PC: Mike Eastman
Great news from Wyoming! With elk populations on the verge of a veracious explosion, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has recently decided to be more aggressive with hunter management in an effort to quell the inevitable herd increase. The core of this effort revolves around the strategy of adding nearly 2,000 additional elk tags to the pot for the 2021 elk draw. This is very good news for elk hunt applicants, both resident and nonresident alike, in the Cowboy State. An increase of 2,000 elk tags on the statewide quota would mean nearly 320 additional nonresident elk hunters will be heading afield this fall season in pursuit of elk.
This move could help to stifle the point creep seen over the past half a decade inside the Wyoming tag draw system by increasing the nonresident elk hunting opportunity by nearly 17% if all of the additional tags were limited quota bull elk tags. That said, at this point we are not sure how many of these additional tags are bull/any elk tags versus cow/calf tags.
As a buried lead to this story, this move is proof to the reasoning behind Wyoming’s recent move to permanently delay many of the draw deadline dates in order to gather more accurate data regarding herd conditions and populations before setting seasons and quotas for the upcoming hunting season each year.
The fact that Wyoming has an estimated elk herd count somewhere in the neighborhood of about 102,000 elk grazing the landscape at this very moment is good news for elk hunters in general. To give some quick perspective, when I started at my post here as Editor-In-Chief, Wyoming was home to just over 65,000 elk.
Nearly 35% of Wyoming’s elk herd units are above the stated population objective while only 17% are below objective levels, most of which are around the Jackson Hole and Yellowstone regions. Add to that the fact that most of Wyoming’s “major” elk herds are nearly 30% over objective targets gives us a sense of just how many elk the state is actually carrying right now, many of which are pregnant and preparing to give birth to yet another generation of elk in the next month or so.
According to the Game and Fish data the areas with the largest overabundance of elk at the moment are Areas: 6, 7, 19, 16 and 100. Most of these areas are located in the southeastern portion of the state. Add to that the fact that over 176,000 acres of prime elk habitat in the Medicine Bow National Forest burned last year and all the signs are pointing to a continued, massive explosion of elk in the Albany and Carbon County portions of the state.