Where are the best places for hunting elk over the counter?

Sure, we’d all wish for a trophy bull elk hunt in a prime western state location during the peak of the rut. But if you want to get realistic, it’s easier said than done.

Preference points must be earned and money must be spent. But by now, we should all be aware that over the counter (OTC) elk tags exist, are widely available, and are a great alternative to the expensive, lengendary elk hunt we’ve all built up in our minds.

If you’re more open to a cow elk harvest and don’t mind doing it yourself, there are a lot of options for over the counter elk hunting tags.

How are you supposed to narrow them down? We’ve got some help, starting with the states that offer the more ideal over the counter tags and opportunities.

After looking through the many different states that offer OTC elk tags to hunt this majestic animal, we have been able to narrow down the list to five states that offer the best opportunity for an over the counter elk hunt. For the sake of this list, we’ll only deal with nonresident fees, assuming elk hunters will be coming from out of state. 


Colorado is home to the largest elk population in the western United States with a herd of over 250,000.  It is also the state with the most over the counter units.

Only specific OTC units are allowed to be hunted with over-the-counter tags in Colorado, but they’re still beautiful locations with plenty of elk to go around.

Whether you like to hunt with a bow or rifle they have an opportunity waiting for you. They have 147 units available to hunt with a bow and 92 units to hunt with a rifle. The total price for a non-resident to hunt is going to be $670 for a bull elk, and $503 for a cow or calf, including tag and license.

For more specific prices and information, go to the Colorado Parks and Wildlife website.


The next state on our list is Idaho. This state boasts a herd population of 120,000 elk, and the hunting pressure isn’t quite what it is in other, more popular states.

They have 87 units available to hunt over the counter and you will have your choice of archery, muzzleloader, or rifle. The cost to hunt OTC elk in Idaho as a non-resident is $416.75, but if you decide to take a bow or a muzzleloader, it is an additional $20.

The good news is, there’s great elk habitat in much of Idaho, and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game has good online info to guide you.


Montana comes in as our third choice for hunting elk. It has some units that see 15-40% success with archery tackle, and there truly are some big bulls in this part of the country.

They also boast the second largest elk herd on this list at 160,000 elk. They allow you to chase these animals with a bow or rifle in hand and non-residents can get OTC tags for $270, plus the cost of their general hunting license. Learn more at the website of the Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department.


Wyoming is a great state for hunting elk. It has a herd size of 90,000 and hunters see an overall success rate of 28%.

They allow you to purchase an archery stamp which lets you hunt the archery season, and if you don’t have success you can come back when the rifle season opens. For 2020, over the counter license sales begin on July 13. This includes any leftover licenses after the leftover draw and resident general licenses. Non-residents can hunt this state for $692 and to get the archery permit it will cost an additional $72.

To get the best, most accurate, and up-to-date info on OTC elk tags in Wyoming, go to the homepage of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.


The last state on our list was a hard one to choose. We granted Oregon the spot for its hunting season scenery and uniqueness. Oregon has an elk herd of 125,000. There are Rocky Mountain elk and also Roosevelt in the state, both available (to an extent) on OTC hunts.

There are opportunities to do DIY hunts in the general season with OTC tags, but the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says that, “Due to chronic elk damage and increasing private land elk populations, ODFW is piloting a new General Season Antlerless Elk Damage Tag.”

They allow you to hunt with a bow or rifle and a non-resident can get an OTC elk tag in this state for $588. If you want to make sure you’re legal and have the newest info, go to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website.

As you can tell, choosing the top five is no easy task, and it really comes down to people’s personal preferences and proximity.

But when it comes time to try and call in a big bull, an over the counter tag might be the best way to go.



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The post 5 States With the Best Over the Counter Elk Hunting appeared first on Wide Open Spaces.

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