The Department of Natural Resources is now accepting applications for elk hunting licenses in northwestern Minnesota for seasons that will be held from late August to early December.
This year’s seasons are structured to allow hunters to have more opportunities to harvest antlerless elk. The DNR is offering 44 elk licenses this year; last year there were 27 offered. More seasons and license options are also available this year. The application deadline is June 12.
“There will be better odds of getting an antlerless license, and we hope hunters consider applying for one of these licenses,” said Barbara Keller, DNR big game program leader. “Elk meat is delicious and fills far more freezer space than a white-tailed deer.”
The DNR is allowing hunters to choose from three options when they apply to harvest elk: a license for a bull elk; a license for an antlerless elk, which can be a female or a young male; or a license for either a bull or antlerless elk. Additional hunting seasons will spread out hunting effort, from late August to early December.
The 44 elk hunting licenses offered this year are in either the Kittson central zone (zone 20), with 42 licenses, or Kittson northeast zone (zone 30), with two licenses. Hunts in these zones focus on the Kittson Central herd, which is increasing.
The dates for the 2020 Minnesota elk season are:
Saturday, Aug. 22, to Sunday, Aug. 30: Four antlerless tags and three either-sex tags will be available in the Kittson central (zone 20) zone.
Saturday, Sept. 5, to Sunday, Sept. 13: Four antlerless tags and three either-sex tags will be available in the Kittson central (zone 20) zone and two bull-only tags will be available in the Kittson northeast (zone 30) zone.
Saturday, Sept. 19, to Sunday, Sept. 27: Four antlerless tags and three either-sex tags will be available in the Kittson central (zone 20).
Saturday, Oct. 3, to Sunday, Oct. 11: Four antlerless tags and three either-sex tags will be available in the Kittson central (zone 20).
Saturday, Oct. 24, to Sunday, Nov. 1: Four antlerless tags and three either-sex tags will be available in the Kittson central (zone 20).
Saturday, Dec. 5, to Sunday, Dec. 13: Four antlerless tags and three either-sex tags will be available in the Kittson central (zone 20).
The DNR uses hunting as the main tool to manage elk populations, with harvest of female elk the focus of keeping populations within goal range.
The new license options give better odds of getting a license to hunters who want to harvest an antlerless elk. Antlerless applicants are now put in a separate pool of applicants; in the past, hunters willing to harvest an antlerless elk needed to compete in the lottery against hunters who only planned to harvest a bull.
Two of state’s herds increasing
There are currently three recognized herds in northwestern Minnesota – Grygla, Kittson Central, and Caribou-Vita – and counts for Grygla and Kittson Central were higher this year, continuing an upward population trend.
This year, the DNR counted 126 elk in most of the state’s elk range in Kittson, Marshall and Beltrami counties. The Grygla and Kittson Central herd counts were 24 and 102 elk, respectively. The Caribou-Vita herd was last surveyed in 2018.
The Grygla and the Caribou-Vita herds remain below goal, which is why the Grygla area elk zone remains closed to hunting and minimal permits (two bull-only licenses) are available for the Caribou-Vita zone. The Kittson Central herd is above goal, providing this year’s hunting opportunities. Minnesota’s elk management plan sets a population goal range for each of the three herds.
Applying for a license
It is important that hunters review the season structure on the DNR website prior to entering the elk season lottery, to make sure they apply for the license they want.
Hunters must select the type of elk license they are applying for: bull-only (two licenses available), either-sex (18 licenses available) or antlerless only (24 licenses available), in addition to the zone and season. Hunters may apply individually or in parties of two online or by telephone 888-665-4236. There is a nonrefundable application fee of $5 per hunter.
More information is available on the DNR’s elk hunting page. For more on Minnesota’s elk, visit the DNR’s elk management page.