The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife implemented an open-entry spike-bull, limited-entry branched-bull elk (Cervus elaphus) harvest strategy in the Blue Mountains (1989), Yakima (1994), and Colockum (1994) herd areas of Washington state with goals of increasing numbers of adult bulls to increase breeding efficiency and possibly calf recruitment. Numbers of total bulls/100 cows (x??=5.4) and branched bulls/100 cows (x??=5.3) increased with the change in harvest strategy, while yearling bulls/100 cows remained unchanged; calves/100 cows declined (x??=-8.6). Calves/100 cows were always negatively correlated with both total bulls/100 cows and branched bulls/100 cows in each area; correlations were significant in 5 of 9 comparisons with total-bull ratios and 5 of 9 comparisons with branched-bull ratios. Open-entry spike-bull, limited-entry branched-bull harvesting can be used to increase total-bull and branched-bulls ratios in hunted elk populations. However, the increased ratios of bulls and branched bulls were unimportant in influencing calf recruitment, likely because of the importance of female condition on production and survival of young.
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Effects of open-entry spike-bull, limited-entry branched-bull harvesting on elk composition in Washington