How’s the Wasatch Elk Herd?

Camper_A1

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924
My son has enough Elk points to be guaranteed a Rifle Elk tag on the Wasatch this year. We have been putting in for the Monroe and spent a lot of time down there. It could be another 20 years before he pulls a tag down there. Is the Elk herd doing good or growing and how is the quality of Bulls? Thanks for options or insight for the Wasatch. If anyone needs any info on Monroe more than willing to share what I know.
 

Stales21

Member
Messages
11
Big unit. Plenty of really good bulls. Put in some time in the field and you won't have any issues getting into quality elk (300-350). My attitude has changed a lot through the years. The way things are going, if you wait to draw a premium LE elk unit in Utah, that might be the last and only LE elk tag you will hold. I would much rather take the opportunity to hunt and start building some points again. Just my opinion. Good luck to you and your son.
 

DBLung

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Messages
275
This will be a good year on the Wasatch. Several good bulls made it through last years hunts, hopefully they will make it through the winter.
 

elkhunterUT

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1,510
Thanks everyone, I agree it’s better to hunt more often. Seems like slot of the Limited Entry hunts could end up being Once in a Lifetime hunts the everything is going.
The top units are pretty much OIL already. The quality of bulls on these units is better overall than the middle tier units, but not enough to justify waiting 30-40 years for one crack at a bull that MIGHT be 20-30" bigger than you can kill on the Wasatch or the Manti.

Now that I have burned my LE elk points and have to wait 5 years before I can even put in again, I will be looking to draw archery tags on some of the middle tier units in the future. Hunt as much as you can, while you still can!!
 

Hawkeye

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2,702
The Wasatch is really struggling. I have spent quite a bit of time in the unit during the archery hunts over the last 10 years (including 2 tags myself) and I have seen a major decline in the quantity and quality of the elk herd. 2020 was particularly tough as the archery success rates dipped to 18%. I thought the hot and dry weather was a major factor by the Manti had a 32% success rate for the archery hunt. There are still some good bulls but overall the unit is trending downward.

Hawkeye
 

middlefork

Active Member
Messages
355
The Wasatch is really struggling. I have spent quite a bit of time in the unit during the archery hunts over the last 10 years (including 2 tags myself) and I have seen a major decline in the quantity and quality of the elk herd. 2020 was particularly tough as the archery success rates dipped to 18%. I thought the hot and dry weather was a major factor by the Manti had a 32% success rate for the archery hunt. There are still some good bulls but overall the unit is trending downward.

Hawkeye
The wasatch is in the toilet

It would be more informative with some hard examples. Not arguing but the complaints seem pretty vague.
What type of quality and quantity are we talking?

An 18% success rate seems low for sure when it has been around 30% for years.

How about the other hunts? Seems like I've seen some nice bulls posted by a certain outfitter on here. Is he just trying to drum up business?
 

BLooDTRaCKeR

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1,855
Anymore, just be happy if you draw a tag for any unit. At least you have an opportunity to see more and experience more than you would on a general season unit. LE units are always a good time. Just don’t have high hopes and you’ll never be disappointed with the outcome.
 

DBG3285

Active Member
Messages
756
The Wasatch is a unit that you get what you put in. I feel like most people think these LE units just guarantee a chance at a big bull.

on the wasatch it is very realistic goal to get a 340-350 bull. Some people luck into them, others have 40 people helping them, and some put in vast amounts of work.

with what I saw on the wasatch this year, the average bull was probably at or below 300.
 

Stales21

Member
Messages
11
It would be more informative with some hard examples. Not arguing but the complaints seem pretty vague.
What type of quality and quantity are we talking?

An 18% success rate seems low for sure when it has been around 30% for years.

How about the other hunts? Seems like I've seen some nice bulls posted by a certain outfitter on here. Is he just trying to drum up business?
I agree, middlefork.
Almost 500 bulls were taken off of the Wasatch last year. From what I saw in the harvest data, there were more bulls taken off that unit last year than the previous few years.
No doubt we saw a slip in success rate for the archery hunt, but it seemed to me that the other Wasatch hunts had decent success rates.
The bulls are there. Is the unit what it was 10 years ago? No. But it is hard to find a unit in this state that is. This hunt will ultimately be what you put into it. Try to manage your expectations, put in the time, and have fun.
 

Camper_A1

Active Member
Messages
924
Thanks for all the reply’s. We put him in for the Wasatch and will spend a bunch of time this summer getting to know the unit. It is a big unit and we would like to narrow it down by August the concentrate more on where we think we will hunt. Thanks again!
 

Hawkeye

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2,702
It would be more informative with some hard examples. Not arguing but the complaints seem pretty vague. What type of quality and quantity are we talking?

Consider the following: For a long time, the archery success rates on the Wasatch and Manti units were similar and hovered around 30-35%. Over the last 4 years, the success rates on the Wasatch have taken a nosedive:

2017: 34%
2018: 25%
2019: 22%
2020: 18%

2020 was particularly tough as we saw significantly less elk and fewer mature bulls. I initially chalked my experience in 2020 up to unseasonably warm and dry weather but I was shocked to see the 2020 success rates on the Manti were still at 32%. I also heard that a well-known outfitter on the Wasatch had all of its archery hunters go home without bulls in 2020. That is hearsay but pershap somebody else can confirm this fact.

I personally had Wasatch archery tags in 2013 and 2019 and killed decent 6 point bulls both years (300-320"). I've also helped friends with tags most every year in between, and I have noticed a decrease in the quality of bulls coming off the Wasatch. I believe that the herd is struggling due to too many bull tags and more importantly too many cows and spikes being taken. They claim the herd is over objective but hunters are not seeing that in the field.

Most of my experience is with the archery hunt but I have also spent time in the unit during the early and late rifle hunts. To be clear, there are still some good bulls in the unit. You can see some of the best bulls taken each year on the Facebook page for Strawberry Bay Outfitters. Hunt hard with a rifle tag and you should be able to take a 300-330" bull. If you are lucky, you may do a little better. But overall, there are other units with better quantity and quality that take similar points to draw.

Hawkeye
 
Messages
26
The DWR objective for 5 year old bulls means that you will have to do a lot of sorting to find any big bruisers. I have also noticed my taxidermist friend who takes in most of his work comes from bulls off of the Wasatch. For the most part they have trended way down in the past few years. And hearing from other hunter experiences, people I know that had tags for the late season, and the 2nd rifle did not find what they want or fill their tags.
 
Messages
26
Definitely a mixed bag. I have noticed from my taxidermist friend, he gets most of his jobs from Wasatch bulls and the quality is way down over the past few years. I have also heard negative stories from friends who hunted it recently. One ate his late tag didn't find anything he wanted and the hunt was tough. Another ate his 2nd rifle tag didn't find anything really good. And another neighbor with lots of time had the premium tag saw some giants during the archery season, they all disappeared right after the first rifle opened. One was shot out from under him, lots of pressure. And then he hunted hard during all the seasons and ended up with a busted up 320 type bull at the end of the late hunt. And finally I saw two giant slammer bulls taken by a couple of ladies during the rifle last year. It will be what you make of it.
 

Camper_A1

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Messages
924
Thanks for the reply’s. He could also draw a Fish Lake early elk tag. If you had the option between the Wasatch or Fish Lake which tag would you take and why?
 

berrysblaster

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Success rates across every season on the wasatch are down.

We did strike out on the archery last season 0-3. We had opportunities but they just didn’t work out for us.

I was able to find more bigger bulls then I ever have in years past last season. It wasn’t close either.

I experienced some of the craziest good and bad hunting conditions last season I can remember.

There are issues, I don’t have any idea what those issues are and if they will continue to impact hunter success.
 

Robiland

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1,730
It would be more informative with some hard examples. Not arguing but the complaints seem pretty vague.
What type of quality and quantity are we talking?

An 18% success rate seems low for sure when it has been around 30% for years.

How about the other hunts? Seems like I've seen some nice bulls posted by a certain outfitter on here. Is he just trying to drum up business?
What you have seen is the cream off the top for bulls. Outfitters live and die by guiding and spend alot of time out searching for bigger bulls, since that = more $$$. Not bashing, its reality. It was a tough hunt last year for archery. I was helping 3 different people will bull tags at different times, and then my son for a cow, and we struck out. The numbers were we have hunted for the last 10 years are WAY WAY down.
 

Sierra

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Messages
1,053
The amount of scouting that Berrysblaster does is unreal. He obviously does it for fun, as opposed to just the money. Never seen an outfitter scout so much.
 

Vanilla

Very Active Member
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2,316
The Wasatch does not have the numbers it once had. That was by design.

If I had the amount of points to hunt the Wasatch and not other units I was interested in, and I wanted to hunt this fall, I would not hesitate for one second applying.

You probably are not going to see a 375+ bull, but you might. And if that is your bench mark, I suspect you’ll be disappointed no matter what unit you apply. (I realize you didn’t say that, I’m speaking more hypothetically.)

How many points does he have?
 

middlefork

Active Member
Messages
355
Consider the following: For a long time, the archery success rates on the Wasatch and Manti units were similar and hovered around 30-35%. Over the last 4 years, the success rates on the Wasatch have taken a nosedive:

2017: 34%
2018: 25%
2019: 22%
2020: 18%

2020 was particularly tough as we saw significantly less elk and fewer mature bulls. I initially chalked my experience in 2020 up to unseasonably warm and dry weather but I was shocked to see the 2020 success rates on the Manti were still at 32%. I also heard that a well-known outfitter on the Wasatch had all of its archery hunters go home without bulls in 2020. That is hearsay but pershap somebody else can confirm this fact.

I personally had Wasatch archery tags in 2013 and 2019 and killed decent 6 point bulls both years (300-320"). I've also helped friends with tags most every year in between, and I have noticed a decrease in the quality of bulls coming off the Wasatch. I believe that the herd is struggling due to too many bull tags and more importantly too many cows and spikes being taken. They claim the herd is over objective but hunters are not seeing that in the field.

Most of my experience is with the archery hunt but I have also spent time in the unit during the early and late rifle hunts. To be clear, there are still some good bulls in the unit. You can see some of the best bulls taken each year on the Facebook page for Strawberry Bay Outfitters. Hunt hard with a rifle tag and you should be able to take a 300-330" bull. If you are lucky, you may do a little better. But overall, there are other units with better quantity and quality that take similar points to draw.

Hawkeye
Thank you. That is actually useful information. As is berryblasters.

I just find all the comments about quality and quantity without examples kind of useless. My expectations on both are very different than others.
 

Camper_A1

Active Member
Messages
924
My son has 17 points as a resident, I helped on a couple of hunts on the Wasatch about 5 years ago. First hunt we turned down 3 or 4 smaller 5 and 6 points early then got snowed in for the next 3 days and then couldn’t make it happen the last 2, we hunted until dark the last day. The next year a co-worker who never hunted put in and drew with zero points. He harvested a small 6 on the third day and was on top of the world. Thanks for the insight from all of you.
 

HoofingIt

Member
Messages
56
I love these posts. The Wasatch is huge, the bulls are out there. I’m a DIY guy, not in great shape, not the best Hunter out there, but we’ve scored 2 fantastic bulls the last 2 years with my son and cousins tags. Had several great bulls we were watching. Get out and do your scouting and homework, put the time behind the glass and some miles on your boots. I doubt you’ll be disappointed. Good luck!

PS- just got my sons late season Wasatch bull back from Humphries Taxidermy...

680FC24A-5B26-4D86-B82B-8B9AF0FBEB0D.jpeg


B603C7DB-859F-4A52-AD84-ECA4A90E224E.jpeg
 
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Hawkeye

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Messages
2,702
That’s a nice bull. There are good bulls in every unit, and no LE elk unit is what it was 10 years ago. The Wasatch just seems to be tending downward at a quicker pace than other units. I think it’s the result too many cattle and spike hunters. Overtime, those hunts have taken a toll on the herd.
 

Wapitiwilly

Very Active Member
Messages
1,898
That’s a nice bull. There are good bulls in every unit, and no LE elk unit is what it was 10 years ago. The Wasatch just seems to be tending downward at a quicker pace than other units. I think it’s the result too many cattle and spike hunters. Overtime, those hunts have taken a toll on the herd.
Personally I think the late Wasatch hunt is doomsday for the older age class bulls. Add on cow hunts, spike bulls and ”maybe” a few to many tags🤨
 

Shadow

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1,082
I agree that the late hunt has hurt the age class and too many cow tags has punished the overall population but don’t forget that spikes have been hunted since day one of the unit becoming LE and it continually produced numerous big bulls year after year until recently. What changed?
 

HoofingIt

Member
Messages
56
I agree that the late hunt has hurt the age class and too many cow tags has punished the overall population but don’t forget that spikes have been hunted since day one of the unit becoming LE and it continually produced numerous big bulls year after year until recently. What changed?
I actually feel like it’s in much better shape now than 6-7 years ago. I see more elk overall, my cameras are picking up great bulls, we’re harvesting great bulls, harvest numbers outside of archery are solid. My only real concern is how many wounded animals aren’t being recovered. Deer on the Wasatch on the other hand is a different story imo.
 

berrysblaster

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Success rates across every season on the wasatch are down.

We did strike out on the archery last season 0-3. We had opportunities but they just didn’t work out for us.

I was able to find more bigger bulls then I ever have in years past last season. It wasn’t close either.

I experienced some of the craziest good and bad hunting conditions last season I can remember.

There are issues, I don’t have any idea what those issues are and if they will continue to impact hunter success.
I wanted to correct this, it wasn’t true, and after crunching through the numbers from 2016-20 here is what I have found.

1. Archery has seen a drastic 4 year decline in success rates.
2. Early rifle saw a 2 year spike in 17 and 18 but is averaging a 70%ish success. So we are down, but it is from an artificially high spike for whatever reason.
3. Mid season has been very consistent at 60% or so
4. Muzz was way up last season at 68% from normal 60%
5. Multi season is down considerably from 16-18 92% average to 78.6% 19-20.

If I go back all the way from 2010 to last season, there’s a pretty clear downward trend, but I don’t like to do that because of changes in management, age class, population estimates etc etc.

I did pull the archery from 2012-14, to see what the last calendar shift did, 29-35% pretty steady, so I’m confident that archery at least has something going on outside the historical norm.

The multi season is also an interesting bit of information. Typically older hunters draw the multi season, so in theory a guy could think that there are less ‘accessible’ bulls running around the unit at the moment. That usually my first thought when it comes to success rates dropping, hunters with a physical or age related issue are the first ones to be impacted.

IF and that’s a big IF this were the case, my first belief is that we are seeing the effects of the cow hunts from 3-5 years ago and the success issues are just a blip that will correct themselves over the next 2 seasons. Basically, no one should realistically be concerned about drawing a wasatch tag unless you are older or physically unwell. Those types of hunters will struggle with artificially depressed bull numbers that are reflecting sweeping antlerless hunts from 4-6 years ago.

I am even more convinced about my last sentence in the first post. No one is really quite sure what’s going on at the moment.
 
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Robiland

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1,730
Maybe success is down on Multi season is because there picky?
OR Not seeing the quality of a bulls for that tag or lack of bulls for a tag.

I do agree with Berryblaster to a point. All the cow tags are killing off the elk. Hopefully we dont go don that road any time soon. Cut the cow tags on the unit and I am sure we will start to see the incline of elk and bulls we need and many hope for.
 

Vanilla

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2,316
Cut the cow tags on the unit and I am sure we will start to see the incline of elk and bulls we need and many hope for.

I agree. That is the easiest way to increase or decrease a productive elk herd. Kill more cows if you want less elk, kill less cows if you want more elk.

Focusing on other things is going to have much less of an effect on elk numbers than this one simple thing.
 

berrysblaster

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I agree. That is the easiest way to increase or decrease a productive elk herd. Kill more cows if you want less elk, kill less cows if you want more elk.

Focusing on other things is going to have much less of an effect on elk numbers than this one simple thing.

We haven’t seen any kind of substantial antlerless hunts on the unit for 3ish years now. The private land only permits are the only readily available options for cow tags.

There are a few late season hunts designed to target specific herds that encroach on agricultural interests primarily around the Heber valley, the currant creek and avintaquin sides do have antlerless tags they are managed by a biologist out of the north eastern office. The wasatch west is handled out of the central region.
 

Vanilla

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2,316
There were plenty of cow elk tags issued across the sub-units of the Wasatch that were not private lands only tags. There was 400 muzzy tags alone on one sub-unit. I'm guessing if we added those to all the any weapon smaller hunts we are going to be over 800 cow tags. I realize that is a major cut from where things were years ago, but until those elk start moving back off private lands, you're not going to see the public land cow tags go back up.

I'm not suggesting the Wasatch is in perfect shape, but I stand by the comment the easiest way to manipulate elk numbers is through cow tags. If I'm wrong, tell what alternative does it better.
 

berrysblaster

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1,927
2019 Harvest data shows 974 total antlerless permits including private land only, with a unit wide average success rate of 45%. So that’s inline with what you see in 2020 and what I thought in 2020. Compared to the heydays of 2015-18 when we had 1781+ Unlimited cow control tags we figured we had 5000 or more cow tags on the unit, I have no problems.

I‘d be fine with no cow tags ever, and unlimited elk.

I can say this, not one of my guys, or I had a single complaint about cow numbers last year. We found elk EVERYWHERE. We did have a tougher time with 4-6 year old bulls, there weren’t as many 280-320” type bulls running around.

I didn’t see that issue personally, and would attribute my experience more to luck, given the success rates, hunter satisfaction, eye test, and time spent by the other guys i trust and friends from around the units experience.

Again though, that would indicate that its an artificially depressed bull population, coming from excessive cow harvest from 2014-16. Which is where I’m leaning more and more.
 

Vanilla

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2,316
Makes sense, berrysblaster. And there reality is nobody spends more time on the Wasatch every year than you do. So I take what you are seeing above most of us other weekend warriors that are passionate in how we feel.
 

Elkhunter96

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1,102
To sum it up after reading, Wasatch has some big bulls, but the average diy hunter doesn’t kill a lot of them. Of the 1,000 or so LE tags issued, how many of them realistically kills a bull over 330? 350?

My thoughts, if you want a really good opportunity at a 350 plus, hire a guide like Berry Who knows the unit like the back of their hand. If you want to hunt diy and are thrilled with a 280-320 bull and a chance at bigger, Wasatch is great.

Last, how much of the archery down trend is due to the season dates? My best guess is the later the archery dates, higher success rates...
 

Vanilla

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2,316
To sum it up after reading, Wasatch has some big bulls, but the average diy hunter doesn’t kill a lot of them. Of the 1,000 or so LE tags issued, how many of them realistically kills a bull over 330? 350?

My thoughts, if you want a really good opportunity at a 350 plus, hire a guide like Berry Who knows the unit like the back of their hand. If you want to hunt diy and are thrilled with a 280-320 bull and a chance at bigger, Wasatch is great.

I think a very small percentage of bulls killed on the Wasatch will truly go north of 350. But I'm guessing most units are that way. I like your breakdown. If you are good with chasing 300-320 bulls with a chance at a bigger one, the Wasatch is a great unit for you.

If the hunter is dead set at a 350+ bull, be prepared to wait a long time and also a chance you'll be disappointed whatever unit you apply for. Hiring a guide or having someone with extensive experience in any given area will increase your odds.

Man, I wish I could do the last 15 years over differently...
 

berrysblaster

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1,927
[QUOTE="Elkhunter96, post: 1934200, member: 1332]

Last, how much of the archery down trend is due to the season dates? My best guess is the later the archery dates, higher success rates...
[/QUOTE]

I did touch on that and found that compared to last calendar shift the success rates were down significantly.

Pulling a 3 year average from 7 years ago or so, success was still 32-33%. 17% last year with a 4 year down trend is well outside the norm.
 

Elkhunter96

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1,102
[QUOTE="Elkhunter96, post: 1934200, member: 1332]

Last, how much of the archery down trend is due to the season dates? My best guess is the later the archery dates, higher success rates...

I did touch on that and found that compared to last calendar shift the success rates were down significantly.

Pulling a 3 year average from 7 years ago or so, success was still 32-33%. 17% last year with a 4 year down trend is well outside the norm.
[/QUOTE]
Interesting, I haven’t paid close attention to Wasatch archery. I know a few other units I like have trended down too. Last LE archery tag I had, I didn’t tag out until the 14th and that would have been later than some recent years have ended.
if that doesnt pick up in 21, then Wasatch does indeed have an issue.
 

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