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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Never shot one. Don't want to.

Tips, stories, thoughts, things to watch out for?
 

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My experience is the calf will be very close to the cow and will pay close attention to her. Just my .02
 

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A buddy shot the cow and the calf really never left the area a quick call on the radio and 2 tags filled.
I personally would take the calf over the cow they are delicious like trclements said.
 

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Just my limited experience. It is hard to know if a mature cow is "wet". Most elk herds have a 50-60 to 100/ calves to cow rate. So you have a 50-50 chance of shooting a lactating cow. Except for the archery hunt, by the time the hunt's roll around many calves do not stay close to the cow.

An oddity about elk is they can nurse their calves to yearlings. I have seen year and a half old elk nurse-- both spikes and yearling "heifers". I shot a spike a while back that still had the milk on its muzzle and the cow hung around at 30-60 yards walking back and forth as we dressed the spike.

If you don't want to shoot a wet cow then you need to shoot a yearling or a calf. I encourage my sons to shoot calves or small yearlings. Works great and is much better table fare.
 

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My dad shot cow elk in November with lactating nipples. Like any Focker would those things could be milked. When we gutted that elk cutting through her udders secreted milk which brought a long a little displeasure and guilt. I have also taken a cow moose with a yearling bull moose that was still nursing.

There comes a time in every animals life where it has to learn how to not rely on its parents for sustenance. If those animals got to several hundred pounds just dining on mammary glands then shooting the mother is doing her a favor. Those freeloaders will keep their mother free of getting mastitis I can tell you that for sure....
 

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Just my limited experience. It is hard to know if a mature cow is "wet". Most elk herds have a 50-60 to 100/ calves to cow rate. So you have a 50-50 chance of shooting a lactating cow. Except for the archery hunt, by the time the hunt's roll around many calves do not stay close to the cow.

An oddity about elk is they can nurse their calves to yearlings. I have seen year and a half old elk nurse-- both spikes and yearling "heifers". I shot a spike a while back that still had the milk on its muzzle and the cow hung around at 30-60 yards walking back and forth as we dressed the spike.

If you don't want to shoot a wet cow then you need to shoot a yearling or a calf. I encourage my sons to shoot calves or small yearlings. Works great and is much better table fare.
You see this with deer as well. What I am seeing with deer is that this occurs after the doe has lost a fawn. You will see a doe and yearling in April and May, and you will then see the doe kick her yearling off, and she will disappear to fawn. As the does start to show up again, you will see some of these yearlings reunite with their fawnless mothers. The yearlings will pester the does relentlessly to nurse, and some does oblige. I put some of this together while watching unique does and yearlings that were easy to identify.

This probably plays out a little different with elk because of herd hierarchy and the way they calve. But I would suspect the same mechanism to be at play in at least some cases.
 

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I've also heard that cow elk will readily take in an orphaned calf. Anybody else hear that/have something to back it up?

For me, it is rare that I'm hunting alone so it is a no brainer--shoot the mama and then somebody gets a nice close 10-50 yard headshot on the calf.
 

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My dad shot cow elk in November with lactating nipples. Like any Focker would those things could be milked. When we gutted that elk cutting through her udders secreted milk which brought a long a little displeasure and guilt. I have also taken a cow moose with a yearling bull moose that was still nursing.

There comes a time in every animals life where it has to learn how to not rely on its parents for sustenance. If those animals got to several hundred pounds just dining on mammary glands then shooting the mother is doing her a favor. Those freeloaders will keep their mother free of getting mastitis I can tell you that for sure....
I've only done this with antelope, but I learned you cut out and around the mammary glands, not through the center.

So just like cats huh?
 
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I've also heard that cow elk will readily take in an orphaned calf. Anybody else hear that/have something to back it up?

For me, it is rare that I'm hunting alone so it is a no brainer--shoot the mama and then somebody gets a nice close 10-50 yard headshot on the calf.
Yeah, its been seen in just about every species. Even cross species cases, especially with domesticated animals.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
If I shoot a cow I will try for a yearling.

As to the calf being nearby. I have a cow that leaves her calf in the middle of the meadow right out front all day long. She's been doing this all summer. (Which got me thinking about wet cows and whether or not shooting one really resulted in 2 dead elk.) The first time it happened I thought we had separated the calf from the herd when we arrived to camp. (early June) That time the calf ended up 30yds from the trailer under a pine and stayed there the rest of the day into night and was gone in the morning. But later that next day she left it out in the meadow after the herd came through. Over this summer seeing that calf out there alone is pretty common place.

At first I thought she was a bad mother. But I now figure she's genius.

I'd go to jail before Id let a predator get an easy meal in my meadow.
 

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Yeah, its been seen in just about every species. Even cross species cases, especially with domesticated animals.
I would even adopt a fawn pronghorn if I shot the mother myself. It may sound pretty messed up, but pronghorn are a heck of a lot of fun once they are domesticated. They have high energy and they are bouncing off of the walls. They engage in push fights and they are smart enough to figure out all kinds of different games.

It seems the social aspect of life is not really all that present in ungulates. They have their hierarchy and behaviors within the herd, but when someone comes along and wacks the momma it seems that the smaller animals can imprint on the guy doing the processing. I have also had bucks try and mate with harvested female pronghorns. In their mind they are not after inseminating the doe for the well being of the species. They just want to enjoy the pleasure of making a deposit at the bang bank. If you harvest a doe pronghorn you had better watch your back unless you want to be violated from a guy with a pair of dark patches on his face.

If the elk cried tears and wailed and had a viewing and spent 10k on a casket I would feel really bad about harvesting a wet cow, but the calf does not hold a grudge and premeditate revenge or suicide (though many road incidents may seem so) they move on and get over it.

From a moral stand point... If you have an antlerless tag you are pretty much participating in game management no matter what legal animal you end up harvesting.
 

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Very little you can do. You would have to shoot a lone cow, and want her to be small. Even then there is no guarantee.

If you have a later season hunt, many are pregnant and you won't know until gutting. If you are hunting for a cow, its just how it goes. With opportunity scarce, you typically wouldn't pass if you are after a cow.
 

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If I shoot a cow I will try for a yearling.

As to the calf being nearby. I have a cow that leaves her calf in the middle of the meadow right out front all day long. She's been doing this all summer. (Which got me thinking about wet cows and whether or not shooting one really resulted in 2 dead elk.) The first time it happened I thought we had separated the calf from the herd when we arrived to camp. (early June) That time the calf ended up 30yds from the trailer under a pine and stayed there the rest of the day into night and was gone in the morning. But later that next day she left it out in the meadow after the herd came through. Over this summer seeing that calf out there alone is pretty common place.

At first I thought she was a bad mother. But I now figure she's genius.

I'd go to jail before Id let a predator get an easy meal in my meadow.
It works really well for deer, that is the norm with them. I have bumped a few lone calves before, so it is interesting to hear about a specific incident that is repeated over and over. The norm, at least in larger elk herds is to keep the calves nearby, even surrounded, with numbers being the means for protection. Very cool observation.
 

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Studies show that the calves from Fall harvested cows survive. So I wouldn't worry about the calf if shooting a cow during the Fall. I worry more about shooting the lead cow. Lead cows are the ones who take the herd to where they are. The lead cow is much more important to the herd-- especially if the herd lives where the hunter likes to hunt. When cow hunters come to our place we ask them to hold off shooting the lead cows, which is impossible in some cases.
 

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you heartless sob's!!!! Let a calf at least experience a little bit of time on this planet before you throw it on the barbecue!
 

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you heartless sob's!!!! Let a calf at least experience a little bit of time on this planet before you throw it on the barbecue!
I have no shame in eating the awesomely delicious, buttery soft meat that came from the calf I completely blew off its feet last fall.
 

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Studies show that the calves from Fall harvested cows survive. So I wouldn't worry about the calf if shooting a cow during the Fall. I worry more about shooting the lead cow. Lead cows are the ones who take the herd to where they are. The lead cow is much more important to the herd-- especially if the herd lives where the hunter likes to hunt. When cow hunters come to our place we ask them to hold off shooting the lead cows, which is impossible in some cases.
i never knew this. last year i passed on a cow with calf in favor of the lead cow. i could have waited a few more minutes and had the pick of the herd but that's a lot of eyes on me. as it was, they knew something was up after the shot and moved for about 150 yards looking like they might spook. after that they just grazed their way up the hill.
 
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