Following more than 22 years of elk management and reintroduction efforts, 2018 marked Wisconsin’s first managed elk hunt in state history.
Not only are a few lucky hunters enjoying this unique experience, but they are finding success, too.
“As expected, hunter success has been high, and they are getting some big, mature bulls,” said Kevin Wallenfang, deer and elk ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “It was unfortunate that the hunt started off the way it did with an illegal harvest, but since then the other hunters have shared the story of some great hunts in a wilderness setting and the local hunters and others in the community have been overwhelmingly excited and helpful to them!”
The area of the hunt is within the Clam Lake elk range of Sawyer, Bayfield, Ashland and Price counties, where 25 elk from Michigan were released in 1995. The hunt was initiated this year when the population surpassed 200 animals that included a high proportion of adult bulls.
A harvest quota of 10 bulls was approved for this historic hunt, five of which were filled by mid-October by the Chippewa tribes. Since then, three of the four bulls harvested by state hunters occurred between Nov. 8 and Nov. 11.
“I’ve been in contact almost weekly with each of the hunters, and they were seeing elk and getting their opportunities,” Wallenfang said. “It sounds like they’ve really been enjoying the experience, and frankly, I don’t think they ever wanted it to end. But they each finally found a bull that they liked in the past few days.”
Wallenfang indicated that each of the three bulls harvested in recent days had impressive antlers of 5×5 or larger, and all are known to range from 6-10 years old.
One state tag remains unfilled, but the hunter will have an additional opportunity to hunt again in December.
More than 38,400 Wisconsin residents submitted a $10 application to win one of four state tags, while approximately 5,000 more purchased a raffle ticket to win the final tag. All revenue from the application and raffle sales are earmarked specifically for elk habitat management, research and monitoring in Wisconsin. The 2019 elk hunt application period will occur throughout the month of May.
For more information regarding elk in Wisconsin, go to dnr.wi.gov and search keyword “elk.” To receive email updates regarding current translocation efforts, visit dnr.wi.gov and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page titled “subscribe for updates for DNR topics,” then follow the prompts and select the “elk in Wisconsin” and “wildlife projects” distribution lists.