Most hunters desire to see new places, hunt new species, and make memories with friends and family in the great outdoors. While today’s technology puts us light years ahead of previous explorers, the thought of planning a hunt in a new location can still be intimidating. After more than 20 years of helping Huntin’ Fool members plan dream hunts, it is clear that planning an elk hunt is high on everyone’s bucket list. The heart-pounding adrenaline rush of a point-blank archery encounter with a rutting bull elk makes them a “must-do” for every adventuresome bowhunter. Tags are easy to obtain, public lands are measured in tens of millions of acres, and there are countless resources available to assist in the planning process. If you’re thinking about an archery elk hunt, we suggest that you pick a state from this list and set a date!
IF YOU’RE THINKING ABOUT AN ARCHERY ELK HUNT, WE SUGGEST YOU PICK A STATE FROM THIS LIST AND SET A DATE.
COST: $902 | DEADLINE: MARCH 15
Montana estimates that 177,000 elk are currently roaming the state. There are 128 game management units that offer a six-week general archery elk hunt. With approximately 27. 4 million acres of public land and 3.4 million acres of wilderness area, there is plenty of country for hunters to explore. If you don’t fill your elk tag during the archery season, it is also good for a five-week general rifle season in 121 game management units. With 11 weeks to fill your tag, Montana’s season generosity is unprecedented. For non-residents who are looking to pick up an elk tag in the Big Sky State, they can either apply in the draw by March 15th or pick up a leftover elk permit after the draw. Historically, Montana has sold out of their leftover “elk only” permits between August and October, so don’t delay if you choose this option.
COST: (OTC) $601.50, (DRAW) 616.25 | DEADLINE: JUNE 5
Idaho offers more than 10,000 non-resident elk tags annually that can be purchased online or in person at license vendors in Idaho. This abundance of over-the-counter tags combined with a population of more than 100,000 elk and 34.5 million acres of federally-managed public land make Idaho a “must-consider” when planning an elk hunt. As an added bonus, additional tags are usually available for purchase on August 1st, enabling elk hunters to harvest two bull elk in a single season. No other state provides this opportunity. In case that wasn’t enough incentive, hunters can use their elk tag to harvest a wolf, mountain lion, or bear, if given the opportunity in the field. If you’re looking to plan a hunt with your kids, Idaho has a very generous Youth Mentor program for elk hunters under the age of 18 where out-of-pocket costs only amount to $95.50.
COST: $738 | DEADLINE: TAGS MAY BE PURCHASED AS LONG AS THE SEASON IS STILL OPEN
Oregon is a sleeper for over-the-counter archery elk opportunities. There are 60,000 Roosevelt elk and 65,000 Rocky Mountain elk that roam the state. Twenty over-the-counter units in western Oregon are home to the best Roosevelt elk populations anywhere. There is ample public ground to hunt in this part of Oregon, but the key to hunting Roosevelts is the private timber company lands that allow public access. For Rocky Mountain elk, there is just about every type of elk country available, from the wilderness horseback country of the Eagle Cap Mountains to the high desert country of the southeast. Oregon is 53% public land, with a lot of it being found in the eastern two-thirds of the state. In total between Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain elk, there are nearly 60 units that your archery elk tag is valid for.
COST: (SPECIAL) $1,355, (REGULAR) $779 | DEADLINE: JANUARY 31
Wyoming issues all non-resident elk tags through a draw system. Some tags take many years to draw, but the general season elk tags (4,443 total in 2017) can be drawn nearly every year. With the purchase of a $72 archery stamp, these tags are good in 48 game management units. Non-residents need to apply before January 31st. When applying, you will notice the more expensive “Special” elk license and the less expensive “Regular” elk license. Draw odds are typically better for the Special tags, even though both tags are for the same hunt dates, units, and species. Essentially, you are paying more money for better draw odds. In designated wilderness areas, Wyoming requires non-residents to hire a licensed guide or hunt with a Wyoming resident. However, this restriction represents a very small portion of the available public land to hunt.
COST: (OTC) $651, (DRAW) $654 | DEADLINE: FIRST WEEK OF APRIL
Colorado is king when it comes to elk numbers with an estimated population of 277,750. Archery hunters harvested over 5,000 elk in 2016, and the vast majority were taken in units with over-the-counter (OTC) archery tags. 85%-90% of the elk population lives west of I-25 where there are more than 60 game management units that can be hunted with an either-sex archery elk permit. Colorado is not known for trophy quality, but for hunters who are willing to apply for a few years for the draw type hunts, there is ample opportunity to pursue bulls in excess of 300″. Unlimited OTC archery permits go on sale annually the last week of July and can be purchased throughout the duration of the season. Any license purchased after the start of the season will need to be purchased directly from a CDOW office.
ARIZONA, NEW MEXICO, NEVADA & UTAH
The two things all of these states have in common is trophy quality bull elk and difficult draw odds. Nevada, Arizona, and Utah all have a bonus point system in place to reward applicants with an additional point each year they are unsuccessful. New Mexico does not have a bonus point system but does require you to pay the elk permit fee of $773 upfront, in which all but $13 is refunded if you are unsuccessful. Utah, Nevada, and Arizona require applicants to purchase a non-refundable hunting license ($65, $142, and $160 respectively) but do not charge online applicants for the elk permit until they draw. In addition to the limited-entry draw permits, Utah offers over-the-counter archery bull permits in bull or spike units, but areas and public land are limited. Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico offer landowner tags for resale that vary in price, depending on the unit and trophy potential.
Find out more at: huntinfool.com.