"This is prime elk habitat, with a pleasing mixture of gambel oak, black timber and meadows with a scattering of deciduous trees, located on the south shoulder of the majestic La Plata Mountains. This land is not steep, but is moderately undulating. The Institute seeks to keep fewer than 100 elk within this 1,500-acre tract, to maintain herd and habitat health. With a new crop of calves coming each spring, it is necessary to remove animals that for one reason or another no longer meet research objectives. One of the management tools used is controlled hunting of specific bulls.
"Within this herd are a high percentage of 350-plus-class bulls, with some going over 400. The cost of the hunts starts at about $3,000 and goes up to $15,000, according to the size of the bull. The nature of the habitat provides lots of hiding places for the animals and a pleasing hunting experience for participants. The health and genetic background of each animal is meticulously tracked, and all animals are free of CWD or other serious diseases. The double fence was built to ensure that no CWD-infected animal comes in contact with the research herd. Hunting is done on foot and with the assistance of electric-powered 4WD ATV's. I have photographed some of these hunts, and the hunter satisfaction rate has been high.
"The Institute also offers another unique opportunity that will appeal to some hunters. Each fall, the research staff decides which bulls it wants to breed. The........(continued)