The Great Outdoors: No Better Time Than Now to Visit Elk Country

bull-elk-silhouette-1024x690If you haven’t been up to the elk range, there’s no better time than now.

The rut, or mating season, is still on, and it’s a great time to see Pennsylvania’s elk at their wildest.

Bulls, some weighing near half a ton, will go to great lengths to keep their harems of cows together. Fights between bulls aren’t that common, but they do occur. Even more rare are witnesses to such events.

Recently, Brandi and I trekked to Winslow Hill, which is near Benezette in Elk County, to see some of the action, and I was not disappointed.

I drove down into Porcupine Hollow and pulled into a small parking area that the Pa. Game Commission has. Up the hill, we went. I could hear elk bugling in the distance, but nothing was too close. As we approached a food plot, I saw a cow elk mosey out of a small group of pine trees. She had seen me first, but she wasn’t alarmed. I circled behind her to see if a bull might be following, but she seemed to be alone.

We headed back the way we had come and ran into a couple that was watching another cow that had appeared just off the trail we had come up. We compared notes about what we had seen and heard. They were camping in the area and had spent quite a bit of time exploring the area and were enjoying their time watching the elk. The night before they had spent the evening watching a number of elk on a food plot on State Game Lands 311, an area on the side of the hill. I had hunted turkeys there in the past, and it was a place where coal had been deep and strip mined several decades ago.

There was a gated dirt road that started just off of Porcupine. It angles up and across a long food plot that stretches for around the side of the hill. It was timbered and some coal was removed a little more than a decade ago. I knew where the couple had been as it’s an area I am familiar with, but when we drove there, I decided to keep going to see if I could find any other elk.

After a fruitless half hour, we traveled back to the area and parked. Dusk was rapidly approaching, but the bulls were bugling as the evening air cooled. Brandi followed me as I trudged up the dirt road, and it didn’t take even a minute before a spike appeared along the edge of the path. He didn’t stick around too long and disappeared into the woods. Spikes and younger bulls are typically the odd men out during the rut, as the more mature bulls work hard to breed as many cows as possible.

We walked a bit more, and I saw a group of about eight cows and calves below us in the hemlocks. Then, all of a sudden, there was a bull. He wasn’t too bad in terms of size, and he bugled infrequently as another bull sounded off above us. He and his cows slowly moved off into the darkening woods.

We continued uphill, and I was looking forward to getting a look at the bull I had been hearing. It didn’t take long. As I got to the food plot that hugged the side of the hill, there he was – a big 7×7! There was a cow and her calf near him, and he seemed to be pleased that he had them in his sphere. He bugled and chuckled while sizing me up.

Fortunately, he didn’t perceive me as a high-degree threat, and he and the cows made their way up the hill and out of sight. When I looked back to see where the beagle was, she was sitting there a few feet behind me, taking it all in. I don’t know what she thought of the elk, but as long as she’s outdoors, she’s happy.

If you are thinking about going to see the elk, be sure to check out the Elk Country Visitors Center. Their website, www.elkcountryvisitorcenter.com, is also a great place to find information.

The people who work there are a wealth of information about the elk, their habits, and where they spend their time. There are fun things to do for the young and old alike. There are areas near the Center within easy walking distance where you can see the elk.

The other great thing about elk watching this time of year is that fall’s foliage is beginning to show some great color, and the cooler weather makes hiking and exploring that much more enjoyable.

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“The Great Outdoors,” sponsored by the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors, is a weekly blog by exploreClarion.com’s Scott Shindledecker. Plan your next outdoor adventure at VisitPAGO.com or call (814) 849-5197 for more information.


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