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Thread: Hd 202 elk

  1. #1
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    Hd 202 elk

    Hey guys,

    Anyone ever hunted 202? (General Elk Archery) I've found some ok looking areas on google earth but I'm green as can be to elk. If anyone could provide some insight, I'd greatly appreciate it. I've hunted mules in elk country before but I was never as steep as what I'm seeing in 202...or most of the elk-y areas I see in Montana. I'm not shy of the terrain, just want to make sure I'm not killing myself for no reasons.

    I'm open to any general area in Montana. I'll have 7 hunting days in Sept and 7 more in late October for rifle.

    Happy to trade info on Wyoming antelope and deer, South Dakota deer, Utah deer or even trade a hunt in Ohio or ky for whitetails.

    Thanks everyone!
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    I plan to check it out a fair bit this summer as it is one area in MT that is pretty close to me and I will probably hunt this fall for archery and rifle elk, and maybe whitetails.

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    Hd 202 elk

    This is an area that I used to hunt like 8+ years ago so i might be able to provide some insight

    The area is north of Missoula and gets a decent amount of pressure since its close, but of course most hunters dont work that hard and mainly drive the roads

    There used to be a decent elk numbers in the district but wolves have really put the hurt on them. Your best strategy is going to try and search for micro pockets that hold elk. I talked to a biologist in 2016 and only two elk were pulled out of the fish creek drainage all season!

    Pluses about the area is there are a ton of logging roads that run through, and a decent number of them are gaited or not accessible by pickup, you will need a ATV. Bike hunting would be a good strategy for behind gates

    Downside is the terrain is extremely steep, and very thick timber in many spots with some open parks or hillsides. Expect your rifle hunts to be either very close range or from across a canyon. It will be difficult to find mid range shots here. I dont have archery experience here so I cant tell you how they respond here

    In my opinion, youll have to work really hard for your elk and that energy could be used in more productive areas, but it still will make for a good elk hunt. Just know its going to be a lot of work going in. Getting yourself into those deep drainages and search for elk pockets.


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    Here's my take...and I've hunted 202 quite a bit in the past. As the previous poster put up, in 2016 there were only 2 elk checked through the fish creek check station. A friend of mine that I grew up with in Missoula killed one of those 2 bulls. His family has hunted that country more than any family I know, for at least 50 years, probably longer than that. They own cabins in Fish Creek as well.

    While I agree that wolves have had an impact on elk in that unit, the bigger impact started in the mid-1980's. There were a couple landowners, in the very limited winter range areas, that started complaining about elk in their hayfields, specifically in the Quartz Creek area. The MTFWP began issuing a metric chit-ton of cow permits there...then to ice the cake, they lengthened seasons starting rifle hunts in September and continuing through January. Another good friend of mine, that was the District Ranger for the FS in part of 202, told the FWP that those cow hunts in Quartz Creek were going to negatively impact the elk herds in the St. Patrick peaks/Fish Creek areas and likely areas perhaps as far West as Cedar Creek.

    I attended multiple meetings were the FWP Biologist at that time, Bob Henderson, defended the high cow permit numbers by making claims that there were several hundred elk using those fields near Quartz Creek. I'll never forget when a guy in the audience told Bob he was full of crap on his numbers. Bob, being the know-it-all that he always was, asked how the guy knew how many elk used the area. The guy said, "Well, I live in the house that over-looks the fields. The most elk I've ever counted there was 173 elk at one time. You're issuing more tags than there are elk in the area". Dead silence....and no answer or justification for the high number of cow permits.

    I watched as elk numbers started to plummet starting in the early 90's. I hunted the Great Burn area, specifically the West Fork of Fish Creek, Indian Creek, Surveyor Creek and had some incredible archery hunts in there. All through the 90's clear until now...its been on a steep decline. Unlike other areas, this unit is primarily public, and with the lack of landowner tolerance on the limited private, these elk have nowhere to go for refuge. They get pounded flat for at least 11 weeks, 6 weeks of archery, 5 weeks of general season. Throw in some predation by wolves, permit only and huge reductions in mountain lion harvest, and the 11 weeks of continuous pressure...well, it aint rocket science why the elk are essentially, if not functionally, extinct in there.

    The last flight data that I saw, the FWP saw 9 elk...and the harvest data provided by the previous poster is spot on.

    This is classic case of total and complete lack of science based Management by the MTFWP. I'm still trying to wrap my head around how, in the hell, when you find 9 elk on a flight, with a harvest of 2 elk, that there is any justification for 11 weeks of hunting allowed by every licensed elk hunter in the State of Montana? I've heard from friends that still live there, that the "justification" from the FWP, was, "Well with so few left, it wont matter if we kill a handful more"...Sound wildlife management there.

    The first time I hunted Fish Creek, I'll never forget my friend, my friends Dad, and I packed in on horses and on opening morning bugled into a large drainage. It broke loose with at least a dozen bulls bugling and carrying on. My friend spread his Dad's ashes there last September, in that very spot...he bugled and heard exactly one bull respond. He told me, "Actually, I was surprised to hear one bugle"...

    I worked with a guy that was the fleet Manager for the Ranger District I worked at...and he had a collection of bull elk from 202 he had killed from the 1960's-mid 80's that was very impressive. Mostly all mature 6 points with about 1/3 of them being 340+...

    It really does make me sad to have to type this kind of report...it was such good elk country in the past. Honestly, I wouldn't waste my time hunting there...its perfect elk country that essentially has no elk.

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    My impression is that there are too many people involved who think that their view point is the absolute pinnacle of science and they feel that anybody that disagrees with them isn't basing their opinions on science. The argument about how to define security cover for animals is a perfect example. Some "experts" claim that a game animal needs to be able to be 80% concealed at a specific distance from a hunter and others claim that the animals don't interpret cover that way - so who should the layman believe?

    The truth is that as the human population grows and expands their domain the animal populations will be reduced, that's just the unfortunate truth, I don't like it any better than anyone else but it's a fact that we are going to have to live with. The answer for me has been to find those micro spots that hold elk. I can do that because I live where I hunt so I can spend the entire year watching the elk. About all I can say to a non-resident is that you need to assume that if an area is hunted hard that most hunters are either hunting what they can see from the roads or what they can see from at least two or three miles in from the roads. Everything in between isn't being hunted, that's where you need to start watching. The hard part is that those in-between spots are usually forested so it's harder to figure out exactly where to watch, but then that's why they call it hunting.

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    ...and that post has about ZERO to do with 202 or the reasons why it has declined to absolutely horrific elk hunting.

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    Well, two things....maybe I won’t spend much time in 202, and Buzz and rammont still don’t like each other

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    Thanks a ton for input and help everyone! I'll probably look elsewhere for the time being. It looks like such beautiful country, but I'm all to familiar with F&G issuing permits and killing off the herds. Thats exactly what we are going through here in southern Ohio with whitetails in the locality I hunt.

    Thanks again!
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