Elk Hunting – Which State?


There are two main requirements for choosing a state to hunt elk – quality and quantity. Most states do not have both, so the hunter must decide whether he wants a trophy-sized animal that will go into the record book, or just a nice representative bull.

Generally, a first-time elk hunter should choose to hunt in a state where there are lots of elk, rather than commence his elk hunter career in an area where there are big bulls, but not many of them. It’s better to get a working knowledge of elk and their habitat before you begin to pursue trophy animals.


The top quality elk states are New Mexico and Arizona. The majority of record book elk in recent years have come from these two states, with Arizona entering the most in the Boone & Crockett Club, while New Mexico is the top qualifier for the Pope & Young Club. However, these states require a lottery permit system, so it may take a few years to draw one of these coveted permits.

In addition, New Mexico now requires a nonresident to hire a guide to hunt elk in that state. This new law greatly increases the cost of an elk hunt.


For sheer number, Colorado can’t be beat. It has an enormous elk herd of about 200,000 animals and harvests about 50,000 elk annually. There is also no permit limit for nonresidents, making this state a sure bet for any aspiring elk hunter.

Story continues below


Unfortunately, Colorado does not have many quality bulls. The heavy hunting pressure kills off most of the bulls before they can reach maturity. However, most units have a four-point or better rule, so there are lots of these younger bulls, which can make for exciting hunting.

Montana is probably the best elk state for both quality and quantity. This state has a large elk herd, and there is still plenty of backcountry where many bulls have a chance to reach maturity. Clients hunting with an outfitter are guaranteed “outfitter sponsored” licenses for elk. A lottery system applies for nonresidents who are not hunting with an outfitter.

Idaho is another good elk hunting state, which lots of elk and still some quality bulls. Idaho is also on a first-come, first-served basis, which amounts to a lottery because there are more applications received than permits issued.

Utah is also a good state to hunt, especially if you plan to hire an outfitter. There are many good elk hunting areas controlled by outfitters where mature bulls can be found.

The states of Washington and Oregon have intense hunting pressure from residents, so most nonresidents usually pass over these states for general elk hunting. However, there are some excellent elk outfitters who can furnish top quality hunts for good bulls in these states.


About Author

Leave A Reply