Photo credit: Tim Lumley
With around 15,000 permits issued for the Utah spike elk hunt in 2022, we can expect 2023 to be as popular as ever. The time is coming for the new season, and we hunters are preparing for their expeditions. As such, are you ready to start hunting for your prize?
Whether you roam with us through the more common areas or engage in back-country elk hunting, this guide can help. Below, you will find both the basic information on the hunt as well as more advanced tips. With our guide, you should be able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the best hunters out there.
Utah Rifle Spike Elk Hunt Dates
There are different periods throughout the year when we can hunt spike elk with specific weapons. A basic list of these is as follows:
If you wish to use any legal weapon at all, you can only perform this hunt between the dates of October 7, 2023, and October 19, 2023.
Despite the above, there is an allowance to hunt any bull elk between October 14, 2023, and October 20, 2023. So, plan your trip and claim your permit well in advance.
Should you be interested in using archery to hunt, this is only allowed through the period between August 19, 2023, and September 8, 2023.
If you are more interested in using a muzzleloader, you can perform this hunt between November 1, 2023, and November 9, 2023.
Where to Hunt Spike Elk in Utah
Around Utah, there are a large number of different elk populations that roam through the region. Despite this, there are some locations where we are much more well-known for spike elk hunting than others.
No matter which you pick, though, remember to follow all the rules and regulations of the region. Ensure you also do not stray outside the hunting boundaries or else you might get in serious trouble.
Here are some of the more popular spike elk hunting areas:
This area is well-known for its huge spike elk population compared to other locations. The rugged terrain and wide-ranging environment allows for exciting hunts that can give you a great sense of place in the outdoors too.
The region around Cache to the north of Utah comprises various regions of both public and private land. Within this area, many types of elk tend to roam, including spike elk. The area is also known for its hunting, having a listing on many hunting sites.
The mountains are one of the elk's natural habitats, making this the perfect location to find them. Both the north and south slope have their own hunting units, making it a perfect place for you to seek out spike elk too.
At the same time, you can even seek out Strawberry Peak, the tallest location in the region. If you are wanting out some of the best views of nature at the same time as you hunt, this place is for you.
Located towards the north of Utah, these massive peaks dot the landscape, with several lakes between them. I have got to be honest, I do not pick this place when my goal is to hunt elk alone. I go to the Uinta Mountains when I want to be in some of the more beautiful places, and looking for elk there is a bonus.
This location is perfect for a getaway of any kind.
Backcountry Elk Hunting
There are several other locations where you might want to go outside of the standard range of hunting units. So long as you are within legal boundaries, several remote locations exist that I have visited which are perfect for a hunt.
These locations have a much lower pressure when you look for elk, as you are not competing with almost as many hunters. It is also very rare that a guide would take you to such locations, meaning only the most dedicated hunters try it.
If you choose to follow this path, though, make sure you prepare yourself. The terrain can start to challenge even the most skilled hunter, so ensure you have everything you need to be self-sufficient.
More Information on Hunting Locations
Sometimes even I need more information on different game management units or regions around Utah. In such a situation, it is best to contact the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR).
The DWR can inform you of more details related to different units and can even reach out to outfitters for you if you need them to. This can give you extra insight into what the region is like at the time and get you a guide if you are not a regular hunter.
Spike Elk Hunting Tips
There are many things you could do that could help you on your first major spike elk hunt. Here are a few of the most important tips I could think of.
Locating Spike Elk
When you start thinking about looking for elk, try to find as much information as you can about the hunt area. Use maps, satellite imagery, and any other information you have including other hunters to find where the best places to search are. You might want to consider looking for feeding areas, places they are likely to travel through, or their major water sources.
Once I get to a location, I usually start scouting around for signs of elks having already been in the region. These may look like tracks, droppings, or wallows.
Wallows are wet areas that elk like to visit to coat themselves in mud and urine to attract the opposite sex. Sounds attractive, I know.
When you find elk, you will want to slowly approach them. Make sure you pay attention to the direction of the wind, though, especially if you are entering a valley or another change in terrain. You want to approach from downwind to prevent the elk from smelling you and becoming nervous.
You can also use the terrain itself to help you approach. Make sure to use vegetation to break up your silhouette, and stay behind rocks or terrain when you can. This will prevent the majority of elk from sighting or hearing you.
When you get closer, crouch closer to the ground, or even crawl, to stay hidden from the creature. Try to step on softer ground, or learn how to use quiet footing techniques to walk as softly as possible. Imagine you are sneaking downstairs late at night to get a glass of milk without waking anyone else up.
You can employ any number of elk-calling techniques to help bring elk to you. There are some guides to good calling available, but these are some of the most common calls you might want to make:
Cow calls - these are the noises cows make. They tend to be mews and chirps that will bring in male elks during mating season.
Spike bugles - a bugle is a sound often used to challenge another bull in the area. Mimicking a young elk bugling is likely to engage other elks who will come to investigate.
Location bugles - these are soft calls that elks use to work out where each other are, a sort of "Marco! Polo!" of the animal world. If you send out one of these, you can often get a response from another elk to help you find one in a larger area.
What Qualifies as a Spike Elk in Utah
There are specific rules about what counts as a spike elk in the state of Utah. If you do not follow these regulations, you will find yourself in trouble as you will have bagged an animal you didn't have a tag for. If you are a new hunter, you need to understand this can spell real trouble, even if it is by accident.
A spike bull has the definition of:
"a bull elk which has at least one antler beam with no branching above the ears. Branched means a projection on an antler longer than one inch, measured from its base to its tip."
As such, if you see any branching of antlers above the ear, then the deer is a no-go for you.
Spike Elk Hunt Preparations
Before you even leave the house, there are several things you need to do. These are some of the most important ones:
Research the Hunt
Ensure you look into all the details of the hunt before you go on it. Scour websites for details of the location you plan to go to and learn about the guidelines for the region you are in. The Utah DWR often updates its site every season with any new rules they might have, so try not to get caught out.
Get the Permits
If you do not have a permit, you cannot go hunting. It is that simple.
Do not make the rest of us look bad by being an illegal hunter. We will not look well on you if you threaten the hobby we love.
Check with the Utah DWR or talk to a local licensing agent to work out what steps you need to take, as well as what the fees and other requirements might be.
Hunting is not a simple activity. As a hobby, it is very demanding on your body and often means you will need to hike for long distances through difficult terrain.
Practice your strength, agility, and endurance. You could even join a local gym. Whatever you do, do not think you are ready if you have not put the time in before heading out.
Ensure you pack all your hunting gear and carry it around long before you go on the hunt. You need to understand how much you will need to carry and the toll it might take on your body.
There is no point in finding the elk if you cannot take it down. Go to the range and become proficient in shooting not only when standing but from different positions.
Make sure you also have a very good knowledge of how your firearm works and what the safest way to use it is.
Make sure you stay safe throughout the expedition by doing nothing without telling anyone first. Backcountry and wilderness safety are an often overlooked aspect to a hunting trip, but is a critical error when setting up your hunting plan.
Make sure people know where you plan to go and for how long. Give your peers and family information on who to contact if you are late back, and make sure they know how important this is.
Remember to also pack a first aid kit, navigational aids, and an emergency contact tool. Also, take extra food and water in case you get turned around for a day or two.
Elk Hunting Gear
There are several locations where you can get the must-have hunting gear for any season. Make sure you are tooled up and have the best kit available. We want to help you have the best elk hunting gear for your season.
Some locations even have set hunting kits for you to buy. These companies go through what they have, selecting what is best for any specific type of hunt. So, if you think you are going to be hunting elk, look for an elk bundle to help you out.
Spike Elk Hunt Regulations
On top of defining what a spike elk is, there are several more regulations you are going to need to follow. Make sure you understand what you can and cannot do with a kill once you have it, and what you can keep.
How Much Meat Do You Get From a Spike Elk?
We all love to enjoy a bit of the meat from our hunt. While it can vary, you can expect to get between 100 and 200 pounds of usable meat from your average spike elk, depending on the body size of the elk that is harvested.
Learn More About the Utah Spike Elk Hunt
With all the information in this article, you should understand how to start your Utah spike elk hunt on the best foot. We would be happy to have you alongside us out there in the wilderness, just make sure you are ready. This is why you need the best gear available.
Lucky for you, we can help you with this. We have a wide range of hunting gear that can give you the best chances of finding and taking down an elk. So, head into our shop to find out more.