Elk. Cervus canadensis. Wapiti.
Seven hundred pounds of elusive, wary spirit of the woods. Also: Tasty.
Elk sits near the top of a lot of hunters’ bucket lists, and for good reason. Not only can the hunt itself be a physical challenge, but drawing tags in the primo units can be a years-long wait.
Fortunately, the Badlands pro staff are masters at finding rock star elk, so we asked for their tips on getting tags, in good states, without the headache and wait.
Josh Moreman tells us that Idaho grows more than just potatoes.
“There are easier states to elk hunt as far as terrain goes, but Idaho gives non-resident hunters a unique opportunity through their flexible tags,” he said. “The over-the-counter (OTC) elk tag can also be used on black bear, grey wolf or mountain lion. So if you’re struggling to get on a solid elk herd, but happen to put down a black bear, you can at least go home successful.”
Colorado’s Freddie Harties knows his state is world-famous for elk, and that makes it tough to draw. But, he also tipped us to a new change in their permits that might ease that pain.
“For the first time ever, Colorado will be holding a secondary draw for most deer, elk, pronghorn and bear licenses,” he said. “This new secondary draw is open to anyone, whether they applied for the primary draw or not.”
Applicants must purchase or have a valid qualifying license to apply for the secondary draw. An example of a qualifying license would be an annual small game license, which is pretty inexpensive.
The best part for those with years of failed applications, is the secondary draw doesn’t use preference points, nor can you apply for preference points during the secondary draw. It’s a straight lottery draw, which suits us just fine!
California’s Al Quackenbush tells us the easiest way to get an elk tag involves one of our favorite things: ROAD TRIPS!
“I can try to draw a California elk tag, but an out-of-state OTC elk tag works best to guarantee a tag,” he said. “Up until 2020, I really liked Colorado for archery hunting elk. In fact, it's still a great state to hunt them, but they did change some of the OTC tag draws on the southeast portion of the state. Putting that aside, you can obtain OTC tags for much of the remainder of the state with archery tackle or a rifle.”
We also want to share one last bit of advice from Freddie, who’s always looking for the upside to things. While the coronavirus pandemic may be a royal pain, there may be some bright spots for elk hunters.
“This may very well be the year to consider going on that hunt of a lifetime,” Harties said. “As a direct result of the Covid-19 crisis, outfitters throughout the U.S. and Canada are seeing increases in the number of cancellations, in some cases for hunts that require significant deposits and two- to three-year waiting lists.”
We don’t want to celebrate over someone not going hunting, but look at it this way. Not only do you get to go on that dream hunt, but you’re doing your part to help keep guides and outfitters (aka American small businesses) afloat during a tough time. Win-win!
So if you’ve been dreaming of that awesome elk hunt, reach out to several outfitters and inquire about cancellations or reduced-price hunts which they may have available this fall. You might be surprised and end up with a great bull, an incredible experience and the opportunity to regale all your friends with the tale of your clearance aisle elk!
No matter where you draw a tag, Badlands is here to help get you geared up. Feel free to give us a shout and tell us where you’re going and when. Our experts will guide you to the right packs and apparel, and will probably exude the right amount of jealousy, too.