Nothing epitomizes the do-it-yourself spirit quite like bowhunting public land elk. Part of it has to do with the fact elk largely occupy public land open to all (those who can secure a tag, at least). Most elk habitat is also made up of vast National Forest, Bureau of Land Management, state-administered or timber lands and is open and waiting for any bowhunter willing to invest the research and effort.
Since not everyone resides in the middle of elk country, these places normally involve traveling to distant areas, across the state, several states over or across the nation for pre-season scouting missions and season openers.
To ensure you hit the ground running, start your planning at home. Invest in “desktop” scouting through maps and other resources to narrow down prospects. Interview knowledgeable persons and local game managers to gain a better idea of what you’re in for. Assemble the necessary gear and get yourself in top physical conditioning to better handle the demands of a thinner atmosphere and rough and tumble country.
But before all that, the bowhunter must pick a destination. Here are our picks for the top DIY elk hotspots across the nation (hotspots are weighted heavily on easily obtained tags).