When it comes to hunting elk in the West, there is no one “best” state. Each person needs to think about their budget, expectations, timeline, and many other factors, then decide which state is best for their elk hunting goals.
For my hunting style and goals, the decision was easy – in September I will be headed to Colorado!
The decision to hunt Colorado came down to three factors – cost, convenience, and transportation. Colorado’s non-resident elk tags are some of the cheapest in the West, and there is a plethora of tags available over-the-counter (OTC) for a variety of game management units. I committed to making this trip happen in 2013, which meant that I didn’t want to play the “wait and see” game that comes with trying to draw a lottery tag. I wanted to know that I could get a tag for sure, so an OTC tag in Colorado is a great choice for me.
There are many other states that have affordable, guaranteed OTC tags, but none of them are as close to me as Colorado. I decided that I wanted to drive for this trip, so distance is a critical factor to consider. Driving out to Idaho, Washington, or another state with OTC tags just wasn’t as practical as choosing to hunt in Colorado. A 15-16 hour drive is long enough for me!
In addition to the cost, convenience, and travel logistics, Colorado also has the largest elk population in the country, and the Colorado Division of Wildlife has provided an outstanding collection of resources for elk hunters. The CO Division of Wildlife website features clear regulations, interactive maps, helpful tips, and even an Elk Hunting University to teach hunters about elk hunting.
The Bad News
Because Colorado has some of the cheapest, most accessible tags, and is the closest state to hunters from the Midwest and east coast, Colorado is very popular with non-resident elk hunters – which means that the biggest downside to choosing hunt elk in Colorado is the “competition” from other hunters. People love cheap and easy, and although elk hunting neither cheap nor easy, Colorado is one of cheapest and easiest states to hunt.
The good news is the bad news.
If I were flying, I would strongly consider going elsewhere – specifically Idaho. If you are coming from the East and aren’t planning on driving to hunt elk, I would definitely consider skipping the “easy target” of Colorado and flying right over it to one of the other states that is friendly to non-residents, but less popular.
Choosing is a state is only the beginning! Once I decided to hunt Colorado I had to pick one of the dozens of game management units (GMUs) to hunt. Stay tuned for another article which outlines everything to consider when deciding on a hunting unit.