Elk Viewing Tips from the Pennsylvania Game Commission

Our Sept./Oct. 2009 issue has an article about seeking the elusive elk in the Northern Tier of our state.

searching the elusive elk so09

You can find a low-resolution copy of that article here in PDF form: elk so 09

Here are more tips to finding elk in Pennsylvania from the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

See this link for notes about elk published by the PGC.

Video about Elk watching by the PGC. Click on the video window to pause the video. See this link to see the video on the PGC Web site:

HARRISBURG – With Commonwealth’s elk viewing season fast approaching, Pennsylvania Game Commission Executive Director Carl G. Roe is offering some guidance on where to go, as well as encouraging those planning to travel to “elk country” to be respectful of local residents.

“With a little guidance anyone can easily see elk this September and October, especially between Labor Day and Halloween, because the mating season, or the ‘rut,’ is on,” Roe said. “Also, as winter approaches, elk are consequently on the move. So, you don’t need to be an expert in elk biology or be intimately familiar with the region’s topography or roads to find them. Folks just need some help with where-to-go and what-to-do information when they get to this rugged, big country.

“If you do travel to Elk, Cameron, Clearfield and Clinton counties to view this majestic animal, we encourage you to be mindful of local residents and the property. Since elk viewing is better in some areas than others, it stands to reason that the largest numbers of wildlife watchers will be in those areas with the best viewing opportunities. However, wherever people congregate along narrow rural roads, the potential for problems increases, especially when motorists and wildlife viewers on the road’s shoulder pay more attention to elk than oncoming traffic. Be safe. Be considerate. Be the one who knows he or she is doing everything right.”

Roe said that the secret to maximizing your chances to see elk is to know where to go, when to go and what to do and what not to do when you get there. Also, it is important to make sure you have binoculars, spotting scopes, cameras and video cameras to enhance your viewing opportunities and to record your visit.

While there are plenty of restaurants and places to purchase refreshments, it is a good idea to bring along some snacks and water, especially on high-volume traffic days, because if you get a parking spot, you may not want to give it up, or if you get stuck in traffic, you’ll be covered. Also, make sure you check weather forecasts before departing, so you can dress accordingly.

“Being in at the right place at the right time is one of the most important factors that will influence whether you and your family will see elk,” said Game Commission Wildlife Conservation Officer Doty McDowell, whose district includes the agency’s official Elk Viewing Area on Winslow Hill in Benezette Township, Elk County. “Although you can go almost anytime throughout the year and at almost any time of the day, the best time to visit the elk range is from late summer through spring – with September and October being the top months, particularly for people who want to hear bulls bugle and watch them spar – during the first two hours after sunrise and the two hours before sunset. But there’s always a chance to see elk out and about because these massive animals have tremendous nutritional and varied habitat needs.”

Whenever large numbers of people converge in remote rural settings to view elk, they usually and immediately stress and congest the area’s roads, services and modern conveniences.

“It’s estimated 75,000 to 100,000 people visit Winslow Hill during the peak elk viewing months of September and October,” McDowell said. “But, imagine what it’s like for the homeowners in these areas who are forced to negotiate these inconveniences and deal with thousands of elk tourists every fall. It’s not a picnic for them, weekends in particular.

“There are plenty of things every elk enthusiast can do to help property owners, motorists, law enforcement officials, wildlife conservation officers and other elk tourists while out and about the elk range.”

The Game Commission offers a “Top Ten List of Things You Should Not Do” while visiting the elk range:

1.) Don’t stop on the road to watch elk;

2.) Don’t walk or park on private property – especially driveways – without permission;

3.) Don’t approach or attempt to pet elk ever;

4.) Don’t disturb elk or property owners by horn honking or yelling;

5.) Don’t feed elk, as it is illegal;

6.) Don’t litter and consider cleaning up what others may leave;

7.) Don’t be judgmental, enjoy yourself or just move to a place more to your liking;

8.) Don’t use profanity;

9.) Don’t be selfish, share good vistas and viewing blinds; and

10.) Don’t crowd others, wait your turn.

“Unless you’re visiting the elk range in other than peak viewing periods, you should expect to encounter some congestion of people/vehicles, because folks tend to congregate wherever elk gather and graze, or they can get close,” McDowell said. “Everyone who visits the state’s elk range is looking for a front-row seat to the action. Recognizing that, and remaining polite and considerate, will go a long way to ensuring this wonderful outdoors opportunity doesn’t become less than it should be for everyone who takes the time to come. And don’t forget, watch for elk and other wildlife crossing roads. Having too close of an encounter with an elk is something no motorist wants to do!”

McDowell noted that State Route 555 runs through the heart of Pennsylvania’s elk country, so whenever you’re on the road between Weedville and Driftwood, traveling through the scenic Bennett Branch of Sinnemahoning Creek corridor, you should keep an eye out for elk, especially around Caledonia, the lower end of the Quehanna Highway around Medix Run, Benezette and Dents Run.

“One of the best ways to learn your way around elk country is to visit the local stores and businesses that serve this area,” McDowell said. “The folks who run these establishments often have a good idea of where elk are – sometimes on a daily basis – and can surely direct you to places that aren’t covered in this guide or other ones. So stop by for lunch, stay overnight, or buy something. One of the best ways to get to know an area is to get to know the folks who live there.”

The Game Commission has posted on its website a video offering elk viewing tips and a sample of what visitors to the elk range can expect to see. To view this clip, as well as a brochure on elk viewing etiquette and other information about Pennsylvania’s elk herd, please go to the Game Commission’s website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), select “Hunting” in the left-hand column and then click on the photograph of the elk.