Idaho History May 29, 2022

Idaho Elk Hunting


Sportsman Edward Maberly

by Evan Filby – South Fork Companion

In 1894, Maberly graduated from a dental college located in Kansas City and practiced briefly in Nebraska. He moved to Boise in 1895.

An “ardent sportsman,” Maberly helped organize a state-wide sportmen’s organization. Through that body, he urged the passage of laws for wiser fish and game management. He sent a photograph of elk in the Teton foothills to Recreation magazine, with the statement that the herd numbered “some 1,500” and had just been shooed away from stacks of hay in the valley.

1898Elk-acaption: Maberly Elk photo. Recreation magazine, 1898.

He went on, “We rarely see so large a band of elk now; yet there are enough left to stock a vast territory if properly protected and judiciously hunted.”

Maberly served several terms as President of the Intermountain Gun Club. He won many awards at shooting contests in Boise and around the Northwest, remaining competitive well into his sixties.

References: E. H. Maberly, “Elk in the Teton Foot Hills,” Recreation, Vol. VIII. No. 2, G. 0. Shields, Publisher, New York (February 1898).

excerpted from: Sportsman and Idaho Dentistry Pioneer Edward Maberly
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Elk hunting


A hunter sits from a post high above the ground with a rifle waiting for elk. From Stonebraker photo collection.

source: William Allen Stonebraker Photographs, Digital Initiatives, University of Idaho Library
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The Elusive Wapati

By Mike Demick, Staff Biologist Monday, March 24, 2014

In 1909, the state of elk populations in Idaho was so alarming a moratorium on elk hunting was declared in parts of the state. What had happened to once plentiful herds of elk in Idaho is the story of western expansion across North America. Lewis and Clark described vast herds covering the grasslands as they made their way west in 1805. As settlers began changing the landscape with farms and ranches, and unregulated market hunters decimated populations through hunting, wildlife like elk disappeared except in secluded parts of the Rocky Mountains. Alarmed by the rapid disappearance of wildlife, national leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt and Idaho’s own Emile Grandjean took action. Roosevelt’s efforts led to the creation of Yellowstone National Park; Grandjean’s determination helped establish a 220,000-acre game preserve in the Payette River drainage west of the Sawtooth Mountains. Elk herds protected in Yellowstone National Park would later be transplanted to preserves to restore elk in Idaho and throughout the West.

Idaho’s elk population today is a direct result of elk transplanted from Yellowstone National Park. Elk were first moved to Idaho in 1915 by railcar and other transplants happened until 1940. Since then, elk have flourished in Idaho and other intrastate transplants have been conducted by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to establish elk in unoccupied range. Today, an estimated 107,000 elk roam the state from the forests of North Idaho to the sagebrush country in the south. To learn more about Fish and Game’s current Elk Management Plan, check out this IDFG video:

To read more about Idaho’s elk population and other 75th Celebration stories, visit the Fish and Game website at (link):

source: Idaho Fish and Game
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“Live-captured Northern Range [Yellowstone] elk were the source for most elk transplant efforts throughout North America. More than 13,500 live elk were shipped from the Northern Range inside YNP to Canada, Mexico, and 38 US states.”

source: History and Status of Wild Ungulate Populations on the Northern Yellowstone Range
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Game Laws for 1915

By Theodore Sherman Palmer, William Frederick Bancroft, Frank L. Earnshaw 1915

Game Refuges and Preserves

… Legislation affecting refuges was enacted in at least 14 States, and included not only provisions for new refuges, but changes to boundaries and elimination of several of those already created. … Idaho established the Lewiston Orchards preserve in Nez Perce County and the Black Lake game refuge in Adams and Idaho Counties (which was stocked with 50 elk from the Yellowstone National park), and renewed protection for five years on big game and game birds in seven counties in the southeastern corner of the State.

New Laws Passed in 1915

Idaho — Eight acts: Creating the Black Lake game preserve in Adams and Idaho counties (ch. 9); protecting quail in Lemhi County for four years (ch.33); closing season for five years on big game, quail, and Mongolian pheasants in Bannock, Bear Lake, Cassia, Franklin, Oneida, Power, and Twin Falls Counties (ch. 72); prohibiting hunting of mountain sheep and of females (and young under 1 year of age) of deer and elk (ch. 90); closing the State to elk hunting except for male elk in Fremont, Bonneville, Teton, and Bingham Counties (ch. 90); requiring written consent to hunt elk inclosed [sic] and posted lands (ch. 152); petitioning Congress to create the Sawtooth National Park.

source: Google Books
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Historical Perspective

Accounts from trappers and miners in the 1870s and 1880s indicate that elk occurred in the zone but were not as numerous as deer. Excessive use by livestock during the late 1800s and early 1900s severely damaged the Boise River and Big Wood River watersheds and reduced the area’s ability to support high numbers of elk. Additionally, heavy unregulated hunting by miners, market hunters, and local settlers drastically reduced big game populations during the late 1800s.

By 1905, it was difficult to find camp meat. Elk had been all but eliminated and deer observations were rare in the Boise River Basin and Big Wood River drainage.

In 1915, a reintroduction effort began with a release of elk from Yellowstone National Park into the Boise River drainage just above Arrowrock Dam. In 1930, the elk population in the Soldier Mountain area was estimated at 135 head. Reintroduction efforts continued in 1935 and 1936 with elk releases near Ketchum in the Big Wood River drainage.

Elk were abundant in McCall Zone prior to European settlement in the late 1800s. The proliferation of mining due to the gold rush in the late 1800s and early 1900s led to widespread slaughter of these animals to supply meat and hides for mining camps. As a result, elk became increasingly rare to see, and at one time were thought to be eliminated from the area. Remnant populations relegated to the more remote rugged portions of the zone survived. Translocation of elk from Yellowstone to places in McCall Zone such as New Meadows occurred in the late 1930s.

source: Idaho Department of Fish and Game
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1915IdahoElk-aFish and Game (Courtesy photo, Idaho Department of Fish and Game) “Import elk from Yellowstone 1915. In 1915 Idaho Fish and Game began importing elk into Idaho from Yellowstone National Park.” (via pinterest)
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“Grangeville Globe,” March 4, 1915

19150304GGShip Two Carloads of Elk Into State From Montana

The settlers over In the Chamberlain Basin and Mallard Creek sections will be surprised to learn that the state has just had 50 elk shipped in from the National Perk and Jackson Hole country for the purpose of “propagating and perpetuating the species” and that corrals and feeding grounds have been prepared for their reception over in the Black lake country. The few settlers in the sections mentioned have had some experience with elk during the past few years, as well as with the state officials and game warden’s department, which has taught them a sad and expensive lesson along that line.

Edward C. Harpison lives on Mallard Creek, some 25 miles south of Elk City, where he owns a ranch from which he has been trying to earn a living. The elk, which are abundant in that country form in herds and break down his fences and overrun his crops, not infrequently destroying his season’s labor. They come in at certain seasons and mingle with his domestic cattle and tramp out his meadows from which he cuts hay for his own animals. In severe winters he has fed and preserved the elk and has thus helped to carry out the efforts of the state which has had laws enacted preventing the killing of the same by hunters.

Mr. Harpison was out to Grangeville last season and was a guest of the local Commercial club at the regular weekly luncheon while here. Mr. Harpison related some of his experiences in dairying and “elk raising” which were very interesting. When the elk became so numerous under his fostering care as to be burdensome and destructive of crops, Mr. Harpison applied to the state asking that in view of the part he had taken in preserving the elk In that section, that he be supplied by the state with sufficient wire to fence his place against the elk invasions, but his petition was ignored. Yet the state can go to the trouble and expense of shipping elk in from another state, building corrals and employing persons to care for and feed them, but cannot see the wisdom or economy in co-operating with the pioneer settler who has helped protect and preserve the elk already here, and who has suffered loss and expended labor in doing so. This is all wrong in principle, as anyone with the least bit of sense or fairness must see, and should be corrected. The ‘Weiser Signal’ of last week contains the following account of the arrival of the recent elk shipment at that place and the interest shown in the same:

Two car loads of elk direct from their native health in the National Park and the Jackson Hole country were shipped Into Weiser Monday night and were transferred to the P. & I. N. Tuesday noon and taken to Council. While the animals were in this city there were more than 500 people visited the two cars and inspected the animals. In order to ship them in stock cars they had to be dehorned and much of their beauty was spoiled for the sight seers. The horns would have been shed shortly anyway and the loss of them is only for the time being. By the coming autumn they will be spread again in all of their seven or eight feet of glory.

Most of the animals were two year [olds but some were three. In all there] were 50 of which 15 were males and 35 female.

The intention of the man in charge was to have the elk taken off at Council where they are to be crated and then hauled over to The Bear river country and around through the Black Lake country. Corrals and feeding grounds have been prepared and there is little doubt about the elk ever straying far from the grounds where they will winter the first year.

Council Record: The 60 elk for the Black Lake preserve arrived Tuesday evening in two cars attached to the passenger train, and nearly the whole town was down at the depot to see them. They were taken to New Meadows to unload and two of them escaped and took to the hills at that point. From there they are to be driven to the preserve via Little Salmon and the head waters of Deep creek.

source: The Grangeville Globe. (Grangeville, Idaho), 04 March 1915.
Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress.

Note: The position of State Fish and Game Warden was created in 1899. (Idaho Blue Book)

source: Transcribed and posted to ID AHGP:
[ht SMc]
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Elk Hunting in Idaho

Timeline by Idaho Fish and Game

1915: Elk transplanted to Idaho from Yellowstone Park.

1921: Women required to buy hunting and fishing license.

1938: Idaho’s first successful voter initiative passes creating the Idaho Fish and Game Commission and establishing Commission Districts.

1947: Controlled hunts first used to limit the number of sportsmen hunting a given area. Game preserves are opened to hunting. The Idaho Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit established at the University of Idaho.

1976: First general bucks-only deer and bulls-only elk hunting season.

1978: Burdette Prince property bought, to become part of Craig Mountain WMA. 11,527 acres of deer and elk range.

1997: Nancy Hadley Hanson of Sandpoint became the first female member of the Fish and Game Commission. A reorganization of elk hunting seasons was announced for public input, with implementation in 1998. … Commission proposes a fee increase on deer and elk tags to fund enforcement, wildlife surveys, a mandatory hunter report card and telephone survey.

1998: A system of 28 elk hunting zones was established, requiring hunters to choose a single hunting area and decide between an “A” and “B” tag defining season dates and weapons. Deer and elk tags fees were increased by $6. Mandatory hunter harvest reports were required from all deer, elk, and antelope hunters. A new elk license plate was offered to Idaho motorists.

excerpts from: Fish and Game History
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Elk Herd Challis Idaho


Undated photo postcard

source: The Mike Fritz Collection, History of Idaho

Further Reading

Link to Deer Hunting
Link to Idaho Hunting Stories
Link to The Carlin Party Tragedy
Link to Idaho History Table of Contents