CHEYENNE - Hunters often talk about the good ol’ days when it comes to their favorite fall ritual, but for elk hunters the good ol’ days are now as revealed by recently completed Game and Fish harvest surveys.
For the second year in a row, Wyoming elk hunters had a banner year with the elk harvest for 2013 topping more than 25,000 animals. Estimated harvest was 25,968 elk for the year, surpassed only by the record 26,365 elk taken in 2012. By comparison, in 1995, elk harvest was 17,695 elk, more than 8,000 fewer than the Wyoming harvest of the past few years.
According to the Game and Fish harvest surveys, elk hunting in Wyoming is as good now and over the past five years as it has ever been. During that time period hunter success was consistently greater than 40 percent. Elk hunters experienced 45 percent success in 2013 and enjoyed more than 461,000 recreation days afield.
The increased harvest is a result of good habitat conditions resulting in increased population along with favorable hunting conditions. In addition the Wyoming Legislature and the Game and Fish Commission have given the Game and Fish tools to help with management and increasing hunter opportunity. An example is the change in statutes two years ago allowing the Commission to authorize the take of up to three elk per hunter in select areas. Additionally, the Commission has supported and provided funding for hunter access in key areas where the Department is addressing elk population above established management objectives.
“Increased elk harvest and hunter opportunity is a testament to how we can be effective in accomplishing both objectives when sportsmen, landowners, sporting organizations and the Game and Fish work together,” said chief game warden Brian Nesvik.
Nesvik said the Game and Fish is grateful to landowners who provide habitat for elk. “Most elk herds in Wyoming rely on private lands to provide habitat for at least part of the year,” Nesvik said.
“Landowners providing hunting access are absolutely key to harvest success and managing elk herds. The Department and sportsmen appreciate landowners providing habitat for elk, “ Nesvik said.
Citing the contribution of sportsmen organizations, Nesvik said that the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) has raised more money for elk in Wyoming than in any other state for the past three years indicating people in Wyoming value their elk herds. In addition to providing hundreds of thousands of dollars for habitat work, the RMEF recently provided $45,000 for hunter access.
Wildlife managers continue to monitor the decrease in elk productivity and subsequent hunter opportunity in some areas of northwest Wyoming near Yellowstone National Park. Nesvik notes that while hunter success is high on a statewide basis, there continues to be elk herd units in the Jackson and Cody Regions where hunters are concerned about lower elk numbers and lower hunter success. The Department has documented lower calf productivity in many of these areas.
Hunters are encouraged to attend any of the many upcoming public meetings where proposals for 2014 seasons for elk and other big game species will be presented to the public. Meeting dates and locations can be found on the Game and Fish website wgfd.wyo.gov.
(Contact: Al Langston (307) 777-4540)