January 27, 2023

The First and Only Elk Hunt in New Hampshire

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elkqueensFew people even know that once wild elk roamed a small area of southwestern New Hampshire. Even fewer know that for two days in 1941, 293 special elk hunting permits were issued, at $5.00 each and 46 elk were harvested.

Wild elk? Perhaps we have come to use the terms wild and pure a bit freely, dumbing down the definitions in order to better fit a narrative or an agenda. Nevertheless, New Hampshire had elk and the numbers got out of hand.

Austin Corbin, a self-proclaimed wildlife conservationist, bought up large parcels of land in the southwestern corner of the state, fenced it in with 36 miles of fencing and began importing wild and various exotic animals; wild boar, moose, bison, bighorn sheep, elk, Chinese pheasant. It is reported that 60 elk were imported from northern Minnesota and placed on Corbin’s preserve.

Corbin only allowed hunting on his preserve when he felt the need to reduce populations of certain species.

Perhaps some readers may be familiar with Austin Corbin as the person who owned the bison that was used to rebuild bison herds in the West.

It was in 1903 that Austin Corbin III, Corbin’s son, gifted the State of New Hampshire with a dozen elk; 8 cows and 4 bulls. The elk were let free by the Andover Fish and Game Club around Ragged Mountain. The elk flourished until reports of anywhere between 60 and 200 or more elk roamed the area and creating great angst among farmers and other landowners because of crop damages and personal property destruction.

On December 17 and 18, 1941, 293 elk-permitted hunters ambushed the area where the elk where amassed and killed 46 wapiti. It was quite the spectacle and a miracle no humans were injured or killed.

So, what happened to the elk? It seems that even after the hunt, where some believed that the most of the elk had been killed, much because there was no good way of actually knowing how many elk there really were, the elk continued to flourish again causing great property damage.

In the early 1950s, New Hampshire passed a piece of legislation stating, “The director of fish and game is hereby directed to reduce the elk herd in the state to a population that will no longer present a potential threat to agricultural interests. The reduction of this herd shall be started at once and carried to completion without unnecessary delay.”

It was also proposed that the elk be relocated to areas in the northern part of the state where human populations were much smaller than in the south. That never happened.

By the mid-1950s officials estimated that free ranging elk in New Hampshire numbered anywhere between 20 and 30 animals. It is assumed that the remaining elk were poached and/or killed by farmers to protect their property.

Officially, there are no longer any wild elk roaming the New Hampshire countryside, although, as one might expect, claims are made on occasion of spotting an elk in the woods of the Granite State.


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