Local hunters snag licenses for Benezette elk expo

A few local hunters hit the jackpot earlier this month when they got word that their name had been drawn for an elk license at the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Elk Expo in Benezette.

Former Oil City councilman John Bartlett was one of the 124 people fortunate enough to get their hands on one.

The total number of applications for 2016 has not been released yet, but in 2014, there were 26,480 hunters who applied for a tag.

Only 25 of the 124 licenses in 2016 were for bulls (male elk).

Bartlett did not attend the expo in Benezette, but he received a phone call shortly after the drawing that he would be getting a cow (female elk) tag, much to his surprise.

“It’s thrilling,” Bartlett said. “I was speechless when I got the call … The odds of getting one initially are like winning the lottery.”

Pennsylvania re-opened elk hunting in 2001 and Bartlett had applied every single year with no success until now.

Bartlett said he is an avid hunter and particularly likes going out during flintlock season to hunt white-tailed deer.

“I’ve hunted all my life,” Bartlett said. “I just like the outdoors.”

Bartlett has been assigned to hunt elk in zone two, which is located just north of Benezette.

Bill Hager, a former Franklin High School basketball coach, will be hunting elk south of Benezette later this year as he was another local resident to get hold of a tag.

Hager said winning a state championship in basketball was much more thrilling than getting an elk tag, but he said he is still excited about the opportunity.

“To be drawn in Pennsylvania is neat,” Hager said. “I think it will be a blast.”

Hager is no stranger to harvesting elk because he has been on 12 total elk hunts in his lifetime and has taken four bulls and one cow.

His expeditions out west have led him to Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado.

Pennsylvania’s elk season will open Monday, Oct. 31, and wrap up Saturday, Nov. 5.

Robin Miller of Oil City was the third winner from Venango County.

Melissa Rupp of Fairmount City and Brice Stewart of Emlenton were selected from Clarion County.