A lot has happened since The Hunting Report’s last report on tule elk hunting in 2002 (see article No. 1036). Last year the Pope & Young Club finally added tule elk to its awards program, setting a minimum score of 225 points for its record book. The introduction of the new category into the Pope & Young Record Book caused a jump in tule elk archery tag applications for California’s 2008 archery hunts. The news even made the New York Times, which ran a story on one bowhunter’s unsuccessful venture on the Temblor Ranch. During the first hunting season since the new category was opened, the club has accepted 22 entries, with the largest scoring 312 P & Y. Meanwhile, at Boone & Crockett, there are another five trophy bulls awaiting to be accepted at the club’s 27th Big Game Awards. The bulls range from 274 to 322 B & C points, with the largest taken in San Luis Obispo County. In 2006, the largest bull scored 341 B & C and was taken in Colusa County. The Boone & Crockett minimum is 270 for its Awards program and 285 for the All Time records.
Once on the brink of extinction, tule elk herds are stable and growing. Quality has never been better. But getting a permit to hunt tule elk remains a challenge. That’s because tule elk are only found in California and only one lottery permit a year is made available to nonresidents. That leaves only two other ways for non-Californians to hunt a tule elk – auction hunts and California’s Private Lands Management (PLM) Program. What you need to know right now, though, is that the recent economic downturn is creating some last-minute openings for hunters who can move quickly. These opportunities are in the way of cancelled hunts with PLM operators. Since most hunters must book a tule elk hunt two to three years in advance, cancellations mean this could be the year that you move to the front of the line for a trophy tule elk.
Tule elk are the smallest of the three elk species, the other two being Rocky Mountain and Roosevelt. The state’s tule elk herd size is between 3,800 and 3,900 animals. The herds are closely managed, with California now issuing about 300 permits annually through the lottery, up from about 130 in 2002. But with 26,000 residents applying, even their odds of drawing are very low.
Three tags are made available each year to nonresidents as well as Californians through several auctions. Two of these tags are typically for the Grizzly Island Wildlife Area and are sold at the Mule Deer Foundation’s national fundraiser and its Central Coast Chapter’s fundraiser. The other tag is for Owens Valley and is sold by the Fresno Chapter of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. In 2008, the Grizzly Island tags went for $60,000 and $55,000. This year they went for $45,000 each. The tag offered for Owens Valley went for $15,000 in 2008 and $10,750 this past February. The drop in the winning bid amounts are most likely a symptom of the current economic climate.....