Contributors to this thread:
MT vs ID...Is there a difference?
I am going to hunt one of these two states this year for elk. I've been hunting Wyoming but it's time to try somewhere new. I have done a lot of reading about both states, pouring over both F&G websites looking at harvest stats, elk populations, hunter numbers, etc etc. Next step is to try and narrow things down and talk to a biologist.
It's very difficult to figure out success and pressure given Montana lumps rifle and archery harvest together. And at that, harvest rates seem low for an area that supposedly has so many elk? Idaho, however, seems to have some pretty decent harvest stats in places but pretty high numbers of hunters too.
I have pages of handwritten notes, maps and numbers trying to narrow things down in Montana and I feel like I've gotten nowhere. The one thing that keeps me considering MT is one thing I've read over and over, people say it's the best place to kill a big bull on a general tag. While there are a lot of elk there, it seems like a lot of hunters say they can be hard to locate and every mountain range has a ton of hunters?
I'm also interested in some of Idaho's first-come first-serve tags, like Lolo. Even though people say the numbers are way down, harvest stats are good. Would love to try the Sawtooth zone but getting a tag is probably not gonna happen with the low quota. Also considering the Pioneer and Beaverhead. Although, sounds like a lot of pressure.
My style of hunting is to road camp and hunt in, going up to 3 miles in and then hit another spot the next day. Really want to get into a spot where if we leave the road, we're not running into people.
So after that rambling, any thoughts on these two states? Idaho has a cheaper tag and is a little closer to home so those are positives. I'm not interested in Montana's lengthy season and the ability to hunt rifle. Probably won't be able to make two trips. Would really like to have a chance at a bull over 280. The last three years, I don't think I've seen a bull over that size. Would love to at least see some bigger bulls and know they're out there.
I don't need spots or units, just thoughts on which state? I need to pick one and focus on researching one instead of two! LOL!
I live in north Idaho and would recommend MT, lol. Thick forests but there are elk here.
Idaho will have far less Pressure than Montana . In The Lolo unit for sure. For a 280 bull Montana would be your best bet. Any good 4 year old 6 point will be close if not better in most of Montana . I live 25 miles from the Idaho border. I hunt deer, bears and turkeys there every year. Still can’t pull the trigger on a elk tag. Just have never seen that many since the late 90s . Hunt
The idea that elk in Montana are hard to locate might be true in the far west, but in the rest of the state we know where they are. In fact we can often glass them from the county roads. Hundreds in some places.
The problem is they are on private land.
A 280" bull can be had in nearly any elk unit in those two states, the thing is finding them! You will have to let smaller ones walk in order to have a chance at a bigger bull, that's tough to do on OTC public lands especially when you're on day 5 of a 7 day hunt! (grin) Good luck!
This bull is 283" Idaho OTC unit.
Thanks for the thoughts so far.
Paul, I don’t doubt that a 280 bull could be found just about anywhere. I know there’s places where they are few and far between and that is a top end bull for that area.
Either state can give you the hunt you are after. Just pick one and then dial in where you want to go. That's the good news. I don't think you can go wrong. Pick one and then dig deeper, enjoy your time researching and hunting. It's all part of the process. If I were you, first legal bull in bow range gets an arrow sent his way. Killing a bull with your bow ain't no joke especially coming from out of state. That's tough so don't forget that.
SBH, thanks for the post. Reassurement is always a good thing! I shot my first branch bull this last season hunting completely solo. It was amazing. I’ve called in bulls for my brothers and have had many blown chances myself over the years!
Mossyhorn, If you are dead set on a 280" plus bull on general OTC units I'd recommend you do your best to hunt as open country units as possible, this way you can glass critters up to see if they're what you're looking for before going after them, this can save you time. If you choose dark timber you just about have to have them in bowrange to size them up. Calling/Stalking bulls in dark timber can take some serious time, who knows how many you may have to go through to find the caliber bull you're dreaming of.
Keep in mind these general units are tough to come across 6-10 bulls to be picky about especially with a bow & you not having many bulls under your belt, it's a tall order for sure! SBH is right on the money about considering tagging the first branched bull, maybe he'll be 280! (grin) You sound like a younger man, don't put to much pressure on yourself so early on & take the fun out of archery elk hunting. Raise the bar as you put a few more bulls down. Good luck to you & I'll be rooting for your success no matter what you settle on!
I'm guessing that the success rate on bull elk is not that great in either state, or anywhere else for that matter. Hunting elk can be very different in the different parts of both states. Big difference in Montana between the NW, the SW, the Eastern part of the state, and the Missouri breaks. Does whether or not you draw a tag for one of the more sought after units come into the equation?
OTC/General tags are tough all over.
Like Irishman, I would ask if you are considering drawing a tag for lower pressure and better potential.
I can tell you from experience in Colorado that even units that can be drawn with no points can be much better quality hunts than the unlimited units.
Perhaps start building points in several states and putting in for quality draw hunts in states with no points to get into a pattern where you can draw a decent tag every year or two in different states.
Also from experience, be careful or you will end up with a pile of points and not many hunts to show for it! Make sure to get that time in the field with the elk to learn!
Good thoughts on hunting more open terrain. While I only have 3 elk with a bow to my credit, I feel like the last few years have been the tipping point (been hunting elk for 13ish years). Things have really started to click. Between my two brothers and I we've filled 4 of 7 tags on 5x5 or better bulls. Nothing big, the best being about 230. And we've been hunting areas that are mostly timbered. Seldom do we spot elk from afar. It's just covering ground trying to locate vocal elk.
280 is a darned good bull! I killed a 265 inch bull on a hard to draw Oregon rifle tag this year too and he's great bull, to me. I just want to try and put myself in an area that at least has the potential of having a higher ratio of bulls of that caliber.
I am starting to apply for points elsewhere but everything seems like such a long wait, Utah, anything other than general in Wyoming, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada... I mean to get a tag is a 10+ year wait, more like 20 in some of those states. I know NM is random but those odds?!?!?! Then throw in any LE tag in Montana or Idaho and again, the odds?!?!?! Sure you've got the breaks in MT and there is Colorado that has some options. I will definitely throw my name in the hat for an LE tag for whichever state I choose to go to. But I can't see jumping into places like AZ and NV. I'll keep drawing a WY tag when I have the points and maybe throw CO into the mix and an LE tag here in Washington. Its hard to throw in for NM too, cause I know I'll be hunting elk somewhere regardless. If lightning strikes and I draw, not sure how that'd work out.
Treeline... I hear you on your last comment! I had 13 points saved up for Oregon and the writing was on the wall, I would have never caught up to the better tags in Oregon and finally decided to bail. The pressure I felt to do the tag "justice" was palpable. It kind of took away some of the enjoyment of the hunt for me. I'll never accrue that many points again.
For years I hunted Mt & Idaho from the same camp and one morning I shot a bull in Idaho and 15 mins later I shot one in Montana hunting the border. One big difference there was is in Idaho you bought your permit that was only good for one area and in Montana you could hunt the whole western part of the state.
A couple differences for sure, in ID, you can look at harvest stats and garner some information for archery season. In MT, you cannot. Another is that in ID, the tag/draw process is relatively straight forward. In MT, the draw/tag process is convoluted.
The nice thing about hunting ID OTC for elk is that you can put in for the draw, and year 1, your draw odds for a good or great unit, are much better in ID than in MT for a good unit or a great unit. And if you don't draw, you can buy an OTC tag and you already have the hunting license and it's similar cost to putting in for MT and then hunting a general unit. But you had better odds in the draw year 1 in ID.
If you want to build points and just hunt a general tag, then MT is the way to go.
I like Idaho myself as it is a 2 hour drive to Elk Camp in Idaho.
It is Zone specific on the tag but in many Zones you have 2-3 units to hunt.
Crowd control isn't bad at all as the hunts are long dated.
Yes there are sheep & cattle grazing during the bow hunt dates
No points in the draw for Idaho---straight up equal chance every year.
Good luck, Robb
I have never hunted ID, but did hunt MT for the first time last year after having a couple of successful years in CO. Over the course of 2-weeks we hunted 2-different ranges and they couldn't have been more different. We found little to no pressure in grizzly country, but also found fewer elk. In non-grizzly country we found more hunters than we had in CO. We covered a lot of ground and saw a bunch of elk, but they were really heavily pressured and extremely call shy. On two occasions a single cow call scattered the herd. I know I am not a world champ, but have not ever had that happen before. We also had a couple of occasions where we were waiting for the thermals to switch to work a bedded bull and then a truck would drive down the road on the top of the ridge a guy would get out, bugle a couple of times and then drive another 1/2 mile and do it all over again. The area we were in basically had a road on top of every ridge and in every valley, so it was tough to separate your self from others. After a couple days of that, it was back to gris country we went. The elk seemed to be more vocal and there was little pressure, but we saw fewer elk.
RTJ, I'm pretty sure that any area that has elk, and where people can drive to the tops of the ridges will have lots of hunting pressure, unless it is private land. Also, you're lucky if it was the first time that you've had a cow call scatter a herd of elk. That is the reason that I only use a cow call if I'm really desperate, but then maybe I'm just a terrible cow caller.
Great story we would love to hear the details of on a thread someday...congrats!!!
Bigdan, two elk in 15 mins? Had to be a lot of work that day, getting the two of them out. Up along the old continental divide. :)
FAAAAR more hunter pressure in MT...
I was alone I had to pack the Idaho bull about 100 yds got my big wheel right to the montana bull still took all day. I have not hunted that area in about 18 years so I don't know how it is today
This point thing is nothing more than legalized extortion. The bureaucrats selling deer and elk that don't belong to them just to keep their departments ever expanding. I'm done with that game. A Ponzi scheme if I ever saw one.
Two elk in different states in 15 mins. I can't imagine that anyone else has ever did that. You must have had them bugling all around on the divide. There are a lot more people hunting that general area now than 18 years ago.
I think bonus points are okay, it's the preference points that seem to be a scam to me. At least with bonus points you always have a chance to draw, especially for elk, as it's a pretty good chance with a point or two in Montana except for a couple of units. Now bonus points for Moose, Sheep, Mountain Goats, that is a different matter, I have yet to draw any of those, but at least my odds are getting better each year. Getting into the preference points game in places like Wyoming at this time would seem like wasted money.
Irishman I left my old camp in the dark when I got to the road on the border It was still dark stopped about a mile down the road I could here two elk bugling on the Idaho side so I pushed my bike off the road grabbed my stuff and headed down the road on foot. never making a sound the bull was about 1/4 mile below the road the wind was good so I let out a bugle he cut me off. His next bugle was when he was about 100 yds below me I was set up in a good place so I hit him back now I could see him about 70 yds between us he was killing a tree I gave him another call and here he comes I drew my bow when he was about 30 yds he stopped and I arrow nailed him. as he headed down the mtn. I could here another bull bugle On the montana side of the road to get the wind right I had to make a loop to my left he let out another call and I cut him off and I could see him coming he walked right to me at 20 yds I shot him he turned around and took off but I saw him go down about 80 yds away. so I walked over to see him. my pack was still over were I shot the Idaho bull. went back got the pack and started tracking the Idaho bull I found him piled up about 200 hundred yards I was alone so I dressed him then went back to the Montana bull and started doing him I did the gutless job on him. hung the quarters then headed back to the Idaho bull the and finished him I was on my big wheel so I went back and started hauling the Montana back to the road when I got him back to the main road I headed back to camp to get my truck and my pack. there was a old road on the Idaho side that I got the truck to about 100 yds from were the bull was so I got my pack and headed out to pack him to the truck I got the last pack back to the truck just before dark I was a long day both bulls were small 6x6s not P&Y bulls
Dan, a couple dozen points worth of elk rack in one day is pretty dang remarkable and not many people can say they've done that! I'd be thrilled with only half of your accomplishment this September!!! Very unique and pretty amazing story- thanks for sharing it!
That was an amazing morning you had Dan. Had to be a lot of work though. When was that? The late 1980's/ early 90's? Apologies to Mossyhorn for kind of hijacking the thread, but Dan's story was about Idaho, and Montana. Guess, if you're Dan, a tag in either state will work.
I think it was about1987 I hunted the Salmon , Lemhi & Beaverhead units killed P&Y bulls in all three
That's an awesome story Dan! Thanks for sharing that. I think there are very few, if any, places left that are like what they were 20-30 years ago. Does anyone know if you can buy tags as a party for the first come, first serve tags? Reason I ask is, the Sawtooth zone looks intriguing but there's only 43 tags for non-residents and those will sell out in a minute. Seems like odds would be really low for three guys to all get tags, unless you can buy as a party? So that it's all or nothing.
That's a cool place Bigdan, I think I know where you were. There are 280-300 bulls in Beaverhead...... but they aren't around every tree, that's for sure. Get off the roads a bit and hunters aren't TOO much of a problem. I think more pressure in there now than when Bigdan used to hunt it though. Still a fun place (thanks to some Bigdan intel.....) We killed 3 rag bulls there in two years..... all in the same spot, within a couple hundred yards of each other. Should'a killed a couple more, one a real dandy..... long stories that every elk hunter knows, involving prayers for just one more step and swirling breezes.....
Great story Danny, pretty cool.
TD different spot about 50 miles north
Big difference now in all of the OTC areas, IMO. Ever since the DVD's and Youtube vids of guys calling in screaming bulls....Bowhunting elk has exploded.
Heck, we would go 2 weeks in OTC Colo. and never see another hunter 20 years ago. Now we horseback in a still see a fair amount of guys in Wyo,MT, Co.
My take on states with gen tags; CO- still has the most elk
MT has so much private its hit and miss
WYO pressure but not like the other states...and some big bulls on Gen units
ID less elk...and the elk are pushed into some crazy areas...like wide open sage flats
TD: You are correct. Things have certainly changed in that area...For several reasons
I usually hunt Idaho just because it's closer and after a few years I'm familiar with the area and have the elk and hunters fairly well patterned. I save gas money by not scouting as much anymore because the sheep herders have thwarted pre-scouted bulls three consecutive years for me. Top end quality is low where I hunt, its popular (actually I missed out on getting a tag this year...dang it). Still possible to have fun.
Western mt vs Eastern Idaho...baked vs mashed. I would hunt where I had better boots on ground info.
You will definitely get different information depending on the area in Idaho. Idaho has sage openings in the South, steep rock filled mountains in the Central, THICK forests in the upper areas, and rolly poly hills with clearcuts and forests in the far north. Basically totally different from top to bottom. It's like being in different countries really.
I hunt the South Central areas. I like to be able to glass up critters, and this area lends itself to that. I can also get as far back as my legs will take me. Maybe its because that's where I started hunting. Idaho has lots of bulls from 260-320, in my opinion many more than most of Colorado's OTC areas. Montana has some whopper bulls in the Central and Eastern areas, and pockets here and there in the Western side with good bulls. If it were me, I would probably hunt Idaho because the cost of the license is approx. $571, that same license is $885 in Montana. That's $300 towards gas to get there. If you learn an area, go back to it time and time again, you will end up getting into them more frequently in future years. Just my input.
Good advice above^^. Hunt
Thanks for the post outdoordan! I’m leaning pretty heavily towards saving a little money!
I always wonder how many people read these threads and are influenced by it. All of a sudden next year there are thousands more guys in Idaho and Montana lol.
I hear the OTC elk hunting in Alabama is fabulous these days. ;)
1000s more $s, 1000s more guys, 1000s more wolves, and 1000s fewer elk than when I was there. ;>) Don't go.. Go to CO.. :)
Good to see you posting on here, Dan!
Thank you Nick. I really enjoyed my time on here, just burned out for a bit on Social Media/Forums.