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Thread: Killing caribou cows?

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    Question Killing caribou cows?

    Heading to Unit 13 with my wife soon to try and kill a couple of caribou. We are hoping to shoot bulls only and may pass on cows if it is the right thing for us to do.

    I know there is much I do not know when it comes to managing our game populations. What are your guys thoughts on shooting cow caribou?

    Does it hurt the caribou population when cows are killed?

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    Member highestview's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by .338 mag. View Post
    Heading to Unit 13 with my wife soon to try and kill a couple of caribou. We are hoping to shoot bulls only and may pass on cows if it is the right thing for us to do.

    I know there is much I do not know when it comes to managing our game populations. What are your guys thoughts on shooting cow caribou?

    Does it hurt the caribou population when cows are killed?
    Talking with the biologist today, he said he has no doubt that the herd is over 40,000 animals which is the top end of the desired Nelchina population. At other times, when the herd is having a hard time keeping its population, I would hesitate to shoot a cow even if allowed. But right now, the herd is WAY over it's desired goal. Shooting a cow definitely does affect population, but it's a non-issue this year. Frank (the bio) says there's absolutely no judgment about taking a cow this year, nobody should hesitate if they have the opportunity to take a cow.

    I cant wait for them to finally finish counting the photos and release their estimate. I think it will be over 50,000.
    Born in Alaska: The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:6

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    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    Mature Cows taste better than mature bulls but have less meat. The antlers dont look as grand on the wall, either.

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    state wants to 2,000 cows culled from the herd along with 2,000 bulls. In yrs past the quota for cows has always been around 300.

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    Capture the excess cows and bulls in unit 13 and let them loose in unit 23... then open the season back up...

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    Quote Originally Posted by willphish4food View Post
    Mature Cows taste better than mature bulls but have less meat. The antlers dont look as grand on the wall, either.
    You know, that used to be my sentiment as well, but the large bull that my wife shot a few years back was without a doubt the best tasting caribou I've ever had. It was an August bull with a solid 2" of fat on his hind quarters, and man, that thing was goooood (and surprisingly tender). I've had similar experiences with other August bulls up in the alpine.

    As for general thoughts on taking cows, it all depends on population health and goals. As highestview mentioned, the Nelchina herd is likely at or over carrying capacity right now, so maintaining the reproductive potential of the cows isn't an issue. Cows should be taken without a second thought in such a situation.

    I'll personally be looking for a bull this fall if I can find one simply due to the larger size (more meat), but if all I can find are cows I won't shed a tear over harvesting one.

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    Member Bambistew's Avatar
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    If the amount of meat on a cow was somewhat comparable to a mature bull, I'd shot a cow. Hard for me to put in that much effort for half as much meat. That said, if the herd needs thinning, thin away!

    I'd love to try the meat off a cow, I couldn't imagine it to be much better than an august bull, but who knows. I prefer august bou to sheep. Easily in my top 3 as far as wild game meat goes.

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    Well, one thing I don't like about it is the difficulty of determining a single cow. Most of the time cows have 1 or 2 calves so determining a single cow is very difficult as the herd mills around. sometimes I have passed up shooting many groups of caribou cause I couldn't find one without a calf. With bulls I don't need to worry. Unfortunately I think many guys don't give it as much thought.
    I come home with an honestly earned feeling that something good has taken place. It makes no difference whether I got anything, it has to do with how the day was spent. Fred Bear

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    Member willphish4food's Avatar
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    I will amend my statement a bit, as I have also had excellent bulls. I have also had terrible, all but inedible bulls. I have never had a strong tasting or tough cow.

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    I shot a yearling cow last year and would do it again. Not a lot of meat, but we packed the whole thing out in one trip and you can cut the tenderloins with a fork.

    From a biological perspective, taking cows has a larger impact on reproduction and population vs taking bulls. The numbers of the Nelchina herd are near the upper end (or over) objective and Frank said last year he wished to see more cows taken.

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    Wow good to hear that herd is doing so well! What is the reason? The predator control Alaska has done? Almost every herd here is in decline....some are in real bad shape, but our Govt. will never do predator control.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sollybug View Post
    Well, one thing I don't like about it is the difficulty of determining a single cow. Most of the time cows have 1 or 2 calves so determining a single cow is very difficult as the herd mills around. sometimes I have passed up shooting many groups of caribou cause I couldn't find one without a calf. With bulls I don't need to worry. Unfortunately I think many guys don't give it as much thought.
    Has any research been done on mortality rates of orphaned caribou calves?

    I've seen studies for deer, elk, bighorn sheep lambs and moose calves. Mortality rates are often not significantly higher for orphaned vs. non-orphaned animals. Much of any increase in mortality rates seems to be attributable to predator density. But is there a compensatory effect? Predators will eat, and when predators kill an orphaned calve it could mean less pressure on others in the herd.

    Having brought this up, I agree in selecting either a dry cow or taking the calf instead orphaning an animal.

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    This info is about what I thought, except I am wondering if a cap of 50,000 animal is needed, ya got me.

    For me caribou is best tasting when taken in August and I prefer it to moose.

    I guess we will just see how it plays out. We have had a dry spell for harvesting moose and caribou due to a variety of reasons, health being the main one.

    But the freezer is empty of moose and caribou and we will have all of September to make some thing happen, so if needed a cow will be in our future!

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    Quote Originally Posted by .338 mag. View Post
    This info is about what I thought, except I am wondering if a cap of 50,000 animal is needed, ya got me.

    For me caribou is best tasting when taken in August and I prefer it to moose.

    I guess we will just see how it plays out. We have had a dry spell for harvesting moose and caribou due to a variety of reasons, health being the main one.

    But the freezer is empty of moose and caribou and we will have all of September to make some thing happen, so if needed a cow will be in our future!
    Cow or bull, good luck in making that happen this season my friend. An empty freezer is a lonely freezer...!!!
    Sheep hunting...... the pain goes away, but the stupidity remains...!!!

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    After having just got back from the Denali hwy and hearing more than one person saying how he has seen many calves running around camps w/o a mother I think there needs to be emphasis on shooting "dry" cows. There is a diagram in the AFG hunting section showing the outcome of a bull shot compared to a dry cow compared to a cow w calf. and if I remember right its like a 10 fold difference when shooting a cow w calf. I agree w never have tasted a "bad" cow either. In fact Im happy to get a "cow" tag when drawn on other species. But I try hard not to shoot a recent mother cow if I shoot for one.

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    As much as folks repeat the whole "only shoot dry cows or calves will die"...it doesn't match up to caribou biology.

    Calves can outrun people in a day, griz in a week and are weaned within only a few weeks of birth. Although they occasionally nurse- they are nutritionally independent by late summer. An "orphaned" caribou calf has the same winter survival rate as calves with a living cow. Predation, poor feed, and unseasonable storms are the leading causes of first year mortality. "Orphaned" calves link up with migrating groups of caribou and just migrate along with them.

    That's not my opinion- that's straight out of Ronald L. Smith's "Interior and Northern Alaska:A Natural History" (pg 244). Smith is a researcher and professor of biology at UAF and (literally) wrote the text book on the subject.

    Shooting a cow in hunting season has a negligible effect on the survival of the calf and is beneficial when the herds are at or above the population threshold of their area.

    ...and they're delicious to boot.
    "I do not deal in hypotheticals. The world, as it is, is vexing enough..." Col. Stonehill, True Grit

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    Member Ben XCR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hodgeman View Post
    As much as folks repeat the whole "only shoot dry cows or calves will die"...it doesn't match up to caribou biology.

    Calves can outrun people in a day, griz in a week and are weaned within only a few weeks of birth. Although they occasionally nurse- they are nutritionally independent by late summer. An "orphaned" caribou calf has the same winter survival rate as calves with a living cow. Predation, poor feed, and unseasonable storms are the leading causes of first year mortality. "Orphaned" calves link up with migrating groups of caribou and just migrate along with them.

    That's not my opinion- that's straight out of Ronald L. Smith's "Interior and Northern Alaska:A Natural History" (pg 244). Smith is a researcher and professor of biology at UAF and (literally) wrote the text book on the subject.

    Shooting a cow in hunting season has a negligible effect on the survival of the calf and is beneficial when the herds are at or above the population threshold of their area.

    ...and they're delicious to boot.
    That was kind of my thought as well pertaining to the whole weaning and subsequent herding up of the calves and losing it's mother not being too detrimental at this stage (species specific), though I didn't know/have the science to back it up. Good reference.
    The more you talk, the more I wish I was deaf.

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    You don't get that much meat off a cow so I've always felt like it's a waste of my time and money to pop one unless it's the last day of the season and I haven't gotten anything yet, I usually see a lot more cows and small bulls than I do decent sized bulls in a season. If you think they taste better I guess shoot one, a cow caribou isn't exactly anything to brag about but some meat is better than none.

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    Hodgeman i really question your post, it seems like you dont give a rip about shooting a cow with calves. Prohibited legally since the beginning of hunting cause its reprehensible. Want to outlaw hunting? Just let them know you enjoy shooting mothers with babies. You need to promote ethical hunting.
    I come home with an honestly earned feeling that something good has taken place. It makes no difference whether I got anything, it has to do with how the day was spent. Fred Bear

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sollybug View Post
    Hodgeman i really question your post, it seems like you dont give a rip about shooting a cow with calves. Prohibited legally since the beginning of hunting cause its reprehensible. Want to outlaw hunting? Just let them know you enjoy shooting mothers with babies. You need to promote ethical hunting.
    Did you not read the paper he quoted? Calves orphaned in the fall have the same survival rate as nonorphaned. Nothing unethical about it.

    Also, it's "cows and calves" not "mothers and babies"

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