Michigan’s first elk hunt of 2016 is over, and by most accounts, it was a smashing success. The state is now gearing up for round two.
The first of two 2016 Michigan elk seasons is in the books now. The elk hunt was deemed a success by the state’s Department of Natural Resources.
The 12-day season was staggered in its open dates (Aug. 30-Sept. 2, Sept. 16-19, Sept. 30-Oct. 3), and 100 resident-only hunters participated. This group ended up with an 85% success rate for the 30 any-elk and 70 antlerless-only licenses issued.
This first hunt targeted the numbers of elk and herd gender composition, as well as the locations of the animals by allowing hunting only in areas outside of the primary elk range in the state.
A second season is slated for Dec. 10-18. This second season will be limited to 100 hunters who did not participate in the first season. These hunters will have a wider area to hunt, as the season opens the Pigeon River Country State Forest, the primary elk range that was closed to the first group.
A third elk hunt may be instituted if the DNR’s harvest goals are not met during the first two seasons, but that has not been necessary for several years, as harvest figures have been sufficient to avoid opening the third season.
Michigan wants to keep the population at between 500 and 900 animals. But right now, officials estimate the elk herd to contain around 1,300 animals, necessitating a fairly significant reduction for the sustainable health of the herd and the habitat’s holding capacity. DNR officials have determined that regulated hunting will be the culling method of choice to reduce the herd.
“It’s hard to believe the first hunt period is in the books,” said DNR wildlife biologist Jennifer Kleitch. “Overall, we had good weather to hunt, no notable law issues and good success. The last few days were the wettest, which slowed efforts just a bit.”
“We work very closely with elk hunters to give them the greatest chance at success as possible,” she continued. “The 100 elk hunters are essentially serving as wildlife managers during this hunt, which is managed in such an intense way, we can get the locations of known elk and work with private landowners who want assistance in getting the elk off their land.”
Elk are not exactly discriminating when it comes to where, or on what, they feed. They will feed on agricultural crops just as soon as on wild forage. The state enlists the input and help of farmers to target animals they want removed from their land.
There’s a long waiting list for drawing an elk tag, sometimes decades long, and hunters are required to attend an “elk orientation” course before the hunt.
Emily Schaff of China, Michigan was elated to have drawn a tag. “I never thought I’d be chosen,” she said. “My mom got a cow tag when I was in fifth grade, and I always wanted to do it. I’ve made all my friends and family apply for their elk license now!”
The application period for an elk tag runs annually May 1 through June 1. Over 31,000 hunters apply for a tag each year.
Here’s a short video that explains the process of applying and drawing a tag for the hunt:
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