DNR expands elk hunting options in northwestern Minnesota

Responding to growing complaints of crop damage in Kittson County, the Department of Natural Resources is expanding its elk-hunting opportunities this fall in northwestern Minnesota.

Responding to growing complaints of crop damage in Kittson County, the Department of Natural Resources is expanding its elk-hunting opportunities this fall in northwestern Minnesota.

According to Dennis Simon, wildlife section chief for the DNR in St. Paul, the big change on tap involves the formation of two elk-hunting zones in Kittson County -- Kittson County- North and Kittson County-South. The DNR is offering 10 either-sex licenses in Kittson-South and five tags -- one either-sex and four antlerless -- in Kittson -North. The DNR offered only one zone last year in Kittson County during a limited inaugural hunt.

The DNR also is offering 15 licenses -- two either-sex and 13 antlerless -- in the traditional Grygla hunting area.

"Though this year's elk harvest will likely increase, our intent is to maintain a relatively stable population while we finalize our elk management plan," Simon said.

The DNR last fall offered 12 tags near Grygla and 11 in Kittson County. Hunters in Kittson County had 100 percent success, shooting one bull and 10 antlerless elk, while Grygla hunters shot two bulls and six antlerless elk.


Tackling the issue

The expanded hunting seasons follow a meeting April 16 in Greenbush, Minn., where more than 70 people turned out to hear Simon and other DNR officials discuss options for managing elk populations in northwestern Minnesota. Many of those who attended expressed their frustrations with the DNR's handling of elk complaints to that point.

Depredation issues have escalated in the past five years, especially in Kittson County.

Simon, along with assistant DNR commissioner Laurie Martinson and others, toured trouble spots near Lancaster, Minn., on April 29. The DNR continues to take comments on a draft plan for managing elk, and two local input groups recently formed and convened to more fully explore problems in Kittson County and near Grygla.

According to Paul Telander, regional wildlife supervisor for the DNR in Bemidji, the Kittson County work group has 14 members and the Grygla group 10. The DNR didn't pick the committees, Telander said. Instead, others with an interest in each of the two areas selected the members, and an outside facilitator runs the groups' meetings.

He said the two committees met last week and are scheduled to meet again this coming week.

"They talked about the elk management plan and getting the group's ideas for recommendations they want to have incorporated into the plan," Telander said.

That includes issues such as elk depredation, shooting permits and any other ideas the group develops.


What's next

Telander said the work groups could wrap up their discussions at the coming meeting and then will forward their list of recommendations to DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten for consideration in a revised elk management plan.

That plan should be available for public comment sometime late this summer or early this fall, Telander said, with a final plan to follow later this year.

"We'll see what the groups come up with for recommendations," Telander said. "I think we've got a good process in place."

While elk long have been part of the landscape near Grygla, where the animals were introduced in the mid-1930s, they started showing up in Kittson and western Roseau counties in the 1980s. Wildlife managers have speculated the elk wandered into the area from Manitoba and North Dakota.

Known as the Border Herd, the Kittson County population consists of three subgroups: The "Water Tower" subgroup north of Lancaster, the "Lancaster Herd" east of Lancaster and the "Caribou/Vita" subgroup on the Minnesota-Manitoba border.

The Grygla Herd in recent years has ranged from 35 to 55 elk, while estimates in Kittson County indicate as many as 115 elk.

On the Web:


For more information, including a map of the three hunting zones, go to

Dokken reports on outdoors. Reach him at (701) 780-1148; (800) 477-6572, ext. 148; or send e-mail to .

Related Topics: HUNTING
Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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