31 is an excellent choice. Probably the best in the state for a fun hunt, lots of elk and the opportunity for a good bull. Long draw odds though. You could be chasing that tag another 10-15 years.
There are always trade-offs, the main ones being, success, draw odds, private land issues, trophy quality, terrain, grizzlies. It really comes down to which you are most willing to compromise on and which you are not.
Are there many elk in 45 down out of the National Forest? Or is the majority of the herd in the NF and Wilderness?
***45 has elk that stay down below the NF all year and some come down early all the way onto private holdings where they love the irrigated crops. That's why there is a real early cow season there. If I was hunting 45, I'd start high and work my way down, especially looking at what the weather is doing in a particular year. Many will stay high until it gets bad and then start migrating down a few thousand feet to those lower wintering areas. During the bow season the best would be up high in the NF. For rifle it could be weather dependent from year to year. Last season there were more elk down at 6000-7000 feet elevation than we've seen in 20 years with the early bad weather that set in by the end of September and first week of October.
Originally Posted by AT Hiker
Topgun spends a lot of time in that part of Wyoming, and is a very good resource on the Bighorns.