Final score: Missouri elk 1, hunters 0 in inaugural archery season
The bowhunting portion of Missouri's first elk season closed Sunday, with no archer managing to take a bull elk.
There were a few close sightings, but none of the four archers got close enough to take an ethical shot.
Four of the five Missouri hunters who drew an elk permit participated in the archery portion of Missouri's elk season, which ran from Oct. 17-25. They'll get another chance during the inaugural firearms elk season, Dec. 12-20.
"None of the hunters harvested an elk prior to the close of the archery portion," said Aaron Hildreth, a Missouri Conservation Department elk specialist. "All five plan to participate in the December 12-20 firearms portion. Many of the hunters had close calls, but for their own reasons (or) the specific situation decided not to take the shot."
Elk once were native to Missouri but were wiped out in the late 1800s by commercial hunting and shrinking of their habitat.
MDC reintroduced elk to south-central Missouri in 2011, drawing from wild herds in Kentucky.
Hildreth estimated a current Missouri elk population of around 207 before the calving season this year.
"From that estimate of 207 elk, roughly 70 of those elk are bulls (both adults and yearlings) that would most likely be legal for harvest."
He said MDC will do an aerial survey later this winter, combine it with the cow/calf survey data, survival and reproduction rates, and harvest information, then run the population model again to estimate the 2021 numbers.
"That information will help inform next year’s permit quota recommendation," he said.
Reintroduced elk now are found in a portion of Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties.
"Based on previous collar data, we have had very few of the reintroduced elk wander outside of these counties," Hildreth said. "We do receive reports of elk sightings in other counties across the state annually. We suspect most of these reports are from elk that have wandered in from neighboring states (Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma) while some could be from elk from captive herds."
He said most of the reports MDC gets about elk outside of Carter, Reynolds and Shannon counties are younger males and many are in September and October, which corresponds to the breeding season in Missouri and neighboring states.