What is a Spike Elk?

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Have you ever wondered why hunters who bag trophy elk get exquisite attention? Hunting elk is fantastic and can become challenging if you’re a novice. Being the largest creature in the deer family, the spike elk makes sport hunting one of a kind, but what is a spike elk? A spike elk is one particular type of these deer with at least one antler beam without branching over the ears.  

Also, an actual spike elk is the one that has both antlers with no branching coming from above four inches from where the antlers attach to the skull. The most respectable sportsmen in most parts of the United States originate from the number of ranks that hunt a spike bull.

Difference between Doe, Buck, and Spike

There is a clear identification between these three classes of deer. You should note that a doe doesn’t have antlers. The buck has antlers, but the spike is a particular category of a buck with antlers featuring one point on at least one side or both. Therefore, a spike can have several points on one side only and the other side with a single spike right from the skull.

 A legal buck should have at least 13 inches spikes spread at the largest point from the inside in most states. If they are above the ears, they are legal. The button bucks are sometimes confused with does, but they have small bumps or pedicles where the antlers will grow if you look closely.

Why Do Spike Elk Hunters Face the Longest Odds?

Spike elk hunting is prevalent in most states, especially eastern Washington. This is the place you’ll meet respectable elk hunters who make it in hunting for the proverbial needle in a haystack- the spike elk. 

If you’re heading into the Blue Mountains or Yakima areas, you have to go through challenging odds of getting a special permit that will allow you to shoot a branched-antler elk, elk calf or antlerless cow. And without this coveted permit, the everyday elk hunters’ achievable game in a whole 78 game management units is a yearling bull.

How to Draw a Spiked Elk Permit

Drawing a permit for hunting is usually an incredibly big deal. In fact, the success rate runs between 50 to 90 percent in most states. For spike bull hunting, drawing these permits runs 5 percent less in terms of success rate. And, there is more that is attached to that apart from demand and supply. Besides, some of the so-called yearling bulls are not legal in some states.

The Different States with Different Spike Definitions

For example, if you want to hunt in Eastern Washington, spike elk hunting has some more challenges. This state defines a spike as having no more than one point in at least one of the antlers. It also establishes an antler point as a branch that measures at least one inch. However, these points won’t count if they are within four inches from the skull. These spike rules can be more stringent in some units.

For instance, in Utah, a spike elk is defined as an elk with one antler beam that doesn’t branch above its ears. It is, therefore, paramount to know the state regulations outlined for spike elks.

Knowing How to the Calculate Points

The important thing is to understand the points. Wait, do you know how to count points on antlers? Check out our article on How to Score Antlers for insights.

You can just imagine doing all the calculations at 300 yards to identify whether a spike is legal. That’s how tough it can be. The decision becomes even more challenging when the elk bolts its antlers into wood obstacles. 

It is also challenging as you try to be safe and accurate because bulls often mix with cows and calves during the rifles season. The hard part is making a clear shot in such a circumstance.

You Need Great Marksmanship

On the other hand, a spike hunter has to follow every letter of the law before pulling the trigger. Spike hunters will often pass up shots if the targets are questionable because killing an illegal elk bull is punishable by a ticket and confiscation of the animal. Renowned spike elk hunters claim that good marksmanship and knowing when to hold fire are key to successful hunting.

Importance of Spike Management 

Spike management’s importance is to promote bull survivability and enhance adult cows’ ratio to old bulls, facilitating early synchronized breeding. If there are no mature bulls in the herd, cows tend to go into the second estrus to be bred. This can result in poor nutrition for bulls in the fall season and bring some imbalances.

 Besides, calves born in the second peak will have less time to mature and lower winter survival, resulting in a lower cow-calf ratio. The states that have adopted spike management have from the past reported all age bull groups well represented and improvement in cow-calf ratios.

To make the spike management laws more palatable, some states have set three-point minimal rules. Some of these areas include West Side and Northeastern Washington, where there is a denser cover that makes hunting more challenging. These rules are to protect the elk from limiting yearling harvest. Experts say that they are taking spikes out of the gene pull and opting for super spikes.


Spike elks provide tasty meat that’s highly nutritious. However, hunting spike elks is a challenge considering the strict laws in different states. I have provided some critical things you should know before pulling the trigger to put down a large spike bull. 

It is important to remember the state’s restrictions regarding spike elk hunting. Once you are versant and have drawn the permit, you need to follow the strategies I have given you to have happy hunting.

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