2018 Big Game Hunt Application Deadline in Western States

cow bison with calf

Bison cow and calf on public land

This is this year’s reminder so you don’t miss the application deadlines to hunt your favorite big game animal in your favorite western state.

Different states have different species of big game, but I just list the most common North American ungulates (Elk, Deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, Moose and Bison) and a few unique/exotic species in Table 1.

Table 1 lists the species that can be hunted in each Western state, the application deadlines for limited entry drawings and the date the results should be published.

Remember there are still seven western states (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming) that have general elk hunts with over-the-counter tags (read more here).

Table 1. 2018 Western Big Game Application Deadlines

State Species Application Deadline Results
Arizona Elk, Pronghorn Feb 13, 2018 (2nd Tue in Feb) -Too Late Mid Feb
Deer, Bighorn Sheep, Fall Bison June 12, 2018 (2nd Tue in June) Mid Jun
Spring Bison, Javelina Oct 9, 2018 (2nd Tue in Oct) Mid Oct
California Elk, Deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep June 2nd each year June 17
Colorado Elk, Deer, Moose, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat Apr 3, 2018 (1st Tues. in April) -Too Late June 1
Idaho Elk, Deer, Pronghorn Jun 5, 2018 – 2nd Draw Aug 25 Aug 25
Moose, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat April 30, 2018 – Too Late July 10
Montana Elk, Deer Mar 15, 2018, B Licenses June 1 -Too Late Mid Apr.
Antelope Jun 1, 2018 Aug. 1
Bighorn Sheep, Moose, Mountain Goat May 1, 2018 – Too Late June 13
Bison May 1, 2018 – Too Late Sept. 6
Super Tags: Antelope, Bighorn Sheep, Bison, Deer, Elk, Moose, Mountain Goat and Mountain Lion June 28, 2018 July 11
Nevada Elk, Mule Deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat Apr 17 1st Draw – 2nd Draw Jun 26 June 10
New Mexico Elk, Deer, antelope, Bighorn sheep, Barbary Sheep, Ibex, Oryx, Javelina Mar 21, 2018  – Too Late Apr. 25
Oregon Elk, Deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat May 15, 2018 June 20
Utah Elk, Mule Deer, Pronghorn, Bighorn Sheep, Bison, Moose, Mountain Goat Mar 1, 2018 -Too Late May 31
Antlerless Elk, Mule Deer, Pronghorn Jun 21, 2018 July 6
Washington Deer, Elk, Mountain Goat, Moose, Bighorn Sheep May 23, 2018 June?
Wyoming Resident Elk May 31, 2018 – left over draw July June 21
Non-resident Elk Jan 31, 2018 Too Late – left over tags June Feb. 22
Resident & Non-res. Deer, Antelope May 31, 2018 – left over tags June June 21
Resident & Non-res. Bighorn Sheep, Moose, Mountain Goat Feb. 28, 2018 -Too Late May 10
Resident & Non-res. Bison Feb. 28, 2018 -Too Late May 10

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As Mar 2, 2018, the deadlines have past for all Limited Entry Hunts in Utah (can still hunt General Season for elk) and most hunts in Wyoming and for elk and antelope hunts in Arizona. Washington state still has not published their 2018 hunt regulations and have not set deadlines for their hunts.

You may not know until you go to their websites and they are ready to take your application (or not). Remember, these are state bureaucracies, not private businesses. If you want to hunt in their state, it’s up to you to learn the rules, jump though all their hoops and find the information you need.

Some states stipulate a particular time of day applications must be received on the deadline date, so make sure you don’t miss that deadline in case it ends before midnight.

When Table 1 was first posted, not all states had published their application dead lines. The table will be updated as application dates are finalized. The table shows some 2017 dates (highlighted in yellow) until the 2018 dates are available. The deadline and results dates usually don’t differ by a few days each year.

Do not worry if you can not find information about the application deadline for the state you want to hunt this year. None of the states will be accepting applications until the deadlines dates are published.

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.

Which Species of Deer to Hunt?

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 addition to the Rocky Mountain Mule Deer and White=tailed deer, California also has other subspecies of mule deer such as California Mule Deer, Inyo Mule Deer, Burro Mule Deer and Southern Mule Deer). Arizona has the Coues, which is another subspecies of White-tailed Deer. In some states that have plenty of deer, you may be able to hunt any deer species and other cases, you will be limited to only one species.

Which States to Hunt Elk?

Elk can be hunted in any of the Western states if you draw a Limited Entry tag. But elk populations are still high enough in seven western states that tags can be purchased over the counter. Five states still allow non-residents to hunt elk without winning the lottery (learn more).

Hunt Unique Game Species in Arizona and New Mexico

Arizona and New Mexico offer opportunities to hunt unique species like Barbary Sheep, Ibex, Oryx, and Javalina.

Hunt Bison in Four States

Believe it or not, there is a small chance you can draw a tag to hunt Bison in Arizona, Montana, Wyoming or Utah.

Arizona has both Spring and Fall hunts, which have different application deadlines. Bison are found in two wildlife areas (WA) managed by the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The Raymond WA is east of Flagstaff and the House Rock WA is east of the North Kaibab area. In 2016, the fall hunt awarded 16 out of 2,282 total applicants (1:143).

In Montana, bison hunts are in units 385 and 395 where bison move outside of Yellowstone National Park. Montana apparently does not show drawing odds for bison.

Utah has three hunting areas for Bison; Antelope Island State Park, the Henry Mountains and the Book Cliffs. As an interesting note, genetic testing showed the only genetically pure bison found in North America was found on the Henry mountain herd. Genetically pure; meaning no bovine (cow) genes. In 2016, 103 resident permits were issued from 9469 applicants (1:92) and 9 non-resident permits were issued from 4879 applicants (1:542) .

In Wyoming, Bison are primarily using Grand Teton National Park and move onto the Bridger-Teton National Forest, the National Elk Refuge and private property near Jackson. In 2015, 8 out 692 (1:87) non-residents were successful in drawing a Bull Bison tag and 53 of 192 (1:28) non-residents were successful in drawing a cow Bison tag.

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A Note about the 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.

Note: State hunting regulations are complicated. The information is hard to find and state websites are confusing, sometimes misleading and they constantly change the links on their websites. 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. If anyone has updated information, please let me know.


  1. Steven Shannon says


    I was thinking about buying the DIY Elk Hunting Ebook, but it says it is for the 2017 season. Will an updated version be coming out for the 2018 season?


    • Hi Steven: My DIY Elk Hunting Guide was updated to the 2nd edition for the 2017 season and I will probably update it again for the 2019 or 2020 season, but the guide is still applicable.

      Also, everyone that bought the previous version of the guide (the pdf version through my website, not the Kindle version) got free copies of the updated guide and I plan to do the same for the 3rd edition in the future.

      Hope this answers your question.
      Where do you want to hunt?


  2. Steven Shannon says

    Hi Dan,

    Awesome, thanks for the quick reply here. I will go ahead and pick up the latest version then. I am based in TX. I have pretty much only hunted waterfowl in the past, but am looking to do some deer/elk hunting in the future. Your site’s been a great resource btw- thanks a bunch for all the info you are providing!


  3. Jean Wilson says

    A hunter today told me to be sure to apply by a date in May to hunt Mule Deer in Arizona. I thought it was in June – the 2nd Tuesday. Am I wrong? I write the Yuma Outdoors column for The Yuma Sun and don’t want to get my dates mixed. We need to know so we don’t lose out this year. Thanks lots,

    • Isn’t it funny that people have to find websites like mine to get the information that the Wildlife Agencies should clearly provide?

      You are correct. The Deadline is the 2nd Tue in June and the application process starts in Early to Mid May.

      Last year, the deadline to apply for Mule Deer in Arizona was June 13 (2017), and I have reported the deadline to apply for deer (and Bighorn Sheep & Fall Bison) this year as June 12, 2018 because I found somewhere (as you did) in the Arizona regs that the deadline date would always be the 2nd Tuesday in June.

      The Arizona Game and Fish website still (as of April 23, 2018) has last year’s deadline date and the 2017-2018 Arizona Hunting Regulations booklet gives last year’s deadline date and mentions the term “deadline date” and other “deadline” terms many times, but refers back to the website for the actual date.

      The Regulation booklet also says that online applications will begin in Early to Mid May, so that is true for all years.

  4. Duane Rieck says

    i am a non resident and want to hunt a cow /calf elk in western wyoming when is it to late to apply I was under the understanding that you had over the counter permits but reading here I have to apply can I still apply this year or is it to late Thank You for your help and answers

    • All Non-resident hunters have to apply early to hunt elk in Wyoming. The application deadline to hunt in 2018 was Jan. 31, so you are too late for this year.
      You may be able to buy an OTC tag for Colorado and you certainly can still buy General Bull tags in Utah.

      Good luck on your hunt.

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