I enjoyed seeing mature animals……. when I was hunting elk and especially during the rest of the year, while they are carrying antlers. I don’t find them very interesting if they didn’t.
After a few years hunting the spike only hunts it occurred to me, meat is meat and if I let the spike live, there was a chance he might survive until the end of the spike hunt and then……….. there was a much higher chance he’d eventually become a mature bull, because he went into a more secure class. Not that two year old bulls don’t get killed but not very many do, on LE units once they grow there second set of antlers.
So………. rather than shooting spikes, and figuring elk meat is elk meat, and once the elk herds started approaching carrying capacity (before the blue like specials started) I let all the spikes l came across live and I killed a cow.
I figured it this way, I saved a bull, I could likely see it become mature, in addition to that…., some fortunate hunter was going to get to kill it……as a mature bull, (the more mature bulls, the more hunter opportunity. (The more mature bulls the more hunters can have a tag. Hard to understand but true never the less.)
At the same time, we needed to keep the antlerless elk from over populating, so remove the cow helped that way as well. I figured it was a win, win, win, win, win. quasi -win.
More mature bulls, one win, more opportunity, second win, more hunters moving through the LE elk draws, third win, more public satisfaction, forth win, more asthenic wildlife on the mountain for the visitors and cabin owners fifth win and finally more income for the Department of Wildlife Resources………. quasi win……. but what the hell do I know.
Like I said, kill ‘‘em all if you want to, I’d rather have the mule deer anyway.
Lumpy, all that sounds great the way you laid it out, but what happens when the herd is at carrying capacity, and the only tool the dwr has to remove elk and stay in the set guidelines of Age objective herd management is to start killing cows?
You passed up spikes, now there are that many more bulls on the landscape, most of witch will not produce the antler quality that the majority of hunters that wait years for those tags are willing to kill, and the ones that do are getting killed at younger ages because they do grow the antlers desired.
So say the age objective is set for 7.5 - 8 year old bulls. There's a ton of bulls in that age objective on the landscape but most of them are in that 300-340 class and most hunters are looking for 350+
The bulls with the genetics to reach 350+ will get there at a much younger age (I've personally seen age verified 4 year old bulls that are 350) so the hunters are killing the younger bulls driving the average age down on the harvested bulls. So now the average age after the hunt is only 6.9 but the DWR is trying to manage for 7.5+ their only option is to now reduce tags because they are not at the age objective.
So to bring this back around, the unit is at its herd objective, they now have to reduce the numbers, the management strategy will not allow for more big bulls to be killed, and not enough spikes are being taken. They now have to start giving out more cow tags to get the herd in check.
Eventually you have killed so many cows that the unit has a 1-1 bull to cow ratio. And is still at or over total herd objective for the unit.
This sounds awesome right? Look at how many bulls there are, but at what cost? Now you have less cows to reproduce and build the herd, along with a bunch of old bulls that people with tags don't want to kill because it took the 20+ years to draw the tag and they have expectations of a better quality bull.
In my opinion, The spike hunt has not ruined most units, it definitely doesn't help if a unit is already struggling (book cliffs) but if the herd is healthy the spike hunt can be useful and help give people opportunity. I've never participated but know people that do and they enjoy the experience.
The new elk plan is specifically designed to try and help the scenario I just laid out by reducing the age objectives to a more plausible age objective, this should allow for more big bull tags to be given, they also shifted when the majority of the rifle hunters will be hunting this should help the bigger bulls survive to see another season, but will also hopefully get people to maybe take some of those older not as large bulls. I think it will help, time will tell.