Those who don't act fast will miss out on their chance to participate in Pennsylvania's 2014 elk hunt.
The deadline to enter the annual drawing for elk licenses is July 31 about a month earlier than in previous years.
The drawing also has been moved to an earlier date, and a new location. It will be held Aug. 16 in Benezette, Pa. as part of the Pennsylvania Great Outdoors Elk Expo.
Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said the elk expo provides a fitting showcase for the drawing, which each year generates excitement among tens of thousands of hopeful hunters. But those who haven't yet submitted applications to enter this year's drawing need to be mindful of the earlier deadline, he said.
"Elk hunting in Pennsylvania is the opportunity of a lifetime, and it's exciting just to enter the drawing and know your name could be the next picked for a license," Hough said. "Hunters who are hopeful of being drawn for the 2014 hunt need to submit their applications as soon as possible, however.
"With the July 31 deadline approaching, time truly is of the essence," Hough said.
Changes aside, the process for submitting an application remains the same.
Applications can be submitted anywhere hunting licenses are sold, or online at the Game Commission's website, www.pgc.state.pa.us. Perhaps the easiest way to submit an online application is by clicking on the "Elk Hunting" icon on the website's homepage.
Applicants must pay a $10.70 non-refundable application fee to be included in the drawing.
This year's drawing provides a greater opportunity for hunters to obtain an elk license. The number of licenses to be allocated has been increased to 108, up from the 86 licenses issued in the 2013-14 season.
On the date of the drawing, hunters will be selected for 27 licenses for antlered elk, or bulls, and 81 licenses for antlerless elk, or cows.
Individuals are not required to purchase a resident or nonresident general hunting license to apply for the drawing. However, hunters who are drawn for a license must hold a valid general hunting license and a valid elk license in order to hunt elk.
Adult general hunting licenses cost $20.70 for residents and $101.70 for nonresidents, and elk license fees are $25 for residents and $250 for nonresidents.
Those who enter the drawing but are not selected to purchase an elk license still benefit by increasing their chances to be selected in coming years.
Each applicant in the 2014 drawing receives a preference point that will serve to multiply the number of chances the applicant receives in subsequent drawings. Individuals who applied in each year from 2003 through 2013, but were not awarded an elk license, have 11 preference points heading into this year's drawing. If they submit an application this year, they will have their name entered into the drawing 12 times (11 preference points in addition to the point from this year's application.)
Additionally, hunters who want to earn a preference point for this year, but know that they would not be able to participate in the elk hunting season if drawn, have the option of simply purchasing a preference point for $10.70. While they will not be included in the drawing for the 2014 elk licenses, they will continue to build their preference points.
Those applying for an elk license can choose either an antlered or antlerless elk license, or they may select either-sex on their application. For those who select "antlered only," if they are drawn after the antlered licenses are allocated, they will not receive an elk license. For those who do receive an antlered elk license, they will not be permitted to re-apply for future elk hunting opportunities for five years. However, those who received an antlerless elk license in any of the previous hunts may submit an application this year.
Applicants also have the opportunity to identify their elk hunt zone preference, or they may select "NP" (no preference). If drawn and their preferred hunt zone is filled, applicants will be assigned a specific zone by the Game Commission.
The Aug. 16 drawing is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m. Plans are in place to webcast the drawing, with live streaming video available through the Game Commission's website.
Those who can neither attend nor watch the drawing can check the status of their applications online.
To find out the status of an application, go to the Game Commission website (www.pgc.state.pa.us), and click on the blue "Buy a License" box in the upper right corner of the homepage. Click on the "Purchase License Permit and or Application/Replace License and or Permit" option, which includes the ability to "Check on the status of any Lottery Application," scroll down and click on the "Start Here" button at the bottom of the page. At this page, choose one of the identification options below to check your records, fill in the necessary information and click on the "Continue" button. Click on the appropriate residency status, which will display your current personal information. At the bottom of the page, choose the "Check on the status of any Lottery Application" button, and then hit "Continue."
Details on the elk season and drawing are available on pages 78 to 80 of the 2014-15 Pennsylvania Hunting & Trapping Digest, which is provided to license buyers and may be viewed on the agency's website.
By law, only one application is permitted per person per year, and the Pennsylvania Automated License System will prohibit an individual from submitting more than one application.