Arizona’s Coconino National Forest has some of the largest elk in the world but the restriction upon motorized vehicles in 6A’s Rattlesnake Quiet Area and Pine Grove discourages many hunters from hunting in this region.
Colorado’s White River National Forest is well populated with elk but is also heavily hunted. Access is good but hunters venturing into the Flat Tops Wilderness Area in search of larger bulls should be aware that they are likely to encounter knee-deep snow and thin air.
Idaho’s St. Joe National Forest is located in the southern Panhandle and provides good odds of a kill for bow hunters, as does nearby Clear-water National Forest. The woods in this region are very deep so use of a GPS unit is advised.
Montana’s Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest is located in the southwest of the state and Region 3 is the area for hunters looking for good odds on finding elk. The forest and mountain ranges near Dillon provide many great access points for hunters but also plenty of places for the elk to hide.
New Mexico’s Cibola National Forest and Santa Fe National Forest are home to some big bulls but tags are limited. Cibola Mount Taylor and Zuni Mountain areas provide better odds for tags, as does Santa Fe’s Jemez area, than Gila National Forest in which tags are very much coveted and hard to get.
Oregon’s Siuslaw National Forest is located to the west of the state and is home to Roosevelt Elk. During their two hunting seasons over-the-counter tags are readily available. For hunters who are not afraid of some serious hiking and are equipped to handle heavy rainfalls the Alsea and Siuslaw units provide plenty of opportunity to hunt elk.
Utah’s Ashley National Forest, along with Arizona has some of the best elk hunting available on public land. In fact last season saw the world record for elk get beaten and a new record set right on Utah public land. Tags in Utah are all top quality and supply is generally very good, including those for spike bull elk. The forest’s Uinta Mountains provide two units that are good for hunting bull elk.
Washington’s Wenaha-Tucannon Wilderness suffered several years when elk numbers were low due to predatory mountain lions, forest fires and a failure to limit the number of tags issued. Bull elk numbers are on the increase in southeast Washington’s Blue Mountain hunting area. Hunters in possession of an over-the-counter tag will find themselves limited to spikes. The rarer and much coveted any-bull tags provide the holder with an opportunity to hunt a trophy in Umatilla National Forest roadless section.
Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest is located outside close to Jackson and while elk are plentiful so are bears, so hunters venturing into this area need to be prepared for a bear encounter. Bear spray is a necessity, as is a good level of physical fitness. The forest also provides an opportunity to enjoy plenty of great world-class scenery.
Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest, home to the Beartooth Mountains has an abundance of bull elk, particularly in the Sunlight Basin. Hunters venturing along the Shoshone River’s North Fork will also find plenty of opportunity for some classic wilderness elk hunting.
Note: In some regions the elk migrate to safety on private lands before the hunting season begins. Hunters should program GPS units to show property boundaries to avoid wandering into sanctuary areas. If in any doubt hunters should contact game managers for clarification.