Sunday, November 8, 2015

Jefferson County Hunter Bags Giant Pennsylvania Bull Elk

By Bob Frye 
Mark Martino poses with his giant Pennsylvania elk.
He won the chance to hunt it by buying
$100 worth of raffle tickets.
Mark Martino knew what he wanted and he held out until he got it.
Even though that more than once meant resisting 800-plus pounds of temptation on the hoof. And tough questioning from his guides. And his own aching feet.
He's convinced it was worth it.
After all, few people get to hunt Pennsylvania elk in the heart of the rut and end up with an animal that could be, if not a state record, close to it. But Martino did.
The resident of Walston in Jefferson County this fall shot a nontypical 8-by-8 bull that greenscored around 440 inches. It's got to dry for 60 days, then be scored again for official record purposes, and some shrinkage is typical.
But the existing state record, taken in 2011, is 442 6/8, so it should be close, he believes.
“Oh, I was just happier than heck,” Martino said. “I'm not real good at scoring elk, but I knew it was big. It looked really huge.”
That's what he wanted — a giant. So when he got his chance after winning the elk license raffle sponsored by the Keystone Elk Country Alliance, having bought six tickets for $100, he made it his only priority.
The winner gets to hunt anywhere in the elk range for 60 days starting Sept. 1. A self-employed mechanic, Martino closed his business for September, paying his monthly bills from his savings. He was prepared to do the same for October if necessary, all so he could be in the woods every day.
Initially, his guides — the raffle winner gets a week's service from Elk County Outfitters — found him a big bull sporting a Pennsylvania Game Commission collar. They showed him pictures and he agreed to target it.
That led to some exciting encounters as the rut began.
“That was the best part of everything,” Martino said. “Brian (Hale, one of the guides), he'd rake the brush and those bulls would come in looking for a fight. We had that four or five days. They'd be within 20 yards, 15 yards.”
None of them was the big collared bull, though. In fact, weeks into September, he'd never laid eyes on it.
Some of the others he'd come across were nice, and he'd been tempted to pull the trigger multiple times but didn't. That led to some consternation, if not tension.
“I know some of the outfitter guys were kind of upset because they kept asking me, ‘What exactly are you looking for?' ” Martino recalled. “I said I wanted to get as close to the state record as I could. I kept saying, I've got 45 days left, I've got 42 days left, 41 days left, 40 days left. I still had time to hunt. I wasn't getting too excited.”
He was getting whipped.
Starting on Sept. 1, he hunted every day Monday through Saturday. Sundays he was in the woods scouting. That often meant four-mile hikes into the woods followed by four-mile hikes back out.
“I was to the point where I wanted to do a lot less walking,” Martino said.
About then, his guides — who stayed with him longer than required, hunting all or parts of 18 days — found him another bull, one running with a harem of cows that included one with a collar.
They spend several days chasing it, getting only occasional long-distance glimpses, before Martino was able to shoot it at 10:20 a.m. Sept, 25.
It's gotten a lot of attention and deservedly so, say some of those most familiar with the region's elk.
“It's a really good bull, no matter how you slice it,” said Rawley Cogan, executive director of the Elk Country Alliance. “I've seen it. It's impressive.”
Jeremy Banfield, the Pennsylvania Game Commission's biologist, agreed. The commission manages the elk herd to provide lots of branch-antlered bulls, those age 2 12 and older, he said. There are quite a few 5 12-year-old 6-by-6 bulls, too. They satisfy most people, he said.
But animals like Martino's are rare, he said.
“The really massive bulls, those in the 400-class, those are animals that are 8 and 9 years old,” Banfield said.
What's also exceptional about Martino's bull is where it was taken, said Jack Manack Jr., the Mt. Pleasant man who owns Elk County Outfitters. He got it in zone 10, in the 75-square-mile, 48,000 acre Quehanna Wild Area of Elk and Moshannon state forests.
It's very different than the private farm fields and woodlots where some other elk hunting occurs, Manack said.
“That place, up in the middle of the Quehanna there, it's pretty awesome. All that public land, some of the biggest tracts we have, it's just a great setting for hunting elk,” Manack said.
Martino is happy with how things worked out. Fifty-two-years-old and a devoted hunter, he's taken plenty of deer, but never anything like his elk.
“Right now, it's still pretty exciting. It was a lot of fun,” Martino said.
Other elk, other hunting
Mark Martino is not the only hunter to take a monster Pennsylvania elk already this fall.
Each year, one elk license is auctioned off to the highest bidder by a conservation organization, with most or all of the money raised going to the Pennsylvania Game Commission specifically for elk habitat and management.
This year, a hunter paid $52,500 for that tag, then immediately transferred it to his wife.
According to Jack Manack Jr., that woman — in her second year as a hunter — took a typical elk that could prove to be the biggest ever for the Keystone State. It greenscored 414. He expects it will ultimately net around 392.
The existing state record typical elk scores 3877⁄8. It was taken in 2010.
The hunter doesn't want to be identified. Manack declined to provide her name; the Elk Foundation referred calls for that information to the Game Commission. A spokesman there said he had no details to share.
Some other hunters get their chance at an elk this week. The state's record elk season runs Nov. 2-7.
A total of 116 licenses were issued in a lottery that drew nearly 28,000 applicants. Twenty-one of those licenses are for bull elk, 95 for cows. Hunters must hunt within specified zones.
Any who don't fill their tag can continue hunting Nov. 9-14 during the “extended” season, but only for animals that might have wandered outside the boundaries of the state's elk management area.
— Bob Frye
Bob Frye is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @bobfryeoutdoors.

1 comment:

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