By the Pennsylvania Game Commission
One of the largest bulls on record in Pennsylvania on permanent display in Clearfield.
After touring the country as part of a traveling display, the mount made from a giant, illegally killed Pennsylvania bull elk has come home to Clearfield County.
Representatives from the Pennsylvania Game Commission and Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation at a recent ceremony in Clearfield, presented the mount of the now-famous “Historic Pennsylvania Poaching Bull” to Clearfield County District Attorney William A. Shaw Jr., who prosecuted the poachers responsible for the unlawful killing.
Because of the historic significance of the elk, Shaw made arrangements for the trophy to be on permanent display at the Clearfield County Historical Society, where it is available for public viewing.
Killed unlawfully in a 2014 poaching spree near Karthaus, the bull is one of the largest on record in Pennsylvania. Its official Boone & Crockett measurements of 432 7/8 inches would rank as Pennsylvania’s third-largest bull elk ever, had it been lawfully harvested.
The mount is so big, in fact, the historical society had to do some alterations before putting the bull on display, said the organization’s vice president Susan Williams.
“We completely remodeled a room to house it, and we have a number of artifacts of historic importance on display alongside it,” Williams said.
The 10- by 9-point bull was mounted courtesy of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which last year included the mount in its traveling Great Elk Tour display, which made 24 stops in 20 states. In Pennsylvania, the tour stopped at the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg in February 2016, and in Benezette, Elk County, at the height of the September bugling season.
Mark Holyoak, director of communication for the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, said the impressive mount provided a unique teaching opportunity.
“Because this bull was taken through poaching, it allowed us to talk about the importance of legal and ethical hunting, and the very important role it plays in conservation,” Holyoak said. “And because this mount was displayed in so many states across the country, it opened a lot of people’s eyes to the exceptional quality of Pennsylvania’s elk.”
Two other bull elk were killed alongside the “Historic Pennsylvania Poaching Bull” in a single night of poaching by three men in September 2014. Wildlife Conservation Officer Mark Gritzer had been staking out the area where the giant 10- by 9-point bull had been hanging out and was quick to intercept the poachers after the shot rang out. The three men each pleaded guilty to their charges, and their sentences included time in jail and fines totaling almost $39,000.
Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans said, while it’s a shame to lose such an impressive animal to a senseless act, the agency can take pride in the law-enforcement initiative that brought the poachers to justice.
“Our officers often work through the night and into the next morning in order to catch game-law violators in the act, and this case demonstrates that dedication to the job and to wildlife, and also shows the resolve of our justice system to take these cases seriously,” Burhans said.
An avid outdoorsman, Shaw praised WCO Gritzer for his efforts in the late-night stakeout that led to the three arrests.
“WCO Gritzer and the Game Commission can be applauded for a job well done, and I’m hopeful the severe sentences and heavy fines handed down for the senseless killing of wildlife will serve as a strong deterrent to would-be poachers,” Shaw said.
Burhans also thanked the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for paying to have the trophy bull mounted, and donating it for permanent display.
“While this elk should not have died as it did, through RMEF’s generosity, this animal has not entirely gone to waste because many people will be able to see it and appreciate it.”