2016 Western Big Game Application Deadlines

bull elk buglingThis is a reminder so you don’t miss the application deadlines to hunt big game in the West again this year.

Different states list different big game species, but to simplify, I have limited the list to common North American ungulates (Elk, Deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, Moose and Bison) in Table 1.

Table 1 lists the species that can be hunted in each Western state, the application deadlines for limited entry drawings and when results will be posted.

In some states, dates are published when the application process will begin and in other states they are not, but the application process has begun for all states in the table except for Washington and Nevada.

Some states stipulate a particular time applications must be received on the last day to apply, so make sure you don’t miss that deadline.

When the table was first published, two states (Nevada and Washington) still did not have any information about the 2016 hunting season. I will update the table when exact dates are known.

It’s too late by now to apply for most 2016 hunts, so use the table as a guideline for deadlines to apply for next year. I will post a similar table again for 2017 when dates are published.

Table 1. 2016 Western Big Game Application Deadlines

State Species Application Deadline Results
Arizona Elk, Pronghorn Mid Jan. – Feb. 9, 2016 Feb. 9
Deer, Bighorn Sheep, Fall Bison June 14, 2016 June 14
Spring Bison, Javelina Oct. 11, 2016 Oct. 11
California Elk, Deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep April 15 – June 2, 2016 June 17
Colorado Black Bear, Elk, Deer, Moose, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat April 5, 2016 June 1
Idaho Elk, Deer, Pronghorn, Fall Black Bear May 1 – June 5, 2016 July 10
Moose, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat April 1 – April 30, 2016 July 10
Montana Elk, Deer Mar. 15, 2016 Apr. 18
Antelope June 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. 18 1st Draw 2nd Draw June 27 June 10/ July 22
New Mexico Elk, Deer, antelope, Bighorn sheep, Oryx, Ibex, Javelina Mar. 23, 2016 Apr. 27
Oregon Elk, Deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat May 15, 2016 June 20
Utah Elk, Mule Deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Bison, Moose, Mountain Goat Mar. 3, 2016 May 27
Antlerless Elk, Mule Deer, Pronghorn May 26 – June 16, 2016 July 7
Washington Deer, Elk, Mountain Goat, Moose, Bighorn Sheep Mid April – Mid May June?
Wyoming Resident Elk Jan. 1 – May 31, 2016 June 21
Non-resident Elk Jan. 31, 2016 Feb. 3
Resident & Non-res. Deer, Antelope Jan. 1 – May 31, 2016 June 21
Resident & Non-res. Bighorn Sheep, Moose, Mountain Goat Feb. 29, 2016 Apr. 15
Resident & Non-res. Bison Feb. 29, 2016 Apr. 15

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 some cases you can hunt any deer and other cases, you will be limited to only one species.

I did not search for application information about turkeys, bears or cougars, but include some information about bears because particular states listed bear with the other big game species.

Arizona and New Mexico offer opportunities to hunt unique species like Oryx, Ibex and Javalina, so I included those species.

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.

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.

When you purchase products from our links, we earn commissions from qualifying purchases

Check out guidebooks, maps and gear to help you explore our public lands:

Hunt Elk, Pronghorn Antelope or deer without Winning the Lottery

Seven of the Western States have enough big game that tags are not limited, or the limits are so high that most people can get a tag every year (read more about OTC tags). These are called Over-the-Counter (OTC) or General Season tags or licenses. Table 2 shows when Over-the-Counter/general tags go on sale in those seven states.

Table 2. 2016 Over-the-Counter (OTC)/General Big Game Tag Sales

State Species Weapon* Over The Counter (OTC)/ General Notes
Colorado Elk   A – R 9 a.m. July 26, 2016 Some elk units unlimited tags, others have caps
Pronghorn     A Unlimited pronghorn archery tags
White-tailed Deer   ALW Unlimited tags, but white-tail density is low and most are on private land
Idaho Deer  A-R-ML July 31, 2016 or until sold out Deer or elk tag can be used to take black bear, mtn lion or wolf instead of a deer or elk – 15,500 non-res deer tags
Elk  A-R-ML 12,815 non-res elk tags
Montana# Deer Elk combo   A – R Now – until sold out 17,000 non-resident elk and deer combo tags
Elk   A – R Now – until sold out included in 17,000 tags above
Deer   A – R Now – until sold out 4,300 non-resident deer tags
Oregon Elk, Black Bear, Deer    A – R May 15, 2016 but prior to LE application if want both tags Tag sale deadline is the day before the earliest opening day.
Utah Elk A-ML-ALW July 12, 2016 – until sold out Spike only units = 15,000 tags, Any Bull units = 15,000 tags, Archery not limited
Washington Deer, Elk Not ready for 2016 season yet
Wyoming+ Elk, Deer, Pronghorn A-R-ML July 1, 2016 (Residents only) Non-residents can buy Leftover Full price licenses July 6, 2016 and Reduced price licenses July 13, 2016

*A = Archery, R = Centerfire Rifle, ML = Muzzleloader, ALW = Any Legal Weapon

#Tags in Montana are no longer OTC for non-residents, so you have to apply, but the 17,000 elk tags have not sold out the last several years, so everyone that applies gets a combination elk deer tag or just the elk tag. The deer tags (only deer) will sell out.

+Only residents can buy General Licenses in Wyoming, but non-residents can buy Leftover Licenses (see notes in Table 2).  But be advised, most Leftover Licenses will be in areas where access to public land is limited.

Note: State hunting regulations are complicated. The information is hard to find and state websites are confusing and sometimes misleading. 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.


  1. Robert McClung says

    Would like 2017 updates on hunt applications and dead line. Thanks

Comments, Opinions, Questions?