2 replies [Last post]
Location: Fort Carson, CO
Joined: 07/25/2009
Posts: 3
New to Elk Hunting

I'm a midwesterner looking to start broadening my horizons and try some western hunting, but I have no experience. I have hunted black bear and whitetail all my life and I have always wanted to elk hunt but I don't know where to start. I have several questions like, what states are good to start putting in for, and where are some good places to start educating myself. Maybe someone here was in my shoes years back and can tell me what they did to start....Thanks a lot for the help!! Thumbs up

exbiologist's picture
Location: Colorado
Joined: 09/19/2008
Posts: 2397
New to Elk Hunting

Welcome to BGH,
There's several different tactics you can take as there are over-the-counter/unlimited options and draw only options. For a hunting junky like me, where just one elk hunt isn't enough, I apply to several places for both elk and deer, but I can also count on OTC tags for a backup. Colorado and Idaho are your best bets for over the counter tags. Now, those states can be counted on every year, so you can either hunt Colorado and/or Idaho every year, or apply to limited draws and hunt OTC if you don't draw. New Mexico is very nice in that you do not have to pay for the tag up front in order to apply. They have regular priced tags, and trophy unit tags which are 50% more ($775 or something). But, there's no harm in putting, because you could draw. New Mexico has no preference system.
Now Wyoming, Arizona, Utah, Montana and Nevada are draw only(some minor exceptions), while Oregon and Washington have draw areas and unlimited areas like Idaho and Colorado.
I can understand being overwhelmed, but a basic strategy would be to put in for Colorado or Wyoming pref points, and put in for the trophy units in New Mexico. Since you likely won't draw, you can then hunt either Idaho or Colorado with OTC tags if you decide you wanna go anyway. And primitive weapons almost always increase your draw odds and often allow you to hunt when elk are more vulnerable, depending on the actual hunt.
Or, you can pick a spot in Colorado or Idaho and hunt it every year, knowing you can always get a tag.

Location: Utah
Joined: 02/24/2003
Posts: 591
New to Elk Hunting

IMO the best state for a beginner on DIY hunt would probably be Colorado. Lot's of elk. Of course they aren't behind every tree and there is still a lot of work to get from where you are to stalking elk. First you have to decide what weapon you want to use. Then go the Colorado's (or any state you want to research) and check out their wildlife divisions website and start looking at season dates, weapons, and tag type OTC vs limited draw. You can find them by doing a search on Google for example "Utah DWR". (DWR is Division of Wildlife Resources) OTC tags will be easier to get but limited draw areas will give you better odds at seeing animals. IMO you should do a few years of OTC type tags and get your feet wet before getting a draw tag since they are harder to get.

Once you start seeing some season dates and tags that interest you start posting about your possible choices and members will start giving advice on what unit's hold good elk and where to start looking in that unit.

At the end of the day you will have to scout a little or be willing to spend some time on your hunt to find elk. At least a week if you don't know an area very well. Finding elk is not easy and most people are pretty reluctant to be very exact on good hunting spots. Once you have a better idea of season dates then we can start giving advice on terrain types, elevations, and techniques. That's when you start pulling out topo maps and look for areas away from roads and fit the terrain and elevation you are looking for. Have several areas picked out because it's not uncommon to have to walk several miles a day until you find elk.

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