Group says that elk hunt inside Grand Teton National Park should be ended,

Controversial since 1950, critics make renewed effort to close this unique national park elk hunt-

It was part of the deal that made Jackson Hole National Monument into a national park back in 1950. This elk hunt in a fairly small, but prominent part of the Park has always been controversial. There is a new effort to shut it down.

Park hunt dangerous, should be stopped, critics say. Grand Teton says elk reduction program keeps balance in complex herd.  By Angus Thuermer Jr., Jackson Hole News and Guide.



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  1. mike post Avatar
    mike post

    The article misses the real point; they still feed elk. Knock off the winter feed stations and winterkill will thin this herd down. Hunting may or may not still be required but to artificially inflate the elk population with feeding is counterproductive and helps spread disease.

  2. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I spent November, December, and January last year in Jackson in a motel overlooking the elk refuge. I spent many days out in the park dodging the road hunters. They would be sitting in their pickups watching for elk to come out of the closed areas and then attempt to shoot them. If there was a 400 yard rule about shooting from near the road, it was ignored by the hunters and not enforced by the park rangers.
    I watched a group of hunters use their pickups to harass and drive two bull elk out of the cow only area and shoot them as soon as they crossed the boundary road. The bulls may have died 400 yards from the road, but the hunters were all shooting from a few yards off of the road.
    Large areas of the park were closed to non-hunters and it was dangerous to be off road in the open areas. I agree with those who want this hunt stopped. Let the wolves kill the excess park elk.

  3. Mike Avatar

    Agreed. This hunt is an embarrassment.

  4. JB Avatar

    “The factors present in 1950, the time when the park was formed, made the hunt necessary, said Steve Cain, Grand Teton’s chief biologist. Those include winter feeding on the nearby National Elk Refuge, joint herd management between the federal government and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and other factors.

    “Those conditions exist today,” Cain said.”

    So they’re feeding the elk to make more elk, and they have a special hunt because there are too many of them? Did I miss something?

    Not sure if anyone else noted it, but Tom Mangelsen, who is trained as a wildlife biologist, is one of the vocal opponents of the hunt. (Tom is also one of the best nature and wildlife photographers in the world, in my opinion).

  5. Jeff Avatar

    It seems folks are prone to paint everyone with a broad brush. There are slob hunters, but there are slobs in all aspects of life. I’m not sure the worst examples of anything should drive policy.

  6. SEAK Mossback Avatar
    SEAK Mossback

    I’m not an expert on elk, but I do see some rationale for the hunt. I’m sure there has been a lot more science on the subject, but the understanding I got many years ago was that older cows tend to direct movements of herds. Elk sometimes have multiple options to migrate to limiting winter range (where they are fed there or not) including routes through a protected park, or in choosing places to summer. It seems like highly disproportionate hunting pressure is going to eventually push most of the migration onto protected routes and/or summer feeding areas. That likely occurs to some extent in many areas, including the Thorofare, where unscrupulous outfitters resort to baiting elk with salt to get elk to move regularly across the boundary from their summering areas on Big Game Ridge and elsewhere in the park before weather pushes them out. I suspected it may have been an issue in the peak years of the northern Yellowstone herd when friends reported very poor hunting above Gardiner for most of the season that seemed even poorer than before the park herd grew to the point where late hunts were resumed on elk wintering out of the park. By killing hundreds of cows outside the park where they were driven in winter, the resident elk may have been double-dipped? Elk have incentive to move out to compete on limited winter range, but they certainly don’t have incentive to stay outside during a fall hunting season when forage is not limiting.

    I guess I can say I’ve been a National Park Ranger, because I got one of the permits to hunt elk in Teton Park when I was 14, the first year I was old enough to hunt in Wyoming — it said right on it that I was deputized as a park ranger. I never did get down there to hunt because I got an elk in the Beartooths before Teton opened — and it would have been a long drive around through Idaho to get down there that late in the year.

  7. mikarooni Avatar

    There were a lot of “deals” to get GTNP established. If only our current national policy of not negotiating with terrorists had been in force at that time; but, I digress.

    I find these canned shooter bull hunts in GTNP, which is essentially what they are, as offensive as any other sensible individual and feeding elk on the refuge just to fatten them for shooting a few miles up the road, all while bemoaning the impact of wolves on the herd, is equally two-faced and absurd.

    But, if there was any “deal” that was made to establish GTNP that needs to be overturned, it’s the “deal” restricting the Antiquities Act. If overturning the elk hunt is the first step in addressing Wyoming’s extorted and improper exemption from the Antiquities Act and ending that ludicrous precedent, then fine.

  8. som sai Avatar
    som sai

    The article had it a little wrong in the comparison to Rocky Mountain National Park. (RMNP)

    RMNP uses volunteers none of whom are allowed to enter the lottery to receive one of the carcasses. The decision by the RMNP not to use the indiscriminate wolves was many believe a very good one. They are able to maintain elk population almost exactly at the number desired and yet there is no emigration of wolves to cause trouble for agriculture or provide unwanted culling to the state’s large healthy elk herd.

    1. Jon Way Avatar

      So basically you are describe the exact opposite view of what a natural park is supposed to be like. Do you work for Wyoming Fish and Game to make such absurd and inaccurate statements.

      National Parks are supposed to not allow hunting and to be regulated to natural conditions, including predators. What you describe are zoo and/or safari (wildlife parks) conditions. You can go to San Diego Wild Animal park for the conditions that you seek…

      1. Savebears Avatar


        There is actually quite a few areas that is administered by the National Park Service that allow hunting..

        1. Jon Way Avatar

          Yes, 16 percent of the 300+ units do allow hunting but it really is an oxymoron because the NPS Organic Act creating the park service clearly states to preserve unimpaired for future generations:

          “which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

          I have worked at Cape Cod National Seashore and can’t get over the fact that things like eastern coyotes/coywolves can be slaughtered (literally if one wants) half the year just like anywhere else given that Adolph Murie decried the practice of controlling wolves in Denali back in the 1930s.

          However, my point touched on the comment that parks are better off without wolves/predators based on my original response.

          I also agree with JB that Yellowstone is far from a zoo. Granted there are concentrated places where many ignorant people go but overall the park is very wild with 97% of it as backcountry…

      2. wolf moderate Avatar
        wolf moderate

        Perhaps you haven’t visited Yosemite or Yellowstone or Glacier lately.

        1. JB Avatar

          It’s funny to me that some people consistently point to YNP as a “zoo” because of high visitation. One of the reasons YNP *seems* so busy is that there are so few roads to begin with–meaning human activities (and associated degradations) are concentrated in a tiny fraction of the park.

          My wife and I camped in the back country of Yellowstone a few years back and didn’t see a soul. We’ve also twice visited on the last day the park was open in the fall, and only seen a handful of visitors.

          1. WM Avatar

            It seems today even more people visit the Park on the “shoulder season,” either Spring or up until access is limited, to avoid the crowds. Greater chance of getting snow, which blocks travel routes, sometimes only temporarily, but nearly the best time to visit for colors and photo opportunities, as well as fewer interactions with obnoxious drive thru tourists in flipflops and tank tops, and cigarette butts in the parking lots, in my opinion.

  9. Jeff Avatar

    It is far from a canned hunt, with all the arbitrary boundaries and rules it is actually a fair chase hunt.

    1. mikarooni Avatar

      Okay, nest year you get to dress up in an elk skin and antlers and I’ll have the modern synthetic stocked stainless steel cryo-treated floating fluted barreled 300 ultra mag with the special blended new powders that generate nearly 4000fps even with the muzzle brake and the 4X14 50mm scope with the special drop compensating illuminated reticle that gives a good marksman a good chance at 800yd shots anytime the wind dies down. I’ll even give you a 600yd running start. Yes, it makes for a quick and more humane kill; but, it’s not anything close to a “fair chase.”

      1. Elk275 Avatar


        For someone who does not care for hunting and wishes the federal government to manage all fish and wildlife in the USA, you know something about guns and hunting. Except, a 300 Ultra Mag will not shoot at 4000 fps. According the Nosler #6 reloading guide the 300 Ultra Mag will shoot a 165 grain bullet at 3300 to 3400 fps and 180 grain bullet at 3200 to 3300 fps — you are wrong there.

        I just finished up reloading fifty 257 Roberts cases for next weeks antelope hunt and with a 20 inch drop at 400 yards that will be the maximum range that I will shoot at. Off to the shooting range now.

        After 600 yards bullets start doing strange and weird things. One may have the equipment to shoot that far but I doubt without many hours of practice and study the average shooter could hit a target at 800 yards.

        1. Jay Avatar

          Regardless of it being 800 or 300 yards–the bullet has still hydraulically obliterated the internal organs before the mortally hit animal even hears the sound of the gunshot that killed it. I’ve done it myself, so I’m not criticizing…just saying…

  10. Jeff Avatar

    I’m fairly fit and athletic and hunt with a 7mm—you can spout on the shooting data you can look up, but it takes a lot of work to get into place to make a clean kill. Most hunters shouldn’t shoot over 300 yards if they are ethical. The work really begins once the animal is down. I’ve hunted areas 75 and 79 on numerous occasions and have shot a fair number of elk in GTNP. There are always a few bad apples to point the finger at, but then again they peruse local blogs and shoot off without knowing as well.

    1. Cobra Avatar

      I totally agree with you. I also use a 7mm mag. but only when hunting in more open areas. Most of the time I use a lever action 308 in the timber. I’ve shot elk and deer past 300 yards when conditions are ideal with the 7mm, but it always seems to make the pack more extreme. I’ll take the 50 yard shots with the 308 over long distance any day.


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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