Tactics

Elk Hunting in Wyoming: Exploring the Wilderness

January 3, 2024

WJ Liffick

WJ Liffick

Elk hunting in Wyoming is a much-anticipated time. The air blows crisp and the leaves turn golden in north central Wyoming. Many hunters spend all year scouting and waiting for opening weekend.

The Start of Elk Hunting in Wyoming

My friend and I were ready. We had the tags and knew where to hunt. We spent the previous day finalizing details, as well as sighting in the Remington 700 .270 that we would be using. It was an old gun with many hunting seasons under its belt. It had a fixed magnification Redfield scope mounted on it and an old walnut stock.

The day started early at 3:30 in the morning. We drove out to the public land and started our hike into the canyon. The cool morning air chilled us, but as we continued to hike up the mountain our core temperature rose and before we knew it we were sweating.

elk hunting in Wyoming

When elk hunting in Wyoming on public land, one’s chances of a successful hunt go up exponentially the earlier you get to your spot and the farther in you can get. We hiked straight up the mountains for 6 or 7 miles until we finally found a good spot to sit.

It was on a mountain side dotted with dead trees overlooking a vast green meadow. It was perfect vantage point. We settled down and waited for sunrise. As the sun peeked over the mountain and bathed us in its warm light, our excitement grew. We waited and waited, but the morning proved unfruitful in the aspect of taking an elk. As we hiked out, we realized that just being out in the wild and enjoying the sunrise only made us more excited for the evening hunt.

Evening Elk Hunting in Wyoming

That evening we set our sights lower down the mountain. There was no wind and the mountains were quiet. The only sounds we heard were our own footsteps as we walked through the trees and rocks. We hiked in several miles and set up right on the edge of a draw and started glassing.

As the evening wore on, there was no sign of any wildlife. It seemed as if the mountain had swallowed up all of the animals that usually populated its slopes. We decided to go back along the trail we had followed in and head out just before sundown so that we could go back and get some good sleep before the next day’s hunt.

We crested the ridge and headed down into an old creek bed filled with aspen trees. Just as we got to the bottom of the valley my buddy saw them; at the top of the other ridge was a herd of elk. We both stopped, frozen in our tracks: we hoped that they couldn’t spot us.

The herd consisted of three bull elk and about thirteen cows. We carefully and slowly made our way back up the ridge we had just descended, broke our line of sight with the herd, and hurried up the ridge before cutting around just as we got to the top. We had circled back up behind and above the herd about 200 yards away. My buddy got on the gun and set himself up, while I glassed the herd trying to pick out the largest bull.

Taking the Shot

Something didn’t look right. The bull we originally saw was much larger than the two I was currently looking at, two adolescent spikes. We contemplated filling our bull elk tag with one of these two bulls but decided to wait and give it some time.

The herd was peacefully grazing and oblivious to our presence. Finally the herd started to move back up the mountain, and then there he was: the herd bull.  The 4X5 bull had been out of sight, off to the side the whole time.

elk hunting in WyomingMy friend readied to take the shot. “BOOM!” The shot rang out, piercing the quiet evening air. The herd bull lurched, after a perfect shot right behind the shoulder.

Now the work began. After all of the pictures and excitement, we broke out the knives and proceeded to field dress and skin this elk. The sheer size of an elk is surprising once up close and personal, they are massive animals.

The sun was just going down and darkness, as well as the cold, were beginning to take hold. After we to skinned and quartered the elk we carried out both hindquarters as well as most of the shoulders the first pack out trip. We decided to leave the rest of the elk until morning and continued back to the cabin to rest up. It had been an amazing hunt. We had just dropped a nice bull elk on the first weekend of elk season.

Takeaways From the Hunt

The take-away for elk hunting in Wyoming was three fold. First, I learned the most important piece of gear is footwear. The old saying that if you take care of your feet they will take care of you spoke loudly to me on this trip. We easily covered thirty plus miles through mountainous terrain, and without good footwear, we would have never been able to harvest an elk. A good pair of waterproof boots and nice comfortable socks will save you a good amount of pain and discomfort on the mountain.

Secondly, I realized how important it is to have a good set of knives and packs to get the meat out of the backcountry. Because we had a good set of butchering knives and external frame packs, we were able to efficiently cut up the meat and pack it out. This equipment saved us hours of work and helped up preserve as much meat as possible. Invest in a good knife and make sure to bring a bone saw and knife sharpener as well. Having good equipment goes a long way when you are in the middle of nowhere.

Finally, and most importantly, elk hunting in Wyoming on public land is challenging, but can also be some of the most rewarding hunting you can do. Sure, you have to get up earlier, hike farther and work harder, but ultimately you can end up with some of the best hunting experiences possible.  Hunting public land elk in Wyoming has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my hunting career, difficult but more than worth it.

Article and photo courtesy of Harvesting Nature. Click here to subscribe to the quarterly Harvesting Nature magazine, And Click here to enjoy the latest episode of the wild fish and game podcast.

Read about Colorado elk hunting on iSportsmanUSA.

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