Jackson Hole News: WY Elk numbers way above objectives

Elk in Wyoming are doing well, even when you look at individual herds-

The Jackson Hole News and Guide April 28 reported their analysis of the 2010 Big Game Management Summary of Wyoming Game and Fish. This article is not on-line, so I will summarize.

The annual census reported almost 103,000 elk in the 27 herds counted this winter. The state’s overall objective for these herds is about 76,000. The post-hunt count early in 2009 was about 1000 less and back in 2008 it was only 93,000 elk.

Some folks complain that elk might be numerous overall, but they are way down where I outfit, hunt, or whatever. The News reports, however, that 20 of the 27 herds were above objectives. Seven were at objective. None were below. There was incomplete data for 8 (so not included in the 27 herds).

Hunters in WY killed 22,839 elk in 2009 compared to 20,866 in 2008. The time for the average hunter to kill an elk declined in 2009 to 17.6 recreation days compared to 18.9 in 2008. Note that this calculation also includes those who hunted but were not successful.

The Jackson Hole elk herd count was 11,693, 6% above objectives. The objective is 11,000. The cow/elk calf ratio was 24, down from the 10-year average of 25.  The ratio was suspected to be lower in the Teton Wilderness and southern Yellowstone Park. It was not calculated.

The Targhee herd was not surveyed. The Fall Creek herd, to the south of Jackson was 16% over objective. More tags for that herd will be issued this year.

Folks should remember that the state’s elk objectives, including local objectives are set under strong pressure from the powerful livestock industry.  They usually don’t like to see “important animals” like cattle and sheep having to compete much with elk for grass.



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  1. Cody Coyote Avatar

    Until I get more specific information from the Cody district office, ‘ll just hit a long fly ball here:

    If Wyoming’s Elk population is 35 percent over objective ( and climbing) , and hunters took 10 percent more Elk last year than the year before, what does that say about the credibility of individual outfitters , their collective association , and the blue ribbon hunting clubs and lobbies about the claim ” wolves are decimating their hunting opportunities” ?

    I live near Ground Zero in the Wolf Wars , Cody WY. Misinformation and disinformation about Elk and Wolves and Grizzlies has become the norm.

    1. jon Avatar

      It says that they are angry that they can’t find any elk for their clients to shoot because they don’t wanna put the hard work in and actually look for an elk. Hunting is not going to be what it used to be before wolves got reintroduced. Elk are on the move now, not that they weren’t before, but more so nows since you have another predator of theirs in the ecosystem. Outfitters want something to blame for their failure to provide elk for their clients, so naturally, wolves will get the blame. Outfitters lie plain and simple. The elk are there, it’s just they don’t want to bother looking for them and they automatically assume they were wiped out by wolves.

    2. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      Making the accusation that outfitters “lie plain and simple” is a very broad statement Jon, I would have to ask:

      How many outfitters do you know personally, or do you get your information from the blogs and the press exclusively?

      Are you on the ground where this is happening?

      I know a lot of outfitters and hunters that DON’T hate wolves, that don’t blame wolves for anything, you keep “grouping” all people of a particular slant as the same, this is an issue of many different perspectives..

      It has taken me over 6 months to convince you I am a hunter and hunt for food, this is shown by you and Richie always making statements against hunters, but not you, you hunt for food..well even the hunters I know that are said to be “Trophy hunters” hunt for food!

      This is a complex issue an it will take clear heads without accusation on either side to solve…it is disappointing to continue to see both sides polarize so much, because it leads me to believe, there will be no solution for a long time to come.

      Re-list or don’t, I have no good feeling about what is going to happen in the future…and that is not a threat, it is a reality based on what I am hearing and seeing on the ground, in the meadows and in the towns involved in this..

      1. Phil Avatar

        savebears: I know this is kind of an old article, but can you go into further details as to what you mean by “Re-list or don’t, I have no good feeling about what is going to happen in the future…and that is not a threat, it is a reality based on what I am hearing and seeing on the ground, in the meadows and in the towns involved in this..”?

    3. jon Avatar

      Ofcourse not all savebears. Outfitters are simply blaming wolves for why they are unsuccessful at finding an elk for their clients. I have have not heard many outfitters say good things about wolves. We have to be realistic here, it is not uncommon for outfitters to hate or dislike wolves or to distort things when it comes to wolves.

    4. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears


      What you and many others don’t seem to realize, is the majority of the hunters and outfitters are not speaking, it is the vocal minority that is making the most noise..

    5. Elk275 Avatar

      ++It says that they are angry that they can’t find any elk for their clients to shoot because they don’t wanna put the hard work in and actually look for an elk.++

      That may and may not be true. If the outfitter has a stationary camp and the wolves have moved the elk out of the area or the range that one can ride a horse to or out of his permitted hunting area then what. What if this is an Alaskan fly-in unguided moose hunting camp and the wolves pushed the moose out a day earlier. The plane lands and takes off and the hunter is at the most able to only hunt a radius of 1/2 mile to 1 mile from camp because of the distance one will have to back pack the moose back to the air strip. Ten loads at 60 pounds a load. My days of carrying 10 pack loads of 60 pounds of moose meat one mile each way are over.

      Several times in the last couple of years I have had wolves push the elk out of my hunting area. One gets up at 4:00 a.m. and gets to their “honey hole” for that day’s planned hunt and there are 5 minute old wolf tracks in the area that you wanted to hunt and no sign of elk. Switch to plan “B” that afternoon, arrive in another area and no elk and wolf tracts everywhere. Oh, yes there elk somewhere but the horses, hunters and guides if it is a guided hunt are tired.

      No big deal, tomorrow is another day, the process is again repeated the following day and repeated the day after. The horses are spent, the hunters and guides bodies are spent and if they are local hunters with a long weekend then its time to go home back to the wife and work. Tomorrow is another day in a guided camp, then one day it is the last day of the hunt and success ratio is lower than usual. To the local hunter it is another weekend. not this coming weekend but the following weekend if the group can arrange it again. Then after several weekends it has become expensive and so the question is, it worth it financially, I can not afford another long weekend. I live in Bozeman and can be hunting elk within 20 minutes on private land, but when I lived in Billing then that is a different story.

      Jon, whether wolves are re-listed or not they will be shot if the opportunity exist. People of the tri-state area do not want a large number of wolves, one hundred wolves per state that ok. As the late great hunting writer Jack O’Connor said “it would not be wilderness without a wolf or grizzly on the mountain”, but they need very intense management.

    6. cobra Avatar

      Well said elk. I spent two weekends this past year scouting before elk season and opening morning on my way to my area in the dark I had wolves howling all around, needless to say the elk were gone and I didn’t even get to start my hunt before it was over. I’m lucky though because I can elk and deer hunt about 5 min. from the house. A lot of hunters do not have that option so I can understand their views on wolves..
      I think one thing that may come into play for the outfitters is hunters showing up to elk hunt and being out of shape for a true elk hunt. I guided in western Colorado for a few years a while back and I would say if 20% of the hunters were in elk hunting shape we were lucky. They pay big bucks to elk hunt and regardless of if their in shape or not they for the most part expect to get their game.. You know as well as I do that elk hunting can be very demanding and if you can’t cut it success is limited no matter who is guiding you. I think maybe some of the hunting shows have a lot to do with this also. No matter how tough the hunt was many shows do not seem to show some of the hardships that can go along with a successful hunt. Many people watching a show get to see the begining of the hunt and the end of the hunt, very few show the many miles of rough thick terrain gone through to be successful.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Cody Coyote,

    I’ve given my perspective on this many times (why these folks might think this). I won’t post it again (at least for a few days).

    What do other folks think?

    1. jon Avatar

      But research to date has not shown that wolves are the main cause of declines in elk and moose numbers in northwest Wyoming. There’s good reason to think wolves are a factor, but the situation is more complex than the wolf blamers portray.
      In addition, it’s important to note that overall, Wyoming’s elk populations are holding up well. There are some herds where declining calf production is raising concern, but the situation isn’t nearly as grave as this statement by Jackson-area outfitter B.J. Hill would indicate: “If we don’t do something with this wolf in the next year or two or three, sport hunting is going to be gone in the West.”


  3. Nancy Avatar

    Ralph, I can only speak about the one outfitter in my area here in southwest Montana (and he’s a native) that I mentioned in a previous post (running elk around from pasture to pasture, because he’d managed to sign on two big ranches in the valley and the sons of both ranches guide for him)

    We had a very short conversation about wolves (and this has been a few years ago, before any wolves had actually made an appearance around these parts) his comment was “kill em all” I worked for him at the time and I can also recall him doing alittle dance around the lodge when “Bubba” Bush got re-elected.


    We humans come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, degrees of intelligence, backgrounds and mentalities but it seems to me, we too often wear blinders when it comes to the other species who are also trying to exist around our ever changing “god given right” (sorry Ken brought up the R word again) excuses for destroying their lives.

    And now I’m gonna go slide in another DVD of the Planet Earth Series because I DIDN’T buy into the mandatory conversion plan last year and lost my two local TV stations (and the $19.95 month from satellite, still hasn’t convinced me to sign up for mostly mindless TV)

    1. Elk275 Avatar


      ++We had a very short conversation about wolves (and this has been a few years ago, before any wolves had actually made an appearance around these parts) his comment was “kill em all” I worked for him at the time and I can also recall him doing alittle dance around the lodge when “Bubba” Bush got re-elected. ++

      Why did you work for him if you disliked his feeling on wolves and “Bubba”? If he had a lodge and you worked there then maybe he was able to pay you because of income from hunters, fishers, and other wilderness lovers. Sounds sad for you.

  4. mikarooni Avatar

    I certainly have never found outfitters or hunters to somehow automatically be a credible source of information on any topic, certainly not wildlife or the outdoors.

    1. Elk275 Avatar



      ++I certainly have never found outfitters or hunters to somehow automatically be a credible source of information on any topic, certainly not wildlife or the outdoors.++

      That is a very poor statement. “credible source of information on any topic” what if the hunter is a renown orthopedic surgeon, then he is a credible source of information on that topic. Are you the a renown expert on wildlife and the outdoors?

      I spent my summers at our summer cabin which was 3 miles north of the base on the Beartooth Highway and I was fly fishing the streams by my self at 10 and back packing the Beartooth Wilderness with my buddy’s at 12. It has always amazed me with the new experts that come out west every year there expertise was from a NOLS or Outward Bound course which they obtained in the late teens or early twenties. By that time I was chartering a Super Cub in Alaska for solo hunting trips. It makes me wonder.

    2. cobra Avatar

      Yea, sure would not want to listen to someone that’s out there almost every weekend or more, what the hell would they know. geesh!

  5. Jeremy B. Avatar

    The scientific debate about wolves is a smokescreen, same as it is with global climate change. Opposition to wolves (and the idea of climate changed) is more based upon cultural values and political ideologies than self interest.

    More and more I think argument about predator prey ecology are an utter waste of time. One side wants wolves and the other side doesn’t, science be damned.

  6. Nancy Avatar

    I had no idea of his position on wolves (or the fact that he supported Bubba Bush) when I went to work for him. And if you’ve spent anytime trying to make a decent living in Montana, without a bunch of degrees hanging off the walls, you soon realize it ain’t easy. You can be a professional and dedicated to your job but that doesn’t mean s–t when the wage is and has been, about $6.50 an hour, regardless of experience, for the past few decades.

    My hourly wage doubled when I started working for myself.

  7. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Everybody’s opinions are based on personal experiences and from my experience as a guide the whole industry suffers now not from lack of fish, elk, deer, quails or what have you but from an attitude, which they have encouraged with their business habits, of the CUSTOMERS. The customers, whether they are shooting an elk or just going bear viewing now EXPECT to pay their bucks and get results . .no matter what. This attitude is fostered in advertisements and by their price structure. If you get your expectations fulfilled there is one price and if you don’t you get a price break. That is the practice that is ruining the outfitters because their customers expect way too much. Like they say in Alaska “That’s why we call it fishing, not catching” when someone gets skunked. Fisherman don’t get a price break if they don’t catch fish. Game hunters expect to just pay and then they can go home with meat or a trophy. Outfitters and guides need to work harder to change this attitude on the part of their customers if the industry is going to survive. You can’t produce for everyone. . blaming wolves won’t help them in any way.

  8. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    This doesn’t surprise me. I saw well over 100 elk last weekend at the Elk Refuge and they looked pretty healthy. I know this is far from a scientific count but it isn’t pointing to the empty habitat naysayers are telling us.

    1. jon Avatar

      Pro wolf, I take it you live in Wy based on your name on here. How do the Wyoming outfitters and hunters feel about wolves?

    2. ProWolf in WY Avatar
      ProWolf in WY

      Jon, there was a protest in Jackson about month or so ago about wolves and somebody on here said there was going to be one in Cody. The animosity doesn’t seem to be as strong in general as it does in Idaho. The only time I have even heard the phrase “Canadian wolf” here was actually talking about wolves in the Great Lakes region. I haven’t encountered nearly as many people here who are as vocal as lots of the people in Idaho you read about on this site. That is just my experience here anyway.

  9. SEAK Mossback Avatar
    SEAK Mossback

    I used to hunting in Wyoming in the early to mid-1970s, mostly the Beartooth-Sunlight area and the east and north side of Jackson Hole. It was a wonderful, uncongested place to hunt them with plenty of game but I suppose is now more crowded with a higher population and all the energy development in the state. The statewide elk harvest appears to be at least as high as I remember. I haven’t hunted there since wolves returned so have trouble deciding how much of the uproar is about real effects and how much psychosomatic. However, the population and harvest numbers seem to suggest if there have been significant effects in this particular area, they have so far been mostly in elk behavior.

    It’s hard to overstate how much someone’s perception is based on their culture and the ideas they hear from others. I know five guys, all in their 60s and 70s, who annually go up in the interior to hunt moose in a particular area along the road system – they take some sort of swamp buggy to transport their camp back off the road and too haul moose out. The area where they hunt is now one of those listed in need of intensive management with a predator control plan that includes both wolves and bears. I sat in on part of a Board of Game meeting and heard the advisory committee chair from the local town in that area (like those from other towns in other areas) giving a dire assessment of the moose population and pleading for increased predator control measures, particularly on grizzly bears. I asked the guys who go up why they still hunt in such a spot and don’t they think there are too many predators? They said no, they like things just the way they are. Yes, they’ve seen wolves and bears and yes, moose are in low density — but so are hunters. An increase in moose would draw a lot more hunters from the major towns. They’ve been going up at least a dozen years now and I don’t remember them not bringing back at least one bull moose and often two (they limit themselves to two), including some huge ones (they said they received 906 lbs. back from the butcher from one). They ventured without hard expectations into a new area that had been written off by most of the hunting public as decimated by predators — and discovered a real gem. They wouldn’t have it any other way. Under the guiding banner of Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife, Alaska may some day achieve the dream of becoming an “Arctic Serengeti” — one of the world-renowned moose hunting powers like Sweden and Norway, a place where bagging a moose along the highway is as easy as lugging steaks out of a grocery store. But those guys won’t be any happier. The same glass that appears nearly dry to SFW, appears brim full to them.

  10. Cody Coyote Avatar

    I received the data from Wyo G&F for this winter’s aerial census count and classifications of the two large Cody area Elk Herd units this morning.

    The Clarks Fork herd ( Sunlight- Crandall-southern Beartooth Mtns.) showed a population of 3840 elk, up 8.9 percent for the previous year’s count.

    The Cody herd ( North and South Fork of Shoshone Rivers , and maybe Greybull River ? ) had a count of 3615 , which was up 22 percent from prior year. 22 percent. Not a typo.

    These areas have robust wolf and grizzly populations overlayed on the elk range. And like most every other elk herd unit in Wyoming, the numbers are quite a bit over desired objectives the Wyo Game & Fish says they’d like to see.

    I have also received current maps from both the Shoshone National Forest and the Bridger-Teton NF showing the location of all the backcountry permitted outfitter camps, which I will translate into Google Earth as placemarks and overlay polygons of known wolf packs. That will be a LOT of little map tacks inside a lot of polygons. Just in time for the second wave Anti-Wolf Rally staged by the Outfitters Association and Sportsmen for Fish & Wildlife chapter , set for Cody city park on Saturday morning , May 22, following on the heels of the April Anti-Wolf Rally on the town square in Jackson.

    I also went on the Wyoming state outfitters and guides website ( http://outfitters.state.wy.us ) and perused the hunting result numbers for the past 20 years, which are posted. There is absolutely NO discernible variation in statewide elk hunter success from the year after the Yellowstone fires in 1989 , thru the early years of Wolf reintroduction , and on through to present day when wolves have become solidly established outside Yellowstone. These are statewide moving averages, not illustrating any fluctuation in particular hunt areas. There is nothing in the hunting success numbers for the past 20 years that falls outside of normal year-to-year variations due to weather and precipitation, etc. in my estimation. The numbers stay pretty stable. Of course, it’s data provided by outfitters, so take that with your 25-lb grain of salt.

    By the way , there are currently 360 licensed big game outfitters in Wyoming. That number astounds me somewhat.

  11. SEAK Mossback Avatar
    SEAK Mossback

    Thanks for the update, Cody Coyote. Sounds like the diagnosis is psychosomatic!

  12. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    anyone know the numbers for montana?

  13. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Cody, you make some interesting points. It seems counter-productive for the outfitters to list their harvest totals and then to bitch that wolves are eating everything. Nobody seems to put two and two together.

    1. Elk275 Avatar

      They inflate they harvest numbers for future advertising and bookings. I have seen when a hunter turned down a good shot count as a kill or a easy miss count as a kill. The more elk a camp kills the more attractive it is for prospective hunters to decide whether or not to book with that outfitter. It’s a numbers game to the ill informed.

      It was mentioned that Wyoming has 360 outfitters. I would guess that 200 plus are private land outfitters, no horses or other equipment but a pick up truck and a key to a gate. Hunters are house in motels or if the rancher is the outfitter the hunters are housed on the ranch. Behind that gate is private land which can have access to many 1000’s of public lands acres which the public does not have access. In the early 70’s when outfitters charged $40 to $50 dollars a day no one was interested. To today outfitters charge $700 to $1000 a day with 5 to 7 day minimums. A well run mule deer and antelope operation in Wyoming with 30 hunters can gross $150,000 and net $100,000 a season. With private land elk even more.

    2. Jeremy B. Avatar


      Some of the earliest court cases regarding hunting note that access to undeveloped land was an assumed privilege of any hunter. With the ‘everything is a goddamn right’ movement came property rights, which allowed people to exclude hunters. It is ironic to me that today, many of the most ardent property rights advocates are the same people that complain that they are being excluded by large, private property holders.

  14. Cody Coyote Avatar

    Elk275—-I’m 4th generation Cody Wyoming and grew up around ranches and outfitting in the heart of Elk Country. The Absarokas and there proximity to Yellowstone NP have fabulous elk potential. Realizing that potential is a different tale. The target is always moving; the scenarios changing. Elk hunting in my lifetime has really changed, for a variety of reasons and dynamics. The demographics of property owners not the least.

    But I can say this with some certainty: there is very little “private land” elk hunting to be had in my neck of the woods . Or public land elk hunts where access is controlled by private landowners. There are a couple of large ranches that have access programs , but not so much for the money ( Hunt Oil Inc and Swiss bankers do not need more money ) as a means to regulate the numbers of hunters at any given time and keep them from tearing up the trails and meadows etc. We have one S.O. B who is Italian and treats his big spread like a landed aristochracy European game preserve, but he’s the exception, and there are ‘workarounds’.

    Maybe elsewhere in Wyoming there are private land elk shooting galleries; just not where I live which thankfully has vast amounts of National Forest and BLM range.

    I am aware of a good many private Pronghorn and Deer operations statewide, but the topic here is Elk.

    1. Elk275 Avatar

      I do not know about the Cody area but what I read on the hunting forums. But, what about the Two Dot Ranch? There are some very nasty no tresspassing signs going up Dead Indian Hill and what about the Pickfork Ranch?

    2. Cody Coyote Avatar

      Elk275— the Two Dot Ranch , owned by a Swiss fellow , has a good public access hunting program. Small fee; horseback or foot only . Lots of great elk and deer and wolf habitat. In fact the game manager for the 250,000 Two Dot acre ranch is a retired Wyo G & F warden and investigator who does his job with due diligence.

      The big Pitchfork Ranch south of Cody west of Meeteetse has a public access hunting program for decades. If you bought a permit to hunt the Pitchfork between 1976 and 1989 , you probably got that permit from me. It was mainly a deer and antelope ranch , hunted by hundreds every year.

      The Hunt Oil Co ranches, seven of them , run under a single brand as Hoodoo Ranch , allows access for foot and horseback hunters. That franchise cares little for wildlife and has their own surreptitious ” wildlife management program” in any season . That’s all I’m going to say about that.

      The big Antlers Ranch along the Wood River quit allowing hunting about 20-25 years ago. Guess where all the huge bucks ( both Muley and Whitetail) are these days ? And quite a few elk . Right there alongside their private Bison herd. It’s an 11,000 acre wildlife sanctuary for all practical purposes.

      Some of the other ranches locally are either ad hoc about allowing hunting, or only allow access for their inner circle and guests. The old landed aristocracy thing.

      Conversely , the manager of the 91 Ranch on the north side of the Greybull River under Carter Mountain got tired of feeding so many elk all winter and wasn’t happy with the Wyo Game and Fish crop damage program , so he implemented his own program. He took an SKS semi-auto assault rifle ( Chinese AK-47) and wasted an entire elk herd from his haystacks. Killed 17-19 of them in one swoop.

      All of this adds up to having a real checkerboard mosaic of game management in the Cody area, and headaches all around Makes t hard to manage wildlife ecologically when fences and personalities get in the way.

      Of course, there is always the “Long Season” to thin those pesky mooching deer and such, a longstanding Wyoming tradition.

      It’s complicated.

    3. Elk275 Avatar

      Cody Coyote

      Some of the hardest information to obtain is which ranches allow fee hunting, which I am not against as long as it is resaonable, but what is reasonable. Since I do not live in Wyoming it does not help me but it is great for you guys.

      Years and years ago when I was purchasing oil and gas leases in the Buffalo and Sheridan, Wyoming area it was locked up by outfitters and guides.

    4. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins


      Just FYI, the Russian/Soviet SKS and the AK are two different weapons.

      SKS: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SKS.

      AK: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AK-47.

      I wouldn’t expect you to necessarily know this, but as a professional soldier I like things to be precise.

      As I recall, the weapon used to slaughter elk at the 91 Ranch was a SKS.


    5. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      yes, there is quite a difference between the SKS and the various AK-47’s….

    6. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins


      I’ve fired both quite a bit, and was issued a Czech AKMS (paratrooper AK model) at Toelz. Still prefer the G3 or FN-FAL.


    7. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      The FN-FAL is a nice shooting gun, my preference in the type of work I did, was actually the Uzi .45, worked real well in close quarter situations…

    8. Save bears Avatar
      Save bears

      But I have shot both the SKS and the AK extensively and they are very capable guns, and they both make a as “Clint” said a very distinctive sound! LOL From personal experience, I can attest to the effectiveness of the AK, one of them put me in the hospital for over 18 months and assured me that I would have to deal with a titanium hip set up for the rest of my life!

    9. Robert Hoskins Avatar
      Robert Hoskins

      Have done some close quarters training–went through Mott Lake–but prefer the MP5 to the Uzi. However my focus was much more on guerrilla warfare and FID, not CT.


  15. vickif Avatar

    I hunt. But some of the comments above make me shake my head.
    Perhaps we should get used to putting “the hunt” back into hunting, and taking out the “convenience and virtual guarantee” of success.
    Before we had high powered scopes, extra pull on our bows, and GPS or four wheelers….hunting was truly that, a hunt.
    There are appearantly no less elk in Wyoming than before. So, eventually they will disperse based on their ecological needs. That is no less true for fires, drought, human population growth, or wolves.
    Perhaps, we could better manage our entire hunting environment if we charged those private land owners taxes or fees when they charge hunters? (Or better use the fees we may already collect) Perhaps then, the private land owners would welcome the hunters who would prevent over grazing?
    Then again, I would question how many of those owners are actually ranchers? In which case, you have to surmise if they utilize any public resources? If so, should they not be asked to allow some public access in exchange? Or end their publc assistance?
    If this was a black or white issue, it is simple, the wolves are not killing all the game.
    I know that most hunters do not depend solely on game animals for their food intake,so it shouldn’t really be an issue of ease of the hunt. Since they don’t use game as their only means of dietary meat, it shouldn’t be an issue of convenience or scattered elk herds being less available or easily found.
    But since it is not just a matter of how many elk wolves kill, but weather or not they cause some hunters to work a bit harder…the issue is not so clear cut.
    Before humans artificially altered the ecological balance, elk were probably historically dispersed much as they are now.
    I guess human hunters seem a little weak, and not so able to handle some four legged competition in the field.
    For humans, hunting in North America is a privledge. For wolves, it is a necessary part of life.
    It boils down to the hated argumenst of old, “people who don’t hunt have as many rights to enjoy wolves as those who hunt have to shoot an elk”, and “we have an obligation as stewards of the earth, to maintain a healthy environment and alter it as little as possible for our own gain.”

  16. Virginia Avatar

    Two Dot Ranch outside Cody sells permits to hunters who have a hunting license for that area. They cost $40 and you must hunt on foot or horseback. Pitchfork Ranch is under new ownership and does have a hunter management area (foot or horseback) for part of the ranch. The past management also required a hunter to buy a permit to hunt on the Pitchfork. I would guess it is the same with the new owner.

  17. SEAK Mossback Avatar
    SEAK Mossback

    Glad to hear the Pitchfork is still open. Great place – I think the fee when I was there was $5 for a resident and $20 for out-of-state, but we didn’t even pay that because the guy I was with knew the matriarch and had a letter of invitation.

  18. Jim C. Avatar
    Jim C.

    How about discussing the much larger HUMAN overpopulation problem vs. bickering over the fine points of wolves or bears vs. elk? Human numbers are the classic gorilla in the living room. People in rural areas have less of a feel for Man’s overcrowding, but it should be obvious to most thinking people.

    With U.S. growth of about 3 million people per year, and global annual growth of about 75 million (net gain), the idea that a marginal number of wolves is the prime threat to elk is laughable. Wolves mainly cause elk to shuffle around, out of easy reach of canned hunts.

    Man is the primary destroyer of wildlife habitat by a wide margin. And, if the habitat itself isn’t lost, guns, traps, hooks, nets and poisons take care of the rest. I wonder who these outfitters would have blamed for the 1800s bison slaughter? How about the decimation of ocean fisheries due to relentless human consumption; would they try to pin that on sharks?

    Sportsmen don’t talk much about the the vast acreage taken over by farming and livestock, which is the only thing that enables large human populations in dense cities. It creates the illusion of “productive” land in remaining wilderness areas, if you ignore the context of how much land has already been appropriated by people.

    The very fact that nature needs to be managed like a zoo indicates an imbalance. There can be no real balance until human growth ceases (i.e. a much needed steady-state economy). As long as there are more and more people locally, or traveling in from big cities, the hunting situation will remain unstable, assuming the popularity of hunting doesn’t drop off sharply.

    If all 6.8 billion people on Earth were spread out evenly, trying to live on sustenance hunting, elk and deer would quickly fade. Survivalists who “head for the hills” in a crisis would learn this in short order if most others did the same. There are just too many people for hunting to be sustainable on that scale. Even if agricultural land was relinquished to wildlife, the density of game per acre couldn’t match the total food volume of modern farms, which are themselves unsustainable, running on finite oil.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan