Elk Hunting Basics and Types of Elk

Types of Elk

Elk hunting is one of the most popular hunting sports in the country today. There is something about listening to a large bull bugle elk from a mountainside at first light that makes a grown man's heart race and legs shake uncontrollably. Even though elk are large animals, they can be difficult to locate when elk hunting. Elk can disappear into an aspen thicket in mere seconds or sneak up on elk hunters without breaking a twig. Elk can be loud and easy to call in using an elk call or silent and almost impossible to call in. In North America, there are three sub species of elk.

Rocky Mountain Elk

American Elk
The American Elk is the most widespread species of elk and are found west of the Mississippi River.

The most widespread species is the Rocky Mountain Elk or what many now call the American Elk.The American Elk mainly live west of the Mississippi River but reintroduction has populations building in several states on the East coast. A Rocky Mountain bull elk can weigh 800 pounds or more while a cow typically weighs 450 to 500 pounds. The largest herd of Rocky Mountain elk lives in Colorado. That herd has over 300,000 animals in it. Western elk hunting is also popular in New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, and Idaho.

American Elk were once found over most of the United States and southern Canada, but were hunted almost to extinction in the 1800's.  The largest herds live in Yellowstone Park, on Montana's Sun River, and in Washington's Olympic Mountains. They are also plentiful on most mountain ranges in Utah.

Roosevelt Elk

Roosevelt Elk
The Roosevelt Elk is the largest of all elk species, weighing up to 1,000 pounds.

The Roosevelt Elk is the largest of all elk species. A mature bull can weigh up to 1,000 pounds where a mature cow can weigh up to 600 pounds. Roosevelt elk are found in Oregon and Washington but some inhabit northern California and British Columbia. The Roosevelt Elk is darker than the Rocky Mountain elk and some say they are the toughest species to hunt because they often don't bugle as much as American elk. The terrain they live in can be extremely rugged and wet because many of them inhabit the rain forest located in Oregon.

The greatest difference between Roosevelt elk and Rocky Mountain elk is in their habits and distribution. Roosevelt elk choose to live in the rain forests of the Pacific coast. They prefer the logged and burned over areas of the coastal mountains and the western slope of the Cascades. Upon finding an area which meets their needs they spend their entire lives there. Huckleberry, trailing wild blackberry, vine maple, salal, and other shrubs are favorite food during the late summer, fall, and winter. Weeds and grasses are preferred in the spring and early summer.

Tule Elk

Tule Elk
The Tule Elk is the smallest of all elk species and can only be found in central parts of California.

The Tule Elk can only be found in parts of central California. The Tule Elk is smaller in size that the other species. An adult bull rarely tips the scales at 600 pounds while a cow typically weighs 300 to 350 pounds. (McCullough, 1969). The yearlings (spike bulls) average the same weight as the adult females. The coats are a light buffy beige with a darker brown long haired mane circling the necks of both the males and females. The calves are similar to regular deer calves, with a light brown spotted coat. All animals display a prominent white rump.

They average 6 feet in length and stand 4 feet in height at the shoulder. The male yearlings are also known as spikes, during their first year of antler growth they only have one antler that is very thin and spindly compared to the large six point racks that the dominant males demonstrate. The females do not have antlers and the males drop theirs annually which re-grow a little larger with more tines as the yearling ages.

The Tule Elk thrive in the moderate Mediterranean climate and subsequent vegetation type in its native range. The Tule Elk forage on annual grasses such as the red brome and cheatgrass, as well as the perennial forbs like, globe mallow, and wild licorice. In addition, alfalfa is also very important to the herd's diet.



Russell, MB
Searching Outfitter & Guide directory...