The elk come when called . . . sometimes. See page D6.Every hunter won't get an elk this year. Even half of them won't, or a third, or a fourth of the hunters in the field won't. But, one in five will likely tag an elk and that will make this year's hunt one of the very best on record in Utah.
The hunt will open at dawn on Wednesday and guesses are that 32,000 hunters will have hunted elk in Utah before the following weekend is over.Pre-hunt predictions are that 20 percent of those afield will tag an elk. Success was about 18 percent last year - 30,494 hunters harvested 5,590 elk on the general hunt. Success on special hunts - limited entry and antlerless - was higher in most cases.
According to reports from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, two things will account for the better hunting: 1. Elk numbers are up slightly over a year ago, and 2. drought conditions have concentrated the elk in areas where there is water.
Consensus is that the recent storms will make little change in where the elk are. Hunters who scout areas before the hunt will likely find the elk in the same area come Wednesday.
Wes Shields, big game coordinator for the DWR, said he expects success figures to surpass any previous year.
"The main reasons," he added, "are we have a greater number of elk and we've issued more permits. Because of the growing number of elk and the condition of the range because of the drought, more permits were given out . . . 5,151 antlerless and over 600 special bull tags this year."
While the rains may not have changed the habits of the elk, they will make hunting more pleasant for hunters. Roads won't be as dusty, daytime conditions will be cooler and walking through the woods will be quieter. There is still a fire danger, however, and hunters are urged to be careful.
Game officials also believe that come Wednesday the elk will be in their traditional areas - higher elevations, in stands of trees where temperatures are cooler and on slopes away from direct sunlight.
Jim Karpowitz, game manager out of Price, said he expects good hunting in his region. He said rain last week likely won't change things much.
He said he still expects the elk to be at higher elevations in the pines and aspens.
Floyd Coles, game manger out of Cedar City, said that while they're having some problems with elk down in farmers' fields, he expects most of the elk to be higher in the mountains. He said, too, that recent rains have put water in some of the ponds again, but said he's not sure this will effect elk movement this late into the year.
Mike Welch, game biologist in Ogden, said he expects better hunting in northern areas. He feels the elk will be more vulnerable because they are concentrated around water and feed.
On two units, the Manti and Fishlake, and part of a third, the Parker Mountain area, hunters with general open bull licenses will only be able to shoot spike or yearling bulls. A yearling or spike bull is one with antlers with no brow tine or with no antler point longer than four inches.
The purpose of the restrictions is to establish a larger number of mature bulls in the areas. Biologist feel that if restrictions continue for one more year that the following season some hunters will be able to hunt for trophy elk and be very successful.
Hunters are urged to take care of the game once it's down. Warm temperatures will cause meat to spoil quickly. Hunters should skin their elk as soon as possible, hang them in cool, shady places and get them to a locker or processing plant as soon as possible.