The Wyoming Game and Fish Department will hold two public meetings to address population objectives for elk in the Black Hills. The meetings will also include information and presentations on proposed 2013 big game hunting seasons, and public input will be taken. The dates and times for these meetings are as follows:
• Sundance – 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 26 in the basement of the Crook County Court House (309 Cleveland Street).
• Newcastle – 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 26 at the USDA building (1225 Washington Blvd.).
In 1993, the population objective for Black Hills elk herd was set at 500. Because many collecting required data is difficult and expensive and elk routinely cross the state line, accurately estimating elk numbers is impossible. Since 1996 the herd has been managed to provide ample hunting opportunities and to minimize damage to standing and stored crops.
Given the many changes in the Black Hills over past two decades, Game and Fish has decided it is time to re-evaluate elk management there. “It seems reasonable to adopt a strategy that reflects the situation on the ground and has goals acceptable to most landowners and hunters,” said Joe Sandrini, Game and Fish wildlife biologist in Newcastle. The department proposes adopting the following management objectives for the Black Hills elk herd:
• Landowner Satisfaction: Sixty percent of landowners supporting elk report being satisfied or very satisfied with elk numbers on their property (based upon discussions with landowners and mail surveys).
• Hunter Satisfaction: Sixty percent of hunters report being satisfied or very satisfied with their hunting experience (based upon self-reported hunter satisfaction or an alternative measure of an average hunter success rate of 45 percent, plus or minus 10 percent).
• Bull Quality: Average annual bull elk harvest consisting of: 20 percent, two years old or younger; 60 percent, three to five years old; and 20 percent, six years old or older (each plus or minus 5 percent). Aging teeth from harvested bulls will determine age.
Elk Hunt Area 116 was recently expanded to include the majority of Crook County (formerly within Hunt Area 129). Elk Hunt Area 116 will be open to hunting with general and reduced-price cow/calf licenses. The department is considering the following season dates:
Elk Area 116:
• General license: Oct. 15 – Nov. 10 – any elk
• General license: Nov. 11-30 – antlerless elk
• Area 116 type 6: Oct. 15 – Jan. 31 – 250 licenses, cow or calf elk
• Area 116 type 8: Aug. 15 – Oct. 14 – 50 licenses, cow or calf valid off National Forest
With the shift to general-license hunting in Hunt Area 116, a landowner license application may only be used for reduced-price cow/calf tags.