Become an INSIDER to gain access to this article

Join now

Breakdown of OTC elk hunts in the West

Over the counter elk hunt information

Jump to: Arizona Colorado Idaho Oregon Utah Washington

With more and more people jumping into the application game the unfortunate truth is that point creep is rearing its ugly head in most states and premium elk tags are taking a lifetime’s worth of points to draw. Generally speaking, hunters looking for the bull of a lifetime will be delegated to playing the points game; however, elk adventures don’t have to end there. Many western states offer over the counter (OTC) opportunities that are available to every hunter, every year. Sure, these generally won’t produce the biggest bulls, but savvy hunters are still putting down bulls above the 300” mark in these areas every year. Even better—these hunts will allow a hunter to continue to hone their skills until that tag of a lifetime is drawn. Really, OTC tags are the backbone of the beast that makes hunting in the United States so great. 

For most, one of the hardest hurdles to overcome when researching OTC hunts will be state selection. With so many options, it can be difficult to initially narrow it down; however, with good research, it can be done. After the state selection process, tools like Filtering 2.0 can make researching prospective units even easier. In the following article, we will breakdown six states currently offering OTC elk opportunities and explore some of the best hunts they have to offer.

Pay to play

When initially toying with the idea of an OTC hunt I feel like a lot of hunters are discouraged and turn away because of the associated costs—often before they even sit down and run the numbers. While I’m not here to lie—out-of-state hunting can be expensive—it is important to realize that a smart plan of attack can take a distant dream and make it a reality quite easily.

On average, an OTC elk tag will cost between $500 and $700, which can seem quite a bit to pay upfront. Out of the six states currently offering OTC tags, the average cost is $626.04 annually. However, hunters only need to save $12.04 per week to hunt out-of-state every year! That's two fancy cups of coffee or one lunch at a restaurant you need to cut out each week, which is something we could all probably benefit from.

Cost of OTC elk tags by state

State Fee breakdown Cost Total
Arizona Combination hunt and fish $160 $810
Elk non-premit tag $650
Colorado Habitat stamp $10 $671.75
Either-sex elk license $661.75
Idaho Access/depredation management fee $10 $581.50
Adult hunting license $154.75
Elk license $416.75
Oregon Hunting license $167 $738
Elk license $571
Utah Basic hunting license $65 $458
General bull elk license $393
Washington Elk license $497 $497

When analyzing the above table, it’s important to keep in mind that a few of these states may require additional fees before the season for special weapon stamps and other various fees although these generally amount to very little in the grand scheme of things. 

Getting started

When deciding on a state to hunt it is important to take a few key factors into consideration. Because of the wide diversity of OTC hunts available anyone should be able to find a hunt that can provide exactly what they’re after. Filtering 2.0 is the best available tool to start with as INSIDERs will have the power to filter select units from every state based on factors like success rates, trophy potential, public land percentages and much more. Utilizing the information found in Filtering 2.0 will allow hunters to quickly narrow down prospective areas and make the bigger picture much more readable.

Elk population breakdown in six OTC states

State Population (est.) Elk per sq./mile
Arizona 35,000 .31
Colorado 276,000 2.7
Idaho 125,000 1.5
Oregon 116,000 1.2
Utah 116,000 0.8
Washington 60,000 0.8

Another great source of information to carefully study will be historical Boone & Crockett (B&C) entry trends. While most trophy animals are found in limited-entry units, many great bulls are taken on OTC hunts every year and knowing where the highest concentrations of trophy bulls are found can lead to hidden gem areas.

B&C entries by OTC states since 2010*

State Typical  Nontypical Total
Arizona 40 25 65
Colorado 40 10 50
Idaho 14 6 20
Oregon—Roosevelt 35 N/A 35
Oregon—Rocky Mountain 2 3 5
Utah 51 9 60
Washington—Roosevelt 12 N/A 12
Washington—Rocky Mountain 11 7 18

*Keep in mind that the majority of these B&C entries are from draw units.

Arizona

In many western states there are some incredible OTC adventures to be had and hunters can find great trophy potential in some often overlooked areas. Unfortunately, when looking at Arizona, this is far from the case. Some OTC opportunities can be found in the Grand Canyon State though most of these are merely used for population control. The state has implemented these hunts to help control elk populations in areas where the elk are causing extensive crop damage or outcompeting other trophy species such as mule deer.

Some decent bulls do get killed on the OTC hunts every year, but the odds are, in general, dismally low and local knowledge reigns king. Couple those parameters with the fact that Arizona also has the highest priced nonresident OTC elk tag and it’s pretty plain to see why better opportunities can be found in other states.

It is important to note that many of the OTC hunt areas in Arizona do not follow traditional hunting district boundaries and are set up for specific regions that may span over several connecting hunting districts.

Breakdown of 2019 Arizona OTC elk hunt dates and areas

Date Range Hunt area Legal take
April 1 to July 31, 2019 Winslow-Holbrook/Verde Valley Bull elk
Jan. 1 to Mar. 31, 2019 Alamo Lake/ Winslow-Holbrook/ Verde Valley Any elk
Aug. 1 to Sept. 14, 2019 Verde Valley Any elk
Nov. 22 to Dec. 31, 2019  28, 31 and 32 Any elk
Dec. 1 to 31, 2019 Verde Valley Any elk

Overall, the OTC elk hunts in Arizona are going to be something that most hunters are going to want to pass up and leave to the locals.


Colorado

When OTC elk opportunities are brought into a conversation, it’s extremely rare that Colorado isn’t immediately mentioned—and for good reason! Out of all of the western states, Colorado has the highest elk population and highest elk density found anywhere, making it an obvious destination for anyone. Combined with the state’s close reciprocity to hunters coming from the eastern half of the U.S., it’s obvious to see why so many hunters flock to the Centennial State. Licenses go on sale starting Aug. 8, 2019.

Colorado offers an enormous amount of OTC hunts for archery and rifle (any weapon) seasons. With careful research, some amazing hunts can be found. Trophy qualities are generally lower in Colorado though some great bulls are taken in general units every year. Competition can be very high in some units and finding solitude can be tough, but certainly not impossible.

With so many options on the landscape, narrowing down a unit to focus on can be a real challenge, particularly when targeting larger more mature bulls. Studying B&C entry trends for any given state and focusing on prime counties can be an excellent step to take to further hone down your choices.

Top B&C producing counties since 2010 for typical elk in Colorado

County No. of
entries
OTC units found within county
Moffat 6 3, 11, 13, 211, 301
Mesa 4 30, 31, 41, 42, 60, 62, 411, 421
Park 4 581
Grand 3 14, 15, 16, 18, 27, 28, 37, 361
Jackson 3 6, 16, 17, 161, 171
Jefferson 3 38

 

Top B&C producing counties since 2010 for nontypical elk in Colorado

County No. of
entries
OTC units found within county
Las Animas 5 83, 133, 134, 136, 137, 140, 141, 142, 143, 147, 851
Fremont 3 581, 59, 591, 691
Moffat 2 3, 11, 13, 211, 301

While most of any given county’s trophy bulls are found on limited-entry units, there are times where these large mature bulls will cross into OTC areas, which is where studying the B&C tables comes into play. Hunting one of these top-producing counties doesn’t necessarily guarantee a shot at a trophy, but it does tell us that certain gene pools are present.

Best harvest success rates for archery OTC hunts in Colorado in 2018

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success Bull:cow ratio Public land %
142 280”+ 50% 19:100 99.8%
141 280”+ 35% 19:100 7.8%
73 300”+ 24% 17:100 36.7%
13 280”+ 23% 23:100 23.3%
211 300”+ 23% 23:100 43.2%
741 300”+ 22% 16:100 9.9%
711 300”+ 21% 17:100 61.7%
70 300”+ 20% 17:100 69.7%
83 330”+ 20% 22:100 3.5%
131 280”+ 19% 23:100 17.3%

Some units and hunts may be omitted to ensure relevant information is provided. Example: One OTC hunt in Colorado had a 100% success rate but it was four hunters who killed four calves.

Best harvest success rates for second rifle OTC hunts in Colorado in 2018

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success Bull:cow ratio Public land %
140 320”+ 60% 22:100 3.8%
133 300”+ 50% 19:100 10.9%
142 280”+ 50% 19:100 99.8%
110 280”+ 48% 15:100 2.9%
143 260”+ 38% N/A 9.6%
13 280”+ 37% 23:100 23.3%
105 280”+ 37% 23:100 8.8%
136 290”+ 34% N/A 14%
141 280”+ 32% 19:100 7.8%
591* 330”+ 27% 25:100 99.5%

Some units and hunts may be omitted to ensure relevant information is provided. Example: One OTC hunt in Colorado had a 100% success rate but it was four hunters who killed four calves.
*Unit 591 is on the Fort Carson Military Reservation and requires that any prospective hunters obtain correct passes, register any firearms, and attend orientation meetings prior to hunting.

Best harvest success rates for third rifle OTC hunts in Colorado in 2018

Units Trophy potential Harvest success Bull:cow ratio Public land %
133 300”+ 100% 19:100 10.9%
142 280”+ 61% 19:100 99.8%
851 370”+ 31% 22:100 2%
5 300”+ 29% 16:100 59.8%
59 300”+ 29% 25:100 40.4%
83 330”+ 27% 22:100 3.5%
32 310”+ 24% 24:100 38.8%
4 300”+ 23% 16:100 47.6%
13 280”+ 23% 23:100 23.3%
60 320”+ 22% 40:100 81.1%

Some units and hunts may be omitted to ensure relevant information is provided. Example: One OTC hunt in Colorado had a 100% success rate but it was four hunters who killed four calves.

When analyzing the tables above it’s worth noting that a lot of the higher success rates will be found in units with large amounts of private land, particularly during the second rifle season. Because these areas are so heavily laden in private land they typically experience a lower amount of hunters with a much higher probability of success. Utilizing the Filtering 2.0 tool to cross-reference several units can ultimately lead hunters to their dream hunt.


Idaho

Giving Colorado a serious run for its money in terms of opportunity is the next state on our list: Idaho. Idaho has an incredible number of OTC options, great season dates and the opportunity to hunt both the archery and rifle season on the same tag in many units. Along with all of the great perks for hunting, Idaho hunters will also be happy to hear that tag costs are some of the lowest in the West. Idaho is split into several zones; each of which is comprised of several units.

OTC tags are sold on limited quotas by zone on a first-come, first-served basis. Some zones will see leftover tags each year, but the general rule of thumb is to buy as soon as possible. Tags go on sale beginning Dec. 1. Note: Several zones are already sold out for the 2019 season.

Trophy potentials in Idaho are generally considered lower than some surrounding states, but some awesome bulls are taken every year and nearly every unit can provide opportunities at mature bulls above 270” B&C.

Top B&C producing counties since 2010 for typical elk in Idaho

County No. of
entries
OTC units found within county
Lemhi 2 21, 21A, 28
Twin Falls 2 19A, 24, 32, 32A, 33, 34
Valley 2 N/A
Adams 1 22, 23, 32, 32A
Blaine 1 36

Six more counties with one entry each.

Top B&C producing counties since 2010 for nontypical elk in Idaho

County No. of
entries
OTC units found within county
Bannock 1 N/A
Blaine 1 36
Jefferson 1 N/A
Oneida 1 N/A
Power 1 56, 57, 73, 73A
Twin Falls 1 N/A

While Idaho finds itself near the bottom of the list in terms of B&C entries since 2010, it’s important to keep in mind that the sheer amount of opportunity found in the Gem State can easily offset lower trophy odds. The biggest challenge for many hunters who are considering Idaho will be choosing their preferred weapon choice. Some units allow the use of archery, muzzleloaders and rifles on the same tag; however, this isn’t always the case. Pay close attention to these small details when planning your hunt to ensure that you will be able to hunt your season of choice.

Best harvest success rates for archery OTC hunts in Idaho in 2018

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success Bull:cow ratio Public land %
68A 260”+ 61% N/A 10.7%
11A 320”+ 36% 19:100 2%
36 300”+ 31% 14:100 96.3%
33 300”+ 30% 14:100 93.4%
76 310”+ 26% 48:100 56.4%
30A 330”+ 23% 26:100 88%
58 310”+ 23% 26:100 97%
73A 300”+ 22% N/A 27.8%
60A 300”+ 21% 21:100 56.4%
66A 290”+ 21% 48:100 70.8%

 

Best harvest success rates for rifle OTC hunts in Idaho in 2018

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success Bull:cow ratio Public land %
20A 290”+ 28% 14:100 99.7%
33 300”+ 28% 14:100 93.4%
35 290”+ 28% 14:100 99.5%
36 300”+ 27% 14:100 96.3%
78 310”+ 27% 16:100 72.4%
8 280”+ 25% 19:100 4.7%
19 300”+ 22% 28:100 98.5%
6 280”+ 21% N/A 55.5%
75 310”+ 21% 16:100 42.1%
21A 290”+ 20% 11:100 89.7%
66 330”+ 20% 26:100 91.8%

After reviewing the information in the above tables, it's plainly obvious that Idaho is loaded with opportunity and has the harvest success rates to back it up. It’s also intriguing to note that nearly every unit on our list has close to 90% public land or better! The bottom line: Idaho offers some incredible opportunities at a fraction of the cost compared to other western states and is a state that should be on the radar of every hunter.

Special note on tag selection in Idaho

Before purchasing your license in Idaho be sure to consult the regulations for your chosen unit. In most areas, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game gives hunters the choice between two tags: A tags and B tags. Both tags have their own set of inclusions like extended archery seasons, antlered only seasons, antlerless only seasons and so on.

Direct links to researching these OTC elk hunts on Filtering 2.0:

Early Archery OTC Late Archery OTC Late Muzzleloader OTC Early Rifle OTC Late Rife OTC


Oregon

Of all of the states on our list, Oregon is one of the two that offers opportunities for both Roosevelt and Rocky Mountain elk. Generally speaking, Interstate 5 that runs north and south in western Oregon is considered the dividing line for the two species although the gene traits can obviously become muddy in the transition area. Oregon offers a bunch of opportunities on its general OTC tag, which is good for both species, though options for Rocky Mountain elk are fewer with a rifle as opposed to archery hunts. The OTC tags go on sale beginning Dec. 1.

While Oregon is not known for producing trophy Rocky Mountain elk, there are some great bulls that are taken every year. Roosevelt elk on the western side of the state can provide good opportunities for mature bulls; however, locating the animals in the thick rainforest-like conditions can be tough, but this is just part of the territory. Studying B&C entry trends can lead to discovering hidden pockets where trophy genes may be present in general OTC units.

Top B&C producing counties since 2010 for typical elk in Oregon

County No. of
entries
OTC units found within county
Union 2 49, 52, 53, 63

 

Top B&C producing counties since 2010 for nontypical elk in Oregon

County No. of
entries
OTC units found within county
Clackamas 1 42
Umatilla 1 44, 48, 49
Walloaw 1 53, 62

Analyzing the above table can certainly lead to a few thoughts. Most of the state’s largest Rocky Mountain elk come from the northeastern corner. Granted, some of the heavy-hitting controlled hunt units like 54, 55, 56, and 57 are found in the same area, but elk do not have to follow unit boundaries like hunters do.

Top B&C producing counties since 2010 for Roosevelt elk in Oregon

County No. of
entries
OTC units found within county
Douglas 9 20, 21, 22, 23, 29
Coos 6 24, 25, 26
Tillamook 5 12, 14
Yamhill 4 14, 15
Columbia 3 11
Lincoln 3 17, 18

When analyzing the Roosevelt B&C entries, nearly every unit is represented; however, most of the trophies are killed in the Umpqua and Rogue River Siskiyou National Forests.

Depending on their personal choices, hunters can find vastly different hunting for Oregon elk ranging from the high altitude Eagle Cap Wilderness to the jungle-like west coast for Roosevelts. In the following tables, we will break down some of the best options for each species.

Best harvest success rates for archery OTC hunts in Oregon in 2018 Rocky Mountain Elk

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success Bull:cow ratio Public land %
44 320”+ 28% 38:100 6%
43 280”+ 24% 38:100 12%
45 300”+ 23% 18:100 15%
64 300”+ 20% 11:100 38%
62 300”+ 17% 7:100 76%
48 320”+ 16% 9:100 36%
63 300”+ 16% 7:100 57%
65 300”+ 16% 17:100 57%
53 300”+ 15% 16:100 25%

In addition to archery opportunities, Oregon also offers rifle hunting opportunities although the hunt choices are far fewer. Some units offer multiple season dates within the same unit with hunts usually taking place in October and November.

Best harvest success rates for rifle OTC hunts in Oregon in 2018 Rocky Mountain Elk

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success Bull:cow ratio Public land %
44 320”+ 43% 38:100 6%
40 280”+ 40% 38:100 9%
43 280”+ 35% 38:100 12%
63 300”+ 16% 7:100 57%
53 300”+ 13% 16:100 25%
61 310”+ 13% 10:100 75%
42 280”+ 10% 10:100 55%
62 300”+ 10% 7:100 76%
39 270”+ 9% 12:100 67%

Conversely to Rocky Mountain elk, Roosevelt elk be hunted on the general tag in nearly every unit for both weapon types. Hunters can also find great trophy genetics throughout the range of the elk and a true bull of a lifetime can be present in any unit at any time; however, finding them can be a different story. 

Best harvest success rates for archery OTC hunts in
Oregon in 2018 Rocky Mountain Elk

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success Bull:cow ratio Public land %
26 270”+ 18% 30:100 50%
25 280”+ 17% 20:100 33%
11 300”+ 13% 11:100 10%
14 290”+ 12% 13:100 43%
10 300”+ 11% 22:100 27%
28 270”+ 11% N/A 60%
12 290”+ 10% 15:100 66%
20 270”+ 10% 19:100 42%
21 280”+ 10% 19:100 68%
24 280”+ 10% 20:100 35%

 

Best harvest success rates for rifle OTC hunts in
Oregon in 2018 Rocky Mountain Elk

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success Bull:cow ratio Public land %
11 300”+ 18% 11:100 10%
17 280”+ 17% 7:100 15%
14 290”+ 11% 13:100 43%
18 280”+ 11% 8:100 43%
20 270”+ 10% 19:100 42%
23 260”+ 9% N/A 16%
12 290”+ 9% 15:100 66%
12 260”+ 9% 24:100 6%
29 270”+ 9% 16:100 46%
19 290"+ 7% 22:100 60%

Oregon can be a great state to consider, particularly for Roosevelt elk, but with one of the most expensive elk tags on our list it’s easy to see why many hunters would opt to, instead, hunt states like Colorado or Idaho.

Direct links to researching these OTC elk hunts on Filtering 2.0:

Rocky Mountain elk

Archery General Traditional Only General Rifle General

Roosevelt elk

Archery General Rifle General


Utah

While Utah is commonly known for producing some of the largest bulls in the West, the fact that OTC hunts are available in the Beehive State is seldom discussed. The lack of discussion isn’t totally unfounded; however, since the OTC hunts are a polar opposite of the limited entry tags and successfully punching a tag can be difficult—even more so when targeting mature bulls. OTC tags are limited by a quota and sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Tags can be purchased beginning July 16, 2019.

Utah OTC hunts can be broken down into two categories: spike only and any bull. Spike only hunts are generally conducted in units that feature limited entry hunts for branched antlered bulls. Conversely, any bull units allow hunters to take any legal bull they find; however, these areas typically see lower elk densities and populations along with high hunting pressures. A general spike only tag is good for any spike only units while a general any bull tag is good in all any bull units.

Since 2010, there have not been any bulls from Utah that have been entered into the B&C record books from an OTC unit; however, every year, bulls in the 300” to 320” range are taken. In the following section, we breakdown the best OTC hunts to focus on for Utah any bull units.

Best harvest success rates for archery OTC hunts in Utah in 2017

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success Bull:cow ratio Public land %
Ogden Raghorn 18% 14:100 90%
West Desert, East Raghorn 18% N/A 72%
Nine Mile, Range Creek 300”+ 16% 49:100 72%
Pine Valley Raghorn 13% N/A 99%
Chalk Creek 300”+ 12% 28:100 10%
South Slope, Bonanza/Vernal/Yellowstone Raghorn 12% 16:100 61%
East Canyon Raghorn 11% 31:100 26%
Fillmore, Oak creek Raghorn 10% N/A 99%
Kamas Raghorn 10% 9:100 63%
Zion 300"+ 10% 13:100 66%

 

Best harvest success rates for muzzleloader OTC hunts in Utah in 2017

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success Bull:cow ratio Public land %
Pine Valley  Raghorn 29% N/A 99%
Zion 300”+ 26% 13:100 66%
Chalk Creek 300”+ 25% 28:100 10%
Cache, East Rich 300”+ 23% 13:100 54%
Morgan, South Rich Raghorn 21% 44:100 15%
South Slope, Bonanza/Vernal/Yellowstone Raghorn 18% 16:100 61%
Nine Mile, Range Creek 300”+ 17% 49:100 72%
Ogden Raghorn 15% 14:100 90%
East Ogden Raghorn 13% 31:100 26%
North Slope, Summit/West Daggett Raghorn 8% 14:100 90%

 

Best harvest success rates for rifle OTC hunts in Utah in 2017

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success Bull:cow ratio Public land %
Box Elder, Hansel Mountain Raghorn 30% N/A 29%
Henry Mountains Raghorn 25% N/A 98%
Zion 300”+ 21% 13:100 66%
East Canyon Raghorn 21% 31:100 26%
Chalk Creek 300”+ 18% 28:100 10%
Morgan, South Rich Raghorn 18% 44:100 15%
Fillmore, Oak Creek Raghorn 18% N/A 99%
South Slope, Bonanza/Vernal/Yellowstone Raghorn 17% 16:100 61%
Nine Mile, Range Creek 300”+ 17% 49:100 72%
Ogden Raghorn 17% 15:100 26%

In the above table, it is important to note that elk harvest data for the 2018 season has not yet been released so the above table is based on numbers from the 2017 season.

When studying the data, it’s pretty obvious that success rates among Utah units are actually fairly competitive compared to other states where hunts usually hover around 15%, give or take. Success can be found year after year in several units, but a successfully punched tag is usually held by those with private access or those with intimate knowledge of an area and how the elk use it. It is also important to note that the larger percentage of bulls taken every year on general units are spikes and immature bulls. Most hunters will find easier success in some of the northern units, particularly those lying east of the Salt Lake City area.

Direct links to researching these OTC elk hunts on Filtering 2.0:

OTC Elk Extended Archery Elk

Hidden gem with Utah’s spike only hunts

While the spike only hunts certainly aren’t a huge destination for most out-of-state hunters, they do have a hidden value to high point holders. As we talked about before, the spike only hunts are generally conducted on units that feature limited entry hunts for trophy bulls. With this fact in mind, if an applicant had high odds of drawing his or her preferred tag in the next few years, it could be a great idea to pick up a spike only tag for the area a year or two prior to hunt and scout simultaneously.


Washington

While Washington did make our list because of its OTC tag opportunities very few hunters every make their way to the Evergreen State. Hunting for Rocky Mountain elk is highly regulated and only a handful of units offer opportunities at branched antler bulls while most of the other units are only open for spike or antlerless elk. These stipulations can change depending on weapon types and hunters will need to pay close attention to the yearly regulations. On the western half of the state, hunters will find a plethora of opportunities for Roosevelt elk with very few restrictions in terms of legal take. 

With the extreme lack of options for elk hunting in Washington, research will be a vital part of any hunter’s gameplan, especially if they plan on targeting mature bulls. Washington is not well known for producing trophy-sized bulls, but studying B&C entry trends can lead to discovering hidden pockets where trophy genes may be present in general OTC units.

Top B&C producing counties since 2010 for typical elk in Washington

County No. of
entries
OTC units found within county
Columbia 3 149, 162, 163, 166, 169
Kittitas 2 249, 328, 329, 334, 335, 336, 340, 346
Chelan 1 243, 244, 245, 246, 247, 249, 250, 251

*Five more counties with one entry each

Top B&C producing counties since 2010 for nontypical elk in Washington

County No. of
entries
OTC units found within county
Garfield 2 145, 166, 169, 175, 178
Kittitas 2 249, 328, 329, 334, 335, 336, 340, 346

On the trophy potential side of things, the Roosevelt elk herd does much better than their Rocky Mountain counterparts in Washington although many hunters looking to target Roosevelt elk will opt to hunt Oregon.

Top B&C producing counties since 2010 for Roosevelt elk in Washington

County No. of
entries
OTC units found within county
Clallam 5 601, 602, 603, 607, 612, 624
Jefferson 3 612, 615, 618, 624
Grays Harbor 2 638, 642, 648, 651, 658, 660, 663
Pacific 2 506, 658, 672, 673, 681, 684, 699

When analyzing the above table it’s fairly clear that trophy quality Roosevelts can be found in most units although the western half of their native range generally produces mature bulls more consistently. 

Depending on their personal choices, hunters can find vastly different hunting for Washington elk ranging from high country areas to the jungle-like West Coast. In the following tables, we will break down some of the best options for each species.

Best harvest success rates for archery OTC hunts in
Washington in 2018 Rocky Mountain elk

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success 6pt % Public land %
139- Steptoe 280”+ 38% 25% 2.9%
130- Cheney 290”+ 15% 21% 7.8%
142- Almota 280”+ 14% 14% 3.7%
379- Ringold 270”+ 14% 29% 20.6%
121- Huckleberry 280”+ 10% 27% 85.5%
105- Kelly Hill 270'+ 9% 38% 40.9%
111- Aladdin 270”+ 9% 38% 65.4%
127- Mica Peak 290”+ 9% 21% 2.3%

*Only units open to branch antlered bulls are listed. Units open to spike or antlerless elk may have higher success rates.

Best harvest success rates for muzzleloader OTC hunts in
Washington in 2018 Rocky Mountian elk

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success 6pt % Public land %
136- Harrington 260”+ 27% N/A 10.5%
127- Mica Peak 290”+ 19% 21% 2.3%
133- Roosevelt 260”+ 16% 14% 5.9%
124- Mt. Spokane 290”+ 14% 28% 7.7%
139- Steptoe 280”+ 14% 25% 2.9%
130- Cheney 290”+ 12% 21% 7.8%
117- 49 Degrees North 280”+ 11% 15% 41.5%
121- Huckleberry 280"+ 10% 27% 85.5%
142- Almota 280”+ 8% 14% 3.7%

*Only units open to branch antlered bulls are listed. Units open to spike or antlerless elk may have higher success rates.

Best harvest success rates for rifle OTC hunts in
Washington in 2018 Rocky Mountain elk

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success 6pt % Public land %
379- Ringold 270"+ 50% 29% 20.6%
209- Wannacut 260”+ 20% N/A 24.9%
130- Cheney 290"+ 19% 21% 7.8%
127- Mica Peak 290”+ 17% 21% 2.3%
284- Ritzville 260”+ 17% N/A 5.9%
136- Harrington 260”+ 16% N/A 10.5%
272- Beezley Raghorn 15% N/A 15.7%
262- Withrow Raghorn 14% N/A 5.7%
233- Pogue Raghorn 13% N/A 44.7%
372- Rattlesnake Hills 310”+ 13% 75% 16.6%

*Only units open to branch antlered bulls are listed. Units open to spike or antlerless elk may have higher success rates.

When looking at the table above and comparing to others, a few things may—or may not—immediately jump out. In general, trophy potential, harvest success rates and public land percentages all tend to be much lower for Rocky Mountain elk in Washington than nearly every other state on our list. Conversely, Roosevelt elk see more impressive numbers in the Evergreen State, but hunters still favor the better success rates and hunting conditions usually found in Oregon.

Best harvest success rates for archery OTC hunts in
Washington in 2018 Roosevelt elk

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success 6pt % Public land %
642- Copalis 250”+ 22% 13% 9%
460- Snoqualmie 290”+ 20% 32% 60.4%
506- Willapa Hills 280”+ 18% 11% 11.1%
673- Williams Creek 290”+ 18% 4% 23.8%
658- North River 270”+ 17% 7% 5%
454- Issaquah 290”+ 15% 30% 5.1%
601- Hoko 250”+ 15% N/A 9.5%
652- Puyallup 290”+ 15% 39% 1.4%
578- West Klickitat 260”+ 13% 35% 16.3%
607- Sol Duc 270”+ 13% 9% 76.1%
672- Fall River 270”+ 13% 11% 25.1%

*Only units open to branch antlered bulls are listed. Units open to spike or antlerless elk may have higher success rates.

Best harvest success rates for muzzleloader OTC hunts in
Washington in 2018 Roosevelt elk

Unit Trophy potential Harvest success 6pt % Public land %
684- Long Beach 250"+ 31% 14% 20%
681- Bear River 290”+ 28% 10% 5.8%
454- Issaquah 290”+ 27% 30% 5.1%
564- Battle Ground 250”+ 23% 6% 5.26%
672- Fall River 270”+ 22% 11% 25.1%
510- Stormking 300"+ 21% 33% 32.5%
652- Puyallup 290”+ 21% 39% 1.4%
673- Williams Creek 290”+ 21% 4% 23.8%
530- Ryderwood 280”+ 20% 11% 13.6%
648- Wynoochee 270”+ 19% 9% 4.1%

*Only units open to branch antlered bulls are listed. Units open to spike or antlerless elk may have higher success rates.

Best harvest success rates for rifle OTC hunts in
Washington in 2018 Roosevelt elk

Unit Trophy potential Harvest sucess 6pt % Public land %
454- Issaquah 290”+ 24% 30% 5.1%
666- Deschutes 270”+ 21% N/A 2.8%
504- Stella 260”+ 20% 31% 0.6%
652- Puyallup 290”+ 20% 39% 1.4%
673- Williams Creek 290”+ 18% 4% 23.8%
658- North River 270”+ 17% 7% 5%
506- Willapa Hills 280”+ 16% 11% 11.1%
510- Stormking 300”+ 16% 33% 32.5%
602- Dickey 260”+ 16% 14% 32.8%

*Only units open to branch antlered bulls are listed. Units open to spike or antlerless elk may have higher success rates.

While Washington does offer OTC hunts it’s fairly clear from the above tables that many of the other states we have covered in this article can offer better hunting experiences for large, more mature bulls on average. Washington could be an option for those looking to pursue Roosevelt elk, especially when trying to avoid high license fees in Oregon, but at the cost of lower amounts of public land and, in general, smaller bulls.

Direct links to researching these OTC elk hunts on Filtering 2.0:

Rocky Mountain elk

Archery General Late Archery General Muzzleloader General Late Muzzleloader General Rifle General

Roosevelt elk:

Archery General Late Archery General Muzzleloader General Late Muzzleloader General Rifle General


Closing thoughts

With enough research, nearly every state on our list can provide a fun and enjoyable hunt and be within the budget of anyone willing to save. Obviously, Arizona is going to be generally avoided by most, but some decent bulls are killed there every year. Colorado and Idaho undeniably provide the most options for OTC hunters and should be at the top of the list for anyone looking to experience elk hunting year after year. Following closely, Oregon has some decent opportunity for Rocky Mountain elk along with great opportunities for Roosevelt elk. Washington can also provide some good opportunities for Roosevelt elk although these tend to be smaller than those found in Oregon. Lastly, Utah can be a tougher hunt with an OTC tag, but with its extremely low tag cost, it isn’t a bad place to look at; familiarity with units can lead to great success rates here.

Comments

50 states, 50 bucks, 50 points
THE Hunting App
Save up to 50% off in our memorial day sale