New Kensington hunter scores largest bull elk of the regular season

Ron Marney (right) and his brother Dave with an elk that could be the new Pennsylvania record.
Ron Marney (right) and his brother Dave with an elk that could be the new Pennsylvania record. Courtesy of Trophy Rack Lodge

Elk hunting has only occurred in Centre County since Elk Hunt Zone 13 was formed in 2015. However, the county already has Pennsylvania’s No. 4 elk in the non-typical firearm category — a trophy scoring 406-4/8, harvested in 2016, by Ted Fuqua of Clymer in Indiana County.

Now, a new Centre County bull is likely to top Fuqua’s and could be the new No. 1 non-typical — or maybe the No. 1 in the typical elk category. Here is the story of this year’s fruitful hunt:

It had been an exciting but frustrating week for New Kensington hunter Ron Marney. Marney, a construction superintendent, his Trophy Rack guide Mike Conaway and Marney’s brother Dave had put in a lot of time and over 35 miles of shoe leather hunting in EHZ 13 — mostly on State Game Lands 100.

“The excitement started when I found out that I drew a bull tag,” Marney said. “I was eating dinner with my wife at the Medix Hotel when Larry Guenot called to tell me that I had been selected.”

However, as the minutes ticked down on the next-to-last day of the season, second thoughts and feelings other than excitement began to creep in.

“As the light faded, I was getting frustrated. The season was almost over,” Marney said. “Morning hunts seemed to be best, and we only had one more morning. I was thinking that maybe I should have shot the nice 6x6 that we passed up on Wednesday morning.”

Looking back, it had been a good week for Marney, with ample action.

Tuesday was uneventful, but at his guide’s suggestion on Wednesday morning, Marney passed on a nice 6x6 bull that was feeding with 20 to 30 cows. On Thursday morning, he watched two young rag-horn bulls. That evening, they saw two cows and two calves. On Friday morning, he saw elk, but once again, a larger bull stayed inside the woods and did not present a shot.

It was a sunny Friday afternoon when guide and hunter walked into the Allen Dam area on SGL 100. At about 5 p.m., they walked to a new location — down the gated game lands’ road known as Poorman’s Side Road. Posting back-to-back, they each watched a different field, hoping for elk to appear.

“We hid in some downed treetops from the recent logging operation,” Conaway said. “Then, with only seven more minutes of legal shooting time remaining, I saw the bull enter the field.”

“At about 6:30, my guide whispered, ‘Big bull out in the field,’” Marney added. “I was looking the other way and probably would not have noticed the elk in time.”

Marney waited until the bull turned broadside, then made a 350-yard shot, but the elk just stood there. Conaway recommended that he keep shooting. Three more .270 Winchester short magnum rounds were sent the elk’s direction. They later learned that three of the four 150-grain Nosler bullets hit the target — downing the large bull.

“I was jumping up and down — very excited,” Marney said. “When we got up close, I could see how massive the rack was. The points on top were up to 20 inches long. I just couldn’t believe the mass.”

The guide knew it was a big bull, just not how big. “I was happy that, with all of the hard work we put in, that Ron finally got a bull,” said Conaway, of Port Matilda.

Two archery hunters heard the shots and soon arrived on the scene. Even though it was getting late, guides and other hunters joined the happy group. A full moon helped during the field-dressing process. Considering the size of the bull and the long drag ahead of them, it was decided that they would call Steve Perrine, who uses his draft horse to get elk out to a non-gated road.

Perrine was busy with another elk and did not arrive on the game lands until 1 a.m.

“Perrine used a sled made out of blue plastic barrels,” Marney said. “It was really something to see.” They did not arrive back at Trophy Rack Lodge until 2:30 a.m.

The next morning, the hunter learned that the game commission could not weigh or measure the antlers of the elk at the check station. Larry Guenot arranged to have it measured by official Boone and Crockett scorer Mark Blazosky of Philipsburg, the following week.

“I haven’t measured many elk, but there was no doubt that this was one impressive set of antlers,” Blazosky said.

According to the Boone and Crockett Club, hunters must wait for 60 days before getting an official score for a moose, deer or elk. Unsure about the webbing on one tine, Blazosky came up with a gross green score of 443-1/8, and if all subtractions are made for side-to-side differences, the score would be 413-6/8.

“I’m not sure which way this will be scored after the drying period — as a typical or a non-typical,” Blazosky said. “It really could go either way.”

Pennsylvania’s No. 1 typical elk scores 387-7/8, and the No. 1 non-typical elk scores 442-6/8. The Marney elk should place near or at the top of either category in the Pennsylvania records.

According to Blazosky, it is likely that a team of certified scorers will be used to arrive at an official score for this impressive elk. The 60-day drying time will be up in early January.

Mark Nale, who lives in the Bald Eagle Valley, is a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association and can be reached at MarkAngler@aol.com