MISSOULA, Mont.- Hunters will chase wild elk this fall in almost half the states and provinces in North America. A comprehensive hunt forecast from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is now available for free at www.rmef.org.
“Forecasts are prepared annually for our members, but this year we’re making it available to the public. Elk and elk hunting opportunities are plentiful. In fact, nationally, elk populations are over 30 percent higher than 25 years ago, so it’s a great time to get out and experience elk country—and rediscover the ties between good conservation and good hunting,” said David Allen, president and CEO of the Elk Foundation.
This summer, the Elk Foundation passed the 5.4 million acre mark for elk habitat conserved or enhanced.
Here’s a condensed look at forecasts from the Top 10 states for total elk populations. To see all the state and province hunt reports in their entirety, visit www.rmef.org.
• Estimated Elk Population: 292,000
• Bull/cow ratio: 26/100
• With almost twice as many elk as any other state, and nearly a third of all wild elk in North America, Colorado is Elk Central. The Colorado Division of Wildlife estimates hunters will kill upwards of 50,000 elk this fall, with most units open to over-the-counter tags for the second and third seasons. Those holding tags in limited-license “trophy units” should find monster bulls. In the rest of the state, younger bulls will be prevalent, although a few savvy bulls grow old even in the hardest-hunted units. As for antlerless elk, Colorado is the land of plenty.
• Estimated Elk Population: 150,000
• Bull/cow ratio: varies by unit
• Big Sky Country is overflowing with elk in a number of regions, which was apparent last year when the state extended the general five-week elk season by two weeks in a number of areas. This year, managers are trying to increase the kill by significantly increasing antlerless elk licenses, known as the A9/B12 tags, around the state. Some parts of Region 2 will offer new unlimited archery-only A9/B12 licenses. Also new this year, hunters no longer need a general elk license to purchase an A9/B12 license.
• Estimated elk population: 120,000
• Bull/cow ratios: varies by unit
• With Roosevelt’s to the west and Rocky Mountain elk to the east, Oregon boasts healthy populations of both species. Tag numbers will be much the same as last year, with minor changes to some antlerless hunts. The general archery tag went from either-sex to bull-only last year, but either-sex permits will likely become available later in about two-thirds of the units. In the northeastern corner, low calf recruitment, attributed to cougars, is a concern. If you’re willing to hunt the tangled rainforests of the west, tags are over-the-counter in most units.
• Estimated elk population: 115,000
• Bull/cow ratio: varies by zone
• Idaho issues about 6,000 nonresident permits on a first-come, first-served basis across its 29 elk hunting zones. Hunting opportunity abounds, but tags for some units were already sold out by mid-May. Also, elk permits have been reduced in the Pioneer, Salmon, Selway, Sawtooth and Island Park zones due to harvest and predation concerns. Idaho Department of Fish and Game offers two pieces of advice: 1. Stay mobile—if you find wolves or fresh sign in a drainage, move on; and 2. Check both state and federal restrictions on vehicle travel before packing up for elk camp.
• Estimated Elk Population: 95,000
• Bull/cow ratio: 15-29/100 for “recreational herds,” 30-40/100 “special hunts”
• To put it plainly, Wyoming feels it has too many elk—about 12,000 too many. Part of the problem begins with the first shot on public lands that drives the herd over the next ridge onto private land, where they can wait out the season in relative safety. A substantial was seen this year in the Atlantic Rim area, where at least 80 animals out of a herd of 500 died from eating poisonous lichen. The only major hunting region that will see some adjustments is in the Gros’ Ventre, units 81, 82, and 83, which are experiencing low bull/cow ratios. The area will have a spikes-excluded season.
• Estimated Elk Population: 70,000-90,000
• Bull/cow ratio: 40/100
• Big antlers need forage, and forage needs moisture. In the north-central hunting units of the San Juan and Sangre de Cristo mountains this year, snowpack has been better than in years past. And with quite a few nontypical Boone and Crockett bulls coming out of New Mexico, this year could be another for the record books. While the north is doing well, southern portions of the state are hurting a bit with continued drought conditions. In the southwest, bull/cow ratios are in the range of 50/100.
• Estimated Elk Population: 60,000
• Bull/cow ratio: 30/100
• Big. Bulls. You’ll find them here as Utah wildlife managers enlist more than half of the state’s elk range in a limited-entry hunting system. The result? Hunters last year killed the pending No. 2 bull elk in the world for Pope & Young and a new state-record rifle nontypical that grossed 434 Boone and Crocket points. Hunters should expect nothing less from this season. Limited-entry elk permits have increased from 2,090 in 2007 to 2,447 for 2008.
• Estimated Elk Population: 58,000-60,000
• Bull/cow ratios: 12-20/100
• Washington assesses its management objectives at the herd level and recognizes 10 specific herds throughout the state. The elk population breaks down to about 50/50 between Roosevelt’s elk west of the Cascades and Rocky Mountain elk to the east. Bull permits for both the west-side general season and east-side controlled hunts should be very similar to last year, with the exception of the Blue Mountains, which have gone up due to improved bull/cow ratios.
• Estimated Elk Population: 15,000-20,000
• Bull/cow ratio: 15-25/100
• For those lucky enough to hold a bull tag, Arizona should continue to uphold its status as a land of giants. Populations and ratios of mature bulls remain strong across all traditional big bull units. Those with cow tags have a great chance to enjoy success as well. For all the tagless unfortunates, there’s something new. Arizona is offering over-the-counter-tags in several units around the state, with a cap on nonresident participation. Also new this year is a November opportunity for bowhunters.
• Estimated Elk Population: 11,400
• Bull/cow ratio: 25/100
• Only one state is home to all three remaining subspecies of elk. Tule elk, native only to California, number 3,800. More than 6,000 Roosevelt’s thrive in the coastal forests of northwest California. And in the northeast corner of the state, a booming population of 1,600 Rocky Mountain elk features some of the largest wild bulls on the planet. The La Panza and the Grizzly Island tule populations have almost 80 bulls per 100 cows, and crazy nontypical racks abound.
Access the Elk Foundation’s hunt forecast directly by copying and pasting this URL into your browser: http://www.rmef.org/Hunting/Features/Articles/Forecast.htm.
About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Snowy peaks, dark timber basins and grassy meadows. RMEF is leading an elk country initiative that has already conserved or enhanced habitat on over 5.4 million acres—a land area equivalent to a swath three miles wide and stretching along the entire Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico. Most work occurs on public lands. More than 561,000 acres have been opened or secured for public access including hunting, fishing and other recreation. Get involved at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.