If you’ve killed a mature bull elk, you’re among a fortunate few. In Montana, bulls at least seven years old make up one percent of the herd. Access to them is limited by a draw, and in top units the odds of pulling a tag are less than one percent.
The good news: You needn’t draw into a trophy unit or kill a record-book bull to succeed as an elk hunter. But you must do a few things right.
When I shot my first bull 40 years ago, one in seven hunters filled their tags. I suspect that’s still a fair average estimate across the West. However, private-land outfitters and controlled-access hunts that require years of preference points now skew those figures. Opportunities to shoot elk, on the other hand, are more common these days.
As hunters confess blunders less eagerly than they recount kills, it’s hard to know how many elk would fall if hunters made no mistakes. Perhaps the elk keep track.