For the most part, guided elk hunting in the state takes place on public land. These are often hunts in designated wilderness, or deep into the least accessible parts of the national forests. Twenty- to 30-mile rides from trailhead to a tented camp, and then several more hours in the saddle each morning to reach the actual hunting area, are not uncommon situations for clients to find themselves in. The exclusivity of a guide's hunting area is based almost entirely on its remoteness.
The state's draw system for all out-of-state elk permits necessitates this sort of outfitting. Because an outfitter can never be certain from one year to the next how many of his clients will pull elk tags, he can never be confident about making the necessary investment to lease private land (where elk hunting can be both exceptional and much less difficult). One outfitter I knew in the state, who was paying top dollar for his leases, had only two out of 32 potential hunters draw elk licenses for what turned out to be his final season in the guiding business.
What all this means is that almost the only people who can afford to outfit for elk on private land are the landowners themselves. As bad as this is for outfitters, it actually provides a distinct economic benefit for non-resident elk hunters who do prove able to draw permits that enable them to hunt on such land. Landowners, because they do not have to concern themselves with leasing fees and other overhead items, do not need to charge as much as outfitters. Also, even........(continued)