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DNR seeks input on proposed expansion of Elk Zone 20 near Lancaster in northwest Minnesota

Season details for 2023 have not yet been set, but information will be available in May. The deadline to submit comments on the proposal is Thursday, March 30.

Elk photo
A herd of elk stands watch at Skull Lake Wildlife Management Area in Kittson County in this April 2005 photo.
Contributed/ Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

ST. PAUL – The Department of Natural Resources is proposing to expand the boundaries of an elk hunting zone near Lancaster in Kittson County of northwest Minnesota and is asking for public input on the proposed change.

The deadline to provide input is Thursday, March 30.

The proposal would expand the boundary of Elk Zone 20 by about 6 miles to the west and 3 miles to the south, to better encompass areas where elk have been during elk hunting seasons, according to a news release from the DNR.

MN elk zones.JPG
Current Minnesota elk hunting zones. The Department of Natural Resources is proposing to expand Zone 20 near Lancaster, Minnesota, by about 6 miles to the west and 3 miles to the south.
Contributed/Minnesota DNR

“For the last several years, there has been elk basically outside that box during hunting season,” Jason Wollin, area wildlife manager for the DNR in Karlstad, Minnesota, told the Herald. “So, as it is a once-in-a-lifetime elk license for hunters of that season, it’s pretty frustrating to have elk outside the zone where they can’t be hunted.

“That’s happened several times in the last – at least three years – so that was kind of the main driver in moving the line.”


The DNR developed the proposal in coordination with an elk work group, Wollin said, a committee composed of local residents, DNR staff and others with an interest in elk management. Changing a boundary is time-consuming, he said, so it made sense to propose making the expanded zone larger than it might need to be at this point.

“We don’t want to have to do it again in a couple of years,” Wollin said. “The elk have been outside the current boundary. Last fall for sure, it was noted that the cow (elk) groups were kind of broken and scattered. So, you’re finding elk, not in one big group, but in multiple little groups, and they’re kind of spreading out over the landscape.”

The trend likely affected elk hunting success last fall. The DNR in 2022 offered 28 elk tags – eight either-sex and 20 antlerless only – in Zone 20, and 15 hunters filled their tags for an overall success rate of 54%. That was down from 82% in 2021, DNR statistics show.

The huntable areas within the proposed expansion to Elk Zone 20 are all on private lands, and the affected landowners have been notified via mail about this opportunity to provide input on the proposed change. Elk hunters must obtain permission to hunt on private agricultural or legally posted property and landowners are under no obligation to allow hunting on their property.

The hope is to have the expanded zone in place for the 2023 elk hunting season, Wollin said. Elk hunters are selected via a lottery, and hunting typically occurs during three to four nine-day seasons in September and October. Season details for 2023 have not yet been set, but information will be available in May.

People can provide input on the proposal through March 30 by:

  • Visiting Wollin in person any time between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 28, at the Karlstad Area Wildlife Office, 402 Main St. S., in Karlstad. No appointment is necessary.
  • Mailing written comments to Barb Keller, Fish and Wildlife Division, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155.

In addition to once-in-a-lifetime licenses, landowners with at least 160 acres of agricultural or grazing land in the elk zone are eligible to apply for an elk license under the special landowner lottery.
Applications for both the general and the landowner lotteries will be accepted beginning in mid-May and the lottery application deadline will be June 16.

More details from last year’s elk season are available on the DNR’s elk hunting page at mndnr.gov/hunting/elk .


Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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