There are many options when considering an elk hunt in Utah including over-the-counter options as well as limited entry draw opportunities. You can break down elk hunting in Utah into three categories, using these tips found in this article you may be able to find a hunt that is a perfect fit based on your goals, and what type of experience you are looking to plan.
Buy your any bull elk tag over the counter
The first option to consider would be the over-the-counter option in any bull units. As a general rule these opportunities are found in the lowest elk populations in the state. There are some areas in the northern portion of Utah that this is not necessarily the case, but instead of low density, you will have a substantial amount of private property that you will have to contend with if you choose to hunt in these areas. If hunting a branched antler bull is your goal, be prepared to cover lots of ground and try and schedule your hunt around the entire season with as much scouting time during the summer as possible to give you the best chances for success. Locating all water sources available in the unit, and monitoring them with trail cameras is likely to get you where the few elk are on the unit, and help rule out large areas that simply do not have elk in them. Don’t be overly selective when hunting these units, as it is very likely you will have multiple days without seeing any elk, so if you see a bull, regardless of age class or score you should get very serious as it could be the only bull you see for the duration of your hunt.
Over the counter spike elk tag.
The second option to consider would be the over-the-counter options in the Spike Only units, these hunts are located on most of the limited-entry units in the state, and you will be hunting some of the largest elk herds Utah has to offer when hunting on these permits. These can be a very fun way to fill the freezer each year, as there is definitely a “hunt” involved in finding a legal bull on these hunts. Like many over-the-counter hunting experiences, plan on some company while you are hunting as there are thousands of hunters who take advantage of this opportunity each year, and they are spread out all across the state in each of the different units. Plan on covering lots of ground on these hunts, both on your boots, as well as in your vehicle. With the amount of pressure especially during the opening days of these hunts the elk are not likely to be found where you will have been scouting them during the summer months. If you are up for some miles on your boots, there are hundreds of square miles of what the locals call “dark timber” located in most of the units across the state. These dense conifer forests are impossible to glass, and locating elk in a helicopter would be difficult. Hunters who are successful in these areas are often either catching the elk on the fringes in the early morning or late evening, or they will even “Still hunt” through the timber. Locating game trails and very slowly working their way through the forest looking for a flick of the ear, a patch of hair, or the musky smell of an elk to let them know that they are close. Remember when Still hunting, the general rule is to go as slow as possible, and then go slower.
Draw your elk tag.
The last option to consider when looking to hunt elk in Utah would be to get involved in the draw process for the limited-entry hunts offered across the state in the units that are managed for a higher age class of bulls. These limited entry hunts can often take a number of years to successfully draw, but if you are going to be purchasing a hunting license for any other reason in Utah, to not roll the dice on these amazing opportunities for an extra $10 a year would be a mistake. Often you can even plan on hunting spike bulls, and or general deer, in Utah in a unit that you would like to plan a big bull hunt for in later years. By doing this you will be much more prepared to take full advantage of your limited-entry hunt when the time comes and increase your likelihood of harvesting a mature bull.
A few other tips to consider when planning your hunt in Utah come down to the time of year the hunts are scheduled in Utah.
Archery elk tags are often easier to draw.
The archery hunts start rather early (Mid-August) compared to most western states, and end after the first week of September. As a general rule if you are looking for a classic bugling elk hunt with your bow, Utah is not a great state to consider as the season is over about the time things are heating up in the forest. This being said when looking at the over-the-counter options you will have the option to harvest a cow on the archery hunts if you choose to. So if filling the freezer is the main objective and you enjoy hunting with your bow, this may increase your odds of success a little.
The rifle hunts on the other hand are split into a few different seasons. The first rifle seasons typically start the day after the archery hunts conclude and allow hunters a unique opportunity to hunt with a rifle during the peak of the rut, these are incredible opportunities for some of the biggest bulls in the country in many different units across the state.
Muzzleloader elk tags are harder to draw than archery tags but easier than rifle tags.
The muzzleloader hunts are often right after the early rifle hunts and offer hunters the option to hunt in the rut as well for the most part with one or two exceptions. With the change in rules that allow hunters to use variable scopes in Utah a couple of years ago, the number of points required to draw these options have begun to take more and more years, but still can often be drawn with a few less points than you will need when looking towards the early rifle hunts.
The second rifle hunt has historically been reserved for the over-the-counter hunts both spike only, and any bull units and are more of a late rut hunt, but the last few years there has started to be more limited-entry options during this time of year, and if you don’t mind the crowds you may luck into a hunt years earlier than the first rifle hunt, and still be in the woods when the bulls are making some noise.
The last rifle hunts are late rifle hunts and you will be hunting during November when the elk have moved for the most part into their winter range. This hunt has no bugling, and the style of hunting is more like a spot and stalk mule deer hunt, with lots of time behind your optics, and many miles on your boots and in your vehicle to locate elk. These late rifle hunts can often be drawn much sooner than an early rifle hunt, and can allow a hunter access to some of the best units in the state years earlier than normal.
Put in the elk draw as you always have a chance.
Whichever option you choose, Utah is a fantastic elk state, and overall has some of the most affordable permits and licenses in the country as well as a rather affordable application system. As long as you are applying for an elk tag it is only $10 per other species to apply. If you are not a resident of the state of utah. Although these tags are hard to draw. You might as well throw in $10 as your odds are better than many raffles.
The limited entry Elk units all hold trophy class bulls. Some units are better than others but there are big bulls in these limited entry units. So even if you buy a spike elk tag or any bull elk tag. Apply for the extra $10 and have a chance and a trophy elk. These hunts can be the hunt of a lifetime. The best tip is give yourself a chance at a fantastic elk tag.