BENEZETTE — Only two days in and it’s already nearly half over.
The annual elk harvest is under way and, as of Tuesday evening, tags are coming in fast.
According to Jeremy Banfield, Pennsylvania Game Commission biologist working the harvest at the Elk Country Visiting Center in Benezette, 48 animals had been taken as of 2 p.m. Tuesday. That number had risen to 50 by the end of hunting for the day at 6 p.m., according to online tracking reported by the PGC.
“That’s probably half way,” Banfield noted. “We expect to get about 100.”
Of those taken, the bulk – 39 – came in on the first day.
He estimated the approximately 95 percent of bull and 75 to 80 percent of cow tags issued result in an animal being taken.
The state issued 125 tags in it’s annual Elk lottery, 26 for bulls and 99 for cows, including a father and son duo. Tags are issued based on a drawing which includes a “preference point” system which accounts for years entered without successfully being issued a tag in the past.
According to Banfield, those taken so far have been big.
“We’ve seen a couple that are over 400,” he said, explaining the number cited referenced Boone and Crockett scoring and not weight. “That’s just huge.”
Banfield said the size of the animals can be attributed to herd management.
“In general, we tend to produce big bulls,” he said. “We take approximately 25 per year, so that’s not a big impact. It gives them time to grow weight and antler mass.”
According to Banfield, bulls taken this year have hovered between 650 and 800 pounds so far and cows have come in between 450 and just over 550 pounds. The largest bull taken so far, according to online PGC data, was 780 pounds. The largest cow was 551 pounds.
The harvest ends Saturday.