Elk Hunting

Hunting / Hunting Guide / Elk Hunting

Throughout much of Wyoming, elk populations are up, which is why Game and Fish was able to increase opportunity by adding 1,030 more licenses for 2018.


Cow/calf harvest throughout the state is expected to be high, and many regions report favorable possibilities for taking nice, mature bulls. Early-season hunter crowding can be expected statewide, especially on public lands.

Wildlife managers in the the Casper Region predict excellent bull elk hunting opportunities, with many areas reporting strong potential for harvest success on any-elk licenses and better mature bull antler quality than in recent years. The Laramie Peak and Muddy Mountain elk herd, thanks to cooperation with landowners, offers access for cow elk on private lands with the expanding walk-in area and hunter management area opportunities. Elk hunting in the Laramie Range and Black Hills should fare well, but many elk tend to congregate on private lands with restricted hunting access during the October-November rifle season; public land harvest is expected to be low.

Although elk numbers have declined slightly in some herds, plenty of hunting opportunity abounds in the Bighorn Basin. Game and Fish is focusing on brucellosis research this fall, and blood sampling kits will again be available from Game and Fish field personnel or the Cody Regional office. The North Bighorn elk herd remains healthy and productive, and should provide a good opportunity to harvest an elk in 2018, especially those hunters with a Type 1 tag.  

“Most elk populations near Cody are near population objectives. Bull numbers and quality remain high, but opportunity can be dependent on weather conditions moving bull elk into accessible areas,” said Dan Smith, Cody regional wildlife supervisor.

Hunting will remain good in the Green River areas, but hunters in the Sierra Madres are likely to notice fewer elk given a higher harvest rate during recent seasons.

“Both the Steamboat and the South Rock Springs herds are under special management guidelines, meaning high bull ratios and older-aged males, and we specifically harvest these at relatively conservative levels to maintain a quality experience for the hunting public,” said Mark Zornes, Green River wildlife management coordinator. “Both herds are very popular with the hunting community. Significantly more licenses were issued this year in the Steamboat herd, especially for antlerless elk to address the population and landowner concerns.”

Elk across the Lander Region abound and all herd units are near their objective.

“Calf production remains on par with previous years and should result in continued robust elk numbers. Similarly, observed bull to cow ratios remain strong over most of central Wyoming. If favorable weather conditions are realized during this fall, hunters should experience excellent harvest opportunity and success in all hunt areas,” said Daryl Lutz, Lander regional wildlife coordinator.  

A majority of elk herd units in the Laramie Region are above population objectives and should provide hunters with excellent hunting opportunities. Elk herds across the region have high bull ratios with greater than 25 bulls to 100 cows. Productive calf ratios, greater than 30 calves to 100 cows, demonstrate healthy elk populations with plenty of bulls available for harvest.

“Elk avoid areas with high hunting pressure, but plenty of good elk hunting is available away from well-traveled roads and trails,” said Rick King, Laramie regional wildlife supervisor.  “A few Access Yes areas provide opportunities in the region but, as with other species, access to private lands is limited in many hunt areas. Hunters should plan ahead for places to hunt.”

The Sheridan Region elk seasons are designed to provide ample opportunity to harvest elk in areas where populations are over management objectives, while more conservative seasons are set for those areas where numbers are near desired levels. Hunters who gain access to hunt or cross private lands are expected to have high success.  Mature bulls are available in all hunt areas and hunters have a reasonable chance of harvesting a “trophy” bull. Along the Bighorn Mountains, elk find refuge on private lands. In Hunt Area 37, several hundred elk avoid hunters by moving to private lands. As in past years, successful late season hunting will occur on private lands, but hunting access is very limited.
In Jackson, the 2018 hunt season focuses hunting on southern segments that add to high population numbers on the National Elk Refuge. The region is still working to add more yearling bulls into the population; so, the general license antlered elk, spikes excluded hunting restriction will continue through October 31. More elk were counted this winter in the lower Greys River, so hunters can expect more sightings. This year the youth hunt will again occur from November 22 to 24 during the Thanksgiving school break. Youth hunters holding general or full price limited quota elk licenses can apply for a permit to access the National Elk Refuge during that time. Hunters in the Targhee Herd should expect lower harvest rates again this year, as most winter range is situated in Idaho.

Elk numbers in the Pinedale area remain at or above objectives. Hunters will enjoy hunting seasons meant to increase harvest.

“The 2018 seasons are again designed to target antlerless elk and lower population levels,” said John Lund, Pinedale regional wildlife supervisor. “Liberal seasons have been in place for several years and are designed to move populations to objective levels, while maintaining at least 15 bulls to 100 cows.”

Edible portions of big game

1. Front quarter – meat of the front quarters as far down as the knees

2. Hind quarter – meat of the hindquarters as far down as the hocks

3. Backstrap – meat along the backbone between the neck and the hindquarters

3. Tenderloin – tenderloins are located inside the body cavity

Frequently Asked Question

What is an Elk Special Management Permit, and do I need to purchase one to hunt elk?

Jordan Kraft
South Pinedale Game Warden
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