Blue Mountains elk numbers have increased over the past few years and are doing quite well in most areas, said Pat Fowler, state biologist in Walla Walla.
“Calf survival has improved in recent years, but is still 15 percent below optimum levels, which does have a negative impact on the number of spike bulls available for harvest,” he said.
Outside of the special-permit hunts, Blue Mountains hunters are limited to shooting only spike elk in the general seasons.
The formerly strong Wenaha herd is still struggling, putting a damper on the Blues as a whole, he said. But hunters lucky enough to draw one of the “any bull” tags will find the Blues to be one of the best places in the United States to bag a trophy.
Several bulls scoring more than 400 Boone and Crockett points were spotted in the Blues in August, he said.
In northeastern Washington, hunters will find elk widely distributed through Pend Oreille, Stevens and Ferry counties, but elk numbers are thin for that vast area, and the thick vegetation makes them tough to find.
“Finding elk is the biggest challenge with so much closed canopy forest,” said Dana Base, state biologist in Colville.
Bowhunters and muzzleloaders tend to have the best success, since their seasons are timed to take advantage of the rut, when bulls are more vocal and easier to call. Most modern firearm elk hunters who fill a tag rely on chance encounters with elk as opposed to using calls, he said.
“People who live and work in the woods have the best shot at these northeast elk,” he said. “Elk up here can hunker in and stay out of sight all season unless you know exactly where they are.”