Hunt Elk in Wyoming with Over-the-Counter Tags

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

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

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 84 hunts in 77 of those units have general season (OTC) elk tags available to residents. Non-residents can buy general tags for $591 for Bull Elk or Any ELK and $302 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 โ€“ Any Elk can be hunted in all 77 units (See Figure 1)
  • Elk Rifle โ€“ 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 rifle antlered elk units over-the-counter with public land

Figure 2. Wyoming Rifle Antlered 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).

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 Antlerless 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. You just have to get off the roads to find it.

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Wyoming Elk Harvest and Hunting Success

According to Wyoming Game and Fish data, total elk harvested the last six years has ranged from a low of 24,535 in 2017 to a high of 26,365 in 2012 (Table 1), so total elk harvest has declined in Wyoming by 6.9% in the last 6 years.

Table 1. Wyoming Total Elk Harvest 2012 – 2017

Year Bulls Spikes Cows Calf Total Elk Total Hunters Non- Res Hunters Success Avg. Days Hunted
2017 10,618 995 11,006 1,916 24,535 56,505 11,366 43.4% 7.8
2016 11,007 1,332 11,559 1,954 25,852 58,159 11,681 44.5% 8.1
2015 10,015 934 11,526 2,274 24,749 58,959 12,773 42.0% 8.2
2014 10,021 955 12,567 2,362 25,905 58,266 12,730 44.5% 8.5
2013 10,012 1,264 12,536 2,156 25,968 57,785 12,390 44.9% 8.0
2012 10,284 1,365 12,582 2,134 26,365 57,331 12,004 46.0% 8.1

Total Mature Bull Elk harvests have ranged between about 10,000 to 11,000 (all elk harvested from all methods and seasons) with the last two years being the highest two years since 2012. So Total Mature Bull Elk harvested in 2017 is 3.2% higher than in 2012.

The total number of elk hunters is always much lower than the number of tags sold. For example, in 2017, 70,593 elk licenses were sold, but only 56,505 hunters actively hunted elk. That is over 14,000 tags that were never used. Now many of those tags are locals that get a tag so they can harvest an elk in their pasture but never actually went hunting.

The total number of active hunters has ranged from about 57,000 to almost 59,000, with the lowest year since 2012 in 2017. So total elk hunters are down only about 1%, but total elk hunting effort is down about 5%. So maybe it is not surprising that total elk harvest was down 6.9%

Elk hunting success rates in Wyoming have always been very good and has ranged ranging between 42.0% to 46.0% total success rate between 2012 and 2017. This high rate is mainly due to the high success rate from the limited quota draw hunts, but still, the overall success from the general licenses (OTC) I calculated back in 2012 was 28.9%, with the overall archery success rate of 15.6%.

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 (ยง 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.

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Hard to find Information at Wyoming Game & Fish 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 Game & Fish Department (WGF) 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 WGF wants you to enter the drawings.

To make sure, I called WGF directly and was told by a friendly employee, 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 WGF. 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 WGF 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 that have not sold 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 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 logistics, if you’re not bringing horses with you, you’re not going to hunt the Wilderness Areas anyway.

Wyoming Hunt Type Codes

Another bit of information you need to know to hunt in Wyoming is their hunt type codes. The regulations and draw odds pages all show the hunt types, but with no explanation. You can find the codes on Wyoming Game and Fish Website, but it ain’t easy. So here are the Wyoming Hunt Codes:

  • GEN General Full Price Fees
  • Type 1 & 2 Antlered or Any Full Price Fees
  • Type 3 Antlered or Any White-Tailed Deer, Elk or Antelope Full Price Fees
  • Type 4 & 5 Antlerless Full Price Fees
  • Type 6 & 7 Doe/Fawn, Cow/Calf elk or Ewe/Lamb Reduced Price Fees
  • Type 8 Doe/Fawn White-Tailed Deer, Cow/Calf Elk or Doe/Fawn Antelope Reduced Price Fees
  • Type 9 Archery Only Full Price Fees
  • Type 0 Other Specialty Weapon Only (excluding archery) Full Price Fees

To hunt Bull Elk in Wyoming with rifle, you are looking for Type 1, 2 or 3 hunts.

To hunt Any Elk in Wyoming with rifle, you are looking for Type 1 or 2 hunts.

To hunt cow or calf elk (antlerless elk) in Wyoming, you are looking for Type 6, 7 or 8 hunts.

In Wyoming, archery hunts are Type 9 hunts.

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