Two elk killed in late hunt

Karlstad, Minn. — Elk hunters had a tough go of it during December, not shooting any animals in either the Kittson County or Grygla areas.

That lack of success led to a special January season that ran for more than a week and ended Jan. 20. Hunters were slightly more successful, but not by much.

In the Kittson County area, 11 hunters killed a total of two elk – both adult cows. None of the three hunters in the Grygla area took an animal.

The special hunt was designed to bring population levels in both places more in line with the goals identified in the state’s elk management plan. Before the special season, hunters had killed six elk, which is below the quota of 23 set for last fall.

But despite the lack of success, it’s unlikely another special season is in the works.

“I don’t think we really have a good sense of why the success was so low,” said Leslie McInenly, big game program coordinator for the DNR. “Without having a sense of that, I wouldn’t” be quick to suggest an extension.

Additionally, officials say they want to see the results of an aerial elk survey, which they hope will occur this week or next. In addition to helping the DNR get a sense of elk numbers in the Grygla and Kittson County areas, the aerial surveys will show them where the animals are at, said Joel Huener, assistant manager at the Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area.

He’s unsure why hunter success has dropped (the only elk killed during the hunting season last year in the Grygla area was in September). It could be poor hunting conditions during the hunt, or be related to the preparation that hunters put in.

But one thing is clear: “They’ve been, for the most part, staying out of trouble,” Huener said. “We haven’t had any depredation claims in a while.”

Said McInenly: “The management seems to be working in terms of addressing some of the concerns we had in the (elk management) plan.”

Christine Reisz, the DNR area wildlife manager in Karlstad, also isn’t certain why hunter success has been low. In Kittson County, hunters killed five elk during the September season. Hunters didn’t kill any during the two seasons in December.

Any hunters who had a license for elk last September or December, but were not successful, were eligible to participate in the January season. There was one nine-day season in the Grygla area, and two four-day hunts in Kittson County.

The hunters who shot elk during January in Kittson County both seemed to be targeting the same group of animals on a food plot west of the Skull Lake WMA.

Since the elk seasons began in Kittson County, the animals have changed their behavior, Reisz said. Hunters used to be able to drive around and see elk in fields, and then go back and target them. Now when the animals see cars, they often take off running.

In addition, the animals seem to have found some spots where they are safe from hunters.

“They have found a couple of places where the private landowners want elk and they are not allowing access to their property,” Reisz said.

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