Elk in Idaho’s Panhandle units tend to be doing better than most other regions of the state during the wolf reintroduction era, despite a tough winter in 2008-2009.
The numbers of cow elk, for example, are higher than the numbers game managers peg as optimum and the ratio of calf elk improved this year in most areas, said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game regional wildlife manager.
Seasons were curtailed starting last year to help boost the herds.
One of the most noticeable improvements last year was the Unit 1 percentage increase in harvest of bull elk with six points or larger. While 13 percent of the unit’s hunters filled their tags, 31 percent bagged the trophy bulls, up from 18 percent in 2008.
Units 3 and 4 in the Coeur d’Alene Mountains produced a very solid harvest last season, a trend that should continue this season, he said.
Units 6-7 in the St. Joe region, while producing good hunting for many sportsmen, was below its harvest average last year, he said.
The statewide overview is a mixed bag:
• Hunters killed 15,800 elk in Idaho last year, the lowest harvest since 1986.
• Yet 14 of the state’s 29 elk zones are above Fish and Game’s bull population objectives.
• Six zones are meeting bull objectives and nine are below objectives.
• For cow elk, 10 zones are over objectives, 13 zones are meeting objectives and six zones are below objectives.
With the exception of the Panhandle, which has a high percentage of public land, zones that are meeting or exceeding objectives often have limited hunting because of controlled hunts, land access or other factors that reduce opportunity.
But overall, the perception is that elk are in trouble because the state’s traditionally famous elk zones in the Clearwater area, central Idaho and portions of eastern Idaho are not meeting bull objectives.