Jan. 12—Travis Stormer, of Salix, harvested a 7-by-7 bull elk in Goshen Township, in northern Clearfield County, on Dec. 31.
The elk green-scored 382 6/8" after being just one of 15 lucky hunters to draw a late-season bull tag in the state's elk permit lottery this past summer. It was only the second year that he entered the lottery, which gives a slight edge to previously unsuccessful applicants through a points system.
According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, 104,250 hunters applied for 178 elk tags, which were divided into permits for 60 bulls and 118 cows. Stormer said that he and his father, Dave, had often talked about trying their luck at drawing a tag, but had only applied once in 2021. The elder Stormer passed away unexpectedly on July 31 — just three weeks before his son drew the coveted permit.
Stormer, who has a YouTube channel called "Stormin' the Outdoors," said that as soon as his name was drawn, he immediately received a phone call from Trophy Rack Lodge, a guiding service in Karthaus.
"The zone that I drew (Zone 1) was not a very good zone," Stormer said. "It's very small with a lot of private land."
Trophy Rack's guide Jamie Morgan luckily had access to some private farms that held elk. As the late season approached, Morgan had been spying bulls with cows in those pastures. At least one was a dandy.
In the predawn darkness on New Year's Eve, Stormer and his guide sneaked along a hedgerow until a group of elk were spotted in a distant field. Using a rangefinder, the guide pointed out the biggest bull in the herd and conveyed the distance to Stormer in a whisper.
"They were 181 yards away, but they looked like they were 50 yards away because an elk is so much bigger than a deer," Stormer said.
Stormer shouldered his late father's Smith & Wesson bolt-action 30.06, which was purchased for him by his father, and acquired his target. One 180-grain slug cleanly dispatched the bull.
"I shot the elk at 7:12 (a.m.), so my elk hunting season was six minutes long," Stormer said.
His good luck continued when the farmer pitched in with a skid-steer to haul out the massive animal.
"It was quite an experience," Stormer said. "I was thinking about my dad, and my wife and my brother-in-law were there with me to share the experience."
Stormer said that the experience was so special that it was hard to explain.
"I had never seen an elk in real life," Stormer said. "I drew this tag and I'd never seen an elk. They're incredible animals."
Since the Pennsylvania Game Commission does not weigh elk at check stations taken after the general season, Stormer never learned the bull's weight.
Since his successful hunt, Stormer has traveled to Benezette in Elk County, to view a large portion of the state's flourishing elk herd, which is currently estimated to be 1,400.
"I've gained this new, weird love for elk," Stormer said. "I'm going to go to Benezette every year and I want to maybe go out west to hunt more elk."