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SEPTEMBER  02, 2003

HARRISBURG -- Hunters planning to participate in Pennsylvania's upcoming 2003 elk hunt have 10 days - until Friday, Sept. 12 - to submit an application and $10 non-refundable fee via The Outdoor Shop on the Pennsylvania Game Commission's website The deadline for submitting a paper application closed on Aug. 22.

"The Game Commission established an earlier deadline for paper applications to enable the agency to properly process them in time for the public drawing on Sept. 27," said Vern Ross, Game Commission executive director. At the drawing, 100 licenses will be awarded for the elk season, which is set for Nov. 10-15.

Information on the upcoming elk hunt appears on pages 110-115 in the 2003-2004 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations, which is provided to license buyers.

A $10 non-refundable fee must be submitted with the application, and may be charged to VISA, MasterCard, Discover or American Express. No Game Commission office will accept hand-delivered applications.

Ross also reminded hunters that, by law, only one application is permitted per person.

"If a person submits more than one application, all of that person's applications will be ineligible and the applicant will be subject to prosecution," Ross said. "All application fees are non-refundable."

Because the application period opened before the 2003-2004 hunting licenses went on sale in July, individuals are not required to purchase a resident or nonresident general hunting license to apply for the drawing. However, if they are drawn for one of the elk licenses, hunters then will be required to purchase the appropriate resident or nonresident general hunting license and attend a mandatory orientation program sponsored by the Game Commission before being permitted to purchase the elk license. The elk license fees are $25 for residents and $250 for nonresidents.

The public drawing will be held at 6 p.m. on Sept. 27, as part of the Elk Expo. The Northwest Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau will sponsor the 3rd Annual Elk Expo - a two-day festival all about elk and enjoying the great outdoors - on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 27-28, at the Elk County Fairgrounds in Kersey. For more information about the Expo, visit the Northwest Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Visitors Bureau website, or use the link from the Game Commission's PA Elk Hunting HQ.

"All applications will be put into one container for the public drawing," Ross said. "We then will draw enough applications to award 100 elk licenses. The first 20 will be awarded antlered elk licenses, and the next 80 will be awarded antlerless elk licenses."

New this year is the establishment of a preference system for the elk license drawing, which is something that previous applicants supported. Beginning with the applications submitted for this year's drawing, individuals who are not awarded either an antlered or antlerless elk license in 2003 will be granted preference in future drawings.

Another change this year is that there is no limit to the number of licenses that may be awarded to nonresidents. In the 2001 and 2002 elk hunts, based on nonresident license sales of previous years, nonresidents were limited to receiving up to 2 and 5 elk licenses, respectively. However, in the 2001 elk hunt, only one nonresident application was drawn and in the 2002 elk hunt only four nonresidents applications were drawn.

Those applying for an elk license will have the option to indicate their preference for either an antlered or antlerless elk license, or they may select "either." For those who select "antlered only," if they are drawn after the antlered licenses are allocated, they will not receive an elk license. For those who do receive an antlered elk license, they will not be permitted to re-apply for future elk hunting opportunities for five years.

Applicants also will be given the opportunity to identify their preference of an elk management area, or they may select "any." If drawn and their preference for hunting area is already filled, applicants will be assigned a specific area by the Game Commission. To assist applicants in making this decision, information about the elk management areas is posted on the website along with the application. This information also is in the 2003-2004 Digest.

Those who received one of the 51 antlered elk licenses for the 2001 or 2002 elk seasons are not eligible for five years from the year in which they received a license. However, those who received an antlerless elk license may submit an application this year.

Ross noted that fees collected from the first 10,000 applicants will go directly to improving habitat on public lands within the elk range, as part of a three-year partnership announced in 2001. The Game Commission and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) pledged a total of $600,000 from their two agencies to fund habitat improvements for elk and other wildlife throughout the elk range in northcentral Pennsylvania.

The two agencies also challenged sportsmen's groups, conservation organizations, businesses and individuals to match the state's funding commitment to generate a combined investment of $1.2 million over the three years. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) pledged to spearhead efforts to raise the contributions.

Dave Messics, Director of Northeast Field Operations for RMEF, noted five organizations already have pledged support to the effort: Dominion Resources, Pittsburgh; Pennsylvania Wildlife Habitat Unlimited; Pennsylvania State Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation,; Sinnamahoning Sportsman Club, Cameron County; and Safari Club International, Lehigh Valley Chapter, Lehigh County.

The habitat improvements are intended to direct and hold elk to specific corridors and public areas within the 835-square-mile elk range; reduce impacts to private property and elk-related conflicts; and enhance regional viability of elk watching and related outdoor tourism.

This three-year plan is part of the joint Game Commission/DCNR seven-year elk habitat improvement project that has identified areas on public lands suitable for elk-habitat improvement. DCNR and Game Commission foresters and biologists, as well as Game Commission land managers and food and cover crews, have identified about 80 potential sites that could be developed as wildlife food plots. The goal is to more than double the 1,100 acres currently managed as herbaceous openings.

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