There has and will always be talk on what state, here in the West, has the best trophy elk hunting opportunities. Is it Colorado? Maybe Utah? One thing is for sure, the state that holds the largest elk population is the beautiful state of Colorado. But does that automatically qualify them for the biggest bulls? Let’s look at 6 Western states and find out how I rate them as providing the best opportunity for a trophy bull elk.
With an elk population of over 250,000 animals, Colorado is clearly king when it comes to sheer numbers. But, does Colorado offer the best chance for a trophy bull? No! Don’t get me wrong, there are some giants still roaming the Rocky Mountain State, but far less than some of its neighbors. Colorado is one of the best states to give the average hunter an opportunity to fill the freezer, but not my pick for the top Trophy Elk State. Colorado takes the #4 spot for having the best chance at a monster bull.
Looking North from Colorado you come to Wyoming. I love Wyoming, and I love how the wildlife is managed here. Elk populations are above objective at 90,000 animals. Most of its hunting units are above their objective and offer incredible hunting opportunities. Frustrating thing about Wyoming is that 50% of the state is private land. But, they are managing with this in mind and have created some great programs with the land owners. Best areas are around the Jackson Hole area and Big Horn Mountains. The Cody heard has been hit hard by wolves. Some calf survival rate in these areas are as low as 3 calves per 100 cows. So, Does Wyoming provide the largest bulls? No! But they do come in at my number 5.
Keep going North and you run into my home state of Montana. This state brings you both a huge population (160,000) and an improved opportunity for a trophy bull. Over the last 10 years, Montana has made huge strides to bring back mature bulls, and it is paying off, just look at how many entries Montana has had in the last 10 years. Montana offers one of the best opportunities of seeing elk and finding a huge bull. Montana is also hooked to the private land issue, with over 64% of the state considered private. But, great management with the land owners is opening new opportunities. Hunt the Bob Marshal/Missouri Breaks units for a chance for that trophy. Hunt the units around Enis and Dillon to see lots of elk and fill your freezer. Montana comes in at #3. Eight years ago they would have been fighting for the #5 spot.
Turning West we run into the state of Idaho. Idaho holds a strong elk population of 120,000 animals. Although the units in the Eastern side of the state is getting hit hard by wolves, the state continues to provide good mature bull elk. Idaho is blessed with 64% of it’s state being public land, and much of the wintering range is also public. This provides a lot of management opportunities for the state of Idaho and they have done a great job of taking advantage of that. Although Idaho is not in my top three for a trophy, it provides a fantastic opportunity to have a great elk hunting experience. They get my nod for the #6 spot.
Heading South we run into the Beehive State. Utah has a strong elk population of about 65,000 animals. Compared to the first few states we have talked about, that may not sound like a lot of animals. But, if there is a spot in Utah that can hold elk there will be elk. 70% of the state of Utah is public land. This means that there is a lot of land you can hunt. Although Utah doesn’t have the population that other states have, such as Colorado, Montana and Idaho, it takes my #1 spot for finding monster bulls! Utah has managed the state for trophy bulls for years and it is finally paying off. The new world record came out of Utah recently (Spider Bull), off of the Monroe unit. Utah has also been the top state, in the past 10 years, for B&C entries for elk. Units such as the Monroe, Plateau, Book Cliffs, and Cache, offer some of the greatest elk hunting opportunities in any elk hunting state. Every state has a trophy unit or two, but Utah has a lot more then just one or two, and I’m not talking about a 320-360 trophy bull, I’m talking consistent opportunities of 360-400 trophy class bulls. The thing about Utah is, it’s not if you can find a 360 bull, it’s if you can draw a tag to hunt that bull, that’s the challenge.
Arizona has traditionally been a trophy elk state. Although the entries into B&C has dropped off in recent years, they still produce huge animals. The elk population is at a healthy 35,000 animals, with most all these animals found in the North/North-central part of the state. Units 9 and 10 are still the units we all dream of, but you also have a chance at a monster in units 1 and 27. As with Utah, good luck drawing a tag, but if you are one of the few that redefine luck, then get ready for the hunt of a life time! Arizona completes the top 6 elk states at #2.
The top six elk hunting states that offer the best opportunity for a true monster, listed below in order:
#1 – Utah, #2 – Arizona, #3 – Montana, #4 – Colorado, #5 – Wyoming, #6 – Idaho
Now, to wait for hunting season to begin…is it here yet?!