Elk hunting might be one of the most challenging types of hunting due to the rough and rolling terrain that the animals prefer roaming in. There’s also often a fair bit of hiking involved, as elk tend to dwell in areas that aren’t easily accessible. Depending on the season and location, this could mean wading through deep snow to seek a trophy.
However, that also means it can be one of the most rewarding endeavors, as experienced outdoorsman Clayton Sustala can attest to. But before knowing how to hunt elk, you need to know where to hunt. Clay Sustala recommends a number of spots across North American for the most success.
Numbering around 280,000, this state offers up not only the highest elk population in the country, but all of North America. While you might not get as big of a trophy that you will find in some other top elk states, you’ll have plenty to aim for.
Grand Valley is a rugged, mountainous area that’s home to a vast elk and deer population. Proximity to the valley is one of the reasons many hunters choose the city of Grand Junction as a base. Another reason is that it’s virtually in the center of many popular hunting sites including the White River National Forest – a standout for elk opportunities only about a two-hour drive from the city.
The elk can be seen from the I-25 in this state, but trekking into the wilderness towards mountain terrain reveals a lot more of the animals. That means you should be in fairly good shape to get to these spots – Clayton Sustala suggests hilly hiking with a weighted backpack to prepare.
A popular place in the state for hunters to try their luck is Saratoga, crossed by the North Platte River, but there are numerous opportunities in the open prairies not far from the town’s limits.
Hunting elk in Montana can be a memorable experience, but also perhaps not suited to beginners: about 1 in 5 hunters come away with either a bull or cow in the state after spending an average of 10 days scouting. But there are 6×6 and larger to be found among the bulls if you’re patient, skilled and willing to keep trekking, advises Clay Sustala.
The biggest concentration of elk that hunters will come across is the space between Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, including the Beaverhead-Deerlodge national forest. Outside of national forests, there are more to be found along the Rocky Mountain Front route. An added bonus is that elk in Montana are primarily found on public land, although there are private land opportunities as well.
The southern part of this Canadian province that borders Montana is a big draw to elk, because of the variety of fescue that the animals feed on. The population of elk and deer in the area known as the Milk River Ridge has grown in recent years.
While it offers up more than 1,600 square kilometers of open space and an abundance of wildlife, the area also offers up some unique challenges to hunters. For example, there’s wetland and ravines to navigate, and the uneven land can make it difficult to track the elk. The challenge might be worth it: this area is also known in Canada for its prize bulls.
While there are other areas across North America where elk roam, Clayton Sustala says these choices offer the perfect mix of both abundance and thrill factor. Just be sure you have the right permits for each location!