This 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
|Arizona||Elk, Pronghorn||Feb 14, 2017||Feb. 9|
|Deer, Bighorn Sheep, Fall Bison||Jun 14, 2016||June 14|
|Spring Bison, Javelina||Oct 11, 2016||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||July 10|
|Montana||Elk, Deer||Mar 15, 2016||Apr. 18|
|Antelope||Jun 1, 2016||Aug. 1|
|Bighorn Sheep, Moose, Mountain Goat||May 2, 2016||June 13|
|Bison||May 2, 2016||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. 27?|
|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 27?|
|Antlerless Elk, Mule Deer, Pronghorn||May 25 – Jun 15, 2017||July 6|
|Washington||Deer, Elk, Mountain Goat, Moose, Bighorn Sheep||Mid May||June?|
|Wyoming||Resident Elk||May 31, 2017 – left over draw July 6||June 22/ July 13|
|Non-resident Elk||Jan 31, 2017 – left over draw July 6||Feb. 28/ July 13|
|Resident & Non-res. Deer, Antelope||May 31, 2017 – left over draw July 6||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.
Check out My DIY Elk Hunting Guide for more information and maybe a little encouragement.
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.