Where do we begin?

Levi431

New Member
Oct 3, 2019
4
0
Hi all! Me and a couple lifelong hunting buddies are wanting to do an Elk hunt. Where do we even begin, each state is so much different. Looking to get something in line for fall of 2020 so next year. What states offer over the counter elk tags? any states better than others as far as public land? None of us have been out west hunting before so its new to all of us, just figured I would ask here and hopefully get some experienced knowledge. Basically just wondering where our best chance of getting tags would be and which states are "better" elk states than the next. Thanks everyone, I appreciate it.
 

taskswap

Active Member
Jul 9, 2018
224
87
Colorado
I think it depends on a lot of very personal decisions. The best place to hunt is where you WANT to hunt. I mean, folks think of Colorado and surrounding states as "elk destinations" but there are plenty of elk hunters in Nebraska (which isn't exactly "mountainous"...) and even as far East as Pennsylvania!

If you don't really have any hard plan, I think you could do a lot worse than just picking "a place you've always wanted to go anyway" and working your trip in from that perspective...
 
  • Like
Reactions: Prerylyon

Prerylyon

Veteran member
Apr 25, 2016
1,098
147
Cedar Rapids, IA
Several yrs ago, I decided I wanted to shift my hunting focus towards western big game hunting.

I had saved up a little money and used it 5 yrs ago to fund an outfitted mountain mule deer hunt on public land in a wilderness area high in the Rockies of Wyoming. The camp was predominantly elk hunters-I was the only guy with a deer tag.

That week spent in the mountains, paired up with a guide an elk hunter, really helped my learning curve. I saw elk. I saw elk get spooked. I saw elk run up scree piles thinking it was a mtn goat. I saw elk killed. I actively participated in what it takes to butcher a bull when its on ground.

Is that the end of my education? Absolutely not. But, it got me up to speed. I have yet to kill an elk, but one of these years it will come together.
 

nv-hunter

Very Active Member
Feb 28, 2011
960
127
Reno
Welcome lots of info on here and as stated innthe mrs section of eastmans mags.

First question you need to ask is guided or diy
Elk only or other species
Bull or cow
Willing to play the point game?
One time experanice or yearly or every couple years

Once to start answering those easy questions then you get to the hard questions you asked about.

Good luck on your adventure because it starts now with research and all the planning.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Prerylyon

Timr245

Very Active Member
Jul 21, 2016
561
342
Northcentral PA
Just going to keep adding to the already great responses above....

1st and most important advice I can offer is to JUST GO FOR IT!!! Seriously, don’t let any excuses get in your way, if money is the snag, save until you can afford it, if it’s time save all of your vacation, lack of experience - research til your eyes hurt and you hear bugles in your sleep, but you owe it to yourself to go after it.

As others have stated, there’s great opportunities all over the west so maybe look for OTC hunting in a state that appeals to you, to help with costs consider a reduced price cow tag.

Once you know where, decide on a method of take, which can also dictate costs and tag availability. I’ve only dealt with Wyoming and Colorado but both G & F departments have excellent online hunt planners available.

There’s a ton of good general elk hunting information here & better people to go with it. Stick around, contribute and you’ll learn a ton, I sure have.
 

Levi431

New Member
Oct 3, 2019
4
0
Welcome lots of info on here and as stated innthe mrs section of eastmans mags.

First question you need to ask is guided or diy
Elk only or other species
Bull or cow
Willing to play the point game?
One time experanice or yearly or every couple years

Once to start answering those easy questions then you get to the hard questions you asked about.

Good luck on your adventure because it starts now with research and all the planning.
Would like to do a DIY. We are all avid hunters, and yes I know/ can only imagine how much different elk hunting is compared to whitetail but a DIY for us would be more of what we are in to.
We aren't DEAD set on elk but that would be a first choice, I know I wouldn't mind going for another species I have just always wanted to go west and hunt, see different country and do something out of the norm for myself here in Wisconsin.
I would play the point game, but that's kind of where I am stuck. I am having a hard time finding what each state requires for points and how it all works. Maybe I am looking in the wrong places but it is very confusing to me.

I appreciate the response, thank you!
 

Levi431

New Member
Oct 3, 2019
4
0
Just going to keep adding to the already great responses above....

1st and most important advice I can offer is to JUST GO FOR IT!!! Seriously, don’t let any excuses get in your way, if money is the snag, save until you can afford it, if it’s time save all of your vacation, lack of experience - research til your eyes hurt and you hear bugles in your sleep, but you owe it to yourself to go after it.

As others have stated, there’s great opportunities all over the west so maybe look for OTC hunting in a state that appeals to you, to help with costs consider a reduced price cow tag.

Once you know where, decide on a method of take, which can also dictate costs and tag availability. I’ve only dealt with Wyoming and Colorado but both G & F departments have excellent online hunt planners available.

There’s a ton of good general elk hunting information here & better people to go with it. Stick around, contribute and you’ll learn a ton, I sure have.
That has been the biggest thing, we have been saying for years we are going to go on a hunt out west, we talk about it for a couple days and then its put behind us. Then fall arrives and we talk about it again and let it pass. But this year is different we are all on board and actively trying to get a plan in place. There are just so many decisions and so many different ways to obtain a tag in each state and it is confusing the heck out of me quite frankly. LOL
Thank you for your response.

Levi
 

nv-hunter

Very Active Member
Feb 28, 2011
960
127
Reno
That helps with knowing what your after, not up on each state myself but here is how i would approach it;


Id look at
IDAHO first as they have over the counter tags and a draw but no point system
WYOMING because of regional tags plus a draw point system
Then Colorado with otc and the draw system and point creap

Id do some research on Utah and Arizona and New Mexico.

Personally id hunt in Idaho and build points in Nv and Wyoming. With maybe a private land cow hunt in Utah to start. I don't believe that Oregon has a hunt worth the cost unless you already heavily invested in points.
 

nv-hunter

Very Active Member
Feb 28, 2011
960
127
Reno
That has been the biggest thing, we have been saying for years we are going to go on a hunt out west, we talk about it for a couple days and then its put behind us. Then fall arrives and we talk about it again and let it pass. But this year is different we are all on board and actively trying to get a plan in place. There are just so many decisions and so many different ways to obtain a tag in each state and it is confusing the heck out of me quite frankly. LOL
Thank you for your response.

Levi

Fyi plan to go alone or with 1 but hope the whole group goes
 
  • Like
Reactions: Levi431

taskswap

Active Member
Jul 9, 2018
224
87
Colorado
You know that saying "If you want to kill elk, go where the elk are?"

I think the first and most important rule is NOT to assume it's totally different from other kinds of hunting. Go where the animals are. Hike on out there and look for them. Find their sign, learn their behaviors, and the hardest part is done.

Just do it!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Levi431 and Timr245

go_deep

Veteran member
Nov 30, 2014
1,845
350
Wyoming
Pick the state, buy points this fall in said state of nneeed/can. If you and any combination of the guys that want to go can afford the time and money put in for antelope doe tags and deer doe tags next spring within a couple hours of where you'd like to hunt. In almost every case you will not be able to bring an animal out whole. Seeing the country, reading a map, breaking down a smaller animal, seeing what kind of gear you would have rather had, when tags are filled drive up into a couple elk areas you have interest in. Seeing it ahead of time is very valuable, know how to take care of the animal once it's down is priceless. I do know that you can quarter a deer out in Wisconsin now, may want to get a pack and practice this fall.
Good luck and God bless!
 

Skibum81

New Member
Sep 18, 2015
43
14
Denver, CO
Something to consider, its very difficult to get bull tags in better units. But many of those better units you can draw a cow tag with little or no points. Elk hunting also has a very steep learning curve compared to some other types. Consider for a first hunt getting some cow tags in a better unit. This will give you more chances to actually interact with the animals and learn how to hunt them. Plus a much higher chance of harvesting on a first hunt. ITs also a little cheaper.
 

VinnyG

New Member
Oct 4, 2018
29
12
Colorado
I don't have nearly as much experience with elk hunting as most of the other members here, but having been in your shoes recently myself I can give you my perspective on what helped me the most as a newbie. When selecting a state, my primary factors were cost and availability (how easy was it to get where I needed to go). For me, that ended up being Colorado due to the cheap flights from Baltimore to Denver, the immense amount of public land in a few hours distance, and the low price of OTC tags. Regarding your question for tag availability, there are 5 states that offer OTC, and several of those also offer very good draw odds with no preference points. Once I selected a state, then came the headache of learning the ins and outs of the licensing system for that state. I knew I would only be able to buy from the leftover list or OTC, due to my late start on planning. If you can enter the lottery, there are several states (including CO) with very high draw rates with no points for 1st rifle at the beginning of October. There are tons of resources available to learning the draw systems, but I took the easy way out and called a hunt planner. For Colorado, CPW has a free hotline for hunt planning. There are other resources for hunt planning as well, usually for a fee such as Eastman's MRS, Cabela's TAGS and others. Once you have selected your state, and your tag (which also means choosing a weapon), the next step I would take is combing through the harvest data for your season and weapon. This can be daunting, and again, this is just what worked for me. Don't take any of this to the bank lol. I figured being a newbie, I would go by the principal of "elk aren't where you find them, but where they have been found already" I am probably going to get crucified for saying that, since truly you can find elk many many places with the right skillset. But for me, an absolute beginner, I figured I would narrow the list down to units that had high harvest numbers. This also means high numbers of other hunters, so I chose units that had about 80% of the max number of hunters on the list AND high harvest totals. There is a lot more that goes into picking a unit, so if you have questions on my very beginner style of picking one feel free to pm me. Once a unit is selected, comes the real work of deciding what areas to hunt, how to access them ect ect for which there are IMMENSE resources available. There are some really great youtube videos on e-scouting (an out of stater's best friend), as well as powerful mapping tools and tons of forums to read. If you want some recommendations that I found helpful, pm me anytime (especially about CO). Elk hunting from out of state is super daunting, but with the help of the online resources, hunt planners, and knowledgable members on forums like this one you should be pointed in the right direction. I put some links below as well. Hit me up if you want more information on how an eastern deer hunter approached hunting elk for the first time in 2017. Good luck, looking forward to hearing about your trip!





 

Prerylyon

Veteran member
Apr 25, 2016
1,098
147
Cedar Rapids, IA
Something to consider, its very difficult to get bull tags in better units. But many of those better units you can draw a cow tag with little or no points. Elk hunting also has a very steep learning curve compared to some other types. Consider for a first hunt getting some cow tags in a better unit. This will give you more chances to actually interact with the animals and learn how to hunt them. Plus a much higher chance of harvesting on a first hunt. ITs also a little cheaper.
The cow option isn't quite the cake walk it once was in some states. I failed to draw a cow tag in WY the last 2 yrs in a row; granted, the tags I applied for were in more 'interesting' units. If you can find a rancher friend/reasonable trespass fee access in some of the under-subscribed cow tag areas (* units with noted difficult public access) that is probably a surer thing anymore for a WY cow tag for a nonresident.

My basic plan is to go OTC in CO, or going for an easier to draw CO cow tag in their lottery if I'm hell bent on hunting elk that season.
 

Levi431

New Member
Oct 3, 2019
4
0
I don't have nearly as much experience with elk hunting as most of the other members here, but having been in your shoes recently myself I can give you my perspective on what helped me the most as a newbie. When selecting a state, my primary factors were cost and availability (how easy was it to get where I needed to go). For me, that ended up being Colorado due to the cheap flights from Baltimore to Denver, the immense amount of public land in a few hours distance, and the low price of OTC tags. Regarding your question for tag availability, there are 5 states that offer OTC, and several of those also offer very good draw odds with no preference points. Once I selected a state, then came the headache of learning the ins and outs of the licensing system for that state. I knew I would only be able to buy from the leftover list or OTC, due to my late start on planning. If you can enter the lottery, there are several states (including CO) with very high draw rates with no points for 1st rifle at the beginning of October. There are tons of resources available to learning the draw systems, but I took the easy way out and called a hunt planner. For Colorado, CPW has a free hotline for hunt planning. There are other resources for hunt planning as well, usually for a fee such as Eastman's MRS, Cabela's TAGS and others. Once you have selected your state, and your tag (which also means choosing a weapon), the next step I would take is combing through the harvest data for your season and weapon. This can be daunting, and again, this is just what worked for me. Don't take any of this to the bank lol. I figured being a newbie, I would go by the principal of "elk aren't where you find them, but where they have been found already" I am probably going to get crucified for saying that, since truly you can find elk many many places with the right skillset. But for me, an absolute beginner, I figured I would narrow the list down to units that had high harvest numbers. This also means high numbers of other hunters, so I chose units that had about 80% of the max number of hunters on the list AND high harvest totals. There is a lot more that goes into picking a unit, so if you have questions on my very beginner style of picking one feel free to pm me. Once a unit is selected, comes the real work of deciding what areas to hunt, how to access them ect ect for which there are IMMENSE resources available. There are some really great youtube videos on e-scouting (an out of stater's best friend), as well as powerful mapping tools and tons of forums to read. If you want some recommendations that I found helpful, pm me anytime (especially about CO). Elk hunting from out of state is super daunting, but with the help of the online resources, hunt planners, and knowledgable members on forums like this one you should be pointed in the right direction. I put some links below as well. Hit me up if you want more information on how an eastern deer hunter approached hunting elk for the first time in 2017. Good luck, looking forward to hearing about your trip!







Thank you very much! im guessing when more questions arise you will be able to point me in the right direction after being in my shoes. There is just so much to know, so many differences and so on and so forth. lol We were looking at Idaho but I had a co worker just return from Idaho and he said that while he was out there he heard the non res elk tags were almost going to double in price for the 2020 season. Depending on the truth of that we are looking more so at Colorado. I will keep in touch. thanks again!

Levi