For Alfred Hake, it truly was the “hunt of a lifetime.”
The 68-year-old Manchester man has been hunting since he was 13. During those 55 years, he’s bagged a bear, turkeys and too many deer to accurately count — he estimates somewhere in the 25-30 range.
Recently, however, Hake took down the most prized trophy of his hunting career.
On Friday, Nov. 3, the retired construction worker harvested a monster 803-pound bull in Clearfield County. It was the third-largest elk taken in the recent state elk hunt, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
The Game Commission annually holds a random drawing to determine the sportsmen who will get to participate in that year’s elk hunt. Hake said he applied for a license every year but one since the drawing was started. There are more than 30,000 applicants annually. This year, however, was the first time Hake’s name was drawn.
“I know a lot of guys don’t apply, but they should,” Hake said Tuesday while archery deer hunting at a camp in Potter County. “They call it a ‘hunt of a lifetime,’ and for me, that is exactly what it is. You meet a lot of nice people, and the sportsmanship was really good (among the hunters). There’s no jealousy or anything like that. It was a good experience — a very good experience.”
Hake, with the help of a guide, started his elk hunt on Monday, Oct. 30.
“The deal was we were going to look (only) for big ones until Wednesday, and then we were going to lower our standards. But it worked out that we got a pretty nice one anyway (on Friday),” Hake said.
Hake did plenty of walking during the first three days in an effort to land a big one — more than 25 miles total.
"I said we better back off, I'm getting pretty tired," Hake said.
Hake and his guide backed off on the amount of walking later in the week, but that didn't prevent the York County hunter from ultimately succeeding.
According to his guide’s range finder, Hake said he connected on his trophy shot from 285 yards away.
“That was pretty hard to describe,” Hake said of bagging his elk. “It’s hard to believe you actually got one. It’s just really amazing. My guide was slapping me on the back and we were high-fiving and all that stuff.”
Hake plans to have his monster elk mounted.
“It would take something really great to get past this (as his greatest hunting memory),” Hake said.
Elk hunt notes: According to the Game Commission, more than 89 percent of the hunters participating in Pennsylvania’s 2017 elk hunt took home a trophy.
The Commission announced Tuesday, Nov. 7, that 104 elk were taken by hunters during the regular one-week elk season that ended Saturday, Nov. 4. For those licensed to hunt antlered elk, also known as bulls, the success rate was 100 percent.
The 2017 harvest included 10 bulls that were estimated to weigh 700 pounds or more, with three of them going more than 800 pounds. The heaviest bull taken in this year’s hunt was estimated at 833 pounds. That bull, which sported an 8-by-7 rack, was taken Oct. 30 by Shawn Latshaw, of Franklin.
Meanwhile, an 832-pounder with an 8-by-9 rack was taken by Robert Cook, of Earlville, N.Y. Hake’s 803-pounder, with a 6-by-7 rack, was next.
Not all of the bull elk taken in the hunt were measured and green-scored by rack size, but Cook’s bull had the highest green score at 431 6/8 inches, according to Boone & Crockett big-game scoring standards.
Official measurements of bulls taken in the hunt cannot be recorded until the antlers have air dried for at least 60 days after the animal was harvested.
There also were some large antlerless elk taken in the harvest. Nine of of the 79 cows taken by hunters during the one-week season weighed more than 500 pounds.
Fifty-nine elk — 12 bulls and 47 cows — were taken on the opening day of the elk season on Monday, Oct. 30.
Reach Steve Heiser at firstname.lastname@example.org.