By Zach Lazzari
Alberta is often overlooked for trophy quality elk opportunities. Quality management practices are increasing overall elk health and and there are some real sleeper hunts the Alberta province. There are also opportunities to hunt the rut, during rifle with OTC tags. While this requires running your hunt through and outfitter (non-residents), you will be hard pressed to find an equivalent opportunity just about anywhere. Calling and stalking vocal bull elk is thrilling to say the least.
License and Regs
Three important designations are used for individuals hunting in Alberta. You are either and Alberta resident, a Canadian non-resident (reside in another province) or a non-resident Alien (not Canadian). The pricing for an elk tag increases for each designation outside of Alberta residents but the tag cost is surprisingly reasonable when compared to many US states. As of 2018, the Alien Elk License costs 291.43 CAD.
Although the license fee is reasonable for non-resident Aliens, there is a caveat. You are not eligible for the Alberta draw system and you must hunt with an outfitter. Resident and non-resident Canadians have the advantage for filing draw applications and DIY style hunts.
Utilizing an outfitter does however increase your odds of harvesting a trophy from one of the few highly productive zones. It also make your tag available for OTC purchase and guarantees you will have a hunt.
Regions - Where is the Best Elk Hunting in Alberta?
5 major regions divide Alberta into hunting zones. Some regions also have sub-regions or Series designations. The Northern Boreal region is the largest area, encompassing more land mass than the other 4 regions combined. The Foothills Region (300 series), Mountain Region (400 series), Prairie Region (100 series) and Parkland Region (200, 728, 730 and 936 series) make up the remainder of the areas.
Some of the best elk hunting in Alberta takes place in the big river valleys and agricultural areas. The Northern and Foothills areas are especially productive on farmlands. The Mountain region hunts much like any other remote mountain region, requiring the effort to find bulls in difficult terrain. The base areas of the Mountain region where the mountains meet farmland are also excellent. There are bulls over 300 inches in the Northern, Foothill and mountain regions. The Mountain region also has opportunity for bigger bulls but they require more effort and are often less visible. The Parkland area also has growing elk herds and should be on your watchlist for future potential.
Public and Private Access
Public access is excellent in some areas and the opportunity for horse driven, backcountry hunts is possible. National Park lands dominate the southern end of the mountain region but there are public land opportunities near the parks and they are productive for quality bulls.
Hunting with an outfitter often comes with the benefit of private access to agricultural lands or remote areas that have a comfortable base camp. The rifle rut hunts are especially productive from strategic outfitter locations in the Foothills and Northern regions. The Peace River Valley specifically has some great elk hunting through outfitters.
Alberta Elk Hunting Outfitters
The increasing elk populations and the 3 tine minimum size (on one side) are starting to produce quality bulls with excellent consistency. The guaranteed tag and rut hunt opportunity also makes hunting with an Outfitter a great decision. Logistically, it’s about as easy an elk hunt as you will find anywhere. Contact the outfitter, confirm your tag and dates, go hunt.
Several outfitters also offer combo hunts. Combining elk and black bear in the Foothills and Mountain areas is a hunt you won’t soon forget. Alberta also produces some massive mule deer, whitetails and moose.
A good strategy here is to hunt elk and bear with an outfitter while scouting the area for mule deer, moose or whitetail potential for future hunts. The abundance of species makes Alberta a very attractive option for big game hunters.