APPLICATION STRATEGY 2017: Wyoming Elk
Wyoming's elk application overview
In a state as vast as Wyoming with ample amounts of public land, you need to make Wyoming a top priority for 2017. With soaring elk numbers and an unmatched trophy quality for easy to draw areas, it's easy to see why Wyoming continues to produce great elk hunting opportunities. What’s more is that you can hunt Wyoming during seasons that have rut action on a very regular basis. Wyoming has the best balance of quality and quantity when it comes to elk hunting.
Note: The application deadline for Wyoming elk is January 31, 2017 by 11:59 p.m. MST and the application is entirely online.
Why Wyoming for elk in 2017
Elk numbers remain high in most of Wyoming with plenty of public land to be successful. Wyoming offers some of the best general area elk hunting in the West. Hunters that currently hold at least two points will be able to draw a general elk license. 51 out of the 101 elk areas in Wyoming are open to hunting with a general elk license; 42 out of the 51 general areas boast an incredible trophy potential of 300”+. Wyoming’s reasonable license prices and 25% nonresident tag allocation should make Wyoming your number one priority for 2017 elk. Additionally, If your goal is to harvest a branch antlered bull, regardless of score, then Wyoming is your destination. There are dozens of areas available across the state that will meet your needs.
New for 2017
- Online applications will be accepted beginning at 8 a.m. on the species specific application opening date. For instance, the nonresident elk application period opened at 8 a.m. on Jan. 3, 2017.
- Elk, deer and antelope regulation brochures will no longer be mailed with the licenses. They are now combined into one brochure and will be mailed in August.
Proposed changes to the leftover license process
- In past years, all leftover license that were not obtained through the initial drawing went on sale on a first come, first served basis. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) has proposed conducting a second drawing with all leftover licenses. Hunters would then be able to apply for those licenses June 22 to July 6 and results for the leftover drawing would be posted the week of July 13.
View important information and an overview of the Wyoming rules/regulations, the draw system, preference points, Super Tag and Super Tag Trifecta, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map on our State Profile. You can also view the Wyoming Elk Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.
Wyoming elk licenses sold - percent change
|Total||15,879 more licenses||28%|
|Resident||11,975 more licenses||26%|
|Nonresident||2,561 more licenses||25%|
Important dates and information
- Deadline to apply is January 31, 2017 by 11:59 p.m. MST.
- All applicants must apply online. You can apply online here.
- Deadline to amend or withdraw your elk application is February 3, 2017 by 11:59 p.m. MST.
- July 3, 2017 you can purchase elk preference points.
- Draw results will be available the week of Feb. 28, 2017.
- Regarding refunds: Credit cards will be refunded. WGFD will not mail refund checks.
Public land with easy access is what makes Wyoming so great. Miles of U.S.Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands are available for hunting, including some of the most wild and scenic wilderness areas in the West. A Wyoming resident or licensed outfitter must accompany nonresident hunters in order to legally hunt in a designated wilderness area. Be sure to study the Unit Profiles to locate which areas have designated wilderness, creating access restrictions for nonresidents. If you are a nonresident and would like to legally elk hunt in a wilderness area, please contact an outfitter. A complete list of outfitters in Wyoming can be found in our Outfitter Directory. Residents need not worry about the wilderness area restriction since they can legally hunt without restriction.
Type 1 vs Type 9 and the Archery Stamp
The two most common classifications for seasons that apply to bull elk hunting are Type 1 and Type 9. Type 1 is a code that is used for distinguishing a hunt choice that allows for the use of a rifle as a legal method of take. Type 9 will indicate a hunt choice that is reserved for archery hunting only and will have different dates for this season.
If an area has both a Type 1 and a Type 9 season offered, archery hunting is permitted during the Special Archery Season dates as long as you purchase an Archery Stamp. Keep in mind that not every area is open to the archery stamp (whether it has a Type 9 or not), it has to be listed in Section 3 of the elk regulations. Normally, the Type 9 license holders will have the first two weeks to themselves and will then be joined by the type 1 Archery Stamp hunters September 15. You can see an example of this in Area 11.
For more information, check out the Wyoming State Profile.
Wyoming elk breakdown
Why should you consider Wyoming to hunt elk in 2017? Wyoming boasts a robust elk population with high herd numbers and good bull to cow ratios; it is also home to herds with plenty of trophy potential.
Current elk herd condition
As a whole, the state of Wyoming is above population objectives. Here is a basic breakdown by regions:
Casper: All areas are at or above objective levels.
Cody: Most areas are at the target objective or just slightly above.
Green River: All areas are above objective except for the West Green River herd which encompasses Areas 102 to 105.
Jackson: The Jackson Herd is at objective. However, elk herds in the Teton Wilderness and Gros Ventre drainages are below objective.
Lander: All areas are at or above objectives.
Laramie: All areas are above herd objectives.
Pinedale: All areas are at objective.
Sheridan: All area are at or above objectives.
The impact of wolves on Wyoming’s elk herds
The court ruling in 2014 provided federal protection for wolves in Wyoming. Without human interaction through wolf management, the wolf predation on elk numbers will continue to soar. Many areas along the western side of the state, particularly near Yellowstone National Park, have already suffered significant herd loss due to wolves in recent years. As the wolf numbers continue to climb, we can expect a continuing loss in the wolf inhabited areas along the northwestern and western sides of the state.
As of April of 2015, according to WGFD, there are at least 382 wolves in Wyoming outside of Yellowstone and the Wind River Reservation. That is an increase of 25% from the year before. The pack size ranges from 2 to 22 wolves and averaged 6.1 wolves per pack.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Plan, the minimum grizzly population is 500 grizzly bears. In 2000, WGFD estimated that there were approximately 420 grizzly bears. Between 2001 and 2002, the 500 grizzly bear minimum was surpassed and has been on the rise ever since. The last published population estimate in 2014 estimated approximately 750 grizzly bears in Wyoming.
Even though grizzly bear populations continue to increase, they are still listed as endangered, which means that populations cannot be managed through hunting. Whether this grizzly population increase is having a measurable impact on elk herds is debated by wildlife professionals. Hunters need to be aware of the increased bear numbers and practice bear safety if they are going to hunt in northwest Wyoming.
The Wyoming draw system
It's important to understand the drawing system before you begin. You can find a complete explanation of the draw process along with important dates and fees in our Wyoming State Profile. The nonresident applicants can apply for either a regular elk license or a special elk license. The special elk license available to nonresidents has a higher price, but is designed to provide less competition and, ultimately, a better chance of drawing.
Regular vs special draw: unlocking the system
Nonresident licenses are broken into two categories in Wyoming: the Regular Draw and the Special Draw, which costs an additional $480. To show you how this works, let’s say an area has 10 licenses available. 60% of these licenses will go for the regular limited quota draw, 40% to the special draw. For the six licenses in the regular draw, 75% will go to maximum point holders who have applied for that area. The remaining 25% are awarded randomly. The four licenses in the special draw will be awarded using the same 75/25 split as the regular draw.
What draw is right for you?
The draw odds are slightly higher for hunters entering the Special Draw. The higher cost means that there are fewer people in the pool, which can be an increase of 15 to 20% draw odds increase to get the license you want; however, the special draw doesn’t guarantee success. The licenses are for the same season once both regular and special draws are awarded.
Here is an example of how putting in the for the special draw can be beneficial. This is elk Area 19, Muddy Mountain.
In the regular draw it takes at least <8 points but more than 7 to have a 100% draw odds. The <8 points accounts for party applications. When party applications are submitted everybody’s points in the party get averaged.
This is also Area 19, but are the results for the special draw. Instead of taking <8 points it now takes <7. Statistically, it allows a hunter to hunt one year sooner. However, with some areas experiencing point creep from one year to the next, it may be allowing you to hunt much sooner than anyone can predict.
Unlike many states, where if you don’t have the points you have no chance of getting a tag, Wyoming gives hunters that don't have the necessary points a chance to draw a permit at random. In the example given above, the percentages less than 100 are the odds of drawing that tag at random. Even if you don’t draw this year, you can get a preference point to increase your chances next year.
The general elk tag
Wyoming residents that are interested in hunting elk are entitled to some of the greatest elk hunting perks around. The general tag is available over-the-counter (OTC) to residents and is open in all areas that are not holding a limited entry hunt. That means that there are over 50 areas across the state that fall into the jurisdiction of the general elk tag! Unlike resident hunters, a nonresident hunter must apply for and draw this general elk tag. Be aware that some of the areas available for this tag provide trophy bull elk hunting in extreme wilderness terrain while other areas are mainly rolling foothills or open sage country. While the designated wilderness areas are public lands, a large majority of the other general areas will have restricted access due to the large private ranches. There are several outfitters in Wyoming that offer great hunts on horseback in the wilderness areas as well as other outfitters that have incredible hunting opportunities on the large ranches.
Nonresidents can apply for the general elk license in either the Regular or Special Draw type. Historically, nonresidents have been able to draw the general elk license without any preference points through the Special Draw; however, nonresidents will need at least one preference point to guarantee success if they select the Regular Draw.
In recent years, the nonresident applicants that applied for the general elk license through the Special Draw were successful regardless of the choice listed. Drawing a license in Wyoming with a second or third choice will not use your accumulated preference points and you will actually earn a point while drawing a tag. Note: There were no second or third choice applicants drawn for general elk licenses through the Regular Draw.
Limited entry choices
Wyoming has elk areas that are highly sought after and require several years of preference points to guarantee a tag. This is no different than most Western states. The premium elk areas are found scattered across the state and big bulls are a possibility in many parts of the state. Wyoming also allocates 25% of the tags for each hunt choice to be drawn in a pure random drawing that does not factor in any points. This creates some hope for drawing the best elk areas in the state even if you have little or no points. The table listed below shows some of the top areas in the state that are known for producing some of the very best bulls.
Top hit list hunt areas to consider for 320" or better bulls
Top hit list hunt areas to consider for 350" or better bulls
|Area 30||350"+||NA||NA||93%||10 (6.8%)|
|Area 31||350"+||NA||NA||90%||10 (2.6%)|
|Area 32||350"+||NA||NA||79%||10 (7%)|
|Area 54-1||350"+||20:100||NA||70%||10 (17%**)|
|Area 58||350"+||21:100||NA||76%||10 (38%**)|
|Area 59-1||350"+||21:100||NA||50%||10 (5.9%**)|
|Area 63||350"+||15:100||NA||46%||10 (55%**)|
|Area 64-1||350"+||15:100||NA||55%||10 (55%**)|
|Area 124||350"+||NA||NA||79%||10 (2.8%**)|
How to uncover hidden gem areas
Beyond the top shelf areas in Wyoming are dozens of other areas that are easily drawn and still allow a puncher’s chance at taking a mature bull scoring greater than 320”. Utilize our Filtering 2.0 tools and manipulate the Trophy Potential to display the hunting areas that have a legitimate chance at bulls that score 320” or better. Customize your search and click on a specific unit to access the Unit Profile in order to gain the greatest resource available to thoroughly learn an area. Our Wyoming Elk Species Profile is another great way to determine other areas and regions of the state to consider. Within the Species Profile you will find a table showing the top Boone and Crockett producing areas over the years for both typical and nontypical bulls.
Hidden gem areas: Elk hunt areas that take 5 points or less
Five year B&C entry trends for Wyoming elk
Areas listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Areas in this table are included if any part of the area is found within the county.
Wyoming's top Boone & Crockett producing
|Park||11||51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 66|
|Sweetwater||5||24, 30, 31, 32, 98, 99, 100, 102, 105, 107, 124|
|Teton||3||60, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 75, 77, 78, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 93, 95|
|Fremont||2||24, 25, 27, 28, 47, 48, 67, 68, 69, 70, 81, 83, 95, 99, 100, 127, 128|
|Natrona||2||7, 16, 19, 22, 23, 33, 48, 120, 122, 128, 129|
|Sheridan||2||2, 36, 37, 38, 129|
Wyoming's top Boone & Crockett producing
|Big Horn||1||39, 40, 41, 45, 54, 66|
|Park||1||51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 66|
Trending bull:cow ratio areas
You have probably noticed that we provide data on bull to cow ratios for each hunt area in Wyoming. Male to female ratios are a critical measuring data tool for wildlife managers and indicate the current status of the herd. A higher bull to cow ratio may indicate that a unit could have a higher availability of mature bulls compared to a unit with a lower bull to cow ratio. This doesn’t always indicate that the bulls will be the highest scoring bulls, but more bulls equates to more bulls to find and harvest. When selecting an area, or comparing several areas, take this into consideration to help your decision. For a complete understanding of male to female ratios, please refer to a recent article covering this in depth.
The interesting discovery is that the top areas with the highest bull:cow ratios are not found in the top trophy producing areas. Several of these top bull:cow ratio areas are also available to hunt with a general license. All of this information can be obtained and sorted in Filtering 2.0. These are some serious sleeper areas to consider!
Top Wyoming areas for bull:cow ratios
The points system
Wyoming works on preference points, not bonus points. You gain one point for every year you are unsuccessfully in the draw. Even if you miss the application deadline for licenses in February, you can purchase a point for $50 from July 3 to October 31. The maximum number of points for elk is 11 going into 2017. Keep in mind that the youth preference point fee for elk is $10. This is a great state to start building points for a young hunter.
Total number of combined elk preference points: 250,540 which is a 17.33% increase over the total number of preference points in 2016 of 213,538.
Residents: Wyoming residents draw process is 100% random for deer, elk and antelope. There are no preference points for residents. It’s basically a raffle with fairly good odds. You might have 200 people applying for 100 tags. All residents can purchase OTC general elk licenses starting in July.
Managing points and expectations
Wyoming elk marks the first of the Western states’ application deadlines. If you anticipate drawing a tag, or tags, in other states, then you should consider your Wyoming elk strategy based on that. Especially because you cannot turn in a Wyoming tag back in. For example, if you plan to use your accumulated points in Colorado for archery or muzzleloader mule deer or if you plan to draw an Arizona archery elk tag, then a late September archery elk tag in Wyoming may not be your best choice. Your strategy at applying for Wyoming elk should be directly related to your upcoming goals for 2017.
Drawing an elk tag on your second choice has been a possibility in recent years, specifically with the general license through the Special Draw. A good strategy is to apply through the Special Draw for a limited entry choice that you would love to draw as a first choice and apply for a general license as second choice.
I have 0 points. What can I expect?
Your first question should be whether you want to draw or simply build points in hopes to have the points needed to draw a coveted limited quota tag in the future. If you only want to build points and do not care to hunt Wyoming in 2017 for elk then you should wait for the summer points only period to purchase a point.
If you would like to build a point and hope to draw an elk license, too, on some years you are able to apply through the Special Draw for a hunt choice that is difficult to draw as your first choice and list the general elk as your second choice. Keep in mind that most years you will not draw your general elk tag this way and with point creep, you most likely won't draw this way in 2017.
Also remember that 25% of the nonresident tags are set aside to be drawn randomly without any regard for points. Regardless of which hunt choice you list as your first choice, you always have a chance to draw. Remember: To maintain and build points, don’t apply for easy-to-draw areas.
What can I do with 3 or 4 points?
You are now becoming dangerous because you have enough points to draw some limited quota areas. The areas that are known to consistently produce the highest scoring bulls will not be within point reach yet, but some of the quality areas in the Bighorn Range are now available to you. Look to Type 1 choices in areas like 8, 33, 34, 47, 48, 51, 55, 84, 88, 93, 96, 97, 98, 99, 106, 122 and 125. The Type 9 archery choices in areas 36, 37, 51, 55, 56, 59, 60, 67, 68 and 69 are also good options.
What can I expect with 9 or 10 points?
You are now at the top of the preference point pile or within a few points of the top. At this level, you have to take your points and hunt selection very seriously. If a big bull is what you're after, then you need to focus on the “Hit List” tables above with areas that are known to produce bulls over 340” B&C. Utilize the Draw Odds, Filtering 2.0, and Unit Profiles and the comparison feature to really dive in and analyze the areas. This research will enable you to select the area that fits you the best. For example: at 10 points, Area 22 is getting closer to being a reality to draw. Draw odds for Area 22 are 13%. But the downward draw odds trends is going to put a hurting on your chances of pulling this tag. But, like all limited entry hunts, tag numbers are low so you have the potential for a fantastic hunt, especially when you add in the 87:100 bull to cow ratio.
Podcast episode about Wyoming applications
Recently goHUNT's INSIDER Research Manager Brandon Evans was a guest on the Rich Outdoors Podcast talking about Wyoming application strategies. You can check out the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher or by clicking on the button below.