MISSOULA, Mont. — Your crosshairs shift undecidedly between a raghorn bull and a big cow, both standing broadside at 60 yards. The elk tag in your pocket makes both animals legal. Which one do you shoot?
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation offers five reasons to consider taking the cow:
- Reducing a herd to fit the carrying capacity of its winter range is a form of habitat conservation. Culling a calf-producer is more effective population control. Wildlife agencies issue either-sex tags specifically to encourage hunter harvest of cows.
- Letting young bulls walk improves your odds for a big, mature bull next year.
- A more abundant bull population tends to be older, which can improve efficiency of the rut. Result: more bulls surviving winter, higher pregnancy rates in cows, fewer late calves and better overall herd health.
- A less abundant cow population tends to be younger, more vigorous and resistant to diseases.
- As tablefare, cows and calves are generally better.
Hunting remains the primary wildlife management tool today, vital for balancing elk populations within biological and cultural tolerances, says David Allen, Elk Foundation president and CEO.
“Habitat conservation, sound management, good hunting, healthy wildlife — they’re all tied together. And, more and more, adequate harvest of cow elk is becoming a factor. If you have an either-sex elk tag this fall, consider letting young bulls go and filling your freezer with a fat cow,” he said.
RMEF this fall passed the 5.7 million acre mark in habitat conserved or enhanced.