Every hunter measures success differently.
For some, it means merely getting out of the office and into the woods.
For others, it's all about the trophy.
And for many, there's nothing better than introducing a youngster to the sport.
For Pennsylvania's elk hunters, success keeps getting better and better. The herd is growing. The trophies are getting bigger. And there are more opportunities to get involved and harvest an elk.
In 1867, a hunter killed Pennsylvania's last native elk. On one hand, it was a tragedy. On the other, it was the start of something big.
It took well more than a hundred years of hard work and dedicated management to get a herd reestablished. But starting in 2001, the Game Commission allowed a handful of hunters to take an elk. It was the start of something big.
Ever since, the annual hunts have gotten more and more successful. This year, in the season that ran from Oct. 31 to Nov. 5, 57 hunters harvested 53 elk. That means, once again, the success ratio was higher than 90 percent.
"Pennsylvania is privileged to offer this unique hunting opportunity, a product of successful wildlife management that supports Pennsylvania's rich hunting heritage," said Game Commission Executive Director Carl Roe. "It's an unparalleled experience for hunters, without all the travel and expense of a one- or two-week guided elk hunt out West."
The idea that Pennsylvania even has an elk-hunting program marks a major triumph. But it doesn't stop there, especially if you're a trophy hunter.
This year, the largest elk was harvested by William Zee of Doylestown. The woodland beast had an estimated live weight of 930 pounds -- just shy of half a ton. Even better, it's 9x8 set of antlers is quite likely to come in as the second-largest non-typical elk rack on the state's record book when it is officially scored. That's a successful hunt.
But for some folks, success is measured in money. And once again, this year's elk hunt hit the bull's-eye. Thanks to a law that created an Elk Conservation Tag, this season was a moneymaker for Safari Club International.
At the club's annual meeting, it auctioned off the special "Governor's Tag." When the bidding was over, Virginia's Michael McGinnis and his $29,000 offer won the tag. He ended up taking a beautiful 10x8 bull with his bow.
The majority of the money raised -- $23,200 -- goes straight to the Game Commission's game fund. It will help ensure many more successful seasons to come.
No matter our definition or how we measure success, it's impossible to deny that Pennsylvania's elk hunting is getting better and better. It's proof hard work and smart management pay big rewards.
Andy Snyder writes about the outdoors for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sports@yorkdis patch.com.