I think it's a good thing, j and especially like you just said, I really want a bull for archery. But the other de general in the late, I'd be happy with any tag. So you can apply exactly l like, exactly in that method to meet your goals or what's your, ultimately what you hope your goals are.
So yeah, July 16th is the last day to apply. You can apply, like I said, any point of sale and through hunt fish pa.gov and this is another big one. On hunt fish.pa.gov. At any time leading up to July 16th, you can edit your elk application. [01:20:00] So let's just say you put in again, we'll just use 2, 3, 4, 5 back in February.
And now since then you've learned something new, something met somebody did something or well, crap, I don't want those elk zones, now I want this elk zone. You can log back into your hunt fish.pa.gov account. And you can go in and change and adjust your application choices, your zone choices, right up until July 16th of the last day, the cutoff.
So the other thing I recommend to folks too, especially folks that buy that go and buy at point of sales, go into stores and buy theirs. I hear, I see this again all the time, almost every year. I didn't put in for that zone. How did I draw that tag? How did I draw that zone? Here, unbeknownst little Timmy at the Walmart Sporting Goods calendar put his application in wrong.
And the, and he never thought to. Double check it. You can go in again, the hunt fish.pa.gov, and you can go in and you [01:21:00] can see your choices and you can verify and make sure. I, one instance a couple years ago, I know a fellow drew a Cal tag. He was scratching his head. He says, I know I applied bull only.
I don't know what in the world happened. And this was before hunt fish.pa.gov. And the only thing he could think of was the person that I think he bought his at Walmart or something like that. And the only thing he could think of was, Whoever was on the computer that day put his application in wrong. And now he burned up points.
It was still happy. He had a great hunt. He got a cow. It just, he was like, man I really wanted the bull tag. I would've applied or I had historically applied BO only, so you don't be just so naive and and forgetful about it. Go on and check and double check it and make sure that if you go somewhere else and somebody else enters your information, make could double check it.
Make sure that's correct. And you can do that through hunt fish.pa.gov. Yeah. That's great information. Yep. Hey William, you've been rolling for a while, man. Yes, sir. One question I had, [01:22:00] this is a completely random off question elk, but I'm curious, have you ever guided a client that used a flint lock, muzzle loader to harvest an elk?
No, but I know a guy who hunted d i y and used a Flint lock. Yep. And there's been folks that have used we've had folks that have used inline muzzle loaders percussion, muzzle loaders that hunted with us, but we've never had a flintlock hunter. But I do know, personally know a fellow that hunted d i y and used a flintlock, and I believe there's been several other guys.
They may have even hunted with other outfits or even on their own. But I it's not it's not totally rare. I would say maybe one a year. You hear about it. I, I know, I hear multiple guys always pitch it, oh, I'm gonna bring my flintlock. Then kind of reality sets in and man, do you really wanna, are you really limiting yourself to that, to the, to the capabilities of that weapon for this once in a lifetime hunt?
Some guys, hell yeah, they don't care. That's what they want to do it with. It means more to [01:23:00] do it with that than, a high powered rifle. But It does happen. It is out there. And is that what Mitchell's gonna bring if he ever draws a tag? We'll see, that's one of the things, so my goal with hunting is I wanna be as proficient with all the weapons that I use, and I hunt deer from the start of the season to the end of the season.
And I would consider myself like, I'm not the guy when you go with a group of flint lock hunters that doesn't have a clue what they're doing with their gun. I understand the I understand how to keep my gun dry. I understand how to maintain my guy, my gun have have quick ignitions on average how, you know how to have, I have all the tools and I feel very confident in that.
But one of my biggest goals, and one of the things I'm hoping to do this off season is, Practice more and be more proficient because I feel confident in a certain distance, but I wanna make it that's a weapon that I'm really proficient with, that when I hunt from December 26th to the end of the season, that my confidence is just way high.
Just because I know, I almost treat a [01:24:00] flintlock muzz loader as really similar to archery as far as your proficiency and your fine tune ability to shoot that weapon and consistently shoot that weapon and consistently be able to load it cuz you're hand loading at the end of the barrel. I, it's one of those things that.
If I drew a tag in 2023 for a general firearms or a late season, I don't know that I would have the confidence to do that. What it's always in my mind that would be so cool to be proficient and excel and do that. In all reality, my goal is to harvest one with a bow.
But I'm starting to really branch out on a leap of faith here, and at the end of the day, it would just be cool to be able to experience it with, regardless of the weapon. Yeah. Man, prac practice. With the bow, with the rifle, especially with the flintlock, I know some guys that are pretty hardcore flintlock hunters and they are proficient at a hundred yards offhand, but these guys shoot almost year round. They're pretty serious about it. But there's just, [01:25:00] like we said practice. If that's a weapon that you want to use and take on a bunch of different hunts, then. Like you said, you just gotta be proficient with it.
You gotta know the unknown and understand it's limitations and your limitations also, because there's a whole nother set of what can go wrong, when, with those things. Absolutely. It's a challenge. Sure. It is. It is. But Brian, I really appreciate you coming on the show sharing off some great information.
There was a lot of information from, what you've learned from the biologist to just some general experiences, the updates within that. And I really appreciate you dissect problem that, and breaking that down for all of our listeners. Before we let you go, any, anything you want to close with and also make sure that you you let people know where they can follow along with E C O.
Oh, yes. Yeah. So of course. We have FA Facebook, elk County Outfitters Instagram, elk County Outfitters. We, our website, elk county outfitters.com. And our email, elk county outfitters gmail.com. Pretty much just all Elk County Outfitters stuff. You can [01:26:00] follow us on social media.
I try to keep our social media pretty active. I try to do a couple, at least one post a week, if not multiples. Whether it's just elk stuff or deer stuff or Turkey stuff or just goings on, in the elk range, anything like that. Just to try to keep people interested and keep active.
Show that we're just, we just don't auto automatically pop up around elk season. And here we are, we. I, I live here and constantly it's 24 7, 365, pretty much with me. I'm always looking for elk anywhere, run down the store, down to the grocery store.
I'm always got my eyes open looking for elk or anything. Going to work every day. Of course, I'm always looking for elk, so it's it's pretty much 24 7, 365, like I said, and I try to, keep our socials active and put interesting content on there and funny content, and any in informational stuff especially.
So yeah, give us a give us a click on any of that stuff and check us out. [01:27:00] Good deal. Hey Brian, thanks again. All right, man. No problem Mitchell. Thanks so much for having me. Good luck.