Public Land Elk Hunting Tips


When you think of perfect hunting conditions, private land likely figures into the equation at some point. Who doesn’t dream of trophy-sized deer and elk and huge wild turkeys roaming on acres of picturesque land, ready to be tagged by one of a few lucky hunters? For many hunters, unfortunately, this scenario may never play itself out. If you want to hunt elk and private land isn’t within reach, you’ll need to know how to hunt public-land elk like American Hunter‘s Wayne van Zwoll.

Elk Hunter Photo by American Hunter

These days, finding elk on public land can test your patience and endurance. Where elk once cut deep trails in meadows they mowed to lawn height, echoes of bugling bulls have faded. You’ll want to make the most of any chance at a branch-antlered bull—if, indeed, you’re licensed to fire. “Spikes only” rules have become common, with mature bulls legal by drawn permit only. In Washington, recent stipulations further restrict hunters to “true spikes”: bulls with no fork, either side. Reduced opportunity sparks grumbling among sportsmen…

Habits of other hunters should affect your own. Want to waylay elk sifting from shadows at dusk or pick off a bull in that saddle? Good strategies—but on public land, you’re planning what other hunters are thinking, or have tried. Better to go where other hunters don’t, where elk seek asylum.

Photos: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (top); American Hunter (above)

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Shannon Rikard
Shannon Rikard is a freelance writer and photographer with a passion for conservation and wedding and portrait photography. The Archery Trade Association and National Wild Turkey Federation have published her work. A self-professed word geek, she enjoys Wheel of Fortune, crossword puzzles, and finding a dynamite synonym to illustrate any point. After starting her career in public relations with a national conservation organization, she ventured out on her own with Copper Door Studios.