Application Strategies for Youth: Part 2 — Utah and New Mexico
A continuation of our Youth Applicaiton stragegy article series. 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 second article will cover Utah and New Mexico.
If you want to check out Arizona and Wyoming youth opportunites, check out part one of this series 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
All youth hunters must have completed a hunter’s education course to apply or purchase permits in Utah. Utah does have a trial hunting program that will allow anyone over the age of 12 to try hunting while accompanied by a licensed hunter who is over 21. You can find more information regarding that program within the forthcoming 2023 regulations.
Youth applicants 11 years of age may apply for a permit to hunt big game, provided that their 12th birthday falls within the calendar year for which the permit is issued and that person does not use the permit to hunt big game before their 12th birthday. Youth under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a legal guardian or qualified adult over 21.
For the purpose of big game hunting, youth must be 17 years or younger by July 31.
Utah has a hunter mentoring program for resident youth (17 and under). Any qualified adult over 21 (not just parents and grandparents) can mentor a resident youth as long as the youth’s parent or legal guardian has given written permission. Essentially, the program allows the mentor to share a hunting permit that they have drawn or purchased. A mentor can even share their permit with up to four youths, but only one youth can hunt at a time. For example, if I drew a general season deer tag, I could share it with both of my boys; however, only one could hunt at a time. As soon as someone — either myself or one of my boys harvests a buck — the hunt is over. Almost any permit can be mentored to a youth. Mentors and youth must enroll in the program prior to the hunt starting. Youth can hunt on one mentored permit per year, but they can also draw and hunt on their own permit in the same year.
Bows must have a minimum of 30 lb draw weight. Utah currently allows for modern in-line muzzleloader setups, including magnified scopes of any power and the use of sabots, though we hear that rule may change going into this year or 2024.
Utah youth application, license and permit costs (12 to 17 years old)
Youth hunting license (13 and under)
Youth hunting license (14 to 17)
Youth combo hunting/fishing
Youth application fee (per species)
Youth any bull elk
*Note: All other license costs for youth are the same as they are for adults.
What makes Utah a great state for youth hunting?
As you can see in the table above, youth can purchase a hunting license and apply for species for a relatively low cost. Hunters 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. Nonresidents can apply for all species that they are interested in, including dedicated hunter deer, general season deer, limited entry deer, limited entry elk, limited entry antelope, youth any bull elk, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and bison. With application fees and the hunting license to apply, the total cost for all options would only be $125. For a resident youth, that cost would be $61 to $66 (hunting license and application fees for dedicated hunter deer, general deer, one once-in-a-lifetime species, one limited entry species and youth any bull elk) depending on age. You may not want to apply for all hunts. Perhaps, you are not interested in the dedicated hunter deer permit or the youth any bull permit. Regardless, Utah is a great state for youth and is fairly economical to apply in.
Except for OTC spike elk and any bull elk hunts, all permits are allocated through a state draw. Utah has a bonus point system for allocating limited entry deer, elk, antelope and once-in-a-lifetime species like moose, bighorn sheep and bison. Half of the permits for any one of those hunts is given to the applicants with the most points while the other half are randomly allocated in the draw. The more bonus points you have, the better your statistical odds of drawing.
General season deer, dedicated hunter deer and antlerless elk, deer and antelope all work on a preference point system. For those hunts, the applicants with the most points for any given hunt will get the permits. There is a percentage of permits that are allocated to youth; more on that in the sections below. The dedicated hunter program might be worth considering for resident youth or youth who can afford to travel. Essentially, the hunter is allowed to hunt all hunts (archery, muzzleloader, rifle) and can harvest two bucks in a three-year timeframe. In exchange, the hunter must complete 32 hours on Utah Division of Wildlife Resources approved service projects. You can also pay for those hours at a cost of $20 per hour.
20% of Utah’s general season buck deer permits are allocated to youth in the draw. If youth draw a rifle deer permit, they may hunt the archery hunt, muzzleloader hunt, and then the rifle hunt or until they have filled their tag. Youth who do not draw a deer tag can usually purchase an archery deer tag OTC. Typically, the wildlife board approves those additional permits for youth and they can be purchased mid-July. In addition, 20% of Utah antlerless deer, elk and antelope tags are reserved for youth hunters. That application timeframe is typically in early June. Explore the odds for those hunts within the standalone draw odds section of your Insider account. Cow elk hunting is a great youth hunt and Utah has plenty of public land and elk to hunt.
The OTC general season elk hunts are not high success (hovering typically around the 20% range); however, they are great for getting kids into the field. New for 2023, there will be an unlimited number of youth general season elk permits that will be valid on all general seasonany bull and spike units. The OTC spike hunts occur on limited entry elk units. It’s really neat to get your kids out hunting spike elk on some of the West’s premium elk units.
Utah also offers a draw for youth any bull elk permits. Those tags are valid on all of the any bull units during prime rut dates, normally between Sept. 15 and 23. The any bull units shouldn’t be confused with limited entry units that Utah is known for. These units typically have lower elk numbers and/or tougher access, but the dates are very good. Youth applicants can apply for both the youth any bull and the limited entry bull elk permits. For resident youth with the opportunity to scout or who have private land access, this can be a decent hunt on some of the any bull units. For nonresidents, there may be better opportunities in another state like Colorado where the general OTC permits offer you access to areas with larger elk populations.
Utah is a great state to take your kids hunting because there is good elk opportunity and a ton of public land. You will need to plan ahead to either apply or purchase OTC permits. The cost is relatively inexpensive. We suggest that resident youth apply for a limited entry species, youth any bull elk, a once-in-a-lifetime species and general season deer. They should also apply in early June for antlerless elk, deer and antelope if they are interested. Nonresident youth should apply for any and all species they are interested in — provided you can afford the cost of the permit. Some of the once-in-a-lifetime species permits are expensive should they draw!
AGE AND HUNTER’S EDUCATION
New Mexico is one of the best states to apply for your kids. There is no minimum age to apply for permits and hunt in New Mexico. New Mexico does require youth under the age of 11 to be accompanied by an adult. Youth must have completed a hunter’s education course to apply or purchase a license and carry it with them in the field if they are younger than 18.
Another opportunity is the mentored youth hunting program. First-time hunters at least 10 years of age — but younger than 18 years of age — can pass an online quiz and receive a mentored youth hunt number. This number enables a youth to hunt under the supervision of an adult mentor, purchase a game hunting license and apply for or purchase hunting licenses for the following species: deer, turkey, javelina and small game. Mentors can be either a parent, guardian or an adult with parental consent, must be 18 years of age or older and must possess a valid hunting license.
Adults cannot transfer permits to their youth. The only exception is that an adult can transfer a permit to a youth who has been approved through a nonprofit wish-granting organization.
There is no minimum let off or draw weight for bowhunting.
New Mexico youth application, license and permit costs (under 17 years old)
Youth hunting license
Application fee (per species)
Youth deer (standard)
Youth deer (quality or high demand)
Youth elk (standard)
Youth elk (quality or high demand)
What makes New Mexico a great state for youth hunting?
New Mexico is very good to youth hunters. The cost of nonresident permits is not cheap, but the cost to apply is relatively inexpensive. You will need to buy your kids the youth hunting license ($15) and then you will pay a ($13) application fee per species. You have to front the cost of the permits you apply for — that is one major drawback — but you are refunded after the draw if you are unsuccessful for everything except the hunting license and application fees. If you want to apply in New Mexico — and I would highly recommend it — you’ll need to have the credit card room to front the cost of those permits. If you apply for deer, elk and antelope only, you may front as much as $1,761. If you do draw a permit, the cost of those is high in comparison to other states; however, New Mexico does offer great hunting.
All permits are offered in the state drawing. New Mexico has a random draw for allocating permits. There is no preference or bonus point system. Every applicant has an equal chance of drawing. Residents are allocated 84% of the permits while 10% are allocated to the guided hunter pool and 6% are available to nonresidents. Each applicant will have their first, second and third choices considered before moving to the next applicant. You can enter a fourth choice, but it will only be awarded if it’s leftover and, by entering a fourth choice, you are also agreeing that you will accept any leftover permit in the region of the state you apply for. We recommend applicants apply for the best hunt (worse odds) as their first choice and stagger towards good hunt (better odds) and decent hunt (best odds) as their second and third choices.
New Mexico offers many hunts that are set aside specifically for youth. It’s one of the only states to do so. It’s worth noting that youth can also apply for and draw any permit. It used to be that the odds of drawing the youth only permits was better than the regular draw permits. That may not be the case for the hunts you are interested in. For example, a Unit 15 youth nonresident muzzleloader hunt had 1.5% odds. The regular nonresident odds for all muzzleloader hunts in Unit 15 were slightly higher. The dates for the youth hunt are better, but the point is that just because it’s a youth only hunt does not mean that the odds are automatically better. Review both the youth hunt odds and the regular odds to see what makes the most sense. You can mix and match your choices on your application.
The nonresident odds for youth elk, antelope and ibex are not great. If you are willing to go on a guided hunt, you should consider applying your kids in the guide pool. Those youth hunt guide pool permits have better odds of drawing. Odds for mule deer and Coues deer youth hunts are generally pretty good. The mule deer trophy quality in New Mexico isn’t great, but those two species are your best chances to take your kid hunting in New Mexico.
Resident youth have much better odds of drawing the youth permits. Insiders should use their account to pick hunts and apply accordingly. Another fantastic option for resident youth are the “encouragement elk licenses.” Resident youth who applied and were unsuccessful in the draw are eligible to purchase one of what has historically been almost 2,000 antlerless elk permits through the state online license system. Those permits typically go on sale in early July. You can find more information in the 2023-2024 rules and regulations booklet or by calling (888) 248-6866 after the initial draw is complete.