I have received numerous request over the last week regarding how to find Pa elk easily. Most want to know exactly where to go and when. To a certain extent I don’t mind handing out that information, but the old adage, “Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime!” comes to mind.
So instead of simply pointing out exactly where and when you need to be I will give you some basic pointers that I live by when looking for elk. (We are currently working on an exhaustive compilation of the best places to see Pa elk and will release it when its completed. No ETA just yet.)
First, you need know that Elk are really not everywhere in Pa, they are currently only found in certain parts of Elk, Cameron, Clearfield, Clinton and Potter counties. From my experience Elk county (big surprise) will give most the best chance to see elk up close since the elk population is pretty high there and there are also several easily accessible elk view areas and state game land trails.
Next, elk are a lot like whitetail in that they typically stay bedded down unless they are out searching for food / water or engaging in mating activities. This means your best times to find pa elk is during their peak browsing and rutting times. Since rutting times can vary we will not touch on that in this article, but instead will focus on browsing times since these stay constant through out the year.
When are elk out looking for food?
The rule of thumb is that they are out just after dawn and just before dusk. Now this is a rule of thumb and not an absolute. At all hours of the day there are elk eating somewhere, but that is most likely back in thick wooded areas. If you have the luxury of frequenting elk habitats you will be able to pattern their behavior and see that there are certain areas where elk just seem to be at odd hours of the day. For best results though, try the times up to 3 hrs after dawn and 3 hrs before dusk and your chances of seeing elk will greatly increase.
Rain rain go away unless you want to see elk today! Elk also like to store up food before storms move through. They like whitetail seem to be in tune with the barometric pressure changes associated with pending weather fronts and go out in advance of them seeking food. They are even more active just after a long storm as well. This is due to the fact that most elk stay bedded down during storms and simply wait to eat until the weather clears. Who likes to eat in the rain anyway?
What about spotting for elk at night?
Elk are certainly out and about at night. My first encounter with a pa elk was late at night. Again you can take a lot of whitetail habits and apply them to your elk searches as well. Elk like their smaller cousins will be out in fields, yards, gardens, on sides of the road and if you are very unlucky standing in the middle of a fog bank right square in the middle of the road. We don’t do any real spotting for elk ourselves, with the exception of our front yard, but it certainly is a productive way to find them if you do so legally.
Come on tell me one place and time where I can see elk?
Ok, ok! It is no big mystery that Benezette Pa is absolutely filled with elk. I have found that if I am not seeing elk anywhere else I will see them here. Specifically, I drive the Winslow Hill Rd about 2 hours before dark. Now, there are only 2 real designated spots to pull off and view elk, so you can’t just stop anywhere and look at them, but you will certainly be able to see them from your car. Also, this is a very popular (if not the most popular) elk viewing area in Pa so during peak elk viewing seasons expect a lot of people. And since they will be in cars expect there to be some dumb drivers as well. Take it slow around turns, and DO NOT pull off on private property or stop in the middle of the road to view elk. Nobody likes tire tracks in their yard, nor having traffic stopped because someone just has to get out and take a picture.
Finding Pa elk can be a challenge especially if you don’t have the luxury of frequenting their habitats, but it is not impossible either. Also, there is a right and wrong way to do it, so make sure you are being safe and respecting both the law and those around you.
Happy elk viewing, and check back as we hope to complete our in-depth guide to finding Pa elk soon!