From the Field

Connecting YOU with Wildlife – Pennsylvania Game Commission

Pennsylvania Elk Hunting FAQ


Applying for an Elk License

  • How do I apply for and check the status of an elk license application? Applicants can make application and check on the status of an elk license application through the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS) at Click the first radio button, scroll to the bottom of the page, click ‘Start Here’ and follow the prompts.
  • Which “preferred” hunt zone should I select? This is a matter of individual preference. Hunters have successfully harvested elk in every hunt zone. Carefully examine each zone considering road access and the amount of available public and private land. Note that your preferred hunt zone has no influence on your chances of being drawn. For example, if you select Zone 2 and are drawn after Zone 2 has been filled, you’ll simply be assigned to the next available zone. For more details, consult the Elk Hunt Zone Map Book (PDF), Annual Elk Harvest Maps, the Game Commission Mapping Center and maps of the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources’ state forests. Apply Online. The Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS) is the site to apply for the elk license drawing and check the status of your application. Preference points can also be checked through PALS.
  • What are preference points? Preference points are accumulated for each unsuccessful application; you won’t see an accumulated point for the current year’s application. You can check your preference points through the Pennsylvania Automated License System (PALS) at Click the first radio button, scroll to the bottom of the page, click ‘Start Here’ and follow the prompts. If you believe there is an error, please contact the License Division at 717-787-2084. If you did not apply for an elk tag this year, your preference points will not expire; preference points are only lost if you are successfully drawn for an elk tag. You must apply in the current year to be entered into the drawing.
  • When is the license drawing? The annual drawing for elk licenses is scheduled to take place Saturday Aug. 20 during the Elk Expo at the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette. Successful applicants who provide a phone number or email will be notified promptly by those methods, others will receive notification by postal mail.

Information for elk hunters


  • What are the elk hunting regulations? Please consult the current Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest for details about this year’s elk hunt.
  • How do I find an elk check station? Harvested elk need to be taken to the elk check station within 24 hours. The Elk Check Station is located at the Old Benezette School House in Elk County on the north side of Route 555 in Benezette on the west side of Trout Run. GPS Coordinates are 41.3154 N and 78.3874 W. Cell coverage on the elk range is sparse. Elk Check Station (map) (PDF)
  • How do I find permitted elk hunting guides? Elk Guides are regulated by the Game Commission and the Department of Conservation & Natural Resources and offer various services to the hunter. Those individuals drawn for elk licenses will be provided a list of permitted guides before the hunt, although guides are not required. Employing the services of an elk guide/outfitter is completely up to the hunter
  • How much does an adult elk weigh? An adult bull may weigh 600-1,000 pounds and an adult cow may weigh 400-600 pounds. Part of your hunt plan should include how to field-dress and move the animal from the kill site to your vehicle and on to the check station. Regulations prohibit the use of motorized vehicles, including ATVs on state-owned property, with few exceptions. The animal may be skinned and quartered and packed out by horses or mules or on pack boards. Hunters should bring plenty of help. Any number of unlicensed persons may accompany hunters as long as they wear the required fluorescent orange and do not participate in the hunt itself or carry a firearm. Persons just accompanying an elk hunter are not required to have an elk guide permit.
    Table – License Issued and Harvest Success
  • Where can I get detailed information about individual elk hunt zone boundaries? There are several options for this, but the best place to view the elk hunt zones in detail is through the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s online Mapping Center. Through the online mapping program hunters can add a variety of backgrounds including aerial photos, topographic maps and roads. A second option is to download a detailed elk hunt zone map book  (PDF 15MB) directly from the Game Commission’s website. And a third option is to examine State Forest maps available online or at each State Forests headquarters.

*Information taken from the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s elk page.


Give the Gift of Conservation



You can help support Pennsylvania wildlife through the purchase of several Pennsylvania Game Commission products.

This year, for the first time, the Game Commission is offering a 2016 calendar featuring the birds of Pennsylvania. This calendar is full of stunning images of native birds. Additionally, the Game Commission still offers the classic wildlife of Pennsylvania calendar.  The purchase of a calendar not only makes a great gift, but also supports wildlife conservation in the Commonwealth.

In 1982, the Pennsylvania Game Commission developed the Working Together for Wildlife program to give the public a way to contribute to wildlife; a way for hunters and nonhunters alike to work with the agency to help wildlife. Since its inception, Working Together for Wildlife has generated over $3 million to benefit wildlife.

2015_WTFW_Patch_GroundhogEach year, the program features either a mammal or a bird art print and patch. These have become collector’s items and the collectors can feel proud of their investment in Pennsylvania’s wildlife. A groundhog was the featured mammal for 2015. The print and patch can be ordered from the Outdoor Shop. All proceeds, support Pennsylvania wildlife.

The Game Commission also offers a voluntary waterfowl management stamp. The sales from the art support wetland habitat acquisitions and management.2015_Duck_Stamp_Print

Many more items are available in the Outdoor Shop including: patches, 2015_Big_Game_Records_Bookpins, framed and unframed art, wall charts, hats and collectibles as well as books such as

2015 Pennsylvania Big Game Records Book

Pennsylvania Deer Hunting, Through The Pages of Game NewsPGC_Cook_Book_2nd_Edition

Pennsylvania Game Commission, Game Cookbook, Second Edition

Pennsylvania Wildlife Student Guide

On behalf of the commonwealth’s wildlife, the Game Commission would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all Working Together for Wildlife contributors for their generosity in helping conserve Pennsylvania’s woods and wilds.

Duck Banding

This summer, waterfowl biologists across the state and the nation are capturing ducks and placing identification bands on them. The leg bands help biologists to learn about the migration patterns, harvest rates and life expectancy of the birds.

Watch this video to learn more about the leg banding process and its importance as a management tool.

Check out the Pennsylvania Game Commission Facebook page this month for another duck banding video!

On the Trail of Pennsylvania Black Bears

For #ThrowbackThursday we are showcasing the 1991 black bear film that was seen by many Pennsylvania students, teachers and others on VHS tapes.

“On the Trail of Pennsylvania Black Bears” can now be viewed online. It features footage of black bear




-newborn  cubs




*Some of the information from this video is now outdated. For current information on black bears visit the bear page of the Pennsylvania Game Commission website.

Factors in Determining State Game Land Food Plots


When deciding what to plant for wildlife on state game lands, our primary motivation is getting the best bang for our (your) dollar. Budgets for lime, seed and fertilizer never seem to be enough, so, in some cases what we plant is governed by what we’ve received as donations. These donations can range from corn, wheat or oats to turnips, rape or sunflowers.

Wildlife Benefit


Along with cost we also consider a crop’s usability by multiple species.  A typical mixture might include legumes such as birdsfoot trefoil, alfalfa and two or three types of clover to ensure viability. Some types of clover are more drought-resistant than others

Choice Legumes


Legumes are often selected because they grow well and quickly in Pennsylvania’s climate and soils and because virtually all species of wildlife utilize them.  These plants are eaten by most birds and mammals. Also, legumes promote large populations of insects. Young game birds require large amounts of protein, which can be obtained through a diet high in insects. Legumes provide a year-round food source and, if properly cared for, a field can last four to five years.

Winter Availability


Brassicas (species such as turnips, kale and rape) are planted later in the year and make a great winter food source for larger animals such as deer and bear.

Typical agricultural crops such as corn, soybeans and buckwheat are rarely planted for a number of reasons. While such plantings are heavily utilized by deer, they tend to be used during a time of year when natural foods are most abundant and are completely consumed by the time wildlife needs them most, mid to late winter. Also, these plants are annuals and require replanting each spring.

Cover Crops

In almost all cases, a cover crop of either wheat (late summer, early fall) or oats (spring) is sewn with the chosen food plot mix to serve as a buffer between the time when soil is bare and the emergence/establishment of the chosen crop. These plants are also eaten by wildlife and help to prevent soil erosion. The seeds from the cover crops will eventually provide seed heads for various bird species to utilize.


As you can see, there are many variables to consider when deciding what the Game Commission food and cover crews plant in the state game land food plots. Costs to plant and maintain, crop viability, availability to wildlife during high need seasons, and usefulness to multiple species all factor in agency decisions.

By Art Hamley, Pennsylvania Game Commission Land Management Group Supervisor

Photos By Hal Korber