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Location: Idaho
Joined: 06/01/2004
Posts: 1068
Depredation Hunts

Got selected for a depredation elk hunt this winter/spring. Just ended. It was an antlerless hunt and was motivated by elk damaging crops/cropland. To my fascination this was quite a difficult hunt. I had illusions of elk crowded into a field and only being scared off a ways by numerous fellow elk falling at their sides. I should have remembered - elk are elk. First - after the first couple of their fellows were felled in different fields - they vanished, and were back to their normal tactics of moving and feeding primarily at dark. Second, the hunt was limited to essentially a couple sections. In minutes the elk could, and did, move well off the hunt unit. But we stuck with it. We did a lot of exploring until we figured them out and they started lingering back into the area we could hunt. What a fantastic way to get into the outdoors during a time of year I am normally only at a desk. Saw new country -met new landowners, etc. The nice thing is that you are working with landowners that make a living off their crops - and would just assume all the big game be shot. Oh, third, that's one of the other things that makes it tough - the landowners are in their slow time of year - so they wait in their pickup trucks before light with rifles ready - for the elk to show. IFG gives them some landowner tags but requires they also let regular sportsmen/license holders get some tags.

About 3 weeks into the hunt we got them figured out and I got a nice `antlerless'.

A couple people have been sceptical of the meat. Some of the same people are sceptical about the deer recovery in the area (and we saw an average of a hundred deer an evening). Interestingly, the young cow I got didn't have one gram of fat left on her (mid-March) - but nonetheless a beautiful animal. The meat is beyond fabulous. The elk around here have it pretty good ... in the winter spring they have winter wheat and blue-grass in the fields, and whatever they can find the the woods. As the year progresses - garbanzo beans, lentils, peas ... quite a menu. Also, winters have been mild.

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Location: Pennsylvania
Joined: 10/28/2003
Posts: 1647
Depredation Hunts

Great way to kick off the new year Thumbs up

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Location: Idaho
Joined: 06/01/2004
Posts: 1068
Depredation Hunts

Thanks hunter777 ... yes, very nice way to start out the year.

Alamosa's picture
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Location: Southern Colorado
Joined: 03/25/2005
Posts: 245
Depredation Hunts

I have participated in several damage control hunts in Colorado. I was always accompanied by a USFWS officer or a professional hunter they had hired. I learned a lot from them. It was definitly NOT like shooting fish in a barrel. I noticed that elk use defensive manuvers much like antelope when they are hunted in open exposed terrain. Damage control hunts are a real nice way to get a lot of excellent quality meat processed quickly - as compared to carrying it down off a high mountain in the middle of nowhere.
Congratulations on your hunt.

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Location: Idaho
Joined: 06/01/2004
Posts: 1068
Depredation Hunts

On this hunt the IFG guy in charge required that we contact the landowners, and then left us be. I believe on this hunt there were approx 20 tags issued: 10 to landowners and relatives/friends, and 10 to sportsmen. Two elk were killed right off the bat, on essentially opposite sides of the hunt area. Then they disappeared. I think most of the tag holders hunted some and became discouraged. Though many days we saw no elk, almost every time out we'd easily see a hundred or so deer ... and I tried to talk the IFG officer into a dep deer tag, but he wouldn't budge.

Interestingly, I chatted with the IFG officer yesterday, and it appears that the elk I took was the only other taken after the first two, in the EIGHTY day season. Three of twenty in eighty days. Interesting. And what is almost amazing - is that they issued a dozen or so deer tags, and only 2 or 3 deer were taken.

I wrote up a blurb of the hunt on my website:

http://www.woodengineering.com/adventures/bachelor-canyon.htm

Enjoy!

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Location: Idaho
Joined: 06/01/2004
Posts: 1068
Depredation Hunts
Alamosa wrote:
I learned a lot from them ... I noticed that elk use defensive manuvers much like antelope when they are hunted in open exposed terrain

Alamosa ... I have never hunted antelope, so please explain. I sense a potential addiction coming on - elk hunting.

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Location: CA Central Coast
Joined: 12/01/2005
Posts: 151
Depredation Hunts

Nice story, SH. I hope to someday have an experience as exciting and satisfying as that must have been for you. I especially like the notion of taking the meat off of the animal without disturbing the viscera. I'll have to see if anyone I'm going out with knows that technique.

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Location: Idaho
Joined: 06/01/2004
Posts: 1068
Depredation Hunts

Thanks MZ for your comments.

Alamosa's picture
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Location: Southern Colorado
Joined: 03/25/2005
Posts: 245
Depredation Hunts

I'll try to answer Serious Hunter's question. I'm not sure I can put it in words.

In typical elk hunting (if there is such thing as typical elk hunting), an elk's sense of smell is a primary defense mechanism, as well as keen hearing. In addition, they seems to always be aware of planned escape routes and are experts at using terrain to escape by climbing high or low quickly and using cover well and may even backtrack. They don't seem to like humans to see them.

My experience with antelope has been that they use sight as their primary defense, they are experts at gauging safe distances, and are so good at it that they are often times not intimidated by a lone rifleman. They don't seem to care that you can see them as long as they can judge the distance. If a second hunter appears then they usually seem to bug out.

This situation puts elk out on the flats using their eyes as their primary defense, and without some of the terrain they prefer. They move away from danger as any animal would but there was something I can't quite describe that makes it so similar to an antelope hunt. I'm sure it's an uncomfortable predicament for the quarry but I know they can adapt well.

Sorry this isn't a better explanation. Maybe someone else here can describe it better than me.

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Location: Idaho
Joined: 06/01/2004
Posts: 1068
Depredation Hunts

Okay Alamosa ... Ah, yes .... I have not done a LOT of elk hunting, but most of my elk hunting has been in open terrain (both archery and rifle). (There are reasons I prefer open terrain, that I won't get into here.) The thing I HAVE noticed (whether or not this is what was on your mind) is that they use even the mildest terrain features to become INVISIBLE. Where we hunt they have pretty dense cover available to them - but their munchies are in the open. They discover ways to 1) GET to and 2) STAY in and 3) Depart from the open and essentially stay invisible all the while - especially from the roads. When they do have to expose themselves - they do so quickly. And this seems to be independent of people being around - in other words - it seems hard-wired into them. It FASCINATES me how such a large animal can be so invisible - even in open terrain.

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