2017 Big Game Application Deadlines in Western States

elk antlersThis is a reminder so you don’t miss the application deadlines to hunt big game in Western states.

Different states have different species of big game, but to simplify, I list the common North American ungulates (Elk, Deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, Moose and Bison) and a few unique species in Table 1.

Table 1 lists the species that can be hunted in each Western state, the application deadlines for limited entry drawings and the date the results will be published.

Remember there are still seven western states (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming) that have general elk hunts with over-the-counter tags (read more here).

Table 1. 2017 Western Big Game Application Deadlines

State Species Application Deadline Results
Arizona Elk, Pronghorn Feb 14, 2017 – too late Feb. 14
Deer, Bighorn Sheep, Fall Bison June 13, 2017 June 13
Spring Bison, Javelina Oct 11, 2016 – last year’s date; not updated yet Oct. 11
California Elk, Deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep Apr 15 – Jun 2, 2017 June 17
Colorado Elk, Deer, Moose, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat Apr 4, 2017 June 1
Idaho Elk, Deer, Pronghorn May 1 – Jun 5, 2017 July 10
Moose, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat Apr 1 – Apr 30, 2017 – too late July 10
Montana Elk, Deer Mar 15, 2017 Apr. 18
Antelope Jun 1, 2017 Aug. 1
Bighorn Sheep, Moose, Mountain Goat May 1, 2017 – too late June 13
Bison May 1, 2017 – to late Sept. 6
Nevada Elk, Mule Deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat Apr 17 1st Draw  – 2nd Draw Jun 26 June 10/ July 22
New Mexico Elk, Deer, antelope, Bighorn sheep, Barbary Sheep, Ibex, Oryx, Javelina Mar 22, 2017 Apr. 26
Oregon Elk, Deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat May 15, 2017 June 20
Utah Elk, Mule Deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Bison, Moose, Mountain Goat Jan 26 – Mar 2, 2017 May 31
Antlerless Elk, Mule Deer, Pronghorn May 25 – Jun 15, 2017 July 6
Washington Deer, Elk, Mountain Goat, Moose, Bighorn Sheep May 18, 2017 June?
Wyoming Resident Elk May 31, 2017 – left over draw July 6 June 22/ July 13
Non-resident Elk Jan 31, 2017 – left over tags June 26-30, 2017 Feb. 28/ July 13
Resident & Non-res. Deer, Antelope May 31, 2017 – left over tags June 26-30, 2017 June 22/ July 13
Resident & Non-res. Bighorn Sheep, Moose, Mountain Goat Feb 28, 2017 May 10
Resident & Non-res. Bison Feb 28, 2017 May 10


In some states, dates are published when the application process will begin and in other states they are not. You may not know until you go to their websites and they are ready to take your application (or not). Remember, these are state bureaucracies, not private businesses. If you want to hunt in their state, it’s up to you to learn the rules and find the information you need.

Some states stipulate a particular time of day applications must be received on the deadline date, so make sure you don’t miss that deadline in case it ends before midnight.

When Table 1 (above) was first posted (Jan. 15), not all states had published their application dead lines. The table will be updated as application dates are finalized. The table show some 2016 dates (highlighted in yellow) until the 2017 dates are available. The 2016’s deadline dates are close to the same time of year of each state..

Do not worry if you can not find information about the application deadline for this year. None of the states will be accepting applications until the deadlines dates are published.

Both residents and non-residents can apply for tags (some states call them licenses) to hunt elk, mule deer, pronghorn or other big game. Since some tags are limited, they are awarded through a lottery system. In some states these are call these Limited Entry tags or licenses and other states call them Controlled tags or licenses.

Which Species of Deer to Hunt?

Nevada and Utah only have one species of deer (mule deer), all other western states have at least two species of deer (mule deer and black-tailed or white-tailed deer). In addition to the Rocky Mountain Mule Deer and White=tailed deer, California also has other subspecies of mule deer such as California Mule Deer, Inyo Mule Deer, Burro Mule Deer and Southern Mule Deer). Arizona has the Coues, which is another subspecies of White-tailed Deer. In some states that have plenty of deer, you may be able to hunt any deer species and other cases, you will be limited to only one species.

Which States to Hunt Elk?

Elk can be hunted in any of the Western states if you draw a Limited Entry tag. But elk populations are still high enough in seven western states that tags can be purchased over the counter. Five states still allow non-residents to hunt elk without winning the lottery (learn more).

Hunt Unique Game Species in Arizona and New Mexico

Arizona and New Mexico offer opportunities to hunt unique species like Barbary Sheep, Ibex, Oryx, and Javalina.

Hunt Bison in Four States

Believe it or not, there is a small chance you can draw a tag to hunt Bison in Arizona, Montana, Wyoming or Utah.

Arizona has both Spring and Fall hunts, which have different application deadlines. Bison are found in two wildlife areas (WA) managed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The Raymond WA is east of Flagstaff and the House Rock WA is east of the North Kaibab area. In 2016, the fall hunt awarded 16 out of 2,282 total applicants (1:143).

In Montana, bison hunts are in units 385 and 395 where bison move outside of Yellowstone National Park. Montana apparently does not show drawing odds for bison.

Utah has three hunting areas for Bison; Antelope Island State Park, the Henry Mountains and the Book Cliffs. As an interesting note, genetic testing showed the only genetically pure bison found in North America was found on the Henry mountain herd. Genetically pure; meaning no bovine (cow) genes. In 2016, 103 resident permits were issued from 9469 applicants (1:92) and 9 non-resident permits were issued from 4879 applicants (1:542) .

In Wyoming, Bison are primarily using Grand Teton National Park and move onto the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the National Elk Refuge and private property near Jackson. In 2015, 8 out 692 (1:87) non-residents were successful in drawing a Bull Bison tag and 53 of 192 (1:28) non-residents were successful in drawing a cow Bison tag.

A Note about the Bonus Point or Preference Point Process

All states except Idaho and New Mexico use preference or bonus point systems for the drawings. Each state’s draw system is slightly different, but it basically means every year you do not draw a tag, you get a bonus point. People with the most bonus points have the best chance to draw a tag, but beginners without any points still have a small chance to draw a tag. Read the regulations carefully, because each state is different.

Since Idaho and New Mexico do not use a bonus point system, everyone has the same (low) chance every year to draw a tag. Idaho has been considering a bonus point system, but have not yet adopted the new system. If they do change to a bonus point system, it will be good for those that get into the system early.


Note: State hunting regulations are complicated. The information is hard to find and state websites are confusing, sometimes misleading and they constantly change the links on their websites. I take the time to look this data up simply to help non-resident hunters to understand when to apply for tags and when OTC tags can be purchased. I do my best to make sure all information is correct, but make sure you check with the state you want to hunt so you won’t miss the deadline to apply for limited entry tags or to buy OTC tags.

Comments

  1. Robert Zemelis says:

    Do you have a chart on when the big game bonus points are due for each state?
    Thank you for taking all this time to put together these charts they’re great!

    • Robert: That is a good idea… I will work on it. I haven’t applied much just for bonus points, but I was under the impression they were about the same time as the applications date. But the first state I checked had different deadline dates…
      Here is a quick list:
      Arizona – same as application date Feb 14
      Colorado – same as application date April 4
      Idaho and New Mexico have no bonus point system, but Idaho is thinking about it.
      Utah Bonus points – Jan. 26 – Mar. 16, 2017
      Wyoming Preference Points – July 1 to October 31
      Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington don’t post deadlines (or make it hard to find) for bonus/preference/permit points so assume??? same as application deadlines?

      • Robert Zemelis says:

        Thanks I appreciate it I figure there is no point in trying to draw a tag without racking up my points for a good unit.

  2. Does this apply to purchasing OTC tags? In other words, do you have to apply for the state before you purchase an OTC tag?

    I realize you discussed the matter under the “Note,” but sometimes you don’t have that much time to make the decision to hunt and was merely wondering if you find you have the time, can you just go purchase an OTC tag in any of the western states?

    Thanks .

    • Bill:
      There are basically seven Western States (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington & Wyoming) with good elk populations where you have a good chance to get a tag (see post here).

      Now, there are only five states where non-residents can buy elk tags Over-the-Counter (OTC); Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington. Some of these tags are limited and some are not.

      Montana and Wyoming have OTC tags (General Season) for residents, but non-residents have to apply in these states. But chances are very good you will get General Season tags.

      I included Arizona in the post because they do have OTC tags, but those tags are in areas where elk cause problems for ranchers. Best left for the locals.

      I think the toughest part of elk hunting is negotiating all the rules and reg’s and finding the info you need at the State’s websites before you can decide where to hunt.

      I wrote the DIY Elk Hunting Guide to help with those problems.

      Where are you thinking about hunting?

      Good Luck.

      • I would like to hunt anywhere that doesn’t require six months notice because I probably can’t give it. I may only know two or three weeks in advance that I can hunt and then I’d just be hopping in the truck and driving west from Wisconsin if I can purchase an OTC tag online or remotely or reserve one.

        • Bill: I am so used to getting questions about elk hunting that I answered your first question as if you only asked about hunting elk.

          Except for antelope and white-tailed deer in some of the Western states, the most OTC/General Season tags are for elk.

          If you want to hunt elk, I suggest you look at Colorado, Idaho and Utah for “last minute” OTC tags.

          I have seen OTC tags (rifle hunt) still available, the week before the hunt.

          If you bow hunt, most Archery tags are unlimited.

  3. Thanks for the awesome replies. Yes, I’m not limiting it to elk hunting and would just as easily go for a mule deer or antelope hunt. If you know of states that offer OTC tags for these AND elk, that would help to narrow things down, too.
    Great web site!

    • Sorry for the delay in responding… I had a fishing appointment…
      You (and I) need to check further, but there are very few OTC tags for non-residents except for elk.
      You might try South Dakota or even Kansas for speed goats…

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