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The Saskatchewan government wants to thin out the wild elk herd in the southwest. (CBC)

Hunters across Saskatchewan were lining up in Maple Creek on Tuesday for a chance to shoot themselves an elk.

Saskatchewan Environment is holding two "management hunts" to reduce the elk population in the Cypress Hills area by 200.

There are about 775 elk in the area and, according to the department, some of them are damaging crops and cattle pasture. Eventually, the departmentwants to bring the elk population in the area down to around 300.

On Tuesday, 200 licences were being sold for $20 each for special hunts of antlerless elk running Jan. 15-27 and Feb. 12-24. Demand is expected to be high because no large game animals are in season right now.

The government announcement about the hunt triggered a response from the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, saying their members hadn't been properly consulted.

Lastmonth, itencouraged First Nations people, who legally don't need hunting licences, to start hunting immediately to provide meat for their families.

However, the Environment Department said Tuesday its conservation officers had visited all the local First Nations bands. The department also said it talked to a liaison officer from FSIN about the hunt.

Hunters who get the licences Tuesday will be required to submit the animals' heads to the province for chronic wasting disease testing.