2006 Elk forecast: modern elk hunters face certain challenges, but with dedication they will face plenty of great bulls, too.
Drought appears to be continuing across the Southwest, and unless decent rains improve habitat conditions soon, elk herds could be stressed. Antler growth on bulls in arid regions is tied to moisture conditions, and during dry years antlers generally do not grow as large as during wet years.
Predators have more of an impact on elk populations than some people seem willing to admit. In a recent study of elk predation in Montana, researchers found that black bears were the hardest on elk calves, accounting for over 50 percent of calf mortality.
A wolf predation study in Idaho's Clearwater National Forest showed 32 percent of cow elk mortality was due to wolves. Idaho is prepared to reduce wolf numbers significantly in that region once the federal government turns over wolf management to the state.
Mountain lion populations are healthy and expanding all across the West, and the big cats are major predators on elk. In some parts of elk country, bears, wolves, and lions are usurping hunters' role as game managers. Only one group is happy about that--antihunters.
Hunter management has been a major challenge in recent years as demand for elk licenses far exceeds supply. Drawing odds are decreasing--getting worse--and license fees are going up, along with the costs of drop camps, outfitted hunts, and even do-it-yourself hunts as gasoline surpasses $2.50 per gallon. Elk hunting is not cheap.
In some states, elk licenses are being shifted from archery seasons to rifle and muzzleloader seasons, reducing opportunities for bowhunters. The logic escapes me, but I suppose it's the result of the "squeaky wheel" phenomenon. Bowhunters must watch their state wildlife agencies closely and make certain hunting archers' voices are heard.
Then comes the continent-wide concern over chronic wasting disease (CWD) and brucellosis in elk herds, Thank goodness for dedicated state and federal biologists who are monitoring these diseases and taking appropriate actions. (I'd personally like to thank all the biologists and data technicians who took the time to respond to our survey.)
If all that isn't enough, talk keeps surfacing of selling off federal lands. As of now that involves only small, landlocked parcels, but it could develop into a trend and expand to larger parcels. I'm very protective of my land, and you should be too. Stay informed and stay involved.
Despite these challenges, elk hunting flourishes. Herds are stable or increasing, and any bowhunter with the desire can spend time in elk country armed with his bow and arrows, elk calls, and a good pair of boots. It's the pinnacle of bowhunting.
* ALASKA--Elk hunting is limited to Raspberry, Etolin, and Afognak Islands. Brown bears share the island habitat. Contact: Alaska Dept. of Fish & Game, Wildlife Division, 211 Mission Rd., Kodiak, AK 99615; (907) 486-1880; www.state.ak.us/adfg/adfghome.htm
* ARIZONA--Fourteen-day season will begin one week later than usual. Drawing deadline for 2007 will be moved up to either December '06 or January '07 for elk and pronghorn. Deer, sheep, and buffalo drawing will stay in June. Contact: Arizona Game and Fish Department, 2221 W. Greenway Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85023-4399; (602) 942-3000; www.gf.state.az.us/welcome.html
* ARKANSAS--Nonresidents who own land in elk Zone A, or get permission to hunt there, can apply for a license. The fee is $35 plus a $225 hunting license. Contact: Arkansas Game and Fish Comm., #2 Natural Resources Drive, Little Rock, AR 72205; (501) 223-6360; www.agfc.com
* CALIFORNIA--A new junior elk tag will be available. Junior tags will come out of the archery tag quotas. Nonresidents can buy auction or landowner tags. Contact: California Dept. of Fish and Game, 1416 Ninth St., Sacramento, CA 95814; (916) 653-7203; www.dfg.ca.gov/
* COLORADO--Hunters may hold an either-sex license and either one or two cow licenses. A $5 Habitat Stamp is required for the first two licenses per year. Contact: Colorado Division of Wildlife, 6060 Broadway, Denver, CO 80216; (303) 297-1192; www.dnr.state.co.us/
* IDAHO--An additional 77 elk above harvest figures were taken with no sex reported. For a hunt planner, visit http://fishgame.idaho.gov/ifwis/huntplanner/default.aspx. Contact: Idaho Dept. of Fish and Game, PO Box 25, Boise, ID 83707; (208) 334-3700; http://fishandgame.idaho.gov/
* KENTUCKY--Of a total harvest of 61 elk, 5 were taken by archers. For 2006, 200 permits are available. Contact: Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources, #1 Game Farm Road, Frankfort, KY 40601; 1-800-858-1549; www.state.ky.us/agencies/fw/index.htm
* MICHIGAN--License numbers weren't available, but in 2005, 45,000 people applied for 156 licenses. Contact: Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources, Wildlife Management Section, PO Box 30444, Lansing, MI 48909; (517) 373-1263; www.dnr.state.mi.us/
* MONTANA--Hunters may also apply for a Montana "Super Tag." It costs $5 per chance at five separate tags--elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, and moose. Five tags will be issued, and they are valid for any open unit for that species. Contact: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, 1420 East 6th Ave., Helena, MT 59620-0701; (406) 444-2612; www.fwp.state.mt.us/index.html
* NEBRASKA--Elk numbers are increasing and expanding into new territory at a rate of 20 percent per year. There is no special archery season. Contact: Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, 2200 Nth. 33rd St., Lincoln, NE 68503; (402) 471-0641; www.ngpc.state.ne.us/homepage.html
* NEVADA--Nonresident elk tags, at $1,523.50, are the most expensive on the continent. Nonresidents will receive 10 percent of available tags. Contact: Nevada Division of Wildlife, PO Box 10678, Reno, NV 89250; 1-800-576-1020; www.ndow.org
* NEW MEXICO--Elk hunting regulations are being revised to improve hunt quality. For 2007, mandatory hunter reporting of elk hunts will begin. Contact: New Mexico Department of Game and Fish, PO Box 25112, Santa Fe, NM 87504; 1-800-862-9310; www.gmfsh.state.nm.us/
* NORTH DAKOTA--Six elk hunters chose bow-only option in 2005, and one scored. Only residents are eligible for elk permits. Contact: North Dakota Game and Fish Dept., 100 North Bismarck Expressway, Bismarck, ND 58505-5095; (701) 328-6300; -www.state.nd.us/gnf/
* OKLAHOMA--Licenses are issued only to residents and nonresidents with written permission to hunt private land. Beginning in 2007, only online applications will be allowed. Contact: Oklahoma Dept. of Wildlife Conservation, Game Division, PO Box 53465, Oklahoma City, OK 73152; (405) 521-2739; www.wildlifedepartment.com
* OREGON--Harvest figures are from '04. Beginning in '06, letoff for compound bows will be unlimited. Since 1990, it has been restricted to a maximum of 65 percent. Contact: Oregon Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, PO Box 59, Portland, OR 97207; (503) 872-5260; www.dfw.state.or.us/
* PENNSYLVANIA--Hunts are split into an early September hunt and late November hunt. You must apply for the early hunt in December. Nonresidents apply in drawing on an equal basis. Contact: Pennsylvania Game Commission, Bureau of Wildlife Management, 2001 Elmerton Ave., Harrisburg, PA 17110-9797; (717) 787-5529; www.pgc.state.pa.us
* SOUTH DAKOTA--There are no changes in the 2006 residents-only elk season, which takes place in the Black Hills region. Contact: South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks, 412 W. Missouri, Pierre, SD 57501; (605) 773-3485; www.sdgfp.info/index.htm
* UTAH--Utah's elk population is growing, and average age objectives have been exceeded. Limited-entry permits will be increased. Contact: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, PO Box 146301, Salt Lake City, Utah 84114-6301; (801) 538-4700; www.nr.utah.gov/dwr/dwr.htm
* WASHINGTON--At press time there was a proposal to eliminate the 65-percent letoff restriction and to allow bowhunters to carry handguns while hunting. Contact: Washington Dept. Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091; (360) 902-2200; http://wdfw.wa.gov/
* WYOMING--Herd is above objective of 83,000. New regulations require head and spinal column remain at kill site in CWD areas. Contact: Wyoming Game and Fish Dept., 5400 Bishop Blvd., Cheyenne, WY 82006; (307) 777-4600; http://gf.state.wy.us/
* ALBERTA--The registration of harvested elk is no longer required. Contact: Alberta Natural Resources Service, Main Floor, North Tower, Petroleum Plaza, 9945 108th St., Edmonton, Alberta, CA T5K 2G6; (403) 427-2079; www3.gov.ab.ca/srd/index.html
* BRITISH COLUMBIA--There is a special limited-entry hunt for Roosevelt elk. Check regulations for specifics. Contact: British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Wildlife Branch, PO Box 9374 Str. Prov. Gov., Victoria, BC, CA V8W 9M4; (250) 387-9717; http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/fw/index.html
* MANITOBA--Only Manitoba residents may hunt elk. In '04 they killed 73 elk. The deadline for the lottery is in April. Contact: Manitoba Dept. of Natural Resources, Wildlife Branch, Box 24, 200 Saulteaux Crescent, Winnipeg, MB R3J 3W3; 1-800-214-6497; www.gov.mb.ca/natres/wildlife/index.html
* SASKATCHEWAN--Saskatchewan residents killed 2,713 elk last year, but no separate archery harvest data were available. Only residents may hunt elk. Contact: Saskatchewan Environment & Resource Management, Fish and Wildlife Branch, 3211 Albert Street, Room 436, Regina, SK, S4S 5W6; (306) 787-2314; www.serm.gov.sk.ca/fishwild/
CURT WELLS, EQUIPMENT EDITOR
ESTIMATED TREND '05 BOW KILL ARCHERY STATE OR ELK IN ELK B=BULL SUCCESS PROVINCE POPULATION POPULATION C=COW RATE ALASKA 1,600 R Increasing B-2 11% ARIZONA 20,000 Stable B-1,225 34% C-968 ARKANSAS 400-450 Stable None NA CALIFORNIA 9,300 R, T Increasing B-8 35% C-4 COLORADO 300,000 Stable B-3,308 14% C-1,555 IDAHO 125,000 Stable B-1,947 15.1% C-623 KENTUCKY 4,500 Increasing 5 NA MICHIGAN 800-900 Stable NA NA MONTANA 170,000 Stable to NA 8% increasing NEBRASKA 1,200 Increasing NA NA NEVADA 8,000 Increasing B-63 B-53% C-27 C-14% NEW MEXICO 70,000 Stable B-2,220 up to to 75,000 C-420 31% NORTH DAKOTA NA Stable B-1 17% OKLAHOMA 1,200 Stable See Notes NA OREGON 59,000 R Stable B-1,907 10% 59,400 Y C-1,079 PENNSYLVANIA 500-600 Stable See Notes NA SOUTH DAKOTA Unknown Declining B-40 21.6% C-13 UTAH 59,000 ('05) Increasing B-412 LE 45.3% C-332 Other 4.9% WASHINGTON 60,000 R, Y Stable 1,357 9.1% total ('04) ('04) WYOMING 90,000 Declining 1,641 NA Canada ALBERTA 30,000 Stable NA 6% BRITISH 50,000 Stable NA NA COLUMBIA MANITOBA 7,500 Stable 73 ('04) 10% SASKATCHEWAN 15,000 Increasing NA NA NON- SEASON LICENSING RESIDENT RESIDENT STATE OR OUTLOOK OTC = OVER LICENSE LICENSE PROVINCE FOR '06 THE COUNTER FEE TOTAL FEE TOTAL ALASKA Good Draw/OTC $25 $385 ARIZONA Good Draw $113.50 $523.50 ARKANSAS Excellent Draw $25 See Notes CALIFORNIA Excellent NA $318 See Notes COLORADO Good Draw/ $49 $499-either OTC $254-cow IDAHO Good Draw/ $43.50 $514 OTC KENTUCKY Excellent Draw $30 $365 MICHIGAN Excellent Draw $104 NA MONTANA Excellent Draw $30.25 $653.25 to $1,005.25 NEBRASKA Excellent Draw $152 NA NEVADA Excellent Draw $173 $1,523.50 NEW MEXICO Varies Draw $89 $541 to w/unit $766 NORTH DAKOTA Good Draw $37 NA OKLAHOMA Good Draw/ $51 $351 OTC OREGON Good OTC $57 $438 PENNSYLVANIA Excellent Draw $55 $366 SOUTH DAKOTA Fair Draw $155 NA UTAH Good OTC/Draw $65 $388 WASHINGTON Good OTC $39.42 $394.20 WYOMING Excellent NR Draw $57.50 $503.50 $903.50 Canada ALBERTA Good OTC $34 $265 BRITISH Good OTC $57 $430 COLUMBIA MANITOBA Good Draw $48 NA SASKATCHEWAN Good Draw/OTC $53/$33 NA ARCHERY BEST AREAS STATE OR SEASON FOR QUANTITY BEST AREAS PROVINCE DATES OF ELK FOR BIG BULLS ALASKA 9/1-9/30 Afognak Island Etolin, Raspberry Is. ARIZONA 9/22-10/5 All unit have All units have See Notes good numbers good bulls ARKANSAS 9/25-9/29 Elk zones 1-4 Elk zones 1-4 12/4-12/8 CALIFORNIA Aug/Sept Owens Valley NE California, Varies/zone Owens Valley, East Park Reservoir COLORADO 8/26-9/24 White River Limited-entry National Forest units IDAHO 8/30-9/30 McCall, Boise Hells Canyon, River, Weiser, McCall, Lemhi, Pioneer, Salmon, Bennett Beaverhead, Lemhi, Is. Park Lolo, Selway, Zones Diamond Zones KENTUCKY No special Begley or Starfire Begley or Starfire bow season limited-entry areas limited-entry areas MICHIGAN 12/5-12/12 NE Otsego Co., NW NE Otsego Co., NW Montmorency Co. Montmorency Co. MONTANA 9/2-10/15 Western Limited-entry areas, Montana Missouri R. Breaks NEBRASKA NA Ash Creek, Hat Ash Creek, Hat Creek, Bordeaux Creek, Bordeaux NEVADA 8/26-9/15 Elko, White Pine & All but Unit 262 Lincoln Co. unit and 075 groups NEW MEXICO 9/1-9/22 GMU 9, 34, 52 GMU 6B, 15, 16A 16D, 36, 44/45, 55A NORTH DAKOTA 9/1-10/1 Killdeer Mts./ Killdeer Mts./ Pembina Gorge Pembina Gorge OKLAHOMA NA Wichita Mts. Wichita Mts. NWR NWR OREGON 8/26-9/24 NE/Central for Y NE for Y elk elk, NW for NW for Roosevelts Roosevelts PENNSYLVANIA 9/18-9/23 All units All units SOUTH DAKOTA 9/1-9/30 All Black Hills All Black Hills Units Units UTAH 8/24-9/15 Manti, Fish Lake, San Juan area is SE, Wasatch Mt., Units Fillmore and SW in cent. Utah Desert WASHINGTON 9/8-9/21 Yakima and Permit-only Kittitas Counties areas WYOMING Varies NW WY. around Areas 100, 16, and Yellowstone Park 7 (16 & 7 mostly private) Canada ALBERTA Varies by SW Alberta SW Alberta Region BRITISH Varies by Kootenay, Okanagan, Kootenay, Okanagan, COLUMBIA unit Peace Regions Peace Regions MANITOBA 8/29-9/17 Interlake Area, Interlake, Duck Riding Mountains Mountains SASKATCHEWAN NA Hudson Bay, Cypress Hills, Sask. area Duck Mountains R = Roosevelt elk T = Tule elk Y = Yellowstone elk NA = Not Available or Not Applicable LE = Limited Entry For more specific state/provincial information on coming elk seasons, go to page 150