Wyoming is another state that offers Over-the-Counter (OTC) elk tags to non-residents. This appears to be a big secret and is not widely advertised. This fact is not easy to find and is not clearly stated at the Wyoming Fish and Game Department (WFG) website or in the hunting regulations.
Wyoming has 112 wildlife management units and in 2013, 84 hunts in 77 of those units have general season (OTC) elk tags available to both resident and non-residents. The cost for non-residents is $577 for Bull Elk or Any ELK and $288 for a cow/calf (antlerless) license.
Over-the-Counter Elk Tags Available to Non-residents in Wyoming
- Elk Archery – Any Elk can be hunted in all 77 units (See Figure 1)
- Elk Rifle – Any Bull Elk can be hunted in 5 units (See units 28, 36, 68, 68 & 87 in Figure 2)
- Elk Rifle – Any Bull Elk except Spikes can be hunted in 9 units (See units 56, 59, 70, 71, 73, 81, 82, 83 & 84 in Figure 2)
- Elk Rifle – Any Elk can be hunted in 34 units (See Figure 3)
- Elk Rifle – Antlerless Elk can be hunted in 24 units (See Figure 4)
- Elk Rifle – Any Elk except Spikes can be hunted in 5 units (See units 12, 59, 60, 85 & 110 in Figure 5)
Key to Wyoming OTC Elk Hunt Map Images
In all of the map images (Figures 1-5), I superimposed public land on top of the Wyoming elk units that have OTC tags available for non-resident hunters.
Public Land is shown in orange/yellow and private land is shown in white. Grey areas indicate no OTC tags or no hunting areas. National Park Service and Military lands are shown in black. Red indicates Wilderness Areas (also public land).
2012 Wyoming Elk Harvest
According to WFG data, 26,365 elk were harvested in 2012 from 148 total hunt units by 57,331 total hunters in the field. (Over 69,000 elk licenses were sold).
2012 Wyoming Elk Hunting Success
Elk hunting success rates in Wyoming are good, with a 46% total success rate in 2012, considering all elk harvested from all methods and all units.
This high rate was mainly due the high success rate from the limited quota draw hunts, but still, the overall success from the general licenses (OTC) was 28.9%, with the overall archery success rate of 15.6%.
Elk Habitat and Wyoming Ecoregions
Most elk in Wyoming are found in the rocky mountains, but elk also occur in the higher hills and low mountain ranges within the Wyoming Basin and even in patches in the Northwestern Great Plains between the Black Hills and the Bighorn mountains and in the High Plains east of the Laramie Mountains.
Wyoming consists of the Great Plains in the East and the Wyoming Basin and the Rocky Mountains in the West.
In Wyoming, the Southern Rockies ecoregion occurs in the south where the Laramie and Medicine Bow Mountains extend north from Colorado. The Middle Rockies cover most of the north western corner of Wyoming in the Yellowstone region, but also includes the Bighorn mountains (north central) and the Black Hills (north east) along the border with South Dakota.
The Wyoming Basin is the largest ecoregion in the state and covers most of the south western and central parts of Wyoming. The the High Plains is found in the southeast portion of the state and the Northwestern Great Plains in the north east corner of the state.
Hunting on Public Land in Wyoming
As with most western states, there is plenty of public land to hunt in Wyoming. There is over 9.2 million acres of US Forest Service land and 18.3 million acres of BLM land. In addition, there is over 3.8 million acres of state lands open to hunting for a total of over 31.4 million acres or about 50.5% of the state.
If we only considered the 9.2 million acres of forest lands as elk habitat and with 57,331 elk hunters in 2012, that equals 160 of public land per elk hunter (worst case), since we know many of those elk hunters never hunt public land and we know the hunting pressure is spread out between the various archery and rifle seasons and there are millions of acres of BLM and state lands that also hold elk. For you eastern hunters, just think about having nearly one square mile to hunt all to yourself.
Wyoming Law Requires Non-residents to have a Guide to Hunt in Wilderness Areas
If hunting Wyoming as a non-resident, be advised you can not hunt in designated Wilderness Areas without a guide.
Wyoming Statute 23-2-401. Guides required; exceptions; issuance of resident guide license.
(a) No nonresident shall hunt big or trophy game animals on any designated wilderness area, as defined by federal or state law, in this state [Wyoming] unless accompanied by a licensed professional guide or a resident guide.
If you have a friend that lives in Wyoming, they can be your guide if they follow certain rules:
Any Wyoming resident can act as a guide if they also have a hunting license and apply for a resident guide license (no charge). They must sign an affidavit stating:
- The names, addresses and license numbers of the nonresidents to be guided
- The game to be hunted
- The area to be hunted
- The resident has not or will not receive any compensation
The resident guide can not guide more than two nonresident hunters in any calendar year.
I’ll be damned if that’s not big brother getting involved in your personal business. I can understand the need to require people going into Wilderness Areas to post a bond in the event they need to be rescued, but in my opinion, it is a scam to require hunters to hire a guide to hunt on public land, but more about that later. At least there are plenty of elk outside of the Wilderness Areas.
Hard to find Information for Non-resident OTC Elk tags in Wyoming
A friend of mine that lives in Oregon suggested we try to draw an Any Elk tag to hunt in western Wyoming. My friend used to live in Wyoming, so is familiar with many of the units there and should be familiar with the Wyoming rules and regulations. I suggested we look for OTC tags in case we didn’t draw, but he was sure non-residents can not buy OTC elk tags in Wyoming. Since he is a reasonably intelligent guy and he is my friend, I believed him.
But while searching the Wyoming Fish and Game Department (WFG) website for information about elk tags we could draw, I found some information that led me to believe we could buy tags OTC.
Why is this fact so hard to find? Probably because WFG wants you to enter the drawings. To make sure, I called WFG directly and was told by a friendly woman, I could buy OTC tags to hunt elk or deer in Wyoming.
When I told my friend this, he still didn’t believe me and was so adamant that he convinced me that I must have misunderstood the woman at WFG.
So, I went online to try to buy an OTC tag. After registering as a non-resident, I was assigned an ID number at the WFG website. With that ID number, I was able to see all remaining tags that were available to buy immediately (Full Price or reduced). Just have your credit card number handy.
All of the The “Any Elk” tags were sold out in the unit we wanted to hunt, but we were able to buy cow/calf tags in the same unit. The Website says tags are shipped in 10 days. That was easy, so why is this such a big secret?
Remember that most OTC tags have a quota, so first come first serve. Last I checked, there are still many tags left.
I’m not sure what Wyoming is trying to pull or what they are trying to say to us out of state hunters with the law requiring non-residents to hire guides to hunt in Wilderness areas. I guess we could all just hunt in another states. Maybe that’s what they want in the first place.
If Wyoming residents can hunt in my state without requiring a guide, I say “screw em”. Hunt elk in Wyoming with OTC tags and stay out of the Wilderness Areas until that ridiculous law is repealed.
Just thinking about logicstics, if your not bringing horses with you, your not going to hunt the Wilderness Areas anyway.