Elk hunters in northwestern Minnesota take 10 animals during two seasons

Karlstad, Minn. — Elk hunters this fall filled 10 of the 13 tags available to them during seasons in the northwestern part of the state, according to the DNR.

During the A season, which ran Sept. 9-17, hunters in Zone 20 filled all four of the available licenses (three bulls and a cow), and in Zone 30, they went two-for-two on bulls.

During the B season, which ran Oct. 7-15, hunters in Zone 20 filled two of the four bull licenses available, and in Zone 30, they filled two of the three bull licenses. As has been the case since 2013, there was no elk-hunting season this year in the Grygla area, where elk numbers remain below population goal levels.

This year’s harvest was the highest since 2013, and the fourth highest in the 10 years a hunt has been held in Kittson County.

“The rut was going pretty well during the A season, so that maybe made the bulls a little bit easier to find,” said Ruth Anne Franke, DNR area wildlife manager in Karlstad. “We did hear some reports of bugling during the B season, but not nearly as much. That said, water was important this year because it’s been such a dry year, especially in Zone 30, so we had several of them taken near watering holes, or on their way to watering holes.”

While the weather was warm during the A season, it didn’t seem to affect hunter success. The weather was more seasonal during the B season, but the relative lack of rutting activity likely reduced hunter success, she said.

The DNR every winter (typically in February) conducts aerial surveys to estimate the elk population. The number of animals available for harvest depends on survey results relative to goal levels for the elk population. This year marked the first time since 2013 that an antlerless elk tag was available in Zone 20, which is centered on the city of Lancaster.

More likely would have been offered, but the DNR has an ongoing study that includes about 17 radio-collared elk, and officials didn’t want hunters to kill radio-collared cows.

“We wanted to avoid a hunt that was geared more heavily toward cows until the study is concluded,” Franke said. “Most of those collars will be off the air by the next hunting season. It’s entirely possible that we’ll have more cows harvested in 2018.”

About 1,500 hunters applied for this fall’s once-in-a-lifetime hunt. Hunters must indicate whether they want to hunt in Zone 20, which is primarily private land, or in Zone 30, which has wide swaths of state, federal, and The Nature Conservancy land that’s open to the public.

Landowners in Zone 20 “have been very generous,” Franke said. “I’ve always had really good reports on how much help the local landowners are in allowing access and allowing use of their stands. They really seem to roll out the red carpet, which is very much appreciated.”

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