Hunter input wanted on elk hunt scenarios

Correspondent

Madison Hunters will get a little better idea of what a future
elk hunting season will look like at this spring’s fish and
wildlife public hearings on April 14.

The DNR will place four questions about a potential elk hunting
season on the spring hearing list.

The DNR’s management plan for the Clam Lake elk herd designates
hunting as the primary method of managing herd size. Last January,
the Legislature passed Act 109, which authorized an elk season in
Wisconsin and directed the DNR to develop rules for the season.

State statutes require resident hunters who are drawn for a
Wisconsin elk permit to pay $42 for a license. Nonresidents will
pay $202. The application fee for all hunters will be $3.

According to Kurt Thiede, DNR regulations specialist in the
Bureau of Wildlife Management, the law specifies that the license
is a once-in-a-lifetime privilege.

“We expect, based on the experiences of Michigan, Pennsylvania
and Arkansas, that during their first elk seasons there will be
about 19,000 applicants the first year that we have an elk hunt,”
Thiede said. “The first elk season will take place after we reach a
threshold of 200 elk, and we would look at 10 permits being
available.”

Of those 10 permits, one-half are reserved for native Americans,
as designated by court-affirmed treaty rights agreements. Of the
remaining five permits, four will be available through the general
application process and one will be available through the Rocky
Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF). RMEF will hold a drawing, probably
during its statewide Elk Camp, with money raised in the drawing
earmarked for elk management and research, or reintroduction of elk
elsewhere in the state.

The 2002 spring hearings established some general guidelines for
an elk season, which received overwhelming public support.
Sportsmen going to this year’s hearing will be asked to help
establish specific dates and regulations.

The first of the four statewide questions defines the elk
management zones. The interior, or core area, is called Zone A
(bounded mostly by forest roads), and an outer, or buffer area, is
called Zone B (stretching from Hwy. 63 on the west to Hwy. 13 on
the east).

The remainder of the state is designated as Zone X, which is not
managed for elk.

The second question defines elk population goals. The DNR
estimates there are 106 to 114 elk in the Clam Lake area. A
bulls-only season could legally be considered when the herd reaches
150 elk, but the DNR is proposing a more conservative hunt
threshold of 200 elk. DNR officials believe a higher population
threshold would have less chance of disrupting the herd’s growth.
The herd could reach that threshold by 2006 or 2007.

The year after the Clam Lake herd reaches 200 elk, a limited
December season would allowed for bulls. When the herd reaches the
goal of 600 elk in the core range, additional bull and cow seasons
would be opened.

The DNR proposes to manage for 600 elk in Zone A (or about 2 elk
per square mile) and 800 elk in Zone B (about 1 elk per square
mile). The remainder of the state, or Zone X, would have no wild
elk. Elk that wander into Zone X would be removed through hunting
seasons.

Question three proposes similar hunting standards, such as
tagging, transportation, hunting hours, etc., for elk that are now
used for white-tailed deer. However, the use of bait, dogs or
muzzleloaders less than .45 caliber would not be allowed for
elk.

Successful hunters will have to provide the DNR with the kill
location so that tissue samples could be collected for disease
surveillance.

The last elk question sets forth the season framework. Each
season will be for bulls only, until the population reaches the
goals for Zones A and B, when some antlerless elk tags will be made
available.

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