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Elk

2000 Colorado cow elk

Although I live in Colorado, the state that has by far the largest elk herd in the West, I'm not much of an elk hunter. They are big, beautiful animals, but they live in scattered herds that may take you days to find. When I finally find them, my attention span is usually so worn out that I'm not paying attention and fail to capitalize on the breif shot opportunity that I finally get.

Additionally, trophy quality in a place like Colorado is pretty marginal, so the reality of elk hunting often has more to do with cows and small meat bulls than it does with the majestic monsters that you see on the front of magazines.

While Colorado offers very easy-to-get over-the-counter tags for elk and is a great place to go if your goal is simply to hunt any elk, the more interesting opportunities are the limited draw hunts that are available throughout the West.

Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada offer some of the best trophy quality, but there are great hunts available in Colorado and Wyoming as well. While Montana and Idaho also offer some quality hunts, I find these less appealing due to draw odds, costs, or brutality of the elk terrain.

Consider a two-part strategy:
• Build preference and bonus points towards high-quality hunts in multiple states.
• Hunt Colorado on an over-the-counter tag every few years to give yourself a chance to learn about elk hunting.

State Notes General Tag Quality Limited Tag Quality Odds of Drawing Limited Tags Strategy
Arizona Excellent trophy quality, easier to draw than sheep, antelope, or the premier mule deer units. N/A Average to Excellent Poor If you're applying in Arizona, definitely apply for elk too.
Colorado You can have a run-of-the-mill elk hunt whenever you get the urge, and you can build preference points towards a higher quality hunt. Poor to Average Average to Excellent Poor to Excellent Apply for quality tags ... or just go buy an over-the-counter this fall ... or both.
Montana There are a very few great units that might be worth applying for, but I usually can't fit Montana in to my schedule, so I don't apply here. If you're looking for an average bull, Colorado is probably a better place to apply. If you're looking for a trophy, many other states are more interesting. Cost can be prohibitive as well. Poor to Average Average to Excellent Poor to Average Pass.
Nevada Not a lot of opportunity, but great if you can get drawn. N/A Average to Excellent Poor Apply!
New Mexico Good bulls, easier to draw than some states. You can also buy landowner tags, but that get expensive. N/A Average to Excellent Poor to Average Apply!
Utah You can only apply for deer, elk, or antelope. Poor to Average Excellent Poor Apply for either deer or elk, both are very attractive opportunities.
Wyoming Wyoming does a good job managing the quality of their herd. Average Good to Excellent Poor to Average Apply!