UTAH – As the Utah cow elk hunting season begins to wind down, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) officers have had a long season enforcing rules and regulations implemented to protect the animals.
Conservation agents with the DWR look into incidents where someone shoots the incorrect sex, the wrong species, or more than one cow elk. In their excitement to spot an animal, some hunters end up shooting at many elk or failing to correctly identify their target.
“We have seen instances where someone took a shot and thought they missed, so they fired at another animal in the group. By the time they are done shooting, there will be five elk that are dead,” DWR Capt. Chad Bettridge said. “It’s really important to be educated about these animals and what you are doing before you go out into the field.”
Utah’s antler-less elk hunts opened in August, and some of the later hunts run until January 31 in various parts of the state. During the 2022-23 antler-less elk hunts, conservation officers have investigated several cases, including:
Weber County: A man shot a moose instead of an elk during his hunt.
Emery County: A hunter shot a branch antlered bull elk, thinking it was a spike elk. Then he also shot a spike elk, thinking it was the same elk. He was charged with a misdemeanor.
Sevier County: Officers investigated two cases where a hunter shot too many elk. Misdemeanor citations were issued in both cases.
Iron County: Officers investigated a case where a hunter shot a cow elk in the wrong area. A misdemeanor citation was issued.
Northeastern Utah: Officers investigated two cases where a hunter killed too many elk, five cases where a bull elk was killed instead of a cow elk, two cases where a moose was shot instead of an elk and one case where a hunter harvested an elk in the wrong hunting unit. Citations were issued in each of the cases.
In order to prevent instances similar to these, the DWR has released some tips to protect wildlife and to hunt correctly:
Don’t shoot blindly
Cow elk often live in herds that include several cows and calves. Finding a herd of elk can get your heart pumping and your adrenaline flowing. However, you need to make sure you remain calm and know your target — don’t just shoot blindly into the herd. Doing so greatly increases the chance that you hit more than one animal.
Get close for a good shot
Cow elk are big, hardy animals. To harvest one, you have to get close enough to make an effective, clean shot. Make sure you know the distance at which you can make that shot, given your shooting abilities and the firearm you are using.
Track the cow
After being hit by a bullet, cow elk don’t always go down immediately. Unless it’s hit in a vital organ, the animal will often remain standing where it is or it will run off. After taking a shot, first watch to see what the animal does. If the animal doesn’t go down and you can clearly see the animal you shot at, take another shot if the opportunity is clear and ethical. If the animal runs off, don’t turn your gun on another cow elk thinking you missed the first one. Go to the location the animal was when the shot was taken and start looking for a blood trail. The animal will usually die within a reasonable distance of its initial location from a well-placed shot.
Know your hunt boundary
Before you shoot at a cow elk, make sure you and your target animal are within the boundaries your permit allows you to hunt. For example, if you have an antlerless elk-control permit, you can take a cow elk only in the same unit where you have an antlered big game hunting permit. Antlerless elk-control permits are not valid statewide. Be sure to verify all hunt boundaries before heading into the field. You may hunt antlerless elk only during the season dates — and with the same weapon — listed on your buck, bull or once-in-a-lifetime permit.