Utah Elk Hunt Looks Promising
Cool weather that keeps elk active during the day may be all that's needed to make this fall's general hunt one of Utah's best in years. Utah's 2000 general bull elk hunt runs October 7-19, and spike bull and any bull elk unit permits remain available.

Steve Flinders, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says most of the state's elk herds are at objective as far as population levels, bull-to-cow ratios and the harvest ages of bulls taken by hunters.

Utah's elk population was at about 65,000 animals after last fall's hunting season. That's 2,000 animals shy of a statewide, post-season objective of about 67,000 elk.

Most units also were meeting, or exceeding, a goal of at least 8 bulls per 100 cows left in the herds. Some units have goals much higher than 8 bulls per 100 cows, and these goals are also being met.

The largest herds in the state are found on the Manti unit in central Utah (at about 12,900 elk); the Plateau unit in southwest Utah (at about 7,800 elk); and the Wasatch Mountains unit in north-central Utah (at about 6,000 elk).

"Based on bull-to-cow ratios, elk population levels and elk being pretty well distributed across hunt units, I think we're going to have a pretty good hunt," Flinders said.

Last year, Utah's general bull elk hunters had a statewide success rate of about 16 percent. The weather during the hunt will be a key to success rates this year.

"Elk are more active during the day, when temperatures are cooler and humidity levels are high," Flinders said. "If it's hot and dry, they're often active for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening," Flinders said. "If there's a full moon, they're active less than that."

Most of Utah's general season hunting is done on spike bull units, and plenty of spike bulls await hunters this year. "Production last year was excellent, so the number of spikes available to hunters should be pretty high," Flinders said.

The end of the breeding season can present some challenges to finding them, though, as spike bulls are just starting to rejoin herds they've been kicked out of.

"The mature bulls kick the spikes out of the herds during the rut, so sometimes the smaller spikes are hanging out on the periphery of the herds," Flinders said. "But by the general season, the rut's essentially over so the spikes are just starting to rejoin the groups.

"I'd look for them in the same habitat you're finding other elk, typically around water and at higher elevations, if the warm weather continues," Flinders said.

Flinders encourages spike bull hunters to carry a spotting scope or binoculars with good magnification. These tools allow hunters to know, at a distance, whether they've spotted a spike bull, or a two-point bull.

A spike bull may be taken on a spike bull unit, but two-point or larger bulls may not.

Flinders says the end of the rut also will affect where mature bulls are found by those hunting on the state's any bull units.

"Sometimes those mature bulls are still with groups of cows and calves, other times they've pulled off on their own, or with groups of other mature bulls," Flinders said. "They tend to be reclusive and in the cover. You may have to hit the cover, to come up with some." Even though the rut will be over, hunters may want to try bugling, as mature bulls may still respond.

Another key to finding elk is to remember that they switch to more of a browse diet this time of year. This diet change can bring them out of aspen habitats to areas with mountain brush.

It's not too late to get involved in this year's general bull elk hunt, as both any bull and spike bull permits remain available. Both residents and nonresidents may purchase them. Bull elk permits are available from 253 hunting license agents statewide and from Division offices.

Hunters who have Visa or MasterCard credit cards also may purchase them by visiting the Division's Internet web site at www.nr.state.ut.us/dwr/dwr.htm.

For more information call the nearest Division office, or the Division's Salt Lake City office at (801) 538-4700.

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