Kicking off much later than typical elk hunting seasons across the United States, Michigan’s late elk season- held in December- proved to be quite fruitful for the state’s elk hunters.
In total, 100 licenses were made available for the late season hunt and comprised of 30 any-elk and 70 antlerless-only licenses. For hunters looking to bag an elk in The Great Lake State, apparently, this was the year to do it as the late season boasted an impressive 92 percent success rate.
“Fortunately, because of the nature of our elk season, we are really able to work closely with hunters,” said Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Shelby Hiestand. “The December hunt had a 92-percent success rate for our state hunters, which is great.”
Of the 92 animals that were harvested across the nine-day hunt, 54 were cows, 29 were bulls and the remaining nine elk were calves. According to hunters, the weather was quite favorable for chasing elk as a blanket of snow fell just ahead of the season, giving hunters the opportunity to better track and spot elk while in the woods.
Today’s elk herd found in the state of Michigan was reintroduced in 1918 when seven western specimens were released into the wild near Wolverine. Since then, populations expanded as expected and a limited hunt was introduced in 1964. Following this, the state’s elk were subject to rampant poaching and were eventually whittled down to only 200 animals by the winter of 1975.
Proper management and increased enforcement on poachers have helped the population rebound where today there is believed to be between 700-900 elk in the state.
“Regulated hunting is the most effective tool in managing wildlife numbers,” said Hiestand. “We are able to efficiently and quickly get results in a very hands-on and specific approach.”
Aerial elk flights are scheduled for this week, assuming the weather cooperates, as Department of Natural Resource staff attempt to get a more accurate and current population estimate.
“Michigan’s current elk population is a historical feat in wildlife management,” said Hiestand. “The elk hunt is just one more way many people’s lives are touched by elk, which is pretty special.”