The Best State for Elk Hunting

Matt Johnson
Matt JohnsonPublished: July 21, 2023
The Best State for Elk Hunting

Elk hunting has gained immense popularity among outdoor enthusiasts, and rightfully so. It offers a unique blend of challenge, excitement, and the opportunity to bag a trophy-worthy bull. But with so many options, how do you determine which state will provide you with the ultimate elk hunting experience?

We'll look at the factors to consider when choosing a state for elk hunting and highlight some of the top contenders for the best elk hunting state.

After all, if you want to bag a big elk, you have to go where the big elk are.

Factors to consider when choosing a state for elk hunting.

Several essential factors must be considered when choosing the best state for elk hunting.

Herd population.

Herd of Elk

One key consideration is the state's size and population of the elk herd. After all, you want to hunt where the elk are plentiful!

For example, states like Colorado and Montana are known for their large elk herds, offering hunters a greater chance of success.

Trophy elk.

Another factor is the quality of the trophy elk hunting opportunities in a particular state. Different states have different regulations and management practices that can influence the size and age structure of the elk population. Some states, like Utah and Wyoming, are renowned for producing trophy bulls with impressive antler sizes.

Public lands.

Access to public land is also crucial when choosing a state for elk hunting. Public land provides residents and non-resident hunters opportunities to pursue their elk-hunting adventures. States like Idaho and Oregon have vast expanses of public land, allowing hunters to explore prime elk country and increase their chances of encountering big bulls.

Elk tag availability.

Be sure to consider the state's hunting season and the availability of elk tags. Some states, like Arizona and New Mexico, operate on a preference point system. Accumulating preference points over time can increase your chances of drawing an excellent elk tag. This can benefit hunters looking for a highly coveted tag in a state with limited hunting opportunities.

Top contenders: States with the best elk hunting opportunities.

A few top contenders consistently stand out when it comes to finding the best elk hunting states. These states offer excellent opportunities for elk hunters, with high elk populations and vast stretches of prime elk country.


One of the leading contenders is Colorado. Known for having the largest elk herd, Colorado attracts hunters from all over the country to pursue trophy bulls. With a well-managed elk population and a preference point system that rewards dedicated hunters, Colorado offers a great chance of success during elk hunting season.


Another top contender for elk hunting is Montana. With its large and thriving elk population, Montana provides ample hunting opportunities for residents and non-residents.

The state boasts diverse terrain and a mix of private and public land, ensuring hunters have various options. Whether you prefer stalking through the dense forests or glassing open meadows for a shot at a trophy elk, Montana offers a rich hunting experience.


Wyoming is also a state that cannot be overlooked regarding elk hunting. With its vast expanses of public land, including national forests and wilderness areas, Wyoming provides hunters ample opportunities to pursue their quarry.

The state is home to the famous Yellowstone herd and offers both archery and rifle seasons, catering to different hunting preferences.


One of the best states for elk hunting is Oregon. Like Colorado and Montana, Oregon's elk population is well-managed to ensure sustainable harvest rates and healthy herds.

Hunters in Oregon are also blessed with vast tracts of public land that span from rolling hills in the east to timbered mountain slopes in the west.


The state of Idaho is another great option for elk hunting. Boasting over 32 million acres of public land, Idaho presents hunters with diverse terrain and ample opportunity to bag a trophy bull.

The state also operates on a preference point system, allowing hunters to accumulate points over time for increased chances of drawing an elk tag in the future.

Evaluating elk hunting success rates and trophy potential.

When evaluating elk hunting success rates and trophy potential, it's essential to look at the data and statistics for each state.

StateEstimated Elk Population
Please note that these are estimations and actual numbers can vary year to year based on various factors such as hunting regulations, natural predation, and environmental conditions.

Colorado consistently ranks amongst the top states for elk hunting success rates and trophy potential.

The state's elk population is healthy and well-managed, with over a quarter of a million Rocky Mountain Elk alone. As mentioned, Colorado also operates on a preference point system that rewards dedicated hunters looking for that once-in-a-lifetime trophy bull.

Idaho's elk hunting success rates might not be as high, but it boasts some of the country's most sought-after trophy elk hunting, particularly for Roosevelt elk.

So, if you're motivated by the thrill of pursuing the majestic Roosevelt elk, Idaho might be the perfect state for your hunting trip.

You must consider your personal preferences when evaluating elk hunting success rates and trophy potential. Some hunters prioritize filling their tags and having high success rates while pursuing trophy animals drives others.

Of course, you can always go with an expert on any of the guided elk hunts to increase your chances of success.

By analyzing the data and considering your hunting goals, you can determine which state aligns best with your aspirations and maximize your chances of having a successful and memorable elk hunting experience.

Access to public land for elk hunting in different states.

Access to public land can make or break your hunting trip for elk hunting. After all, without land to roam and hunt, your chances of encountering elk drastically decrease.

When evaluating different states for elk hunting, it's essential to consider the accessibility and availability of public land for hunting.

States like Colorado and Idaho offer vast stretches of public land, providing ample opportunities for elk hunters. With millions of acres of national forests, wildlife management areas, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands, hunters in these states have plenty of room to explore and pursue their trophy elk. The beauty of public land is that it's open to any hunter who obtains the necessary hunting licenses and tags.

On the other hand, states like Montana and Wyoming also boast substantial amounts of public land, with diverse landscapes that attract elk herds. These states often have designated areas specifically for hunting, ensuring a high-quality hunting experience.

Additionally, they prioritize wildlife conservation, allowing for sustainable hunting practices.

When selecting a state for elk hunting, checking out the public land opportunities should be high on your priority list.

Research each state's specific regulations and access rules, as some areas may have restrictions or require special permits. Choosing a state with abundant public land increases your chances of finding prime elk country and embarking on a successful hunting adventure.

Remember, public land not only provides hunting opportunities but also allows for diverse recreational activities and the exploration of untamed landscapes.

Pack your rifle and gear, and get ready to mount a trophy!

Finding the best state for this season's elk hunt requires careful consideration of several factors. While each state offers unique advantages and opportunities for hunting elk, it ultimately comes down to personal preferences and hunting goals.

Whether you're a seasoned hunter seeking trophy bulls or a beginner looking to experience the thrill of hunting elk for the first time, there is a state out there that will meet your needs.

Remember, success in elk hunting is not guaranteed, regardless of your chosen state.

It requires patience, persistence, the right equipment, and a deep understanding of the elk's behavior and habitat. However, by selecting a state with a healthy elk population, ample public land access, and favorable hunting regulations, you can significantly increase your chances of having a successful hunting trip.

Matt Johnson

Matt Johnson

Master Outdoorsman

Matt is a seasoned outdoorsman with expertise in fishing, hunting, and wildlife. With a Master's degree in Wildlife Science, he combines his passion for nature with conservation efforts, sharing his knowledge through his writing for Fish and Game Report.

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