Elk Hunting Apps Available

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With the recent approval of the 2002 elk hunt, the Pennsylvania Game Commission will begin accepting applications today from those interested in being included in the public drawing for one of 70 elk hunting licenses to be made available for this fall's season. The public drawing is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 28, and the elk season is set for Nov. 18-23.

In order to better serve its customers, the Game Commission is allowing hunters to complete and submit applications on-line through "The Outdoor Shop," which is found on the agency's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us). For those who prefer to complete a mail-in form, the agency also has posted a printable application on its website. In addition, applications will be included in the 2002-2003 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations, which is provided to each license buyer.

"Completing applications on-line guarantees hunters that their application was received and that they will be included in the public drawing, and eliminates concerns about lost mail or late arrivals," said Vern Ross, Game Commission executive director. "And, in addition to cutting the agency's administrative costs, those filing on-line reduce the chance of having their application declared ineligible because the filing system notifies individuals who attempt to submit an incomplete application."

A $10 non-refundable fee must be submitted with the application. On-line applications must be accompanied by a credit card payment (VISA, MasterCard, Discover or American Express accepted), and must be submitted by Sept. 13. No Game Commission office will accept hand-delivered applications.

Forms submitted through the mail must be accompanied by a check or money order (do not send cash) made payable to "Pennsylvania Game Commission," and must be received in the Game Commission's post office box by August 23.

Hunters who wish to apply by mail may print the application from the website, complete it and mail it to: Pennsylvania Game Commission, Elk License Application, P.O. Box 61890, Harrisburg, PA 17106-1890.

"By law, only one application is permitted per person," Ross said. "If a person submits more than one application, all of his or her applications will be declared ineligible and the individual will be subject to prosecution. All application fees are non-refundable."

Because the application period opens before the 2002-2003 hunting licenses go on sale July 1, individuals are not required to purchase a resident or nonresident general hunting license to apply for the drawing. However, if they are drawn for one of the elk licenses, hunters then will be required to purchase the appropriate resident or nonresident general hunting license and attend a mandatory orientation program sponsored by the Game Commission before being permitted to purchase the elk license. The elk license fees are $25 for residents and $250 for nonresidents.

The public drawing will be held on Sept. 28. The exact time and location will be announced later this year.

The 15 hunters awarded antlered elk licenses for the 2001 elk hunt are not eligible to apply for five license years. Those 15 hunters awarded antlerless elk licenses for the 2001 elk hunt are eligible to apply for this year's elk hunt. For more information on last year's elk hunt, visit the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on "Newsroom," choose "2001 News Releases" and then select "Release #102-01."

"All applications will be put into one container for the public drawing," Ross said. "We then will draw enough applications to award 70 elk licenses. The first 36 will be awarded antlered elk licenses, and the next 34 will be awarded antlerless elk licenses."

Of the 70, up to five may be awarded to nonresidents. This number is based on the percentage of nonresident general hunting licenses sold during the previous year, which is about seven percent.

Those applying for an elk license will have the option to indicate their preference for either an antlered or antlerless elk license, or they may select "either." For those who select "antlered only," if they are drawn after the antlered licenses are allocated, they will not receive an elk license. For those who do receive an antlered elk license, they will not be permitted to re-apply for future elk hunting opportunities for five years.

Applicants also will be given the opportunity to identify their preference of an elk management area, or they may select "any." If drawn and their preference for hunting area is already filled, applicants will be assigned a specific area by the Game Commission. To assist applicants in making this decision, information about the elk management areas is posted on the website along with the application. This information also will be included in the 2002-2003 Digest.

Those awarded one of the 70 licenses will be required to attend an elk hunting orientation program prior to receiving their licenses. Details about when the orientation program will be held will be announced in the future. The nearly three-hour long program provides information on the elk herd; elk anatomy; hunter ethics, safety and rules of the hunt; state forest lands rules and regulations; field dressing and field care of the meat and cape; and directions to the elk check station.

Minimum standards for sporting arms and ammunition for elk hunting are: centerfire rifles or handguns at least 27-caliber that propel any projectiles designed to expand on impact and are at least 130 grains; shotguns at least 12-gauge; muzzleloading long-guns at least 50-caliber that propel a single projectile of at least 210 grains; crossbows with a draw weight of at least 125 pounds or less than 200 pounds (for those with required permit); bows with a draw weight of at least 45 pounds; and any arrows equipped with a broadhead that has an outside diameter or width of at least an inch and no less than two fixed, steel-cutting edges in the same plane throughout the length of the cutting surface.

Elk hunters and those accompanying them must wear a minimum of 250 square inches of fluorescent orange material that must be visible on the head, chest and back combined.

Under the approved 2002 season, there will be 11 elk management areas established within Pennsylvania's 835-square-mile elk range. Elk Management Area 12 was included to address elk conflicts outside the elk range. Based on recommendations from the Bureau of Wildlife Management, the Board merged six of the areas into three new areas to better manage the elk herd. To view a map with the new units marked, visit the Game Commission's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us) and click on "Wildlife," then choose "Elk in Pennsylvania."

No elk hunting will be allowed in the vicinity of the official elk viewing area on Winslow Hill, Benezette Township, Elk County.

Individuals, especially those who live in the elk range or are familiar with the elk herd, may apply for a permit to serve as a guide for those who receive an elk license. Guides may provide assistance in locating, calling or tracking elk, but may not harvest the elk. Guide permits will be $10 for residents and $25 for nonresidents. Permit applications may be obtained from the Game Commission's Harrisburg headquarters. Completed applications must be received in the Harrisburg headquarters no later than August. 25.

New elk hunting guides applying for the first time are required to attend the orientation program along with the elk license recipients before receiving their permit. Those guides who attended last year's orientation program are not required to attend this year's course, but must re-apply for the 2002 permit.

Those individuals awarded one of the 70 elk licenses may choose to use a guide who has been properly permitted, although it is not a requirement to do so. Hunting parties are limited to no more than 25. Only those participating in the hunt must possess an elk license or elk guide permit. Family members and friends accompanying the elk hunter, but not participating in the hunt, do not need to obtain an elk guide permit.

Based on population and reproduction data collected over the past three decades, the Game Commission estimates the elk herd will number nearly 800 by this fall's season. For more information on Pennsylvania's elk herd, visit the agency's website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), click on "Wildlife," then choose "Elk in Pennsylvania."

Last fall, Ross and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary John C. Oliver announced a pledge of $600,000 from their two agencies over the next three years to fund habitat improvements for elk and other wildlife throughout the elk range in northcentral Pennsylvania. Ross and Oliver also challenged sportsmen's groups, conservation organizations, businesses and individuals to match the state's funding commitment in order to generate a combined investment of $1.2 million over the next three years.

Ross noted that the Game Commission's $300,000 pledge would be generated from the first 10,000 applications received for the elk license drawing the 2001, 2002 and 2003 elk hunts.

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation already has pledged $50,000 a year and has agreed to spearhead efforts to raise an additional $150,000 a year from other contributors. Dave Messics, Director of Northeast Field Operations for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, noted three organizations already have pledged support to the effort: Dominion Resources, Pittsburgh, $15,000; Sinnemahoning Sportsman Club, Cameron County, $5,000; and Safari Club International, Lehigh Valley Chapter, Lehigh County, $5,000.

The habitat improvements are intended to direct and hold elk to specific corridors and public areas within the 835-square-mile elk range; reduce impacts to private property and elk-related conflicts; and enhance regional viability of elk watching and related outdoor tourism.

The improvements will be concentrated in Sproul, Moshannon and Elk state forests, and on a number of state game lands in portions of Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk and Potter counties. DCNR and Game Commission foresters and biologists, as well as Game Commission land managers and food and cover corps crews, will use areas of the forest already cleared through timbering, mining or for utility right-of-way, to plant grasses and leguminous cover desired by elk and other wildlife.

This three-year plan is part of the joint Game Commission/DCNR seven-year elk habitat improvement project that has identified areas on public lands suitable for elk-habitat improvement. DCNR and Game Commission foresters and biologists, as well as Game Commission land managers and food and cover crews, have identified about 80 potential sites that could be developed as wildlife food plots. The goal is to more than double the 1,100 acres currently managed as herbaceous openings.