By RALPH BARTHOLDT
The number of elk killed along the Coeur d’Alene River during the Panhandle general rifle season was about the same as in previous years, but a lot fewer elk were harvested along the St. Joe.
Early data from two check stations report 30 elk checked at the Enaville station this year compared to 32 last year, and 19 whitetail deer checked this year compared to 21 last year.
That’s not surprising, said Wayne Wakkinen, the Panhandle’s regional game manager, because hunting Unit 4, where most of the animals checked at Enaville are harvested, has pretty consistent returns.
What has Wakkinen scratching his head is the number of elk checked at the St. Maries station, an area of often robust returns.
The St. Maries station, which sees hunters pass through from the units 6, 7 and 9 had 50 elk checked last year compared to 26 this year. Last year, 22 mule deer were checked compared to two this year.
The stations were open for two weekends in both 2016 and this year, said Wakkinen who is perplexed by this year’s low, St. Maries’ numbers.
“It was disappointing,” he said. “I can’t really explain it.”
Early snow this year during the first part of the season may have impacted hunters in the St. Joe area, and rain and gusty winds last weekend may have made conditions spotty.
“There were some nice days in there,” he said. “We had kind of a goofy weather pattern.”
The weather may have discouraged people from hunting hard, he said, but that’s often not the case. This year’s three-day cow elk season — one of the most popular regional hunts — didn’t seem to push up participation numbers.
Hunters who have an A-tag, usually called a bow tag, can return to the woods this week to hunt elk with rifles until Oct. 29.
Wakkinen said he’s curious to see how A and B-tag harvest rates stack up once the final elk harvest is tallied after the close of the general season this month.
“The B-tag folks seem to have gotten the bad end of the weather this year,” he said.