by Mark Walters
Chequamegon Elk Update/Antler Hunt
Back in the early ‘90’s was a small part of the original process of introducing the original 25 elk into Chequamegon National Forest in 1995 (the four men responsible for our elk herd used me as a tool to reach the public, I happily accepted). I have tried to give some form of an update each year on our herd’s status and here is this year’s report.
Saturday, May 11th
High 42, low 24
My chief officers in charge of this year’s fieldwork would be Scott Polencheck of Glidden and Tom “Dizz” Dezotell of Clam Lake. None of us are formally educated when it comes to wildlife biology but Dizz is a very active shed hunter and Polencheck is a logger and well known in the Glidden area.
For about five years we have been hunting sheds and the first year we found two complete sets and last year Scott found a beautiful set dropped by a 5×5. What we learn on our long distance walks is where the elk live their lives, what they eat and what eats them.
The last two years, Scott and I have been camping and this really adds to the overall experience. Today, it snowed while we were hunting sheds just east of Clam Lake, in an area where two mature bulls had been spotted a few days earlier sporting good, sized racks.
Generally the big bulls lose their racks in March or early April, the rag horns are next and the spikes drop theirs later in May. To give you an idea of the chances of finding an elk antler, think about it this way. At best there are 175 elk in Wisconsin’s herd, which had been growing at about 20 percent a year but has slowed down to about 7 percent. Not even half of these elk have antlers, they are spread out over hundreds of square miles and some of the terrain is extremely difficult to travel. Having a local like Tom Dezotell on our side is a great benefit in locating where the bulls have recently been sighted.
Though we saw plenty of sign, no antlers were found today. Tonight Scott and his pal Dave Bebeau “Oily” of Glidden and I sat around the campfire until late in the evening and dined on trout that I had caught on my last adventure.
Sunday, May 12th
High 63, low 28
The three major clues, in my opinion, for the growth or failure of the Clam Lake elk herd are as follows! Daylight to the ground, predators and suitable habitat located at least a mile away from significant traffic.
Any one that has hunted deer, or followed elk, or pursues ruffed grouse will tell you the following story. In forested country, the above animals are always near the clear cuts that are a week to five years old. First, the deer and elk eat the recently downed branches from the previous years growth on the trees.
Soon after the logging job, (logging is good for wildlife) grass grows where there was not grass due to the removal of the tree canopy, which is now allowing daylight to the ground. The following year, aspen regeneration begins which is a favorite food of deer, elk, and grouse.
Over a period of several years, logging has been greatly reduced on our federal lands and the elk/deer habitat has been greatly reduced.
Because the logging jobs are small, which is often on private lands in or near The Chequamegon National Forest, the elk and deer are condensed which makes predator loss much higher.
An example of what I just wrote about would be today, Scott and I were working what was maybe 60-acre clear-cut that was surrounded by a mature pine and hardwood forest.
There was plenty of elk sign everywhere, including and unfortunately what was left of two elk that had been consumed by either a wolf or bear (yesterday we saw two wolves).
There is hope in the future for more logging, an import of more elk to the Clam Lake area, and a new herd in Jackson County.
No matter what side of the fence that you are on, when it comes to hunting, wildlife does not live off a farmer’s field requires logging for forest regeneration (daylight to the ground).
The elk herd in the Clam Lake area is incredibly respected by both the locals and the tourists it attracts.
Let’s pray that the folks that are against logging on our federal lands, learn that our wood and paper products come from our trees and that quite often our wildlife’s dinner is created by those logging jobs.
Thanks for reading!
THIS WEEK’S COLUMN IS SPONSORED BY: Downing Tractor Parts