Your elk hunting success will depend on making the right choices before your elk hunt. We can help you find elk hunting success.
When people think of hunting elk, they usually picture calling to bulls during the rut, and we agree that every hunter should experience a bull screaming it’s way into a call.
For most hunters, elk hunting is so much more than just meat in the freezer and antlers on the wall. It’s about the experience, the friendship, the challenge, the animals, the land, the despair…. and the excitement when it all comes together.
When people think of hunting elk, they usually picture calling to bulls during the rut, and we agree that every hunter should experience a bull screaming it’s way into a call, but there are so many options with elk hunting depending on your goals as well as your budget. Whatever type of hunt suits you, we can help you find it.
OUTDOORS INTERNATIONAL can help you have a successful elk hunt. Our consultants will work tirelessly for you to ensure you have your best chance at that bull elk you dream of. So if you’re looking for a great hunt, contact us.
We’ve partnered with some great elk hunting guides and outfitters.
We work with elk hunting guides and outfitters in all of the major elk hunting states and Canadian provinces. Rut hunts, wilderness hunts, and hunting on private land. Some of them are great trophy quality, limited entry tags, and some are OTC. We even have some great diy drop camps.
We’re here to help you book the perfect trip, and our advice doesn’t cost you a thing.
First off…if you’ve never been, you NEED to go elk hunting!
No other big game species can provide the rush of high action, close encounters like a bull elk in the rut.
The fact that you get to “talk to an animal” when you are elk hunting, and have bulls respond and talk back, adds a special element to the hunt. Other species that you can call, such as waterfowl, turkeys, rattled-in whitetail and moose hunts are close, but not quite the same. Turkey hunting is probably the closest to elk hunting, in our opinion.
The best way to elk hunt is personal preference.
It’s tough to say what the best way to hunt elk is, because everybody has different opinion of the ideal elk hunt. First, you need to decide if you are going DIY-style on an unguided hunt, or on a fully-guided elk hunt. We have great options for both. We’ll attempt to discuss all of the different options here in this post.
Be careful. Elk hunting is addictive!
Any hunter who hasn’t experienced hunting the elk rut just has too. Beg, borrow, or sell your things to make it happen. And for your first hunt or two, don’t get hung up on trophy quality. Especially if you’re budget minded. There are some very affordable hunts out there for someone willing to take “just a bull.” We’d love to talk to you about setting up a hunt. Be careful though, because once you hunt rutting bulls you will want to do it again! Happy hunting.
If you’re thinking about booking an elk hunt, the first step is to consider your budget, and what you’re looking for.
Lodging is something that you need to seriously consider. Do you want five star, luxurious accommodations, fine meals prepared by a chef?…or do you just want a nice place to stay, with good meals? If you go the guided route, you’ll have a variety of hunting styles available: Private land base camps out of a hunting lodge, a hotel or bed and breakfast, the outfitters home or cabins, or even sometimes hotels in town; Backcountry wall tent camps packed in on horseback; and remote, off-your-back bivy camps.
Elk Hunting Lodges
For some hunters, the food and accommodations are just as important, if not more important than the hunt.
This type of elk hunt is usually, but not always on private land with mild(ish) terrain among river bottoms, with more potential shot opportunities, and higher success.
The term “5-star” gets thrown around alot. Keep in mind that it is objective…but, what we can say about the ones we give that 5-star designation to are what we consider high end hunting lodges with great food. Usually, these hunts are all on private ground, but not always.
For some hunters, the food and accommodations are just as important, if not more important than the hunt. There is something about coming back to lounge in a comfortable lodge after a hard day of hunting. Sipping cocktails, smoking cigars and recounting the tales of the day. The commaradary that you can experience in this atmosphere is tough to beat.
Great options for corporate events or large groups.
Comfortable, relaxing settings, often with restaurant-style kitchens, hot tubs, great rooms with entertainment centers, full bars, meeting rooms with wifi, etc.
Private land, or premier access to hard to get to public areas. *We also work with a few lodges that are in wilderness areas. These are cool hunts…you will fly into the lodge and then hunt from there on horseback.
These types of hunts always have high success rates. Why would you build a big lodge on a ranch that doesn’t have great hunting?
Almost always 1×1 guiding, and guides tend to be more experienced on these hunts.
Also, it is worth noting that Estate hunts (high fence hunts) do often fall into this category, but we will discuss them separately below.
Sometimes lodging is off-site, but we try to avoid this.
If we put our hunters in lodging off-site, we try to make sure that there is no more than about a 30 minute drive to the ranch where they will be hunting. The mornings will usually start off driving to, and glassing from higher elevations to locate a particular bull and coming up with a plan to stalk or a location to intercept a traveling herd. Success rates are often higher on these types of hunt, as well as trophy quality, but be prepared to spend a bit more in most instances.
As you can see, consulting with us prior to your hunt can make all of the difference in your experience. We work with outfitters who offer both of these types of hunts, and almost everything in between.
Backcountry Elk Hunts
Every hunter needs to experience a traditional elk hunt in the West at least once in their life.
Pack-in hunts will start out on horseback with a ride into the backcountry. All of the stock will be well trained, and experienced backcountry animals. Once at camp, accommodations will most often be very comfortable, large wall tents (usually with a cook tent, hunter tent, guide tent, and tack tent), cots complete with foam pads, lanterns, wood stoves, tableware, first aid kit, applicable safety equipment and more. Camp sizes will range in size from one hunter to a maximum of four hunters on most hunts. Often these hunts are guided 2:1 unless you specify that you want to have your own guide.
Typical Itinerary on a Pack-in Style Elk Hunt
Most mornings start off with breakfast while guides/wranglers catch and saddle horses for the morning ride. The rides in the morning will vary in length and difficulty depending on where the elk are holding. Untampered and untamed, this is nature at its core; be sure to prepare for the physical challenge of steep, rugged terrain on this hunt.
Most hunters prefer to spend the entire day trying to locate your dream bull, and you’ll eat lunch up on the mountain. Bulls on these hunts will most likely range from 260″ to 320″ with good potential of seeing bigger bulls.
You might fly into a backcountry airstrip, or pack into camp from a trailhead with horses and mules. *On some of our hunts, you’ll do both.
On most of these hunts, camps will be wall tents.
You will typically have a camp cook with good, home-style food.
Usually you’ll be hunting from horseback, and on foot.
Unpressured bulls in remote, backcountry on public land is the game.
I ended up arrowhead a 333″ bull at 12 yards at about 9,700 feet. Awesome experience and would love to do it all over again.
ARBI AYVAZIAN, Outdoors International Client
Archery Elk Hunts
If you’re a bowhunter, you’re gonna want to hunt in September.
There are tons of awesome options available for you! If you go unguided, do your research. We can speed up the learning process for you by putting you with a guide or a good drop hunt in a great area. Rifle hunters are usually hunting the general season or going late, but we do have some great options during the rut for you as well! Muzzleloader hunters are almost always limited to the late season. Let us know if you want help finding a great elk hunt. We’d love to help, and remember our service is free to you.
Calling in a screaming bull is an intense experience, and you should do it…Archery hunting for elk is fun! Also, bowhunts tend to be a bit more affordable on average than rifle hunts. Most bowhunters focus on success and fun hunting over trophy quality…but we do have high quality trophy archery elk hunts as well. Get ahold of us so we can find the right one for you.
We offer some great archery elk hunts in almost all of the well known elk states and provinces. Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon and British Columbia for Roosevelt elk, Montana and more…
Calling in bulls is the game on these hunts.
These are usually run-and-gun hunts where you’ll be covering country to find a bugling bull, or hunt over water in a stand or from a blind.
Our outfitters run over 40% success on their bowhunts, which is very good.
On unguided, drop camp elk hunts, you’ll most likely be packed into the backcountry with horses and mules and “dropped” at a camp that has already been set up by the outfitter. These types of hunts are called “drop camps”.
Your outfitter will pack in all the supplies you need to enter the wilderness. You’ll cover steep country and have the option to set up mini-camps in your search for high mountain backcountry game. The areas you will be hunting have only seen a small amount of human pressure due to the lack of access and rugged terrain. This type of hunt will have you camping on high ridges so you can start glassing at first light.
You’ll need to be in very good shape!
Your physical condition will determine, not only your success, but also what type of hunt you can even manage…being in “elk shape” is paramount! If you’re not in great shape, you can hunt hard to draw, private land units with high elk numbers and relatively easy terrain, which is great, but more expensive. You could also go to a hunting estate. Being in shape will give you more options, like packing in to wall tent camps with moderate to steep terrain, or for the more hardcore hunter, a remote, hunt off your back trip with horse pack-out support. Elevations usually range from 8,000 to 10,000 ft. Horse support will most often be available to pack out harvested animals. You might see elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep and mountain goats. This type of hunt is a true adventure…if you’re prepared.
Russ Meyer, one of the owners of Outdoors International is the most consistently successful hunter I know. In this podcast I asked Russ how he has so been so consistently successful in his 30 years of bowhunting elk. There are some gems in this one folks. Russ is a wealth of bowhunting information.
STEVE SPECK, EXO Mountain Gear
If you’re in a good area, (and we do our best to put you in a GREAT area) you can usually expect to see elk almost daily, and on most of our hunts, you could expect an opportunity at a mature bull. A mature bull can be anything from a five-point up to that 400-inch monster that everybody dreams about….EVERYBODY wants a 400-inch bull, but that isn’t really a realistic expectation. You can up your odds by having a great elk tag, choosing a great area, and usually, by writing a big check.
Most hunters don’t realize how big a 400 inch bull really is. This great bull is well under 350.
Realistic Trophy Quality
A more realistic “top end” bull in most areas is 320-340 inches, but 250-320″ is a more realistic expectation on most hunts. We try to put our hunters with areas that have a 75% or higher success rate on rifle hunts, and 40% or more on archery hunts.
If you want a really good chance at a true monster, be sure to let us know.
We do have those types of hunts available, but we need to do some legwork to get you on them.
Choose Your Elk Hunting Season
When it comes to elk hunting, not all seasons are created equal.
Each time of year has its own pros and cons. Everybody wants to hunt elk in September, during the rut, and for good reason. YOU NEED TO EXPERIENCE THE ELK RUT! Calling in a bull is an amazing experience, and if you’re a bowhunter, it’s almost the only way to go in our opinion. Rut hunts are in high demand, and for that reason, often more expensive and harder to get a tag. We can help you get a tag by the way. Early season hunts are mostly archery, but we do have some rifle elk hunts during the rut.
General Elk Season
General season offers the bulk of the rifle elk hunting opportunity. While it is usually considered the least desirable time to hunt, you can have a great experience this time of year if you do your homework, or consult with us. Bulls don’t often respond as well to calling during the general season…but sometimes they do if you’re hunting an area with less pressure. Every year, our hunters take some huge bulls during the general season. General season hunts are also, almost always combo hunts with mule deer. We even have a hunt in Colorado that we call “The Trifecta” where you can hunt elk, mule deer, and pronghorn antelope!
Late Season Hunts
Late season hunts are interesting…and can sometimes be hit or miss. Most late season elk hunts are weather dependant, and if you don’t get snow in the high country, you might not see a single elk on your hunt. That sucks. However, if you do get snow, it can be the best hunt of your life! If you choose a late season hunt, go in with eyes wide open, and willing to come home and eat tag soup. Your gear can be a huge deal on these hunts.
Where do you want to go?
British Columbia Elk Hunting
There aren’t many places in North America where you can hunt elk with a rifle during the rut, but British Columbia is one of them. This is due to the fact that, since the late nineties, this region has had a six point minimum which takes the pressure off of the younger bulls, letting them grow up. Couple this with the fact that you can make it a combo hunt, BC should not be overlooked for your next elk hunt. It’s recommended that you be in decent shape as some of your stalks may be somewhat difficult. This is some rough country.
Colorado Elk Hunting
Talk with 10 guys who want to go elk hunting, and probably eight of them will say they want to go to Colorado…for good reason. There are tons of elk in Colorado, and there are TONS of choices when you hunt elk in Colorado with one of our outfitters! We have over-the-counter rifle elk hunts; archery elk hunts; elk hunting on private land; cow hunts, and limited entry trophy elk hunts in Colorado. Success rates and trophy quality are both very good for over-the-counter elk hunting units.
Elk Hunting in Idaho
Idaho has some great backcountry elk hunting, and OTC tags.
Idaho has some spectacular elk hunting opportunities. If you’re after a 350″+ bull, you’ll probably be disappointed. Idaho does hold a good number of solid mature bulls, and every year a few B&C bulls are taken. Our hunters continue to have great success year after year with our Idaho outfitters.
OTC archery tags.
Some good remote units with little hunting pressure.
Outfitter allocated tags can guarantee you a great tag in controlled units without drawing.
Solid drop hunt options.
Most New Mexico elk hunts take place in Pinyon pine and juniper thickets at fairly high elevation. In most units, a 330 inch or better bull is the goal, but in the best units, you can have a decent chance at 370-400+ inch monsters! The terrain in New Mexico isn’t usually all that strenuous, especially when you compare it to some other elk hunting destinations such as Idaho or British Columbia.
If you’re looking to go elk hunting in New Mexico, we have several options available, depending on your preferences. From fully guided trophy hunts to wilderness drop camps.
Utah Elk Hunts
Elk were nearly wiped out in Utah due to excessive hunting, so much so that elk hunting season was discontinued in 1898. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources underwent a successful reintroduction program, moving elk from neighboring Yellowstone National Park to the mountains. Today paints a different picture entirely, elk are flourishing in northern Utah. In fact, Utah has more record bull harvests that any other western state.
We work with an incredible Utah outfitter that knocks it out of the park for our hunters year after year. All hunts are on private ground on over 600,000 acres spread between 13 different ranches. Most of the ranches are in the CWMU program AKA Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit. As a result, you are able to obtain your tags directly from the outfitter. There is no hassle and worry of whether you will draw out or not.
Elk Hunting in Wyoming
If you’re not applying for elk in Wyoming, you’re missing out…but we have some options for you with little or no points. Our backcountry outfitter has solid success year over year on good bulls at an affordable price. If you want a more plush experience, check our beautiful Wyoming lodge hunt.
Don’t forget about Elk Hunting in Canada
You shouldn’t discount Canada when you’re thinking about booking an elk hunt. Canadian elk hunts have begun to become more popular, and the Canadian Rocky Mountains have some great bulls. Plus, most areas, have elk hunts during the rut, such as this Alberta, Peace River hunt. There is also some great Roosevelt elk hunting along the British Columbia coast.
Thanks for reaching out to check on me after my hunt. I can’t compliment the outfitter enough. They provided us a fantastic hunt and were able to adjust the hunt to my physical limitations. We rate them A+ and we look forward to going back out with them one day. Moving forward we are scheduled to hunt moose in September and deer in November.
I truly appreciate the personal effort took upon yourself to delivery my elk and whitetail to the wild game processing and, to the taxidermist. It was your professional experience in the business that gave me the opportunity to harvest my dream elk and whitetail.
The camp is the BEST field hunting camp I have ever seen. The staff is awesome and very accommodating. Going backcountry elk hunting required horses so if you are not a strong rider, get there because riding a horse is a must. Know how to ride a horse and be comfortable with it.
Free ranging bulls of 350+ caliber will cost from $15,000 to $25,000 most of the time. You can find that quality on lower cost hunts, but if you want to up your odds, get ready to stroke a serious check…or you can hunt those bulls for $7-$10,000 on a high fence place. There are some very good, big property high fence elk hunts out west. We know some properties where you are going to have a very challenging hunt to get a bull.
We have high fence elk hunting options in the following areas:
Age class bulls bugle more and later in the day. I hunt a lot past 10AM.
I shut up and sneak in on them once they bed. Especially a little bit later in the season. After the second week. Because it is tough to pull those bulls away from cows.
Know the country that you are hunting. It is about time spent in that area.
Sometimes I’ll sit down for an hour, and all of the sudden you’ll hear a small growl. Those herd bulls just like to talk. There is no reason for that elk to leave. He’s there and he’s going to stay there. I’m going to sneak in close, just outside of his kitchen and wait for him to talk again.
You need to go into the woods with a positive attitude and a sense of adventure. A dead animal at the end of the hunt is a bonus.