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The Best States to Hunt Elk In

  • May 11, 2016 /

Best Elk Hunting StatesElk are an iconic American game animal. Their enormous size, incredibly high quality meat, and beautiful antlers make them an appealing animal for all kinds of hunters to go after. Elk are located in many states in the US, and there is some incredible hunting to be done in a few select states. Enjoy!


You can do some elk hunting in White River National Forest. There are some healthy elk here. But the weather in this area is not friendly. It is very cold. Generally, Colorado has the largest population of elk and also has the most over the counter elk. It can boast of over 250,000 elk. Whether you prefer to hunt with a rifle or a bow and arrow, you have enough here. There are about 147 elk to hunt with arrow and 92 to hunt with a rifle. White River National Forest is a public hunting land. As a non-resident, it will cost you about $604 for hunting tag and license.

San Jauns in Southwestern Colorado is also a great place for elk hunting. It offers a lot of over the counter units. This is probably because San Jauns comprise of several high mountains. The northwestern region of Colorado is home to a large population of elk. The only problem with this site is that it is very difficult to hunt down a bull here.


St Joe National Forest is a public domain for elk hunting. The major advantage of this forest is its proximity to another public elk hunting land – Clearwater National Forest. You might need a GPS to hunt in St Joe National Forest as it is much bigger than other forests. So, hunters have higher chances of getting lost here. Idaho is believed to have a total elk population of about 120,000. There are about 87 elk for over the counter hunting. You are free to use any of rifle, archery and muzzleloader as your hunting weapon. To hunt in this state it will cost you a total of $571.50 as a non-resident to hunt with either a rifle or a muzzleloader. But if you want to use a bow, it will cost $20 more.

Another great elk hunting zone in Idaho is the Snake River zone. This zone is so big that your choice of hunting location can either make your hunting a big success or a disappointing failure. It is quite advisable to move towards the northern part as it often produces better results than any other part of the zone. Units 63 and 63A produced fantastic elk hunting results last year. In fact, about sixty-five percent of the elk hunted in unit 63 were trophy quality. It is entirely a different story for hunters who chose southeastern part of the zone. Unit 68A produced the best result and it only produced five trophy quality elk.

Bannock Zone is an expansive elk hunting land but it produces little results. Last year, this zone yielded a discouraging success rate of just thirteen percent. Units 72, 74, 70, 73 and 73A produced encouraging results. The only heartwarming thing about hunting in this zone is that it has many trophy quality elk. As small as the numbers were, all the elk hunted in units 70 and 73A were all rated six-plus-points or more.

Bear River is about the smallest zone in Idaho. However, this should not discourage hunters as one out every five hunters who hunted there last year hit a target. This somehow proves that when it comes to hunting of elk, size of the land should not matter. The zone is at the other side of Bannock zone.

Tex Creek zone usually offers a high success rate but last year was an exception as it had an overall success rate of about fourteen percent. This could be ascribed to the fact that there was an upsurge in the number of hunters that hit this zone. In fact, a total of over 500 elk were hit last year. This zone comprises of both units 66 and 69. It is also worthy of mention that about forty-six percent of the elk killed in unit 69 were trophy quality while only twenty percent of the ones killed in unit 66 are trophy quality. In other words, your chances of hitting a record class elk are higher in unit 69.

Diamond creek zone comprises of some Rocky Mountains and Sweeping Valleys. It features a very rugged terrain for experienced hunters. Amateur hunters may find it difficult to cope here. It may pay off if you look beyond the rough terrain and head out there. This is because it yielded over twenty percent success rate last year. This is not even the best thing about Diamond Creek Zone. What will really interest elk hunters is that the bull spread out evenly between the two units that make up this zone. To cap it up, about forty-three percent of the elk shot were trophy quality. As mentioned earlier, the only challenge in this zone is the very rough terrain. This is why hunters who plan to come here have to be fully fit. In fact, he has to be certified fit by an appropriate authority.

Finally, Big Desert Zone is a very wonderful zone for hunting of elk. The only problem with this location is accessibility. Hunters have encountered a lot of difficulties accessing this zone. However, there is something that makes up for this shortcoming. It offers encouraging success rate. In fact, the zone had been yielding great figures in the past. The most wonderful thing is that about half of the elk harvested here turned out to record class elk. This is why hunters keep bombarding this zone despite the poor accessibility.


Montana is another great state for elk hunting. A very good public land for hunting in Montana is Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Montana can boast of about 160,000 elk. With a bow and arrow, hunters have between 15% to 40% success rate. Montana allows you use either a rifle or a bow for hunting. Non residents have to pay $826 to do some elk hunting in Montana.

Districts 123 and 124 are very good for elk hunting. They lie close to Clark Fork River and Thompson Falls. The major advantage here is that these districts of more shrubs and grass for elk consumption. You can also get a fair bull – cow ration of about 12 – 100. Its average success rate for the last five straight years is thirteen percent. The South and Middle Forks of the Flathead River also known as districts 150 and 151 are viable for elk hunting.

John Long Mountain and East of Rock Creek is a good one for hunters as it offers a success rate of about twenty two percent. On the average, about four hundred elk get killed here every year. And the most important part is that about half of them are bulls. Here, spikes are legal and this is why there is a high proportion of bulls taken.

Upper Rock Creek lies close of Long Mountain and it offers an impressive thirty percent success rate but with a lot of spikes. There are a few six-point-plus bulls here. The success rate is about thirty percent.


Wyoming is also another fantastic state for elk hunting. In fact, it has two national forests where elks can be hunted for days with a high success rate and both forests are public elk hunting lands. The forests are Bridger-Teton National Forest and Shoshone National Forest. Wyoming offers about 90,000 elk with an overall success rate of about 28 percent. You can hunt with either a bow or a rifle but at different elk hunting seasons. Bow elk hunting season is different from rifle elk hunting season. With a rifle, a non-resident can hunt in Wyoming for $577 and it costs $30 more for archery license.

In Wyoming, most of the elk are found on Rocky Mountains. But some others can also be found in the low mountain ranges. They are also scantily distributed in the Northwestern Great Plains.

Generally, there are several plenty of public elk hunting lands in Wyoming. In fact elk hunters are exposed to over 9 million of acres of US forest service land and about eighteen million acres of BLM land. That is a total of about 27 acres of elk hunting land. However, there is no correlation between size of land and the success rate of elk hunting. Not only that, you have to compare it with the number of elk hunters available. The size of land may not be impressive if divided by the over fifty-seven thousand hunters that are available.

As a non-resident, you are barred from hunting in certain wilderness areas without a guide. If you are not a resident, you can’t hunt trophy or big game animals on certain restricted wilderness area as stipulated by appropriate extant state or federal law except you are accompanied by a licensed guide. Some residents can act as your guide. Any of your friends or family member living in Wyoming can be your guide if he or she has a professional license. Residents can also apply for a license guide at no additional cost. However, they must sign affidavit that contains their name, address, license number of the nonresidents to be guided, the area to be hunted, game to be hunted and also state that no prize or compensation is expected. But there is a big clause to this. A single resident cannot guide more than two nonresident hunters in any year. This is to prevent residents from making a business out of it. They can begin to guide nonresidents for a token.


Oregon is believed to harbor about 125,000 elk. It has two major species of elk. The Rocky Mountain elk and the other specie called Roosevelt. A very good elk hunting site in Oregon is Siuslaw National Forest. It is a public elk hunting land. This forest is relatively bigger than several elk hunting forests. So it requires a little more legwork than usual. Oregon residents experience more rain than many other states. Their elk hunting parks are no exception. As a non-resident, you can hunt with either a rifle or a bow after obtaining the license for about $641

Umpqua National Forest is another great elk hunting location and it is just a few meters away from Siuslaw Forest. It is an expansive area that comprises of over one million acres. It offers a relaxation spot (Crater Lake National Park) where you can stop to relax for some hours before moving on. The location houses several other animals like antelopes and deer that can also be hunted. You may try it out during the next hunting season as it does not host many hunters like other more popular elk hunting locations.

New Mexico

Cibola National Forest and Santa Fe National Forest are both veritable public lands for great elk hunting. However, New Mexico offers a very low percentage success rate for elk hunting. In other words, your chances of going back home with a game are very slim. In Cibola National Forest, the target areas should be Mount Taylor and Zuni Mountains. And in Santa Fe National Forest, Jemez area is the best.


Coconino National Forest in Arizona also offers some elk for hunting but hunters barely go there because vehicles are highly prohibited in certain parts of the forest. Nobody likes restrictions so only a few hunters go there even though some of the biggest bulls in United States can be found in this national forest.


A very good public hunting land where there are several elks is Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness. The number of elk here just increased recently after several years of discouraging figures caused by several forest fires and attacks from mountain lions. The famous Blue Mountain is one of the hot spots for hunting.


A tangible number of elk can be found in several locations within Utah. In fact the new world-record elk was hit last season in this very state despite having much less population of elk than other states. Hunters can find a sizeable number of undrawn tags in Uinta Mountains here in Utah.

In conclusion, it worthy of note that the figures mentioned above are tentative. They can always change at any time. Three major factors that can cause the changes are forest fires, regular attacks from predators and upsurge in the number of hunters.