FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Jan. 14, 2021) -- I want to look at the Fort Sill Directorate of Public Work Natural Resources and Enforcement Branch's elk management, and subsequent harvests over the years.The numbers I use aren’t final since there are still some archers out there chasing a little more elk meat for the freezer during the archery cow-only season.First, let’s look at some history.Since animal populations do fluctuate on a yearly basis due to rain, heat, predators, and such, I prefer to look at the numbers in 10 year groups.  It kind of flattens out the bumps and gives a better general idea of which way things are going.Few elkDid you know that there were a whopping 12 elk taken during the 1980s (1981-1990)?That’s an average of just over an elk per year.  There wasn’t a lot of management in effect at that time since the elk herd hadn’t really started to grow.At one point back then you could use your deer tag to take an elk in lieu of a deer.We started our management program to improve the elk herd in 1990.1990s Some success was achieved with 135 elk taken during the 1990s. This was done with a pretty even harvest of bulls to cows.  Folks were getting excited about having both gun and archery seasons.During the next 10 years (2001-2010), Fort Sill hunters bagged nearly an average of 31 elk per year.What this data shows is a steady increase as the management principles began to take effect and the elk herd increased.In turn, it also benefited those who enjoy hunting here as well as others who just enjoy seeing these majestic animals.In the last 10 years hunters have taken 427 elk.  If we only look at the last five years the average is 54 elk per year.This year’s harvest already is a new record of 71 elk taken and will increase by the end of the cow-only archery season that doesn’t conclude until the end of January.It’s only the second year the elk harvest has exceeded 60 animals.Over the years different options have been used to control the elk harvest.Annual census Most notably is that after the annual census is completed the quota for the harvest is set.Then a portion of the quota is given to archery season and the rest to the gun season.  This is to make sure the total quota isn’t met before gun hunters even get a chance to hunt.It’s still a tricky thing to work since there may be several animals killed on one day driving the archery quota too high, which results with fewer animals for gun hunters. Natural Resources personnel usually work around these situations quite well.It is one of the reasons that only two either-sex tags are given out per area during archery season so that they can control the speed of the harvest of bulls.As the numbers reach closer to the carrying capacity, the harvest will begin to include more cows to help control population growth, although it probably should be noted that elk are not as explosive when it comes to herd growth as deer.One comment that always amazes me is, “Why are we shutting the bull season? I’m still seeing bulls out there.”If we want to keep the numbers in the harvest up and at a constant level, we don’t want to harvest them down to the point you can’t see them. Also there are lots of folks who don’t hunt, but enjoy seeing an elk out in the wild.This year, I volunteered a few hours working during the four weekends of gun season and heard several Soldiers talking about how they never thought they would get to hunt, elk and yet here they were.  It is a great privilege we have on Fort Sill.The folks at Natural Resources have done a really good job of growing a quality population of elk that furnishes an amazing opportunity for the Fort Sill community to enjoy in various ways.Editor’s note: Glen Wampler worked over 30 years for the Fort Sill DPW Natural Resources and Enforcement Branch, which included oversight and frequent articles about the post’s hunting programs. Now in retirement, he continues his Wild Side column, which he penned for 29 years.