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The 10 States That Have the Best Elk Hunting, Hands Down

David Hannigan/Colorado Division of Wildlife

There are many factors that can make a state great for elk hunting.

Two of the top factors? Opportunity and trophies.

For this article, we looked mostly at pure numbers in terms of the best states to pursue elk. Bow, rifle, guided, private or public…those hunting factors are up to you to figure out.

So, here are the 10 states with the best elk hunting opportunities.

10. Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania? Yes, Pennsylvania How can a state with a place named Elk County not be a good location to hunt elk?

Okay, that’s not really the reason the state is on the list. Elk County does have a huge herd, and elk viewing is enjoyed by many folks who visit.

And many hunters say it’s the best place to hunt elk east of the Mississippi.

Outdoors International
Outdoors International

9. Arizona

If you’re a “go big or go home” trophy hunter, Arizona is the state for you.

Some of the biggest bulls in the country (some say on the planet) can be found in the state.

The downside? It’s nearly impossible to get a tag. However, hunters who have succeeded in the lottery say it’s well worth the wait and effort.

8. Washington

Forest fires and mountain lions depleted the state’s elk herd for many years.

Today, however, the numbers are on the upswing—especially in the Blue Mountains.

Most hunters are limited to spikes, but if you do get a rare “any” tag, a big bull is quite possible.

7. New Mexico

Hunters say the odds aren’t in your favor in New Mexico. Draws are limited and low-percentage.

So, why is the state on the list? Big bulls.

So, while your chances of bagging an elk aren’t that great, if you do, it will most likely be a big one.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department
Wyoming Game and Fish Department

6. Wyoming

Wyoming’s elk herd is mostly found in the Rocky Mountains.

That means an elk hunt here is sure to be an adventure, possibly a top hunt-of-a-lifetime.

But don’t worry, every elk hunt doesn’t have to be a backcountry adventure—if you don’t want it to be. The state has plenty of elk in the lower mountain ranges and some on the plains.

5. Montana

Montana has stayed under the radar in terms of elk hunting, even with more than 163,000 elk in the state.

However, more opportunities are becoming available for hunters. Many say the southwest part of the state is where most of the elk can be found.

Hunters say the state offers a good mix of big bulls and opportunity hunts.

4. Idaho

Officials estimate the elk herd of Idaho at around 107,000.

Just be ready for a backcountry adventure. Many of the 28 managed elk-hunting zones are heavily forested.

But it can be worth it, as some of the units offer up big bulls on a regular basis.

3. Utah

Utah rivals Arizona when it comes to trophy elk hunting.

In fact, the world record non-typical elk was taken in the state back in 2008—on public grounds.

Both Utah and Arizona have yielded big elk on public grounds, more than other states. Many hunters say that the two states have the best public land hunting, period.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

2. Oregon

Oregon is another state with a large elk population, in the tens of thousands.

Okay, it’s not as big a Colorado’s  herd, but it’s still a state with one of the larger elk herds.

And many Boone and Crockett bulls are harvested in the state on a regular basis. Big numbers and big bulls, pretty good reasons to go elk hunting in Oregon.

1. Colorado

Many hunters say that Colorado is the best state for elk hunting. Why? Numbers.

Colorado has the largest elk herd in the country at almost 280,000.

Some say trophy elk aren’t so plentiful, but at a time when many states only allow harvests in the hundreds, Colorado has thousands of opportunities for hunters.

Honorable mention: Texas

You might not even think it’s true, but Texas does have some elk hunting opportunities. Check out Ox Hunting Ranch to learn more about the available elk hunting packages.


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The 10 States That Have the Best Elk Hunting, Hands Down