A look at the Southern Big Horn Elk Herd

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Since the mid-1990’s, Wyomings elk population has experienced tremendous growth as have elk across the entire mountain west. The biologists in charge of managing these majestic game animals have many theories as to why elk numbers have exploded across the west. Wyoming’s statewide population estimate stands at 113,000 animals, which is almost double the elk population just 25 years ago! The Southern Bighorn herd where SNS conducts our cow elk hunts, has now grown to become Wyomings 3rd largest herd. The Wyoming Game and Fish manages this herd via 6 hunt units and issues 3050 licenses for cow elk within this elk herd.

This herd seems to have stabilized in terms of total animals. The game and fish has been trying to bring elk numbers down within this herd but it’s been difficult. Elk are prolific and very well suited when it comes to surviving Wyomings winter weather. Because of the vast ranch range, this elk herd can move over an incredible amount of country in order to find winter feed. The seasonal movement of elk is large and the cows seek out more secluded areas to have their calves. Elk prefer well watered areas with lush grass and trees to seek shaded shelter during the heat of the day. The very large working cattle ranch that we hunt provides some of the best year round habitats to be found in the Bighorns Mountains.

Spring is a spectacular time of year to ride a good horse through the purple mountain lupine, smelling the sagebrush, checking out the elk herds. Elk are very gregarious critters and spend most of their time in herds. Herds of elk can be found grazing through valleys of lush green grass. The bull’s antlers are in velvet and the herd has shed their winter coats making them a shiny reddish color. When elk calves begin arriving in late May, the cows will group together as a protection measure from predators. Cow elk are very vocal and are constantly “talking” to their calves. Calves trot along side their mamas, testing their boundaries and even exhibiting some playful behavior with one another.

Big game hunters have really embraced the idea of cow elk hunting. The SNS office receives more and more inquires from hunters each year asking about our cow hunting opportunities. A horseback cow elk hunt offers all of the challenge of a bull hunt yet is priced much lower. A boastful 90% success rate has certainly drawn some serious interest as well! A mature cow elk will weigh 450-550 pounds of ‘live weight’ and yields on average 100-120 pounds of table ready meat. Elk meat is organic, lean and low in cholesterol, not to mention just how delicious the meat is!

Our elk unit still has a few cow elk licenses available for the 2020 season. If you’d like to take in a ride through this ranch and are interested in filling your freezer with some of the best quality meat one can harvest, give us a call. We would be happy share details and discuss available dates for this fall 2020!