Washington elk hunters, grab your rifles.
A recent report from the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife claims that Washington’s elk harvest in 2012 was the best and most profitable it has been in years, and hunters may be in for another whirlwind of a season in 2013.
Dave Ware, the game manager and hunting source for Washington’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, says that hunters would have to look back to 1997 to find a better elk hunting season than 2012. In the intervening years, elk harvests had never dipped below a respectable territory of 7,000 or 8,000 elk a year. 2012’s figures kicked that number up a notch, with hunters landing more than 9,000 elk during the course of the hunting season. Ware has no reason to think that the conditions that facilitated such a strong harvest in 2012 won’t continue this year.
Part of the reason for Washington’s burgeoning elk hunting scene is the effort that has been made by the Department of Fish and Wildlife in maintaining a number of population management objectives.
The department indicates that calf elk are growing successfully to maturity more than they have in the past, and that adults – when not being taken out of the wild by hunters – are successfully surviving as well. With hunting season representing the only major subtraction from elk populations, it is easy to see why the state’s elk populations are having little trouble with growing and thriving.
Despite the high hunting numbers, plenty of elk are elusive enough to slip away from hunters, thanks largely to variations in terrain that give resident elk the high ground – sometimes literally – against their human predators.
One potential game changer for this year’s hunting season is the devastation of certain wildlife habitats that took place earlier this year as a result of the wildfires that plagued parts of Washington.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife indicates that actual elk populations were not abundantly impacted by the fires, but that certain habitats were destroyed. That destruction has displaced entire herds of elk, leaving other nearby areas inundated with new elk residents. Such overpopulation concerns could play into the favor of hunters looking for increased bag limits or licensing opportunities.
Another game changer could be hoof disease, which the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife believe to be plaguing elk in certain regions of the state. Elk infected with hoof disease often appear lame or in pain while walking, a limp evident in their stride. This disease may actually make the hunting of such elk more ethical, as they are clearly in pain and are in increased danger of falling prey to other predators.
The Department of Fish and Wildlife also indicates that elk infected with hoof disease should pose no real threat to humans as long as the meat is properly processed or taxidermy efficiently performed.
Meanwhile, the state is trying to determine precisely what is causing hoof disease and why it is spreading so effectively among certain herds, but has little information on the disease as of yet.
Nonetheless, Washington is set to experience yet another successful elk hunting season, and we hope at least some of our readers will get a chance to take one should it end up in their sights.
Featured image via Wiki Commons (MONGO)