Monday, January 30th, 2023
Monday, January 30th, 2023

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Success rate at about 50 percent for early elk hunt

By Bill

Gaylord, Mich. — Michigan hunters participating in the early
elk season found the hunting to be a little tougher than normal. Of
the 60 hunters who received a kill tag for the Aug. 27-31 and Sept.
9-12 season, 30 were successful in killing an elk. That compares to
some years past when upwards of 90 to 95 percent of hunters were

“That was less than the number of animals (40) we had hoped to
take from the herd,” said DNR biologist Brian Mastenbrook. “It was
pretty tough hunting. There was full foliage, and the warm weather
made the animals not move around too much during the day.”

The early hunt was used as a management tool to target elk that
had moved to the outer fringes of the traditional elk range around
Pigeon River Country State Forest. Agricultural problems raised
concerns that the herd was expanding its range. The early hunt was
an effort to trim the herd in the outlying areas of the range.

“Most of the harvest, 18 of the 30, came from the west side of
the range,” Mastenbrook said. “We would have preferred a few more
taken on the east side, but that’s the way it worked out.”

The DNR issued 67 permits for the hunt, and 60 people attended
the mandatory orientation session and received kill tags. Of the 30
elk that were killed, 11 were bulls, 15 were cows, and four were

“They did get some really nice ones, including one guy who took
a beautiful 6-by-7 or 7-by-7,” Mastenbrook said.

Weights were not available this year because the DNR eliminated
the weighing option due to budget cuts.

“To weigh them, you need at least three people at the weigh
station, but without weighing them we can get by with just one
person,” Mastenbrook said. “We weighed them in the past, but that
was really more of a service to the hunters. It’s not part of the
data we really need. It doesn’t help us much as far as management

Mastenbrook said the department hopes to resume weighing elk in
the future.

Biologists offered hunters a new service this year in the form
of a mobile check station. In past hunts, all elk were checked in
at the DNR’s Atlanta Field Office. While the field office was again
open for registration this year, biologists also were available to
check elk as soon as successful hunters came out of the woods.

Mastenbrook, while making the field checks, was able to get the
same data biologists take from elk brought to the field office.

“I field-aged them, measured the antlers if it was a bull, and
took a tooth for lab analysis,” he said. “I’d also interview the
hunters as to where they hunted and what they saw.”

All successful hunters are required to turn in the heads of
their elk for disease testing. They were instructed to keep the
head frozen until dropped off at a DNR field office to preserve the
tissues for testing.

Hunters selected for the early hunt were allowed to hunt anytime
during the August or September hunting periods.

Mastenbrook said the hunt was relatively problem free, although
one hunter did shoot two elk.

“We warn hunters about that during the orientation,” Mastenbrook
said. “It was the last day of the hunt and he apparently shot one,
but didn’t think he hit it so he shot another one. As soon as he
realized what had happened he turned himself in. He called the RAP
line and told them he made a mistake.”

Another 88 hunters will be eligible to participate in the 2005
regular elk hunt, Dec 7-14. For that hunt, 33 any-elk (bull) tags
have been issued along with 55 antlerless-only tags.

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