Just 10 years ago, few people in Missouri could imagine the sound of an elk bull bugling outside of their home.
According to Brandon Butler, executive director and editor for the Conservation Federation of Missouri, elk were reintroduced to Missouri in 2011. The elk population is now increasing, and there is a limited hunting season.
There had been no elk in Missouri since the early 1900s. In the 1800s, many wild game species were wiped out, including elk. Then Missouri exchanged some of its turkeys with Kentucky to receive a small herd of elk. About a hundred years ago, the whitetail deer population had nearly dwindled to nothing. Now the Missouri deer population is in the millions. The state started to use some of the same strategies they used to bring back the whitetail deer population with elk.
The elk population is now around 170 adults. According to Barb Keller, Missouri Department of Conservation cervid program supervisor, there are three minimal requirements that must be fulfilled before a hunting season can be considered. There must be a ratio of 25 male elk for every 100 females, a 10 percent growth rate and a minimum population of 200 elk. Each of the criteria has been met and MDC is currently ironing out the details of the new hunting season.
At least at first, hunting tags would not be available to the public, and it will most likely be a lottery drawing. According to Butler, Missouri’s goal is to build a population of about 500. Based on this number, the hunting season will most likely always be a lottery drawing.
This also means new excitement for Missouri hunters. It gives them a chance to hunt large game without having to leave the state.
“I look forward to the opportunity to hunt this beautiful animal in my home state,” said Travis Owen, an avid hunter from Missouri.
Owen has hunted in many parts of Missouri and the U.S. Owen said he had the opportunity to hunt elk in New Mexico and that he wants to experience elk hunting in his home state.
According to Butler, 500 elk isn’t nearly enough elk to be spreading over much of Missouri. They will mostly be staying in the rocky hills of southern Missouri with few crops to damage.
Butler also mentioned that since elk have returned to Missouri, there haven’t been any reports of accidents or damage. There have been reports of poaching, however. As the elk population grows, the poaching laws will have to be watched closely in order to protect the herd.