Elk herds at good levels for new hunting season

Staff reportOctober 27, 2013 

The modern firearm elk hunting season opened Saturday with prospects for another good season. Elk hunters entered this season with last year proving to be the best in 16 years.

The statewide elk harvest has consistently been between 7,000-8,800 animals, said Dave Ware, game manager for the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“But last year, hunters took 9,162 elk, both bulls and cows. It was definitely our best season since at least 1997,” Ware said in a news release.

The past few years have been good for calf recruitment and adult survival, helping the state’s major herds reach or exceed population management objectives. Because of that, Ware predicts good opportunities this season.

Here is a look at some of the major herds:

Blue Mountains: Surveys indicate a 40 percent survival on spike elk, which is excellent, said Ware. “A more typical number we expect to see is 20 percent post-hunt survival. It looks like we should have very good numbers of spike bulls available again this year,” Ware said in the release.

Colockum: This herd also is above its management objective and increasing. That should mean increased antlerless tag opportunities in the future.

Mount St. Helens: This continues to be the state’s largest herd, despite hoof disease affecting an undetermined part of the population. If hunters follow basic techniques for caring for game, animals infected with hoof disease appear to pose no threat to human health based on all of those examined so far, Ware said in the release.

Elk numbers remain very high, and wildlife managers expect good hunter success. With some private timber lands going into fee access, hunters might have to find alternative locations.

Olympic: This herd is stable and at objective levels. Older age-class bulls are typically found in higher elevation roadless areas or two or more miles behind closed gates where they feel safe, Ware said.

Willapa Hills: This herd is at objective and should offer good opportunities for three-point or better Roosevelt elk bulls. Ware said those hunters willing to walk behind closed gates – where legal – stand the best chances of encountering and harvesting elk.

Yakima: Because productivity began declining years ago, the state reduced the number of antlerless tags it offered. Productivity has since increased, and, based on last year’s calf survival, hunters can expect to see good numbers of spike antlered bulls in 2013.

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