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Rocky Mountain Elk
The Rocky Mountain elk are one of the most majestic and popular western big game animals. They are one of four current subspecies of elk in North America (Rocky Mountain, Manitoban, Roosevelt, and Tule). Rocky Mountain elk are the most plentiful subspecies as they inhabit 22 states, but are mostly abundant in the Rocky Mountain States. There they are growing rapidly and each Rocky Mountain State has a very strong elk herd. As far as body size goes, the Rocky Mountain elk is the second smallest elk subspecies, ahead of the Tule elk, but behind the Roosevelt and the Manitoban. A mature Rocky Mountain elk bull can weigh between 500 and 1000 pounds with the average weight being around 700 pounds. A mature bull will measure 5 feet at the shoulder and 8 feet from nose to tail. Elk are the second largest species of North American deer, only the moose is larger. Luckily for hunters, the Rocky Mountain subspecies possesses the largest antlers. Their antlers take approximately 90 to 140 days to mature and can weigh from 20 to 40 pounds on a big mature bull. In many states, the best trophy elk are found in very hard to draw limited entry units which can take many years of applying to finally draw a tag, but many great trophy bulls are also harvested in some of the general season units each year. According to the Boone & Crockett Club, the following is a list of the Top-5 States for both the typical and non-typical categories of Rocky Mountain elk including the county with the most entries listed after each state:
Typical (360 Awards; 375 All-Time)
1 - Montana (182); Park County (22)
2 - Arizona (172); Coconino County (53)
3 - Utah (167); San Juan (26)
4 - Wyoming (144); Park County (34)
5 - Colorado (105); Moffat County (9)
Non-Typical (385 Awards/All-Time)
1 - Arizona (79); Apache (24)
2 - Montana (39); Granite County (5)
3 - Utah (33); Garfield County (10)
4 - New Mexico (27); Catron County (8)
5 - Nevada (25); White Pine County (16)
[April 2014]


As you can see Montana, Arizona, and Utah are at the top of both lists. Arizona has been coming on strong in the typical category and should top Montana in the not too distant future.
Getting the opportunity to see a large bull is not that uncommon as most of the limited entry units are managed for quality and contain lots of big bulls. I often see more trophy class elk than I do mule deer on a yearly basis. Elk are very strong and adaptable animals and flourish in nearly any area from the high alpine mountains to the hot, dry deserts. A harsh winter does not have the devastating effect on elk like it does deer. This is because elk are considerably larger in size than deer and they are better able to handle the deep snow of winter. Elk also have to deal with predators. Grizzly and black bears take their toll on elk calves in the spring and wolves can be particularly hard on elk over the winter months. The Rocky Mountain elk is truly a magnificent big game animal and one that should be up there towards the top of your list.