Elk Hunting in Washington

by Jeremy Hoefs
Washington has two species of elk---Rocky Mountain and Roosevelt.

Washington has two species of elk---Rocky Mountain and Roosevelt.

With the abundance of big-game hunting opportunities from mule deer, black-tail deer, whitetail deer, bear, elk, moose, mountain goat and cougar, Washington is a hunter's paradise. Upon drawing an elk permit, hunters must face rough terrain to successfully harvest an elk. Despite a physically demanding hunt, each fall hunters from around the world travel to Washington for their chance to harvest a mature bull elk.


There are two species of elk found in Washington--Rocky Mountain and Roosevelt. Rocky Mountain elk--bulls weighing approximately 800 lbs.--are often referred to as American elk and are the most widespread of any elk species. They are located in the eastern half of Washington and on the dry sides of the Cascades. Roosevelt elk are slightly larger than American elk, weighing about 1,000 lbs., and are found on the western coastal forests of Washington.


Elk hunting seasons are split into two zones--eastern and western--and different weapons--firearm, archery and muzzleloader. The western firearm arm season takes place Nov. 7-17 with the eastern season split into multiple seasons between bulls, any elk and antlerless. The archery season--for eastern and western--opens on Sept. 8 and closes on Sept. 20. The muzzleloader season runs Oct. 3-9.


Washington elk are distributed evenly throughout the state's mountain ranges and coastal rain forests. With an estimated elk population of 58,000, the Washington elk is remaining stable throughout the state. Along the western coasts, Roosevelt elk are located in the rainy mountains and valleys. American elk can be found in low to-mid elevation timber that is typically owned by private timber companies.

Permits and Fees

To hunt elk in Washington, residents and nonresidents must purchase a big-game hunting license. You must choose the elk tag for the specific area you wish to hunt. Elk permits are limited to one per season with one extra special elk permit. Washington offers combination licenses where one license provides the ability to harvest multiple species. An elk-only permit costs, as of 2009, residents $39.60 and nonresidents $396. A deer and elk combination license is $61.60 for residents and $616 for nonresidents. Adding a cougar and a bear to that combination will cost the resident $72.60 and the nonresident $726. The elk-cougar-bear combination is $50.60 for residents and $506 for nonresidents.


Every year, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife releases a regulations booklet with specific laws and regulations for elk hunting. Some of the regulations cover antler minimums for bull tags with a three-point minimum requiring a minimum of three tines or antler points on one side of the rack. Legal weapons include modern firearms, archery or muzzleloaders. When hunting with a firearm or muzzleloader, florescent orange must be worn.


Washington elk hunters have the potential to shoot trophy bulls in every unit. During the 2006 hunting season, more than 2,500 elk were killed with a success rate of 9 percent. The Clearwater, Matheny Creek, Quinault Ridge and Sol Duc units have produced six of Washington's top 10 recorded Roosevelt elk.

About the Author

Based in Nebraska, Jeremy Hoefs began writing fitness, nutrition, outdoor and hunting articles in 2006. His articles have been published in "Star City Sports," "Hunting Fitness Magazine" and RutWear field journals, as well as on the Western Whitetail website. Hoefs graduated with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science from Nebraska Wesleyan University.

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