Published December 13, 2009, 12:00 AM

DNR extends elk hunt in northwestern Minnesota

Late season set for early January aims to bring populations closer to management goals
The additional hunt, set for Jan. 2-10 in the Grygla and Kittson County elk management zones, is for hunters who didn't fill their once-in-a-lifetime tags during the regular fall seasons.

By: Brad Dokken, Grand Forks Herald

The Department of Natural Resources is offering elk hunters in northwestern Minnesota another shot at filling their once-in-a-lifetime tags if they weren’t successful during the regular fall seasons.

The hunt is set for Jan. 2-10 in the Grygla and Kittson County elk management zones.

The DNR offered 15 tags near Grygla and 15 tags in Kittson County’s two elk hunting zones during this year’s three seasons, which took place Sept. 12-20, Sept. 26-Oct. 4 and Nov. 21-29. According to Paul Telander, regional wildlife manager for the DNR in Bemidji, six tags remain unfilled in the Grygla area, two in the Kittson County North zone and three in the Kittson County South zone.

Telander said the additional hunt is being offered to bring elk numbers closer to the population goals set in the state’s new management plan for the species. The goal, he said, is to have 30 to 38 elk in the Grygla herd and 20 to 30 elk in the Kittson County North herd, which also is known as the “water tower” herd.

Meanwhile, Telander said, the DNR plans to eradicate any elk remaining in the Kittson County South herd near Lancaster, Minn., after the January season. That will happen sometime before April, he said, but the DNR hasn’t yet determined how the removal will be structured.

The south herd has been especially problematic. Telander said the DNR estimates the herd at about 15 elk, some of which have captive origins. DNR staff removed about a half dozen elk from the herd in 2004, he said. According to Herald story from July 2004, one of the elk was a bull with an ear tag traced to a farm near Goodrich, N.D. Five other elk were cows with holes or rips in the ears where ear tags likely had been removed, the story said.

“This group has had that stigma of being associated with a captive herd,” Telander said.

Any elk that repopulate the Lancaster area after this winter’s removal will be considered of wild origin and managed according to the DNR’s management plan, Telander said. He said the DNR hasn’t yet set population goals for another subgroup of elk that roams between Minnesota and Manitoba near Caribou in northeastern Kittson County and Vita in Manitoba.

He said the DNR plans to meet with Manitoba officials to set goals for the Caribou-Vita herd.

The DNR also offered an additional late season last year, Telander said. Hunters venturing afield for the upcoming hunt will be limited to the type of tag they have, whether it’s either-sex or antlerless. During the regular seasons, hunters in Kittson County North filled three of five tags, taking a 6x6 bull and two cows. Eight of 11 hunters were successful in Kittson County South, Telander said, taking one 6x8 bull, one 6x7 bull, three 6x6 bulls, one 5x5 bull, one cow and one calf.

Hunters near Grygla took one bull, five cows and two calves.

Telander said it’s hard to say why so many of the elk hunters weren’t successful this year.

“It’s hard to put your finger on what changes from year to year,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s weather. This year, I don’t think we had conducive weather for the early hunts in September, and we didn’t have snow yet in November. There are just a lot of variables.”

Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 148; or send e-mail to