Washington Elk Hunting General Information

Elk Tag Areas in Washington

To hunt elk in Washington, you need to be aware of the tag areas based on the region you plan to hunt in:

Western Washington:

  • This includes all 400, 500, and 600 series GMUs (Game Management Units).
  • You'll need one of the following tags to hunt elk in western Washington:
    • WA - Western Washington Archery Tag
    • WF - Western Washington Modern Firearm Tag
    • WM - Western Washington Muzzleloader Tag Multiple Season Elk Tag
  • GMU 490 is closed to hunting.
  • Hunting in GMUs 418, 437, 485, 522, 556, 621, 636, and 653 is by special permit only.

Eastern Washington:

  • This includes all 100, 200, and 300 series GMUs.
  • You'll need one of the following tags to hunt elk in eastern Washington:
    • EA - Eastern Washington Archery Tag
    • EF - Eastern Washington Modern Firearm Tag
    • EM - Eastern Washington Muzzleloader Tag Multiple Season Elk Tag
  • Hunting in GMU 157 is by special permit only.

Elk Hunting in Washington - How to Get Started

If you're planning to hunt elk in Washington, here are the essential steps to get started:

1. Purchase a Big Game Hunting License:

  • Make sure to obtain a big game hunting license that includes elk as a species option. You can find information about License, Tags & Permit Fees to ensure you have the necessary documentation.

2. Choose Your Elk Tag and Hunting Method:

  • Decide whether you will be hunting in Eastern or Western Washington, as tag requirements may vary by region.
  • Select the appropriate elk tag for your chosen area and the hunting method you intend to use. The available hunting methods are modern firearm, archery, or muzzleloader.

3. Check General Season Dates:

  • Familiarize yourself with the general season dates for the hunting method you've chosen. You can find this information in the hunting regulations for Washington.

4. Apply for Special Permit Hunts (If Desired):

  • If you wish to participate in hunts that are open to hunters by special permit only, review the Elk Special Permits section for a list of available permit hunts and the specific tag needed to apply for each hunt. Be sure to follow the Special Permit Application Instructions for the application process.

5. Report Your Hunting Activity:

  • After you've completed your elk hunting trip, it's crucial to report your hunting activity. You can do this online at or by calling 360-902-2464. Follow the guidelines provided in the Mandatory Hunter Reporting section for more information on reporting.

Elk Hunting Definitions - Know the Terms

Before you embark on an elk hunting adventure in Washington, it's essential to understand some key definitions that will help you navigate the regulations and ensure you're in compliance. Here are important elk hunting terms:

3 Point Minimum:

  • In certain GMUs (Game Management Units), a 3 Pt. Min. elk means that a legal elk must have at least 3 antler points on one side. Eye guards count as antler points when they are at least one inch long. Examples of legal elk in a 3 Pt. Min. unit include a 1x3 or a 2x3. These antler restrictions apply to all hunters during any open season.

Antler Points:

  • To qualify as a point on an elk, an antler point must be at least one inch long, measured on the longest side.

Any Bull Elk Seasons:

  • These seasons are open only to the taking of elk with visible antlers. Bull calves are illegal in these seasons.

Any Elk:

  • In certain hunting units, any elk may be taken, regardless of antler size or age.


  • A branch is any projection off the main antler beam that is at least one inch long, measured on the longest side, and longer than it is wide.

Spike Bull Restrictions:

  • In some GMUs, elk taken must have at least one antler with no branches originating more than four inches above where the antler attaches to the skull. An elk with a spike on one side (1x2) is legal in spike-only units. An elk with more than one antler point more than four inches above where the antler attaches to the skull on both sides (2x2) is illegal.

True Spike Bull Restrictions:

  • Bull elk taken in specific GMUs must have both antlers with no branching originating more than four inches above where the antlers attach to the skull. Violating the true spike restriction, such as taking an elk with two points on one side or antler points within one inch of the definitions regarding length or point of origination, is an infraction.

Visible Antler:

  • This refers to a horn-like growth projecting above the hairline on an elk.

Understanding these terms is essential for complying with elk hunting regulations in Washington. Make sure to check the WDFW website in August each year for updated hunting information and prospects.

Wild Advisor Pro


The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.