Application Strategies for Youth: Part 1 — Arizona and Wyoming
As we head into the 2023 application season, I wanted to cover opportunities for youth. Many of us have kids who are now able to hunt and most states offer youth specific hunts or price breaks on tags. The opportunities to get your kids out hunting in the West are probably better than you think. In this series of articles, I will explore opportunities in the West for youth hunters. This first article will cover Arizona and Wyoming.
You can check out Part 2 of this series that covers Utah and New Mexico here.
INSIDER YOUTH DRAW ODDS
Your Insider account offers draw odds specifically for youth in states where those opportunities exist. To explore those odds, log into your Insider account, hover over the Insider icon in the header bar. When the pop-up box appears, select “Draw Odds.” Next, select the state you are researching and when the option for types of residency show, select the “youth” option. Finally, select the species you are interested in researching.
Within the Filtering 2.0 portion of your Insider account, you can also scroll down to the “Select Season” dropdown menu and, if there are youth only opportunities, you can find and research those as well.
AGE AND HUNTER’S EDUCATION
No one under the age of 14 can hunt in Arizona without completing a hunter education course. Hunters must be at least 10 years old to hunt big game in Arizona. Although youth must be 10 and have a hunter’s education card to hunt, they do not need the card to apply for the draw. You can start applying in Arizona for your kids when they are nine years old as long as they have completed hunter’s education and have turned 10 years old before the start date of their hunt. Youth aged nine to 13 must complete a hunter’s education in person to hunt big game.
Arizona also has a unique opportunity where you can gain a lifetime bonus point for each species if you complete their Ethically Hunting Arizona course. They can take this course online or by traveling to the state of Arizona. If you have the opportunity and your youth needs to complete hunter’s education, Arizona is a great state to do that and then your child gains that permanent bonus point for each species. If they have already completed hunter’s education in another state, they can still take this course online. The cost is $150 for residents and $300 for nonresidents. A student will have two opportunities to pass the course with a minimum score of 80%. The course must be passed 30 days prior to the draw deadline day for the bonus point to be valid for that particular draw.
Arizona has a great permit transfer opportunity for youth. A parent, grandparent or guardian can transfer their big game license to a youth (10 to 17).
Arizona allows a youth (10 to 17) to use the parent’s, grandparent’s or guardian’s big game permit to take big game provided the permit is legally transferred to them, the youth is accompanied by the parent, grandparent or guardian, the youth possesses a valid hunting license and, if under 14, has completed a hunter’s education course.
There are a few weapon restrictions that may be applicable for youth hunters. Archery hunters must pull a minimum of 30 lb draw weight. Muzzleloaders can be modern setups; any projectile, ignition fitting and any power magnified scopes can be used.
Arizona youth application, license and permit costs (10 to 17 years old)
Youth combination license (hunt/fish)
Youth application/bonus point fee
Javelina youth only tag
Elk youth only tag (antlerless)
Deer youth only tag
*Note: All other license costs for youth are the same as they are for adults.
What makes Arizona a great state for youth hunting?
Arizona is one of the cheapest states in the West to apply for your child. The hunting license must be purchased before you can apply; however, for youth, the cost is only $5. That cost is the same for both residents and nonresidents. Applicants do not have to front the cost of the permits they apply for and will only be charged if they are successful in the draw. You do have to pay the $15 application fee per species that you apply for. Anyone interested in taking their kids hunting should be applying for permits and building bonus points in Arizona. The permit costs are relatively inexpensive if you apply for the youth hunts, which (as indicated above) are for antlerless elk and javelina as well as some muzzleloader and rifle deer hunts. The cost of the other permits (bull elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, some of the other mule deer and Coues deer hunts) are pricey. Those can range from around $300 up to $3,250 for bighorn sheep or even $5,400 for bison. We will discuss strategy below; however, Arizona is cheap to apply and, with the random chance of drawing, everyone should be applying and building points in Arizona.
Arizona has one of the more complex draw systems; however, to briefly summarize: Arizona utilizes a bonus point system in their draw. Up to 5% of the tags can be allocated to nonresident(s) with the most points who apply for any given hunt and another 5% can be randomly allocated to nonresidents. The number of bonus points you have is essentially the number of chances you have in the draw.
The opportunity to hunt bull elk in Arizona is decent, but, generally, the odds of drawing are not great for nonresidents. If your intent is to apply and build points for a branch-antlered bull elk permit, then it’s best to avoid the youth only antlerless elk hunts. There are better states to pick up an antlerless elk permit that will not impact bonus points in states like Wyoming or Utah. We always suggest that applicants apply for permits in Arizona rather than buying points only. Always include a first and second choice on your application. With the random pass portion of the draw, you never know when you might draw a great permit. You’ll gain a point if you are unsuccessful, so you might as well apply as long as you can afford the permit.
Trophy deer hunts in Arizona are truly tough to come by even if you begin building points for your kids right now so you might consider some of the youth only deer hunts. Yet, keep in mind that those are opportunity types of hunts. They do offer better odds than most of the general draws. Do some research into the draw odds for youth only deer and general draw deer hunts. Then, consider your objectives for your kids before making a decision.
Another consideration: youth hunters may wish to apply for a javelina hunt that will complement another deer hunt in which they may participate in this fall. Youth only deer hunters in selected units (see youth only deer hunts in the rules and regs) will also be able to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) companion javelina tags, allowing these hunters a chance to hunt for deer and javelina at the same time. These hunts are excellent ways to introduce youth to big game hunting.
Be sure to apply your youth for any and all species that they are interested in hunting, including bighorn sheep, antelope and bison—if you can afford the permit should they draw a random tag. The cost of those tags is the same for youth and adults!
AGE AND HUNTER’S EDUCATION
Youth must turn 12 prior to December 31, 2023 to apply and hunt for all species except bison. Youth may apply for points during the July 1 to Oct. 31 point only timeframe if they will be 12 prior to Dec. 31, 2023. For bison, hunters must be 14 prior to Sept. 15 to hunt. All applicants must have completed a hunter’s education course to apply and hunt big game in Wyoming.
Wyoming also has a hunter mentoring program similar to other states where a new hunter can try hunting without having completed a hunter’s education course. Youth must be accompanied by a mentor who is 18 or older and who has completed hunter’s education and has a valid hunting license. See the Wyoming Game and Fish Department hunter mentor program website for more information.
An adult cannot transfer a hunting permit to a youth hunter in Wyoming.
A 50 lb draw weight for bows is required to hunt elk, moose and bison. The minimum draw weight to hunt antelope, deer, bighorn sheep and mountain goat is 40 lb. Crossbows are legal to hunt within Wyoming as long as they have a minimum 90 lb draw weight. A .22 caliber rifle is legal to harvest deer and antelope. Scopes, sabots and pelletized powder are all legal for muzzleloader hunting.
Wyoming youth application, license and permit costs (11 to 17 years old)
Youth application fee (per species)
Youth antelope buck regular draw
Youth antelope doe/fawn
Youth deer buck regular draw
Youth deer doe/fawn regular draw
Youth elk bull regular draw
Youth elk cow/calf regular draw
Preference point fee (elk, deer, antelope)
*Note: Many of the other license costs for youth are the same as they are for adults.
**Note: If youth apply in the special draw for antelope, deer and/or elk, youth will pay the special license fee and not the youth discounted costs above.
What makes Wyoming a great state for youth hunting?
Applicants do not have to buy a hunting license to apply in Wyoming like they do in other states, but they do have to front the cost of the licenses they apply for. For residents, that is not such a big deal, considering a resident youth bull elk license is only $25 and the application fee is $5. For nonresidents, fronting the costs of the licenses can be a tough pill to swallow. If a nonresident youth applied in the regular draw for buck antelope, buck deer and bull elk, the cost you would have to front would be approximately $540. If unsuccessful in the draw, you would receive all of that back except for $45. If youth apply for moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and bison, those licenses are the same cost for adults and youth and are very expensive.
Youth should absolutely apply in Wyoming, but you will need to make sure you have the credit card room to cover those applications. Be aware that if you are unsuccessful in the draw, you are not automatically awarded a preference point for the species you applied for. You must still log into your account and buy preference points during the point only purchase timeframe, which is typically July to October. Preference points for deer, elk and antelope are only $10 per species. The point fee for moose and bighorn sheep is $150. There is no point system for bison and mountain goat. It may not be worth buying preference points for nonresident adults or kids for moose and bighorn sheep. There are very few areas that offer a tag to the random portion of the draw and the number of points currently required to guarantee a tag is very high. With point creep, youth applicants may not draw a tag in their lifetime and the cost for points would be several thousand dollars.
Wyoming offers exceptional value for the cost, especially for youth. Everyone should be applying and buying preference points for deer, elk and antelope in Wyoming!
Residents can apply for all species they are interested in. Elk, deer, antelope, bison and mountain goat are random draws for residents with no point systems. The moose and bighorn sheep draw does utilize a preference point system even for residents. Wyoming allocates a portion of those permits randomly and everyone is on an equal playing field for those licenses. Make sure that you apply your resident youth for those species as well; you never know when they may get lucky and draw a license. Resident youth can also simply buy a general season elk and a general season deer license OTC and can hunt any of those general units/seasons. Those general season elk and deer hunts are likely the best value in the West.
Nonresidents have a couple of options when they apply. They can apply in the regular draw or the special draw for full priced elk, deer and antelope. If you apply in the special draw, youth will pay the full special license cost for those licenses. If youth apply in the regular draw, they will only pay the youth prices listed in the table above. The advantage of the special draw is that there are fewer applicants willing to pay the higher price and odds are often better for drawing. The downfall is obviously the cost. The advantage of the regular draw is that those youth licenses are much cheaper, but the odds of drawing are worse.
Nonresident full price deer, antelope and elk licenses are allocated on a preference point system. A bulk of the licenses are given to the applicants with the most points who apply for any given hunt and the remaining licenses are randomly drawn. Everyone has an equal chance at the random licenses; points are not taken into consideration for those. That means that even if your kids have no points, they typically have a chance to draw. We would advise that all interested youth apply to hunt for elk, deer and antelope. By utilizing your Insider Draw Odds and Filtering 2.0 tools, you will see that there are many hunts that your youth can draw with very few points. Antelope and mule deer are great hunts for youth and Wyoming has more antelope than many of the other states in the West combined. Plan on buying preference points for those species during the summer months if you are unsuccessful in the draw. One note worth touching on is that youth and adults can apply as a party and preference points will be averaged. The application will go into the draw with the averaged total out to the fourth decimal point. For example, if I have four elk points and my 17-year-old has five and we apply for a hunt together, our application will go into the draw with 4.5 preference points. Thus, we would have an advantage over other applications with less than 4.5 points.
For moose and bighorn sheep, the point creep is at a point where simply buying points is not going to move the needle — even for youth. If you can afford and want to apply your youth for those species, pick hunts that have at least one random permit available and hope they get lucky. Once again, be aware that you will have to front the entire cost of those. Bison and mountain goat draws do not have a point system; it’s a random draw for those. Again, the cost of fronting those is extremely expensive. Apply only if you can afford it for those species.
One of the best opportunities in Wyoming for kids is probably in the reduced price doe/fawn deer, antelope and cow/calf elk. Those reduced price licenses are available in a separate draw and are randomly allocated. When you apply online, you’ll see two links to apply: “Full Price” and “Reduced Price.” You can apply for both and your preference points will not be impacted if you draw a reduced price license. Look at the odds for female species in Wyoming; there are some really good opportunities to get your youth in the field.
Overall, Wyoming offers something for everyone and is a must apply state. Determine the type of hunt you are looking for, experience and opportunity or, perhaps, a future trophy hunt and apply/build points accordingly. You should consider that Wyoming's deer, elk and antelope point system is 17 years deep and there are many applicants ahead of new applicants. The best hunts in the state are most likely out of reach for youth; however, there are good options if you dig into the research. Consider your objectives and odds and make sure you apply your youth in Wyoming!