For the first time ever, hunters in Wisconsin will be able to apply for an opportunity to win one of the state’s first elk hunting tags. Two decades of reintroduction efforts have paid off with enough elk now living in the wilds of northern and central Wisconsin to support a limited hunting season. Ten tags will be issued for Wisconsin’s resident-only hunt. Four tags will be issued by a lottery draw, five will be issued to the Ojibwe tribe, and one will be issued through a raffle conducted by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, whose efforts have been crucial to the successful reintroduction of wild elk in Wisconsin.
Elk are native to Wisconsin but were eliminated from the state well over two centuries ago. Early attempts at reintroduction failed but over the last twenty years, the state’s initial reintroduction of 40 elk has successfully expanded into a growing population of over 200 hundred animals. Reintroductions with elk from the state of Kentucky will continue and Wisconsin’s wildlife managers have a goal of eventually establishing two separate elk herds with an overall population of nearly 2000 elk in the state.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, the U.S. Forest Service, the Jackson County Wildlife Fund, Jackson County Forest and Parks, the Ho-Chunk Nation, and the Bands of the Lake Superior Ojibwe have worked together in a conservation partnership that used primarily private donations to re-establish elk in the state of Wisconsin. It’s a shining example of how collaboration and hard work can pay off in big ways for wildlife and hunters. And as that population of wild elk grows, hunters should be thanking and supporting these groups for even more opportunities to pursue elk in Wisconsin in the future.
Brody Henderson is a writer, hunter, fly fishing guide, and MeatEater’s Community Manager