CLEARFIELD – The board of directors of the Clearfield County Historical Society have announced that it will receive and permanently display the head and antler rack of the largest poached bull elk in Pennsylvania history.
The display has been made possible through the generous efforts of Clearfield County District Attorney, William A. Shaw Jr., the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, which mounted the head and antlers.
On Sept. 15, 2014, Mark Gritzer, a wildlife conservation officer with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, witnessed the poaching of the bull elk, near a reclaimed strip mine in Karthaus. Gritzer had been patrolling the area after previously discovering two, separate illegal killings of bull elk on Sept. 9, 2014.
While monitoring the area, Gritzer observed multiple bull elks bugling in the field. Around 9 p.m., Gritzer witnessed an approaching Ford F-150 crew cab. The pick-up stopped, turned on a spotlight and fired a single gunshot from the vehicle killing the trophy elk.
Gritzer immediately activated his emergency lights and conducted a high-risk vehicle stop. Three men were removed from the pick-up and taken into custody. At the time, no weapons were located in the vehicle.
Upon questioning, the outlaws admitted to killing the three bull elk using a 7mm Remington Magnum. The firearm was tossed from the vehicle when emergency lights were activated by Gritzer.
A necropsy conducted on each of the animals resulted in the recovery of evidence consistent with a 7mm bullet. During a search of the area, Gritzer located the firearm used in the killings. Evidence further established the three poachers were consuming alcohol while poaching the elk.
When the three suspects came to court, Shaw pursued criminal charges, which had recently been amended in Pennsylvania, for the unlawful killing of big game.
Under the amended law, a violation may result in a misdemeanor conviction and the imposition of a jail sentence, significant fines and a reimbursement fee to the Commonwealth for the cost of replacing the illegally killed animal.
Shaw secured guilty pleas from the poachers, and each culprit was required to serve 30 days in the Clearfield County Jail and to pay more than $10,000 in costs and fees.
The sentences received in this case are of historical significance. The pleas mark the first time in Pennsylvania history that a jail sentence was imposed for the unlawful killing of an elk.
Prior to changes in the law that enabled Shaw to obtain jail sentences, guilty offenders were subject to a summary violation of the game cade, required to pay a fine and suffer the loss of hunting privileges for a period of time.
After the criminal charges had been resolved, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation volunteered to have the trophy elk mounted, and they took the mount on tour around the country.
Following a year-long venture, the beautiful animal was returned to Clearfield County and donated to Shaw in recognition of his efforts to vigorously pursue game code violations.
Because of the historic significance of the animal, Shaw felt it appropriate to donate the animal to the county historical society for public display.
The Clearfield County Historical Society is currently renovating a second-floor room, previously used as a museum office, to house the trophy elk.
This remodeling will create the expansive area needed to display the mount, while maintaining the structural integrity of the historic Kerr House, which serves as the society’s museum.
The dimensions of the mounted elk and antlers are immense. The entire trophy mount is 75 inches high, 61 inches wide and 39 inches in depth. The shoulders, alone are 22 inches wide. The antler rack has 19 points and has a Boone and Crockett gross score of 460 1/8.
The society intends to have the renovation finished in time, with the elk head on display, for its museum’s opening for public visitation on Sunday, May 7.
The museum is open for both visitation and tours on Sundays and Thursdays from 1:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m., beginning the first Sunday in May through the last Sunday in October.
The museum is located at 104 E. Pine St., at the intersection with N. Front Street, Clearfield. Admission is free of charge. Group tours can be arranged by calling 814-378-5748.
The society warmly welcomes visitors to view all of its historical displays to foster a better understanding of Clearfield County’s rich history.