Do-It-Yourself Elk

Most hunters live in states that do not offer elk hunting, so many potential elk hunters think pulling off a do-it-yourself hunt in another state is just a fantasy, when actually it’s a possibility they should consider.

The very first task of planning an elk hunt is to choose a location. Elk obviously reside in all western states, so heading west is a given, but which states have the most elk? Here are the top 8 states holding most of the elk:


                                                            Colorado         225,000

                                                            Oregon:           130,000

                                                            Idaho               118,000

                                                            Wyoming        110,000

                                                            Montana          100,000

                                                            Utah                63,000

                                                            Washington     60,000

                                                            New Mexico   58,000

Many states offer over-the-counter tags, but almost all states offer premium tags in a lottery or preference point system. Every state is different, but a good strategy is to put in for multiple premium tags in a few different states. This will not only help you have a successful hunt, but the quality of animals will be worth the effort.

When choosing a state, take into consideration the availability of public land available to hunt on. Every western state has public land, so do your homework.

Scouting is essential, but most of us who travel out of state cannot afford to make a special scouting trip, so do some armchair scouting.  Pour over maps and contact each state that you are interested in and find out hunter success percentages and any other pertinent stats.  If you have a specific area chosen, then start dialing state game biologists, game wardens, and even taxidermists and game processors near your targeted hunting area.

Once you have pinpointed a hunting location, start thinking about worse-case scenarios. Can you get an entire elk out of the field in a timely manner during warm weather? If you don’t know, then start looking for game transporters or a packer for hire. Ask them if you can put them on speed dial if you encounter problems. Maybe you can even hire an outfit to take you into a wilderness area and back out again. 

Being safe should be high on your priority list, so start off by getting in shape. Your body will last longer and be able to handle the stress and rigors of back country hunting.  Being in shape also helps to eliminate injuries as your muscles will be ready for a hunting workload.  Finally, don’t go without a satellite phone. It might seem expensive, but most phones can be rented and there is no better safety device than having a dependable ‘sat’ phone.