Commission sets elk, bear license quotas

Lansing — It’s legal to use a treestand for elk hunting this year, but the chance of receiving a license through the annual elk lottery drawing has been cut in half, with just 100 tags available this year for state-licensed hunters. Those regulation changes were approved by the state Natural Resources Commission at its April meeting in Lansing

Based on harvest history, by issuing 100 licenses wildlife biologists expect state-licensed hunters to kill about 85 elk.

“We did a flight to estimate the elk population over the winter, and the estimate was quite a bit lower than it was two years ago,” said Brent Rudolph, the DNR deer and elk program supervisor. “Also, there was some indication of a lower calf-to-cow ratio and some concern about the impact the recent (harsh) winter may have and that reproduction may be down. We decided to take a conservative approach and reduce the harvest so we don’t have further decline.”

The winter survey estimated the elk herd at 668 animals, which is within the DNR’s reduced goal of a herd consisting of between 500 and 900 animals, but significantly below the 2011 estimate of more than 800 elk.

The license quota for 2014 will be 100, split evenly between the two hunt periods.

For Hunt Period 1, there will be 50 licenses, including 15 any-elk licensess and 35 antlerless-only licenses. The same allocations will be available for Hunt Period 2. Of those 50 licenses, 20 will be for Unit F (five any-elk and 15 antlerless-only) and 30 for Unit G (10 any-elk and 20 antlerless-only). Up to 40 licenses could be available for Hunt Period 3, if necessary.

“Elk Hunt Period 1 is designed to target elk outside the primary elk range before these elk move for breeding season,” the DNR wrote in a memo to the commission.

The hunt will be 12 days long, consisting of three, four-day hunts. Hunt Period 1 will run Tuesday, Aug. 26, through Friday, Aug. 29; Friday, Sept. 12, through Monday, Sept. 15; and Friday, Sept. 26, through Monday, Sept. 29.

“Hunt Period 2 will focus harvest where it is needed within individual elk-management units F and G in the core elk range and allow additional harvest outside the core area,” the DNR wrote.

Hunt 2 will be Saturday, Dec. 6, through Sunday, Dec. 14.

If 85 elk are not killed between the first two hunt periods, the DNR director has the ability to initiate an additional late hunt, which would run Jan. 14-18 and feature up to 40 licenses. That hunt has not been held since 2009.

The use of elevated platforms to hunt elk is brand new for 2014.

“It’s basically just a change hunters wanted,” Rudolph said. “Most of the staff feels that there won’t be a lot of hunters that will take advantage of it, but it’s an option for them to use now.”

Black bear

The commission also approved a slight reduction in bear-hunting licenses for the 2014 season. There will be a total of 7,831 licenses available this fall, down 75 from last year’s statewide total. Those 75 permits were all trimmed from the Red Oak Bear Management Unit allocation in the northern Lower Peninsula.

“The reduction in the Red Oak Unit is part of a long-term strategy we started in 2012 to gradually step down the harvest there to stabilize the population,” said Adam Bump, DNR bear specialist. “Rather than do it all in one year, we decided to step down the licenses over a few years.”

There will be 698 licenses available for bear hunters in the western U.P. (Bergland, Baraga, and Amasa BMUs), 590 in the eastern U.P. (Carney, Gwinn, and Amasa BMUs), one on Drummond Island, and 272 in the northern Lower Peninsula (Red Oak, Gladwin, and Baldwin BMUs).

In the Upper Peninsula, “The desired trend for both the west and east U.P. eco-regions as set in 2012 is to maintain both populations at 2012 levels,” the DNR wrote in a memo to the commission.

The bear-hunting season will open Sept 10 and run through Oct. 31

The application period for elk- and bear-hunting licenses is May 1 through June 1.

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