Hunt Elk in Wyoming with Over-the-Counter Tags

Wyoming is another state that offers Over-the-Counter (OTC) elk tags, but has now been limited to residents only. Wyoming has 112 wildlife management units and in 2013, 84 hunts in 77 of those units have general season (OTC) elk tags available to residents. Non-residents can buy general tags for $577 for Bull Elk or Any ELK and $288 for a cow/calf (antlerless) license, but have to apply to get them, but many units in Wyoming have nearly a 100% chance of drawing a tag.

Over-the-Counter Elk Tags Available to Wyoming Residents

  • 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

wyoming archery any elk units over-the-countert with public land

Figure 1. Wyoming Archery Any Elk Over-the-Counter Hunt Units.

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. 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

wyoming rifle antlered elk units over-the-countert with public land

Figure 2. Wyoming Rifle Antlered Elk Over-the-Counter Hunt Units.

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

wyoming rifle any elk over-the-counter units with public land

Figure 3. Wyoming Rifle Any Elk Over-the-Counter Hunt Units.

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.

wyoming rifle antlerless elk over-the-counter units with public land

Figure 4. Wyoming Rifle Antleless Elk Over-the-Counter Hunt Units.

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

wyoming rifle any elk except spike over-the-counter units with public land

Figure 5. Wyoming Rifle Any elk except Spike Over-the-Counter Hunt Units.

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. Read the full law here (§ 23-2-401) 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:

  1. The names, addresses and license numbers of the nonresidents to be guided
  2. The game to be hunted
  3. The area to be hunted
  4. 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 at Wyoming Fish & Game Website

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.  But non-residents can buy tags OTC if they do not sell out. The Website says tags are shipped in 10 days. That was easy, so easy to buy tags on-line, so why is it such a big secret? Remember that most OTC tags have a quota, so first come first serve. Just check at the website to see if any tags are 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 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.

My DIY Elk Hunting Guide is now available as PDF or ebook

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  1. So .……what areas can a non resident hunt elk without paying for a guide? Please help me out, as I want to follow the laws.

    • Jack: The only areas that require a guide are in the officially designated Wilderness Areas. All other BLM, Forest Service and State lands are available for non-residents to hunt without a guide. There are plenty of areas to hunt outside of the Wilderness Areas.

      Here is a list of Wilderness Areas in Wyoming with maps. You will not accidentally drive into Wilderness because there are no roads and it is usually very hard to accidentally walk into a Wilderness Area.

  2. Ok. But how long does the elk hunt last? I’m just curious because there are two birthdays I don’t want to miss. Sep 15 And Oct 29. It’s been 4 yrs since I’ve been hunting with my bow. So I need some refreshments.

    • Kayla:
      Wyoming is a state that makes it hard to find all the info you need to hunt. They have just redesigned their website, but the info we need is still hard to find.

      To answer you question about actual season dates, I assume you are talking about the General Season (OTC) hunt, but you need to know which unit you are hunting. (This page) shows the 2015 elk season info, but still lists dates as tentative with no closing dates.
      (This pdf download) shows dates and closing dates for all elk hunts limited entry and general.

      So, for example in unit 9, the general hunt is Any elk, spikes excluded, the hunt dates are Aug 15- 31
      Unit 10, (also Any elk, spikes excluded) – hunt dates Aug 15- 31
      But unit 21 (Any elk) – Hunt dates Oct 15 – 25 and the Antlerless elk hunt dates are Oct 26 – Nov 15.
      and unit 28 (Any elk) – Hunt dates Oct 1 – 9.

      I have links to all the important info for the 7 best western elk hunting States in my DIY Elk Hunting Guide. The guide also helps choose places to hunt and gives lots of information about logistical and survival issues out of state hunters may need.

      Anyway, you need to pick a unit, buy the tag and get to practicing…
      Good Luck

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