The annual fall flood of blaze orange-clad hunters strolling the roads around Kelly and Antelope Flats will begin this weekend in Grand Teton National Park.
Capped at 375 permittees, the park’s elk hunt, dubbed a “reduction program,” begins Saturday and continues until Dec. 8. The late-season hunt targets herds migrating back from summer ranges on their way to the National Elk Refuge, where hunting has been underway for two weeks — albeit with few elk.
National Elk Refuge biologist Eric Cole reported Thursday that the 2019 harvest has so far been a single animal.
“Elk GPS collar data confirms that elk are generally still on summer range or moving to lower elevation areas immediately adjacent to their summer ranges,” Cole wrote in a biological update he disseminates.
Hunting is an activity usually prohibited in national parks, but it occurs in Teton park because of Wyoming and National Park Service negotiations written into the 1950 legislation that created the park.
“Such program shall include the controlled reduction of elk in such park,” the 69-year-old bill says, “by hunters licensed by the State of Wyoming and deputized as rangers by the Secretary of the Interior, when it is found necessary for the purpose of proper management and protection of the elk.”
Grand Teton and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department have gradually scaled back the park hunt, eliminating bull hunting a handful of years ago and closing down the northernmost hunting zone, area 79, in order to limit the harvest on migratory portions of the herd that are struggling. License numbers are also on the downswing.
A number of special rules apply to the park hunt, including mandatory nonlead ammunition and accessible bear spray. Hunters are also prohibited from carrying more than seven cartridges, and they’re not allowed to take more than one shot at running elk. Artificial elk calls are also banned.
Grand Teton has set up an elk reduction program hotline: 739-3681.