Elk hunt proves successful
After five days of scouting for an antlerless cow elk, we finally came upon some promising elk signs in the Quehanna Wild Area in the Moshannon State Forest area near Piper.
The area is unpopulated and has quite the history of experimental aircraft and nuclear reactor experiments from the 1950s. Now the only significant state-run facility is the Quehanna Boot Camp, which is a minimum-security facility for first-time offenders. We saw the military style bootcamp drilling in the early hours as we headed for our hunting destinations several times.
We were driving back to camp at mid-week when we saw a small group of elk in Zone 10, which was the next-door neighbor of our Zone 12 hunting area. A hiking trail and powerline separated the two where we planned to hunt. We had hiked 25 to 30 miles looking for the best area to concentrate our efforts and we found one on a drive back to camp.
We decided to focus on this area the next day and try to pattern the elk herd’s movements. As my guide, Brian Rumsky, stated: “We don’t leave elk to find elk!” I agreed with him and the new leads picked up my spirits as I realized that we had an opportunity to get into some elk.
Wednesday morning found us up at 4 a.m. and at the lodge dining hall for breakfast and a packed lunch of sandwiches, fruit, cheese crunches and water bottles. We were hiking into the wilds and we would not be coming back out until dusk. We started down a powerline that buzzed like a nest of angry bees and found that the middle powerline was the divider of two zones. Any elk on the right side were off limits until they crossed over the middle line markers.
As we hiked the line, we found plenty signs of elk droppings and I got an education on bull and cow dung. The cow droppings were about as round and the size of a fireball, while the bull dung was much larger and not as uniform. The guide checked it for freshness…I took his word on the findings. If it stuck to you, it was fresh! If it was hard, it was older than we wanted to find.
We followed an elk trail through the teaberries and the Mt. Laurel shrubbery and saw many torn-up saplings from the bulls and torn up ground from the elk and deer looking for acorn mast. We entered into a draft of an unnamed stream that was 3- or 4-feet wide with clear looking water. I liked the area because it had food, water, cover and a nice elk trail that we could overlook.
We picked out some large oaks to cover our presence and waited to see what might happen. The elk were near, all we had to do was figure out their next move. We waited until sunset and moved out away from the trail and back to our transportation. We decided to come back in the morning and wait out our Thursday at this site.
Thursday morning found me in high spirits as I felt good about our location and chances to see an elk on our trail areas. We each carried in our equipment and set up between the two oaks to wait out our quarry. Brian brought along a trail hiker coffee pot and we even had a steaming cup of coffee that hit the spot in the cold air!
No sign of elk yet, but we knew they would pass by us sooner or later. It was later and around 3:30 p.m. when I felt an inclination to fold up my gear and hide it behind some trees. I then stood behind my oak tree cover and told Brian I was going to be ready if they came.
In a short period of time, I heard Brian whisper to me, “Don’t move…stay behind your tree…there are elk on the horizon looking down at us!” I looked up at the skyline and there was a beautiful sight – elk. They were studying the draft and stream deciding if they were coming down into the hollow and then they zig-zagged down the slope toward our location. They held up at the crossing about 100 yards away and I held my breath, lest my breathing gave me away.
Finally, the lead cow decided to cross over into Zone 12 and made a direct path toward our location. I was ready, but when to take a shot was a challenge for I had my scope at the lowest magnification and my gloves put away. All I needed to do was make a clean shot without spooking 10 elk headed my way … and close!
I had to swing to my left because the elk came by us too quick for any slow action. When I did put the scope on the elk, all that I saw was brown because they were so close to us. I moved the scope forward until I found a crease and made my shot, the shot was a good one and I had my Pennsylvania elk.
I looked down at my watch and saw that it was 4 p.m. and I had an elk down with two days to spare. Brian called out to his hauling team, Steve Perrine and his logging horse “Friday”, who was a gentle giant. We had the elk back at Hick’s Run Outfitters at Driftwood in about an hour or so. I couldn’t believe the quest was completed and I knew that I was going to have a relaxed weekend.
For pictures and comments, view Hick’s Run Outfitters on Facebook or call 814-787-4287 to find out more about what activities you can find in the PA Wilds in Benezette and Driftwood.
Jay Hewitt is an outdoors columnist for the Butler Eagle