I bet you readers did not know that there is a thriving Elk herd in Western Pennsylvania. However, there is. There are roughly 800-1000 elk roaming some western Pennsylvania counties of Elk, Cameron, and Clearfield. This story however will center on the heart of Pennsylvania elk country, the town of Benezette is located along State Route 555 in Elk County and the Winslow Hill Road Area.
Elk wandered all over Pennsylvania but settlement and abuse by early immigrants threatened the herds. By 1867, the elk perished in Pennsylvania. In 1913, the Pennsylvania Game Commission began reintroduced 177 elk in Western Pennsylvania. The releases in western Pennsylvania were successful and the herd now numbers more than 800.
Winslow hill road was one of the areas selected to reintroduce the elk because of the sprawling old mine that were reclaimed and turn into meadows there was adjacent State Games as well. The elk on Winslow Hill Road wander freely over the entire area. On any given day, you can find them just about anywhere along Winslow Hill Road. You look for them in the woods along the road, in the fields, even in the residences backyards. During the rutting season in Mid-September to late October, many people come to see the elk as this is the most active time of the year. The roads fill up with vehicles as everyone is out to the majestic Elk that are in abundance along the roads.
Early in the morning and late afternoon are the best times to view these magnificent animals. During the rut, the bulls create a harem of cows and protect that harem from the other bulls. However, at times the bull lose track of their cows as they tend to go out to the meadows to feed so there is always some competition among the bulls for the cows.
The bulls call or bugle loudly to the cows in their respective harems enticing them to come to him. Many times the cows are enticed by other bulls so the competition heats up and many bulls may be after the same cows. The big bulls are always on the prowl protecting their harems or looking for more cows to add, this causes many large bulls to congregate together in one another territory. Many times the big bulls will lock horns and get into a heavy sparring match, most lasting just a short time. The lesser bull comes running trying to steal the cows. The sound of a bull elk bugling is something that draws many visitors to the Benezette area. An Elk bugle or sound is an experience that is at once eerie, thrilling, and haunting. The elks bugle starts low and throaty, rising to a high whistle, then dropping to a grunt or a series of grunts. In many cases, the bugle is a challenge from one bull elk to another usually because of a dominant bull that may have a harem of cows. On Winslow Hill are one can hear bugle from many bulls, some are close by and very loud others can be heard in the distance.
Morning fog is a norm for the Winslow Hill Road, so it is hard to see the bulls so you go to a favorite are and listen for the bugle, remaining in the area of the sounds will produce an excellent bull one the fog lifts. The afternoon is somewhat different as the bulls and or the cows may drift out the woods at any time feeding or resting. Late afternoon starts the bugling as the bulls get up from a day of resting to pursue their roundup and protection of his harem. Many times, you can see a very large bull feeding and bugling in a backyard and his cows come running from their resting places in the cool deep woods. It also brings other bulls to the scene as well.
If you are into viewing or photographing Elk, you do not have to go clear out west to Yellowstone or the Rocky Mountains, you can simply go to western Pennsylvania. You can go to Benezette and Winslow Hill Road to view and photograph the elk.