The Beaver State offers fair OTC success rates, and its limited-entry hunts hold potential for trophy bulls. “Our best OTC bull tag,” said Justin Dion, an assistant wildlife biologist with Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, “is the 1st Coast General Rifle Season.
Most encompass terrain ranging from mountainous with extremely dense cover to lowland agricultural and semi-urban landscapes.” While it has a high-for-OTC success rate, other wildlife management units in western Oregon have better access.
“The current elk -population estimate in the Suppose Unit is approximately 2,300 animals,” Dion said. For trophy bulls, Dion shared that the Wen aha Unit in northeast Oregon is most popular.
“The current population estimate for Rocky Mountain elk in the Wen aha Unit is approximately 2,700 animals,” Dion said. Although the Wen aha Unit takes many years to draw, hunters will be treated to abundant public lands.
“The unit, which is 70% public land, is dominated by the northern portion of the Matilda National Forest,” Dion noted. “Here, hunters can anticipate mostly mountainous terrain and elevations ranging from 1,400 to 4,000 feet.
With a combination of national forest and wilderness lands, the Wen aha Unit has large tracts of grass-covered ridges and timber-filled canyons that support healthy elk herds.” The Equality State has many incredible elk -hunting units, or areas, as the Wyoming Game and Fish Department refers to them.
Just north of Rock Springs, Wyoming, Area 100 isn’t your typical national forest elk habitat. Instead, expect sprawling sage flats, with a limited amount of juniper interspersed throughout the more broken terrain in the area’s southernmost portion.
There’s one walk-in hunting parcel in the northern section, and the remainder of public access is on BLM lands. Area 100 Type 1 tag holders racked up a stupendous 89.5% success rate in 2018.
The area is also known for trophy bulls, largely a result of the drawing difficulty. Sara Lorenzo, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s public information officer, said, “Area 100 is the most difficult unit to draw.
Hunters with an Area 100 elk tag will do well to focus on its central portion. Area 100 Type 1 tag holders racked up a stupendous 89.5% success rate in 2018.
The area is also known for trophy bulls, largely a result of the drawing difficulty. Wyoming Game and Fish’s website states, Elk occupy habitat throughout this hunt area, but they primarily utilize the Pine Ridge through the center.
While that is still plenty of ground to roam, consider that some BLM chunks are landlocked by private lands. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) regulates elk hunting to maximize opportunity.
Western Washington provides lots of OTC hunting for Roosevelt bull elk, but hunters looking to target a mature Rocky Mountain bull must enter the draw, with just one exception. OTC branch-antlered Rocky Mountain bull hunting is available in the Selkirk population of northeast Washington, but elk numbers there are lower.
“Some antlerless opportunity is available depending on weapon type and season,” primarily to address agricultural damage issues. The Clock and Yakima herds are both currently below population and calf/cow objectives, which is likely to impact harvest and subsequent success rates.
If you’re looking to bow hunt mature Rocky Mountain bulls in Washington, prepare to play the draw. “The Blue Mountains units, ” Garrison added, “contain varied topography and public access, ranging from privately owned, agricultural-dominated landscapes to remote, rugged publicly owned forest and wilderness areas.
We encourage hunters to review DFW’s big-game-hunting pamphlet for a list of specific permit opportunities and their respective weapon types, dates and average number of points required for each hunt.” The state has just 1.07 million residents, concentrated in population centers like Billings, Missoula and Great Falls.
Lemon said that bull-to-cow ratios vary in Montana’s OTC hunting districts from lows of single-digit bulls to more than 20 for every 100 cows. Many folks assume that Arizona’s elk licenses are issued by draw only.
“All OTC elk -hunt areas have very low success rates,” said Amber Mung, the Arizona Game and Fish Department’s big-game-management-program supervisor. Mung says that terrain in the OTC units is lower in elevation with a low density of pinyon-juniper, some grasslands and tamarisk-encroached river bottoms.
Every year, we have hunters from max points to first-time applications drawing bull- elk permits. In our draw, 20% of the permits are issued on a preference-point system where hunters with maximum bonus points are considered first.
Terrain in the trophy-managed units is higher in elevation and typically mountainous with deep canyons. “However, the Arizona Game and Fish Department has entered into a Landowner Compact Agreement with the Boquillas-Diamond A Ranch, which encompasses Unit 10s western half, amounting to about 720,000 acres.
A bonus point is awarded for each unsuccessful application, which improves draw odds in subsequent years. Nevada elk hunters typically have no trouble finding land to hunt when they draw a coveted tag.
Naturally, older bulls in a state with screamer genetics will sport impressive antlers. According to Utah’s Statewide Elk Management Plan, most of the any-bull units are dominated by private lands, with limited public access.
Here, you’ll find the Dixie National Forest and a plethora of BLM lands, but elk numbers tend to be lower. To put things into perspective, 2018 nonresident applicants who applied for the archery hunt stood a 1-in-367 chance of drawing.
But lucky recipients are treated to the rare opportunity to hunt 380- to 400-plus-inch bulls, because the unit produces them annually. Public hunting opportunities dominate the San Juan unit via BLM and state lands, as well as the La Sal National Forest.
As for where to focus and terrain to expect, below are some biologist notes pulled from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources website. Banjo Mountain: Higher elevations include large alpine meadows with aspen/conifer stands surrounding, lower elevations contain oak stands with large sagebrush clearings, good camping, nice roads, holds a good number of elk.
North Elk Ridge: A good area for elk, timbered North slopes, aspen stands, limited clearings for glassing, camping, nice roads, several draws, canyons and mesa tops to hunt. Some OTC units have license quotas available on a first-come-first-served basis starting December 1.
Daryl Wants of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said, “We don’t ‘hot spot’ hunting opportunities in Idaho because we still offer general OTC, unlimited hunting opportunities. Interestingly, Idaho doesn’t fuss with any sort of point system for its controlled hunts.
Once hunters narrow down their choices and have additional questions, we’ll happily assist and provide advice.” The Centennial State has more than 100 OTC Gus available for nonresident hunters, and selecting the best from that lengthy list would be difficult.
If elk numbers and a high success rate interest you, GMU 4, which encompasses parts of Moat and Route Counties, is a worthwhile contender. In 2018, 5,079 hunters went afield in GMU 4, taking a total estimated harvest of 1,434 elk.
Access isn’t a problem in GMU 4, via the expansive Route National Forest, two state parcels and plots of BLM lands. Most elk can be found in the Route, which occurs in the unit’s eastern portion.
To increase your odds for a trophy, start banking up preference points. The state’s northwest corner has long been a storied trophy area that encompasses Gus 1, 2 and 201.
The Land of Enchantment is an elk hotbed, and it’s because New Mexico doesn’t have OTC tags. “GMU 36 annually has one of the highest success rates,” said James Pitman, assistant chief of information with New Mexico’s Department of Game and Fish.
In the Primary Management Zone, units with greater than a 50% success rate in 2018 were Gus 4, 5A, 21B and 36. “Terrain varies in these different habitat types from rocky desert to steep, rugged mountains.
GMU 36 makes up the Voodoo herd, which has a population estimate of 3,300 to 6,600 elk and a bull-to-cow ratio of 71 per 100. In accordance with state law, the draw attempts to distribute a minimum of 84% of the licenses for each hunt to New Mexico residents, 10% to residents or nonresidents who’ve contracted with an outfitter, and 6% to nonresidents who haven’t contracted with an outfitter.