HARRISBURG – When the subject turned to elk at the spring meeting of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, it become more evident than ever that the biggest challenge in taking a Pennsylvania elk is being fortunate enough to draw one of the 50 tags – not including the Special Conservation Tag which was auctioned earlier this year at the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation annual banquet.

In 2008, the Special Conservation Tag was created by Act 101, and under the law, the PGC is authorized to provide one antlered elk license to a wildlife conservation organization to auction. Of the auction proceeds, a maximum of 20 percent may be retained by the wildlife conservation organization and the rest is turned over to the PGC for elk management.

This year, hunters have until Friday, Aug. 27, to apply for one of the tags in the random, public drawing that will be webcast by the PGC. Bull tags will be awarded to the first 17 applications drawn and antlerless tags to the final 33, and the regular elk season will be held Monday-Saturday, Nov. 1-6, in the designated elk range.

Applicants must pay a $10.70 non-refundable fee to be included in the drawing, which is explained in detail on pages 89-91 of the "2010-11 Pennsylvania Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations" provided to license buyers. Applying for a permit can be done at any license-issuing agent or on the web by accessing the PGC homepage at www.pgc.state.pa.us http://www.pgc.state.pa.us/ and clicking on the "2010 Elk Hunt" icon in the center of the page.

By law, only one application is permitted per person per year, and the automated PALS system prevents an individual from submitting more than one application. Individuals are not required to purchase a 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 view the elk hunt orientation video produced by the PGC before being permitted to purchase their $25 resident or $250 nonresident elk license.

Once the application process has been completed, it is a case of hoping and waiting. And while most consider their chances of being selected as the longest of long shots, those who have previously applied and continue to apply do increase their odds.

Individuals who applied, but were not awarded an elk license in 2003, '04, '05, '06, '07, '08 and '09 have seven preference points heading into this year's drawing. If they submit an application this year, they will have their name entered into the drawing eight times because their seven preference points and the point for this year's application.

As part of the preference point system established by the PGC in 2003, consecutive applications are not required to maintain previously earned preference points, but those points can be activated only in years that a hunter submits an application. For instance, if a hunter has six preference points, but does not enter the 2010 drawing, they will not have any chances in the upcoming drawing, however, their preference points will remain on hold until they apply again.

Once a hunter is awarded an antlered or antlerless elk license, their preference points will revert to zero. Additionally, hunters who want to earn a preference point for this year, but know that they would not be able to participate in the elk hunting season if drawn, have the option of simply purchasing a preference point for $10.70 and continue to build their preference points.

Those applying for an elk license can choose either an antlered or antlerless elk license, or they may select both categories on their application. For those who select "antlered only," if they are drawn after the antlered licenses are allocated, they will not receive an elk license. Those who receive an antlered elk license are not be permitted to reapply for five years for future elk hunts, however, those who received an antlerless elk license in any of the previous hunts may submit an application this year.

Applicants also have the opportunity to identify their elk hunt zone preference, or they may select "any." If drawn and their preferred hunt zone is filled, applicants will be assigned a specific area by the PGC.

To assist applicants in making this decision, information about the elk hunt zones, as well as an elk harvest map depicting the locations of every elk taken by hunters since 2001, are posted on the agency's website. This information can be viewed by clicking on the "2010 Elk Hunt" icon in the center of the homepage.

For those lucky enough to draw an elk license, but fail to fill their tag during the regular season, a major regulatory change was approved by the board of game commissioners this spring. This mew regulation allows those with any unfilled antlered or antlerless elk license to be valid for taking either an antlered or antlerless elk anywhere in the state outside of the elk management area during the extended elk season, Monday-Saturday, Nov. 8-13.