Facing hunting challenges
My long-awaited Pennsylvania Elk Hunt started on New Year’s Eve as I arrived at the Hick's Run Outfitters Lodge in Cameron County. However, I wouldn’t be alone for the opening Saturday elk hunt. I had Beaver Boy, the Professor and my brother, Jimbo, converging from points east, west and south meeting me on the night before the opener.
The boys were on the PGC permit to assist with the hunt and we were all excited to see what this late season adventure might hold. We were to be the guests of Guide Brian Rumsky at the old family camp that he and his cousins inherited and Friday evening was full of high hopes, tall tales and lots of laughs as we looked ahead and strategized for the next day’s hunt.
The plan was for us to hunt in Zone 12 in Clearfield County on public lands and state forests. The third season was new to me and lasted for a week in the first part of January. I wasn't sure of what to expect or what the weather would present to me so I probably overpacked my gear trying to anticipate all of the possibilities that nature might throw at us. The weather reports proved me wise as we had rain storms, foggy woods and icy roads. The Pennsylvania Wilds certainly were living up to their description.
Our guide told us to be ready at 4 a.m. because we had a long drive to the hunting area in the Quehanna Wild Area of 48,000 acres. He explained to me that a lot of people expect the Pennsylvania elk hunt to be an ‘in-and-out experience’ because of the easy access to the local elk herd in and around the Benezette viewing area. However, the PGC has broken the elk range into units that spread out all through the northern counties and my assigned unit was 12. This unit was described as an area populated with many elk. It also had thousands of acres of heavily-wooded forests, steep mountainous hill sides and rocky trails interspersed with logging roads, gas lines and food plots.
We arrived at our first location at daylight and decided to split up our group to do some scouting to find our elk. I had drawn a cow tag which meant that I had to harvest an antlerless animal. Little did I know that finding an antlerless elk would be such a difficult task. Beaver Boy and the Professor went up a high trail and we walked out along a trail that winded along fields with steep hillsides sloping down to tumbling streams. There are many streams in this area and we thought that it would be worthwhile to explore them in the spring for some trout fishing. The owner of the Hick's Run Outfitters, Jeff Colwell, warned us that there was a fair number of Eastern Rattlesnakes in the region and quite a few snake hunters also visited the area for a snake roundup each year.
We finished our circuitous route and met back at the trucks to check on our progress in locating elk. The fellows that went up the trail head located some elk, but even though the elk were nice bulls they were not what we had hunting tags for on this day. The rain came and we had plenty of icy roads to walk on and around, but it proved to be fruitless.
We all pulled out of camp and made it home for New Year’s Eve, but seven miles of hiking trails put us in the sack before the new year began! Sunday evening found me back in camp once again but I had lost all of my partners as they headed back to their regular routines.
As of Wednesday, the hiking and searching for elk had put 25 miles on my old boots and they gave out today. I was at the midpoint of my hunt and had not seen a legal elk to hunt so far. Plenty of elk were sighted in units near mine, but not in my hunting zone. Brian prides himself on locating elk, but it seemed we were always a day late and an elk short so far. I wanted a wild hunt and I sure was getting it.
I don't know what the rest of the week will bring, but I am sure we will give it our best as we continue to hunt hard. If nothing else, I am really keeping to my New Year’s Resolution to be more physically active and am getting plenty of exercise each day! Wish me luck as I try to kick off 2023 with a successful hunt.
Jay Hewitt is an outdoors columnist for the Butler Eagle