Each September, thousands of visitors make their way to Pennsylvania's elk country to experience bugling season.
While there's nothing quite like seeing a giant bull up close, or feeling your rib cage resonate as it lets loose an ear-splitting bugle, there's an opportunity this year to get a glimpse of Pennsylvania's prime time for elk — without ever having to leave home.
The Pennsylvania Game Commission has installed a camera on State Game Lands 311 in Elk County, in a field that is off limits to people, but that typically is a hub of elk activity as the bugling season heats up. The camera was installed with help from the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources' Bureau of Forestry. Video and sound from the camera are being live streamed on the Game Commission's website, www.pgc.state.pa.us, and some good-sized bull elk, not to mention turkeys, deer and other wildlife, already have made appearances.
The live stream, which is provided by the Game Commission's partner, HDOnTap, is the latest in a string of real-time wildlife-watching opportunities offered by the Game Commission. More than 1.5 million people viewed the live stream from a bald-eagle nest in Hanover this winter and spring, and the Game Commission in previous years has provided live streams from osprey and bluebird nests, as well.
Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said while there's no substitute for visiting elk country in person, the camera gives viewers a taste of what the excitement is all about.
"People are fascinated with elk and, in Pennsylvania, they continue to prove this year after year through their frequent trips to the elk range and the interest they show in hunting elk," Hough said. "This camera — and the sights and sounds it is capturing — is just one more thing to get them excited. The bugling still sounds amazingly good through a computer speaker.
"Elk have not always had an easy time of it in Pennsylvania, but since the Game Commission reintroduced elk to the state in 1913, they've pulled through some tough times and, today, we have one of the top herds in the country," Hough said. "Give credit to sound management, the creation of better elk habitat all across northcentral Pennsylvania, and most importantly, people who care. Without them, the elk's success wouldn't be the same."
The live stream can be accessed at the home page of the Game Commission's website by clicking on the Elk Country Live Stream button. The page also contains information on Pennsylvania's elk, where to view them and provides a link to the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors website, which provides all sorts of information for anyone visiting elk country. The website can be accessed directly at www.visitpago.com.
The live stream is slated to run until the end of the bugling season, likely sometime in mid-October. The top time to see elk on camera has been late in the afternoon.
In the meantime, Hough urged people to give it a look — and a listen.
Even at times elk can't be seen on screen, bulls can be heard bugling, calves and cows send sounds back and forth, turkeys talk and birds sing.
"Whether you've already planned your return trip to the elk range this bugling season, or whether you've never gone, take a look every now and then at what the camera is capturing," Hough said. "There's a reason people are excited about elk, and you now have a chance to enjoy some of it anytime you wish."