Elk Hunting in the Shoshone National Forest

by Zach Lazzari
Trophy bulls are present in the Shoshone National Forest.

Trophy bulls are present in the Shoshone National Forest.

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The Shoshone National Forest is a 2.4 million-acre tract of public lands in northwest Wyoming. The forest area joins the southeast corner of Yellowstone National Park to create a massive wilderness area. Although hunting in the park is illegal, the elk herd moves between borders and provides ample hunting opportunities in a rugged and scenic landscape.

Purchasing a License

Licensing is the most difficult aspect of elk hunting in the Shoshone National Forest. The number and size of the elk in the region make it a popular area with high hunting demand, and demand for licensing exceeds the number of tags available, so you must apply for a limited draw. Losing in the draw does not completely kill your chances and you can purchase leftover tags. Watch the Wyoming Fish and Game website (gf.state.wy.us) because the extra tags do not last long and you must be quick to purchase.


Several hunting seasons are available for the Shoshone National Forest. The seasons are divided by weapon type and subject to change each year. Changes are based on the elk populations, winter kill, predation and other factors used to manage the Shoshone elk herds. The archery season is the first and longest, typically beginning in late August and extending into September. Archery is followed by muzzleloader with some overlap, and the final seasons are designated rifle seasons. Rifle seasons typically last less than one week and occur in October and early November.

Planning the Hunt

The Shoshone is rugged country and planning is important. You will not have time to access all of the 2.4 million acres and scouting a single territory in advance is the best bet. Hunting the border area with Yellowstone is popular and effective, but the entire Shoshone national forest provides opportunities for elk. Find a secluded area and use horses or hike to access the backcountry. Horses are one of the best tools available because they allow you to access remote sections of the forest. Hiking also is effective but you will travel only as far as you can pack an elk after the hunt.

Shoshone Elk Tips

The Shoshone is unpredictable and the rifle seasons are especially prone to drastic weather changes. Be prepared for nice sunny days and white-out blizzard conditions in the same day. Dress in layers and use a GPS system to map your position. Blizzard circumstances and snow are disorienting and the wilderness is large enough to become lost for a long period. Hunt the high elevations in the Beartooth Mountains during the warmer periods and look at the low elevation river valleys during the late season and cold weather.

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