Michigan 2016 elk hunting season recap

Michigan’s latest elk hunting season – considered the late or December hunt – is complete, and preliminary hunting results are in. A total of 100 state licenses were available, 30 any-elk and 70 antlerless-only licenses.

“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.”

During the nine-day hunt period, running Dec. 10-18, 54 cows, 29 bulls and nine calves were harvested. Weather was favorable, with some snowfall just before the season making it easier to track and see animals within the elk hunt unit. The December season allows hunters to take an elk within any elk management hunting unit, maximizing the 10-county hunting unit at the “tip of the mitt” of northern Michigan.

The earlier elk hunt period, which ran from late August to early October for 12 days, also had great hunter success, with 85 percent of state hunters able to harvest an elk.

“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.”

Hunters are able to work with DNR staff members to find animals and landowners in areas where there is a desire to have fewer elk.

“Elk are large animals that travel in herds, which means they can change an area quickly, with the amount of vegetation they can eat,” Hiestand said. “Our wildlife management goals are always to balance the numbers of animals with the habitat that’s available.”

Elk population estimates are derived from aerial elk surveys, which in recent survey years showed population estimates exceeding the stated elk management plan goals of 500 to 900 elk. As a result, the 2016 elk license quotas were increased from the prior hunting season and the elk survey frequency will be increased. Aerial elk flights will begin this week if weather allows for good flight and visibility.

“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.”

To learn more about elk, and for locations with the best chances for viewing elk in northern Michigan in the summer or fall, visit mi.gov/elk.