Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) manages elk in 29 Elk Management Zones and 89 management units. Idaho has Over-the-Counter (OTC) elk tags for both residents and non-residents in all but one of the elk management zones and all but three management units. There are options for hunting elk with OTC tags with archery, rifle (or any weapon) and muzzleloader seasons.
Over-the-Counter Elk Tags Available to Non-residents in Idaho
- Elk can be hunted with Any Weapon in 72 units with 83 different hunts (See Figure 1)
- Archery – Elk can be hunted in 74 units with 94 different hunts (Figure 2)
- Muzzleloader – Elk can be hunted in 45 units with 47 different hunts (Figure 3)
With the three different weapon choices above, Idaho offers up to six options to hunt elk:
- Any elk hunts
- Antlered only (Bull elk)
- Spike Elk only
- Antlerless only (cow/calf)
- Brow-tined Bull Elk only
- Spike or antlerless elk hunts
Key to Idaho OTC Elk Hunt Map Images
Figures 1 – 3 show Idaho Elk Units that have OTC tags available for resident and non-resident hunters for any weapon, archery and muzzleloader hunts.
Public Land is shown in the orange/yellow color and private land or other public land where access is questionable is shown in white. Hunt Units that do not have OTC tags or no hunting areas are shown in gray. National Park Service and Department of Defense lands, which usually do not allow hunting are shown in black.
Public Land in Idaho
About 66 percent of Idaho is public land.
There is over 20.4 million acres of US Forest Service land, 11.6 million acres of BLM land and over 2.7 million acres of state lands open to hunting for a total of over 34.8 million acres.
2015 Idaho Elk Harvest
The Latest available harvest data is from 2015. According to IDFG data 15,048 elk were harvested with General (OTC tags) and 8,799 elk were harvested in controlled (Limited Entry) elk hunts in 2015, for a total of 23,847 elk (13,094 Bulls and 10,753 cows).
The harvest was up from the 2014 elk harvest for General Season tags (up from 12,866 in 2014) and for Controlled Tags (up from 7,190 in 2014).
2015 Idaho Elk Hunting Success
- Total 2015 Success – 103,213 total hunters harvested 23,847 elk = 23.1% success
- General 2015 Success – 83,404 hunters harvested 15,048 elk = 18.0% success
- Controlled 2015 Success – 19,809 hunters harvested 8,799 elk = 44.4% success
2015 General (OTC) Hunt Success
- General Archery Elk – 23,924 hunters harvested 4,226 elk = 17.6% success
- General Muzzleloader Elk – 6,775 hunters harvested 1,156 elk = 17.1% success
- General Any Weapon Elk – 52,699 hunters harvested 9,655 elk = 18.30% success
- Total General -83,404 hunters harvested 15,048 elk = 18.0% success
2015 Controlled (Draw) Hunt Success
- Controlled Archery Elk – 1,071 hunters harvested 501 elk = 46.8% success
- Controlled Muzzleloader Elk – 1,168 hunters harvested 272 elk = 23.3% success
- Controlled Any Weapon Elk – 16,441 hunters harvested 7,407 elk = 45.1% success
- Total Controlled Elk harvest – 19,809 hunters harvested 8,799 elk = 44.4% success
Idaho Elk Harvest Data Compared to 6 Other Western States With OTC Tags
Table 1. Idaho Elk Harvest 2012 – 2015
|Year||Bull Elk||Cow Elk||Gen Elk||Control Elk||Total Elk||Hunters||Gen Success||Control Success|
Elk Habitat and Idaho Ecoregions
Elk can be found in forested and shrub habitats in at least 9 of Idaho’s 10 ecoregions, but 34% of the elk harvested in 2012 were from the Idaho Batholith Region in the center of the state (Table 2).
The next highest ecoregions for elk harvest were the Northern Rockies of the panhandle and the Middle Rockies along the eastern border with Montana and Wyoming; both regions with 22% of the total elk harvest.
Seven percent of elk in Idaho were harvested in the Snake River Plain and the remaining 14% was harvested from the other four ecoregions combined, which includes the Northern Basin and Range and the very small sections of the Blue Mountains, Columbia Plateau and the Wasatch Mountains.
Table 2. Estimate of 2012 Idaho Elk Harvest and Hunter Success by Ecoregion
|Eco Region||Total Hunters||Total Elk Harvested||Success||Total Hunts||Elk Per Hunt||Percent of Total Harvest|
|Snake River Plain||4,901||1,160||24%||34||34||7%|
|Northern Basin & Range||3,220||435||14%||22||19||3%|
Table 2 is ranked by total elk harvest, with 5,465 elk harvested in the Idaho Batholith region and only 388 elk harvested in the very small Wasatch Mountains region. But since there were were relatively few elk hunts in the Wasatch Mountains (4 hunts in 3 units) and Blue Mountains (10 hunts in 2 units), with the exception of the Northern Rockies units, these units produced the highest number of elk per hunt.
Total hunter success was highest in the Columbia Plateau (31%) and lowest in the Northern Rockies and the Northern Basin and Range ecoregions (14%).
Check out My DIY Elk Hunting Guide – 3rd Edition updated for 2017