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Bowhunting Elk in the Lower 48

The majority of the three plus million bowhunters in North America live in areas where whitetail deer are available to hunt. From the requests that BSC gets, it would appear that when bowhunters starting getting the bug to travel to far off places to bowhunt another species, elk seem to be the first critter that comes to mind. While the elk is a wonderful bowhunting challenge, and a remarkable trophy, the success rate for bowhunters on elk would appear to be less than any other species category. Surprising?

Along with lower success rates however, it would also appear to have a very high shooting opportunity rate. Surprising? An assumption could be drawn that many good, experienced whitetail bowhunters come unglued when a big bull elk gives them a first shot opportunity!

There are three species of elk in North America, as recorded by the Pope and Young Club. The most wide spread species is the American Elk, with a P&Y minimum of 260, Roosevelt Elk with a minimum of 225 and the lesser known is the Tule elk with a minimum of 225.

American Elk

All elk outside of the Roosevelt Elk boundaries and the limited boundaries of the Tule elk in California are classified as American elk. Besides whitetails and mule deer, a bowhunter itching to hunt Elk will probably be nearly as confused about the amount of options he or she has available to them when it comes to selecting an outfitter. If you are getting ready to book a hunt, and "expect" to find an outfitter with close to 100% harvest success rate, choose a different species!

BSC has a few outfitters we highly recommend for bowhunting elk, however harvesting a mature bull elk may be one of the most difficult challenges with a bow. We offer hunts in Alberta, British Columbia, Montana, Idaho, Colorado, and New Mexico. Hunts range from drop camps, to semi-guided hunts, 2x1's, or 1x1's.

Hunt costs can range greatly based on the service provided and the size bulls that may be available to you on any particular hunt. Normal harvest success rates on branch antlered bulls run around 30%, and "shot opportunities" on mature bulls run as high as 80% to 85%, depending on the season, fitness of the client, and perseverance. The bowhunters who “never say never” until the fat lady sings will do best on elk bowhunt overall!

Mark Buehrer
North American Consultant
mark@bowhuntingsafari.com

Jay Osting
North American Consultant
jay@bowhuntingsafari.com