Top 25 Idaho General Elk Archery Hunt Units for 2018

bull elk in sage and pj habitatIn an earlier post, I ranked the rifle units and continue here and rank the top 26 elk archery hunting units in Idaho based on the most recent harvest results.

Anyone planning a DIY public land elk hunt for 2018 needs to start the process for picking a hunt unit while Over-the-Counter (OTC) tags may still be available.

As with the rifle units, there have been a few changes in Idaho, but Elk can be hunted with Archery equipment during the General Season in 74 different Game Management Units (GMUs) with 115 different hunt unit/season combinations and 42 different elk zone/season combinations.

For 2018 Idaho offers up to four sex/age options to hunt elk during the General Elk Archery Weapon) Season, which are broken down by All General Archery Tags combined, Unlimited Tags and tags with a limited quota in Table 1.

Table 1. 2018 Idaho General (OTC) Archery Elk Hunts

Quota/ Unlimited Hunt Zones GMUs Seasons
All General Archery Antlered Elk  2 11 29
Antlerless  1  1  1
Spike or Antlerless  6 13 13
Any Elk 23 70 72
Unlimited Antlered Elk  1  9  27
Antlerless  1  1  1
Spike  or Antlerless  3  8  8
Any Elk 20 61 63
Limited Quota Antlered Elk  1  2  2
Spike or Antlerless  3  5  5
Any Elk
 3  9  9

The number of licenses issued for 63 hunt units are not limited (99 total hunts/seasons), but 16 units have quotas in 16 total hunts.

Limited quota tags go on sale for residents in July before the hunt season. For non-residents, tags go on sale the previous December.

So if you want to hunt a unit that has limited quota, it may be too late to hunt for 2018. You will have to buy tags starting December 1, 2018 to hunt in 2019 and December 1, 2019 to hunt in 2020.

2018 Quotas for General Archery Season Elk Hunts

  1. Antlered Elk – Quota 404 (units 10 & 12)
  2. Spike or Antlerless Elk – Quota 550 – 2,380
  3. Any Elk – Quota 566 – 1,900

In Idaho, elk are managed in 28 Elk Zones. The General Season Elk tags are good in all units of the same Elk Zone unless there is are specific exceptions.

The latest available harvest data is from 2016 (Idaho has been know to change the data in harvest reports without notice or explanation, so things may change).

The top 26 General Archery GMUs were ranked by Total Harvest (left side of Table 2) and by Hunter Success (right side) in Table 2.

Table 2 Top 26 Idaho General Elk (OTC) Archery Units 2016

idaho elk otc archery units ranked 2016 new

Idaho Elk Archery – Total Elk Harvested

My goal for this ranking was to find the top 20 or 25 units. I cut off the units at the Top 26, which was all units with at least 50 elk harvested and because the 24th – 26th places for Hunter Success were tied at 17.0%. This also included one more unit (33) that made the list on both sides of the table.

For comparison to all units, at least 100 elk were harvested in 11 units and at least 50 elk were harvested in 26 units.

The Any Elk hunts were not separated from Bull Only or Antlerless hunts, so “Elk” in the table is the combination of all General Season Archery hunts in that unit.

In Table 2, the data also include both unlimited and limited quota General Season tags.

The total number of elk harvest (“Elk”) ranged from a high of 270 elk in unit 76 down to 0 (zero) elk in 14 units (which had a combined total of 295 hunters and 2,240 hunting days).

Half of all elk (50.2%) harvested were from the top 14 units and 73.9% of all elk harvested was from the top 26 units (left side Table 2).

The total number of hunter days per harvest in all units with at least one elk harvested, ranged from 18.0 days to 359 days.

In the top 25 units hunter days per harvest ranged from 19.8 days in unit 33 to 87.5 days in unit 3.

Idaho Elk Archery – Hunter Success

Before ranking units by Hunter Success (right side Table 2), all units with less than 20 total elk harvested were eliminated (14 units with zero and 24 units with less than 20 elk). In many cases, some of the low harvest units have high hunter success, but this case only one of the eliminated units had harvest success at least 35% Unit 68A; 20 hunters harvested 7 elk).

Hunter success in the top 26 units ranged from 33.7% in Unit 10 to 17.0% in units 6, 8A and 32A.

When ranked by Hunter Success, 53.8% of all elk harvested were from the top 26 units and half (51.6%) of all elk harvested was from the top 25 units in Table 2.

For the Hunter Success side of the table, the total number of hunter days per harvest in the top 25 units ranged from 19.8 hunt days per harvest in unit 33 to 50.1 in unit 8A.

Note that 12 units (hi-lighted) are in the top 26 for both total elk harvested and by hunter success in Table 2.

Idaho Elk Units Ranking for both Total Harvest & Hunter Success

Here is a closer look at those 12 units.

Table 3 includes the 12 units that ranked highest for both total elk harvested and by hunter success. I include some additional information about those units from the 2016 General Elk hunt.

Most units are Any Elk hunts, but there is one Antlered only (Bull Elk) hunt in Unit 6 and two “Spike or antlerless” hunts in units 18A, 10A or 15.

Table 3. Selected Idaho Elk Archery Units Matched to 2016 Harvest Data

Unit – Zone Sex/ Age Public Acres Acres/ hunter/day Note/Quota/Tag/Additional Units
6 Panhandle Bull Elk 349,749  2,944 A & B Tags, Sep 6 – Sep 30
Dec 10 – Dec 16 & Sep 6 – Sep 12
also hunt units 1, 2, 3, 4, 4A, 5, 7 & 9
Any Elk NA NA New Any Elk Private Land Hunt, A Tag; Sep 15 – Sep 21
8A Palouse Any Elk  162,822 1,999 A Tag; Aug 30 – Sep 30
also hunt units 8 & 11
Spike or Antlerless B Tag; Aug 30 – Sep 14
also hunt units 8 & 11
10A Dworshak Any Elk  443,208  3,396 A Tag; Aug 30 – Sep 30 & Dec 5 – Dec 20
Spike or Antlerless B Tag; Aug 30 – Sep 14
15 Elk City Any Elk  480,259  8,702 A Tag; Aug 30 – Sep 30 & Dec 5 – Dec 20
Spike or Antlerless B Tag; Aug 30 – Sep 14
29 Lemhi Any Elk  324,595  2,837 A Tag; Aug 30 – Sep 30
Also hunt units 37, 37A & 51
31 Brownlee Any Elk  174,268  1,423 A Tag; Aug 30 – Sep 30
32A Weiser River Any Elk  237,086  1,814 A Tag; Aug 30 – Sep 30
also hunt units 22 & 32
33 Sawtooth Any Elk  328,592 10,643 566 Tag A Quota; Aug 30 – Sep 30
also hunt units 34, 35 & 36
36 Sawtooth Any Elk  645,324 11,511 566 Tag A Quota; Aug 30 – Sep 30
also hunt units 33, 34 & 35
36A Pioneer Any Elk  442,458  5,167 A Tag; Aug 30 – Sep 30
also hunt units 49 & 50
48 Smoky-Bennett Any Elk  324,733  2,883 A Tag; Aug 30 – Sep 30
also hunt unit 43
66A Diamond Creek Any Elk  105,696    615 A Tag; Aug 30 – Sep 30 Motorized Rules apply
also hunt unit 76

You should also notice that units 8 and 50 have special restrictions. These hunts are open only outside the National Forest System Boundary within 1 mile of private fields on which cultivated crops are currently growing. So these are not public land hunts and not best suited for non-resident hunters.

So this is a good example of where raw numbers are maybe not the best indicators for choosing an elk unit.

Yes, lots of elk were harvested and yes, success was high in those units, but those tags are for locals who know the land owners and call each other when they see elk standing in a potato or wheat field.

I would love to have the elk meat (if I didn’t have meat in the freezer), but that is not hunting.

But since this is not on public land, these units have “NA” in the column for “Acres/per hunter/per day”.

Calculate Average Acres per Hunter per Day

When comparing hunting units, I also want to know how big the unit is and how much hunter pressure the unit has.

Total acres is sometimes easy to find, but doesn’t help much because we only have access to hunt on public land. In most cases, it takes a fair amount of research to find how much public hunting land is on each unit. Lucky for you, I have already done that.

Also consider that not every hunter hunts every day. In fact, most elk hunters only hunt a small fraction of the hunting season.

Each state that reports Recreation Days or Hunter Days. We can use this data in conjunction with the amount of public land to get a more realistic estimate of past hunting pressure.

But first, is should be obvious that all hunt days are not equal. A guy that covers 20 miles during a hunt and the guy that sits in camp most of the day each count as one hunt day if they report they hunted.

As an example of how I calculated the Acres/per hunter/per day value, see the explanation at the bottom of this post, but I will also provide an example here using one of the archery units in Tables 2 & 3.

I will use the Sawtooth unit #33.

Unit 33 has 328,592 acres of public land (USFS, BLM & State). From Table 2 (either side), we see there were 50 elk harvested by 156 hunters (quota was 566 tags) in 2016.

I also got the total hunter days (988) from the harvest report. That means the average hunter hunted 6.3 days (988/156 =6.3) out of a 32 day hunting season (Aug 30 – Sep 30).

If every hunter hunted every single day, that would be (156 X 32 = 4,992) hunt days.

If the 328,592 public acres in Unit 33 are divided by the total number of hunters (156) we get 2,106.4 acres of public land per hunter.

But since few hunters hunt every day, how many acres do we really have to ourselves (on average) to hunt each day?

The answer is to use the ratio of actual total hunt days to potential total hunt days; 988/4,992 = 0.1979 or 19.79%

So instead of only 2,106 acres per hunter per day we actually average 10,643 acres per hunter per day (2,106.4/19.79% = 10,642.7).

I hope this information helps you to decide which General Season unit you want to hunt this year in Idaho.

Also check out Colorado’s Top 20 Elk Rifle Units and Utah’s Top Elk Units.

Have more questions? Leave a comment.

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