The elk herd in Wyoming has fared very well these past few years. The 2016 surveys have put most of the elk herds in the limited quota areas in the state well above objective levels with drastically rising bull to cow ratios, all good news for hunters. With the heavy snows of last year and a wet summer the feed on the winter range should be in top shape right now. So far, a mild winter has put our elk in even better condition for this coming fall.
Dave and I have built some fairly extensive mathematical modeling that will actually rate an area with a numeric rating from zero to one hundred based on the area’s merits from a trophy hunting perspective. Criteria and variables such as public land percentage, access, terrain, trophy quality, favorable season dates, hunting pressure and opportunity, to list just a few, are all considered. The trophy and population trend for the state is also factored in then the result is normalized to compare to other states such as Arizona, Nevada and Montana. I used this modeling equation along with some good old-fashioned intuition from living here for the better part of my 46 years to build this year’s top five area list for Wyoming elk.
This type of information for every elk area in the entire state and West can be found in the MRS section in the back of each issue of Eastmans’ Hunting and Bowhunting Journals. To get you started here are few of the better elk areas in Wyoming.
- Area-56: Extremely limited hunting pressure and potential for huge bulls in the heart of Park, County, the sixth best county in the entire country for monster bulls, scores this hunt very high on the list. With a bull to cow ratio of over 48/100 and growing, this area although rugged, is probably the best hunt in the entire state for a shot at a records book bull. The very liberal late season November and December hunt dates will put you in a vast area with only nine other hunters.
TOTAL SCORE: 90.5/100
- Area-59: A sister hunt to Area-56 this is also a very limited late season migration hunt in November for a chance at a giant Wyoming bull. With an increasing hunter success rate and only ten tags this November elk hunt could be a ball of fire if the weather hits just right. Both of these hunts contain massive tracts of designated wilderness area and plenty of grizzly bears. A guide would be a must for a nonresident hunter.
TOTAL SCORE: 88.3/100
- Area-124: The Powder Rim hunt hits my top five list mostly due to its very, very high hunter success rate of nearly 90% on branch antlered bulls. What this area may lack in big bull consistency it certainly makes up for in kill consistency. If you draw this tag, you will kill a six-point bull, it should just be a question of how BIG! With over 70% public land, a massive hunting area and six-week hunting season, the forty hunters in this area will certainly find the hunt enjoyable as the hunting pressure rating is nearly zero with only two hunters per 100 square miles.
TOTAL SCORE: 86.7/100
- Area-22: A bull to cow ratio that clears the 60/100 mark can create an incredibly dynamic elk hunt, and the Ferris unit has it. Couple that with an elk herd that is nearly three times the objective and an October 8th opener and you could still catch some rutting action during the first week of the hunt. And no need to worry about hunting the opening weekend either, with only 40 total hunters in this unit you should only see about 12 hunters per 100 square miles. Hunter success here is very consistent hovering around the 70-75% mark on branch antlered bulls. The trophy quality here can fluctuate from one year to the next but all signs are pointing to another good year for 2018 here. TOTAL SCORE: 85.0/100
- Area-30: Big bull potential and the highest success rate in the state on average at over 90% puts the Aspen Mountain hunt onto the list again this year. The bull to cow ratio here is holding steady at 38/100 and the seasons are very, very favorable here. With the entire month of September to bowhunt and the whole month of October to follow up if need be with your rifle, time would certainly be on your side. And need I mention what this hunt looks like during the first week of October with rifle in hand? Can you say heaven? Only 50 hunters each year will take a bite of this heaven, and they may even feel like they have the entire area to themselves with only seven hunters per 100 square miles. The main drawbacks of this hunt that keep it out of the top spots are the 45% private land in this unit and the slightly unpredictable trophy potential based on moisture and winter conditions.
TOTAL SCORE: 84.1/100
Best Blue Chip “Sleeper”: Area 51, Type-1: This area has been on the upswing over the past few years. Some very, very large bulls have been killed here during the latter part of the October season. The heads of two of the creek drainages in this unit but right up to the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone Park. Some giant park bulls travel into this area to winter out in the late fall season. The grizzlies in here are very thick but the bulls can be enormous. Half of the unit is comprised of designated Wilderness so a guided hunt might be a good idea for a nonresident. There is also a Type-9 archery only tag in this unit which provides a bowhunter a good hunt during the rut in September. This is probably the best hunt in the state for less than six preference points, in my opinion.
TOTAL SCORE: 70.4/100
Best Green Chip “Sleeper”: Area-62: This area is also in the heart of famed Park County. The quota in this unit is a bit higher than many of the other surrounding areas with 125 tags available but the season is very favorable from October 1st to the 21st. Hunter success here is pretty high with nearly six out of ten hunters bagging a branch antlered bull elk over the past five seasons. This hunt is a very solid bowhunt with very little wilderness to contend with. There are plenty of grizzly bears and wolves here so bring a pistol and a wolf tag.
TOTAL SCORE: 55.5/100
Best “Low-Point” Option: Area-25/27: The South Wind River elk hunt although not the caliber of hunt like the areas above, still can be a good hunt particularly for a hunter that takes the time to learn the area and hunts hard. The country can be a bit rough but there is plenty of opportunity and public land to hunt in these hills. With 200 tags available and a massive area to hunt the hunting pressure here is still somewhat manageable with only 11 hunters per hundred square miles. The October month long rifle season is fairly prime, but the bowhunt in September with this tag might just be one of the best values in the state for the three or four points needed to draw it. The elk herd here is very stable at the moment and the bull to cow ratio is a very healthy 35 bulls per 100 cows.
TOTAL SCORE: 52.8/100