The best state to hunt elk is any state in which you can get a license. Arizona and New Mexico produce big numbers of huge bulls year after year, yet drawing an elk tag is difficult and the cost of private land hunts is significant. States like Idaho and Colorado offer over-the-counter licenses and enough public land to wander for a lifetime; that makes them great choices. Outfits like Winterhawk Outfitters will pack you into the Flat Tops Wilderness in a typical horseback hunt, or you can drive into the steep mountains of Idaho, park your rig, and go elk hunting.
The best elk hunt is the one in which you actively participate; this will be different for every hunter. Do you have the five-to-ten thousand dollars necessary for a guided hunt? If so, consult a booking agent or attend outdoor shows where you can speak to the outfitter directly. Internet searches work also, but be sure to follow up with references.
Spike camps are a great intermediate step if you know your way around the mountains and are in good shape. Typically, an outfitter will drive or pack you into a remote tent camp and provide most of the hardware essentials like a stove, water, tent, and fuel, while you bring your food and hunting gear and do the cooking. This is one of the most enjoyable types of hunting, and your success will be directly related to your skill as a hunter.
Finally, an elk hunt can be seen as a highly motivated camping trip, especially if you’re willing to bivouac into the mountains and live with the elk. This is always high adventure and has worked well for a group with which I hunt. We usually have six to eight people in camp — men and women — and bivouac for three days at a time, while others hunt from the base camp. My last year in Idaho, I bagged a nice 5×5 using a Dodge Charger as transportation, so it can be done. Elk hunting is the most challenging, adventurous, and accessible hunt in North America and every hunter needs to try it at least once.
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