The elk hunting in Wyoming continues to be very solid. The 2018 and 2019 seasons posted solid elk hunting results with about average hunter success while not setting any records, the hunts were average nearly state wide. The late and record setting cold spring did put a bit of a damper on our antler growth this past year. Many units, while seeing success rates hold very solid, did see slight dips in average growth last year. The desert units saw slightly reduced growth measures as well leaving many who drew the very best tags in the state wondering, “where are the giants?”
So far, our winter has been extremely mild in the Northern two thirds of the state, leaving most of us with high hopes for the 2020 hunting season. If the trend continues and we can manage to get good moisture up high and down low during the spring and summer, this could be a very solid year for Wyoming’s elk.
Area 22-1- The Ferris Mountains hunt is always a favorite with many high point holders. This is a very high-quality desert type hunt with only 40 tags on quota with a season the last three weeks of October. There are no random tags available for this hunt so max points will be necessary to have a chance at a tag here. The hunter success here hovers around 70% on branch antlered bulls and bull to cow ratio is very high here, nearing 60 bulls per 100 cows. Because the country here is very arid, spring and summer moisture can be a make or break situation for big bulls, causing antler growth to fluctuate by nearly 30-inches from one year to the next on the bigger more mature bulls due to moisture levels and feed availability. (Over-all Score: 95/100)
Area 16-1/2- The Shirley Mountains unit is divided into two hunts, a type-1 October hunt and a later type-2 hunt in November. Both can be very high-quality hunts with the earlier hunt producing a tick better bulls on average but a bit less on the success scale with 67% success versus the later hunt with 73% success. The later hunt also has far less tags with only 50 on quota versus the 150 available on the earlier hunt. This unit is a very consistent producer for Wyoming hammering out good bulls in the 300-350 class. To have a chance at hunting here an applicant will need in the neighborhood of 13-14 points. (Over-all Score: 95/100)
Area 124-1- There just isn’t much to not like about the Powder Rim elk hunt in Area 124. This hunt has everything a good researcher looks for; very limited pressure (50 tags), lengthy season dates (10/15 – 11/30), plenty of public ground (70%), great opportunity (86%) and plenty of bulls. There are a few drawbacks to this hunt however, besides the very tough draw odds (max) this hunt is a desert unit so moisture is always a concern both for horn growth and water holes. These elk can and will move to greener pastures if need be. This area is vast and the elk densities are low, so this can be like hunting for a needle in a haystack. But on a good year, this unit can produce a giant bull. (Over-all Score: 97.5/100)
Area 100-1- Hunt area 100 is the core Wyoming top elk hunt, available again this year. With a new quota of 200 tags, this hunt actually has twice as many elk tags available in the random draw as in years past. With a new season opener on the 7th of October this hunt is even closer to the peak of the rut. I actually got to hunt this area with a good friend last fall, and it was everything it has been hyped up to be. The bulls will tend to be very pocketed and broken up by the time the hunt rolls around. A majority of the nearly 2,000 elk in this unit will usually be concentrated to four or five areas. This hunt area is vast, arid and very, very open. The elk are thriving here and a 300-350 bull is certainly possible here. With hunter success of 92% this hunt is as close to a slam dunk as elk hunting gets anywhere in the West. This is a great bowhunt and an even better hunt for an older hunter who doesn’t want to hump the hills and mountains anymore chasing a bull. (Over-all Score: 100/100)
Area 59-1 (Late)- A big gamble for a giant bull. This elk hunt is nearly the exact opposite as the elk hunt in Area-100. As one of the few remaining somewhat late season (11/1- 11/15) elk hunts in Wyoming this hunt is a bit of a gamble when it comes to the right weather, but the pay-off can be huge. The bulls here can and do push the 400-inch mark on a good year. A 350-380-inch bull is very possible on this hunt if the conditions are right and you have the proper gear and desire. This hunt can be rough, tough and rugged and is usually a horseback affair. With only ten tags available there, the draw odds are stiff, but you won’t have to worry too much about hunting pressure. In the past three years over 90% of the hunters here have killed bulls and this hunt area is over 95% public land. In nearly every single measurable criteria this hunt scores nearly perfectly. With the tag being so very rare, I would highly suggest hiring an outfitter for this hunt if you draw as nearly 75% of the hunt area is designated Wilderness area. (Over-all Score: 100/100)
For a full listing and analysis of every single elk hunt in the entire state of Wyoming dive into the MRS section in the back of the January/February issue of Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal.