Ok, the draws have come and gone, and for some reason you don’t have an elk tag. Bad luck, failed to apply, schedule conflicts, or who knows what, but for some reason, you aren’t going elk hunting.
Don’t despair. Opportunity is knocking at your door. Two states have Over The Counter (OTC) bull elk tags – Colorado and Idaho. No draws, first come, first served, until the quota is sold.
Other states allow for landowners to be awarded some of the elk tags which they can resell on the open market. New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, and Nevada have landowner programs where you could purchase a tag after the drawings are finished.
Nevada and Utah cause you to mortgage the house for a tag, due to great quality bulls. Colorado and New Mexico have a mix of quality and affordability in their mix of landowner tags. These “after the draw” elk opportunities offer a hunter the chance to come west and be in the elk mountains. You only need to act now, before the quotas are filled or all the tags are snapped up.
Idaho requires that you purchase a hunting license for $142 and an elk tag for $352. You can also pickup an OTC deer tag in Idaho, allowing you to make a combination hunt if the dates work out for you. Only 10,415 of these Idaho elk tags are available. They are good for most units in the state and for many weapon types. Large tracts of public land and quality bulls make Idaho a great choice for hunters needing elk tags.
Colorado has multiple units allowing hunters to show up and purchase a tag, or to purchase a tag on their website prior to heading out west. Fees are $501 for a bull tag and $251 for a cow tag. The great news of Colorado is the huge expanses of public lands where the OTC elk hunts occur. Colorado has shorter seasons than other states, but with the largest elk herd in the nation, combined with good quality for those willing to work hard, Colorado tops the list of many do-it-yourself elk hunters coming west.
Both Colorado and Idaho have ample public land, actually expansive public lands, where the majority of the elk hunting occurs. A better OTC option for the do it yourself hunter cannot be found. Whether you are looking for a cow or bull, these hunts can be untaken for a fraction of a fully guided hunt.
For those wanting the chance at some of the renowned elk areas in Utah, Nevada, or New Mexico, plan to open your wallet wide and deep. Many of these landowner tags are already spoken for by outfitters or their clients, but a few are available after the main draw results are posted. Premium Nevada and Utah tags can go for $10,000 and up, with the premium New Mexico tags starting around $4,000. For the hunt of a lifetime, some may be willing to pay that.
Colorado and New Mexico have landowner vouchers that are more reasonable in cost, though maybe not in some of the famous trophy elk units. Many of these tags can be obtained for $1,000, plus the state license fee. Still not cheap, but within the range of most hunters. The better the quality and ease of the hunt, the higher the price. Some of these tags allow you to hunt the entire unit for which you purchase the tag, with some being restricted to the private property of the landowner.
New Mexico is your best option for affordable landowner elk tags that give you the chance at a real monster. When you combine the mix of quality and price, these New Mexico tags are a true value. New Mexico Game and Fish publishes a list of these landowner tags, which get scooped up quickly following the release of the general drawing results in late June.
As a final thought, consider this. Many states have left over cow elk tags that can be purchased as left over tags from their state offices. A freezer full of great meat can be obtained and you can scout for an area where you might plan to hunt bull elk in future years, all while having a blast. Go to the websites below to learn the finer details of these OTC and landowner opportunities.