- Keystone Elk Country Alliance (KECA), a visionary conservation success story
- KECA mission: conserve, enhance Pennsylvania Elk Country for future generations
- Raffle proceeds generate funding for Elk Country visitor center, public educational classrooms, land protection
A lucky hunter from Binghamton, New York, Matthew Martinichio, was selected from 9,945 tickets in the KECA Elk Tag Raffle drawing held August 19, 2018 at the Elk Expo at the Elk Country Visitor Center, located in Benezette Township, Elk County, Pa. Matthew was not present when his name was pulled from the “squirrel cage” by a young boy selected from the audience. Matthew is an avid duck and turkey hunter, but he does not hunt deer and actually did not own a rifle prior to this hunt. Matthew’s grandfather, Joe Villecco, from Port Crane, New York, purchased the ticket for Mathew. Matthew’s Grandfather, 82, was there during the hunt.
It has become a tradition to immediately call the winner from the CEO’s office. The group consisted of KECA’s Founding Chairman of the Board John Geissler, Rawley Cogan CEO KECA, Elk County Outfitter owner Jack Manack, and guides Bryan Hale and Kim Rensel, Pennsylvania Game Commission North Central Region Director Dave Mitchell, and Brad Clinton Executive Producer TomBob Outdoors. Matthew harvested an 8 x7 mature bull elk on Saturday September 22, 2018 while hunting with Elk County Outfitters.
“The rut had been slow because of warm weather, high temperatures near 86 degrees and humid”, stated Jack Manack, owner of Elk County Outfitters. “A cold front came through Friday evening and we anticipated a good hunt on Saturday”, Manack said. We started hunting on Wednesday September 19, and we actually saw the bull Matthew harvested and we passed on him”, said Manack. “Obviously we did not get a good enough look at him or we would have taken him then,” Manack said.
Saturday morning at 9 a.m., Martinichio killed the 850 pound (estimated) live weight bull. Manack green-scored the bull at over 410”. The official score will not be known until the 60 day drying time is complete. “Pennsylvania’s Elk Range is awesome,” stated Martinichio. “I have never been there before and the experience of harvesting this huge bull was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and that my Grandpa was there with me was very special. It was very emotional when my Grandpa and I walked up to the bull,” stated Martinichio. “We called to the bull and he answered, but he did not come right to us. We had to make a few moves to get a shot at him,” said Martinichio.
“The KECA Elk Tag Raffle provides a unique opportunity for one hunter to harvest a mature bull elk in Pennsylvania, but everyone that purchased a ticket is a true conservationist and a winner. We sincerely thank everyone that purchased a ticket for their support of this unique raffle. Pennsylvania’s elk herd and its habitat are the beneficiaries,” stated Cogan.
Elk County Outfitters owner Jack Manack stated, “We are just happy to be a small part of what KECA does and provide this hunter a truly once-in-a-lifetime experience.” “KECA is very fortunate to have generous donors like Elk County Outfitters supporting our mission and we thank Jack and his guides for their long-term support”, stated Cogan. Martinichio agreed, “Jack and his guides were great, they really know elk,” stated Martinichio.
The 2018 KECA Elk Tag Raffle generated $180,650 in gross tickets sales. KECA’s Elk Tag Raffle proceeds from past years were used to complete phase I and II of KECA’s outdoor classroom on the campus of the Elk Country Visitor Center, educational programs for thousands of students and guests, many habitat improvement projects totaling thousands of acres and a permanent land protection project.
The Keystone Elk Country Alliance (KECA) completed their first permanent land protection project in 2016; a 9-acre tract located adjacent to the Elk Country Visitor Center in Benezette Township, Elk County, PA. The property consists of white pine and hemlock with mixed oak and hickory over story, including two small streams which merge on the property and flow into the Bennett’s Branch of the Susquehanna River. The water is clean and runs year around. No mining or acid mine drainage has occurred on the property. There are no buildings or structures on the property. Proceeds from KECA’s Elk Tag Raffle were used to purchase this property.
TomBob’s cameraman, Ben Gnan, filmed the entire hunt with Matthew. Be sure to tune into TomBob Outdoors Friends in Wild Places this fall to see the KECA Elk Tag winner Pennsylvania bull elk hunt on your favorite network.
The Keystone Elk Country Alliance is a Pennsylvania based 501 (c) (3) wildlife conservation organization. KECA’s mission is to conserve and enhance Pennsylvania’s Elk Country for future generations. KECA operates the Elk Country Visitor Center. Visit www.ExperienceElkCountry.com for more information.