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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2016: Idaho Deer, Elk and Antelope

 

Mule deer buck in the rut
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Idaho's deer, elk and antelope application overview

Jump to: New for 2016 State Information Draw System Mule Deer Breakdown Whitetail Deer Breakdown Elk Breakdown Antelope Breakdown

If you have applied for a moose, sheep, or goat tag in Idaho you are not eligible to participate in the deer, elk, and antelope controlled hunt draw. Idaho does not use a bonus or preference point system in any of the draws so it does not matter if you are a first time applicant or have been applying for 20 years — everyone has the same odds of receiving a tag. This is good news for young new hunters or if you are just getting started in the draw game and don’t have many points built up across the West. The downside is that there is no reward for your investment as far as increased odds in subsequent years and, in Idaho, the yearly investment is high. Idaho requires you to purchase a hunting license each year as well as application fees and processing fees that are all nonrefundable. Nonresidents can receive up to 10% of the total tags in the draw for the species they have applied for and applicants are limited to applying for only one species. This is part of the reason draw odds in Idaho are better than most other western states.

On the bright side, Idaho is a beautiful state with approximately 70% to 80% of it being public land, including more than 4 million acres of designated wilderness areas. There is great access to almost any area you choose to hunt and you are not required to use an outfitter or guide even though it could be beneficial in many units. While elk populations in southern and northern Idaho remain robust, elk herds in the remote central part of the state have been on a steep and steady decline for several years mainly due to wolf predation. Mule deer populations have remained fairly steady over the past decade, showing an overall increase over the past three years. Whitetail deer populations remain healthy to increasing in many areas of the state. Antelope populations vary from low to moderate and trophy quality is mostly average. The central portion of the state is home to the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and is one of the most remote wilderness areas in the Lower 48. The wilderness areas are steep and rugged.

Note: The application for controlled hunts in Idaho for deer, elk and antelope is June 5 and the application can be completed online.



Why Idaho for deer, elk and antelope

Great draw odds

Idaho has relatively good draw odds compared to other states mainly because applicants who participated in the once-in-a-lifetime draw (sheep, moose, goat) are not eligible to apply for elk, deer, and antelope.

Plenty of public land

Idaho is roughly 70% to 80% public land, which includes more than 4 million acres of wilderness areas. Most units can be easily reached from multiple access points, which allows for good hunter dispersal.

No point system

Idaho has not implemented a point system so every applicant has an equal chance of drawing a tag. Young hunters and first time applicants have the same draw odds as those who have been applying for years.

Tags can be transferred

Hunters possessing a nonresident deer or elk tag can use those tags to harvest a black bear or mountain lion if they choose to do so and there is an open season. If a bear or lion is harvested, then the tag can no longer be used for its indicated species (deer or elk).
 



New for 2016

  • It is unlawful to use unmanned aircraft (such as drones) to locate any big game animals for the purpose of hunting those animals during the same calendar day.
  • Controlled hunts for antlered deer in Units 27 and Unit 73 must be applied for as the First Choice only; applications for these hunts as a second choice will not be accepted.
  • There are several new youth hunting opportunities for deer, elk, and antelope.
 


State information
 

Kevin with a giant Idaho mule deer taken with Bearpaw Outfitters
Kevin with a great Idaho mule deer taken with Bearpaw Outfitters — A goHUNT Business member

Idaho has a simple draw system where applicants have to choose whether they want to apply for moose, bighorn sheep, or mountain goat or wait for the deer, elk, or antelope draw. If you apply for any of the once-in-a-lifetime species you are not eligible to apply for a controlled hunt tag for deer, elk, or antelope even if you were unsuccessful in the lifetime draw. There is no point system for any of the draws in Idaho so everyone has equal opportunity of drawing a tag. Applicants are able to add additional choices on their application. Drawing a second choice is only possible if there are leftover tags after first choice applicants receive tags. There are over-the-counter (OTC) tags available for general season deer and elk hunts, but there are no OTC antelope tags.

To view important information and an overview of Idaho’s rules/regulations, the draw system and tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map, check out our State Profile. You can also view the species profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you locate trophy units.

Idaho State Profile Mule Deer Profile Whitetail Deer Profile Elk Profile

Important dates and information

  • Controlled hunt application period May 1 to June 5.
  • Apply online here.
  • Second drawing (if all tags are not issued) Aug. 5 to 15.
  • A mandatory hunter report for each tag purchased must be submitted within 10 days after harvest or within 10 days after the closing of the season if the hunter was unsuccessful in harvesting an animal.

Drought/ rainfall/ snowpack
 

Currently, 92.41% of the state is not affected by drought conditions. Idaho experienced a predominantly “normal” snowpack in 2016 with most areas hovering around the 100% mark during much of the winter. That, accompanied by a wet spring, means the potential for great antler and horn growth.

The impact of wolves and other predators

Wolves and other predators have proven to be hard on elk herds in several parts of the state, but Idaho has done a great job of encouraging wolf hunting to help manage this devastating predator. In early May, Idaho Fish and Game officials announced that they do not intend to use professional state hunters to manage wolf populations in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The announcement came via a letter addressed to the USDA Forest Service and is a result of a pending lawsuit. Grizzlies are also found in much of the backcountry of Idaho so be careful while camping and hunting. 



The draw system

Understanding the draw

Everyone’s first choice is considered before any second choice applications are drawn. Tags will only be awarded to second choice applicants if all tags are not allocated to the first choice applicants. Receiving a tag for a popular unit on a second choice draw is very unlikely. Nonresidents are allowed up to (but not guaranteed) 10% of the total tags for a given species. A license must be purchased for $154.75 in addition to a $14.75 non-refundable application fee and $3.50 online processing fee in order to participate in Idaho’s draw. Tag fees for elk, deer, and antelope will only be charged if an applicant is successful.

Here's why that matters

All controlled hunt elk and antelope tags were allocated to first choice applicants in 2015; there were no second choices drawn for any unit. No second choice deer applicants were awarded tags other than hunts listed as unlimited.

Example: Elk Unit 40-1 from 2015

  • Five available tags.
  • 583 first choice applicants.
  • 258 second choice applicants.
  • All five tags awarded to first choice applicants.
  • No tags were issued to nonresidents.

Unlocking Idaho’s system

Idaho does not utilize a bonus or preference point system so everyone has equal draw odds regardless of the number of years a person has been applying. The key to unlocking Idaho’s system lies in our Draw Odds calculator and looking at the harvest success information. More information on Idaho's draw system can be found on our Idaho state profile.

Note: Idaho residents or nonresidents can buy one unsold nonresident general season deer and/or elk tag at the nonresident price starting August 1, 2016 that can be used as a second tag.

As a nonresident, how can my draw odds be the same as residents?

Idaho’s draw odds can be a little complicated with the way that they cap the nonresidents at up to 10% of the tags. With that being said, the way that they run the draw process can be a benefit to nonresidents. Any time that the ratio between resident to nonresident applicants is higher than 9:1, meaning nine residents to one nonresident, the nonresident applicant has basically the same odds as a resident. With this ratio there are not enough nonresident applicants to fill the 10% of the total permits offered for that unit, so the cap or quota doesn’t come into play.



Idaho's mule deer breakdown
 

Tasha with her Idaho mule deer buck with Deadline Outfitters
Tasha with her Idaho mule deer taken with Deadline Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

Idaho has very liberal seasons and tag numbers for its controlled deer hunts. For 2016, there are 3,631 antlered only tags; 2,240 either sex tags; 180 archery only tags; and 752 muzzleloader tags as well as several options with unlimited tags, antlerless tags, and youth tags. There will be a total of 16,916 tags issued in 2016 in addition to unlimited tags. The vast majority of Idaho’s controlled hunt deer tags can be used for the harvest of a whitetail or a mule deer, but be aware that there are a few that are species specific. A nonresident deer tag will run $301.75 in addition to the license and application fees. Draw odds vary greatly depending on the popularity of the hunt, anywhere from less than 1% to nearly 100%. Idaho is a great state for hunting a 170" or better buck, especially with that large number of OTC units.

Current mule deer herd condition

Idaho’s mule deer population has been increasing over the past three years after a small decline in 2011. In 2012, the statewide population estimate was 249,903 and, in 2014, was estimated at 281,502. Over the past seven years the population has fluctuated between 245,482 and the current high in 2014. Overall, the population has remained steady and several Boone and Crockett (B&C) quality bucks are being harvested each year.

The seasons

The most popular mule deer controlled hunts have few tags and the majority run throughout October and November. The later dates of these hunts take in the mule deer rut when bucks become the most visible and active during daylight hours. The rut hunts consistently produce high harvest success and good trophy quality. There are also a few early season hunts when bucks have not yet been pressured for the year that should not be overlooked as well.

The goHUNT hit list units for Idaho mule deer

Top units to consider for 180” or better mule deer
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
Potential
Buck:doe
ratio
Percent 4pt
or better
OTC or
controlled
Unit 40 190"+ NA* 15% Both
Unit 45 190"+ 56:100 65% Both
Unit 52 190"+ 56:100 76% Controlled
Unit 11 180"+ NA* 66% Controlled
Unit 11A 180"+ NA* 63% Both
Unit 21 180"+ 30:100 42% Both
Unit 36A 180"+ 30:100 49% Both
Unit 42 180"+ NA* 62% Both
Unit 44 180"+ 56:100 72% Controlled
Unit 47 180"+ NA* 100% Both
Unit 54 180"+ 29:100 35% Controlled
Unit 60 180"+ 31:100 20% Both
Unit 66 180"+ 33:100 52% Both
Unit 67 180"+ 35:100 71% Both
Unit 69 180"+ 33:100 33% Both
Unit 70 180"+ 24:100 72% Controlled
 
* Information not available from the state.


How to uncover hidden gem deer units
 

Kevin with an Idaho mule deer taken with Deadline Outfitters
Kevin with an Idaho mule deer taken with Deadline Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

First, look at the B&C record tables in our Idaho Mule Deer Profile and see where the largest bucks are coming from in recent years. Then you can then utilize Filtering 2.0 and filter out the Trophy Potential you are looking for, and also select units that meet your date range, or even controlled hunts or OTC hunts. Also, there are several controlled hunt areas that receive low applicant numbers. Keep in mind that this does not necessarily indicate poor quality. It could be that it is relatively unknown and only a few are capitalizing on the opportunity. Look closely at harvest success and percent of 4-point and larger bucks being harvested as a better indicator of trophy potential. Also, don’t overlook units directly adjacent to the most popular areas; these places typically have similar habitat and could also hold a great deer. One last thing to consider is a hunt in the best units, but with less desirable dates; the bucks may live there but are only harder to find. A little homework could uncover a great Idaho buck.

To get started with Filtering 2.0

  • Select state.
  • Select species.
  • Adjust the Trophy Slider to your desired size (e.g. 170”+).
  • Click whether you are a resident or nonresident and indicate how many points you currently possess.
  • Select your minimum percentage of odds for drawing the tag. This can be very good for weeding out units with unlimited (100%) tags.
  • Select which season(s) you are wishing to hunt. Have other hunts going on throughout the fall? You can also set your date parameters and Filtering 2.0 will automatically find what's in season that time of the year.
  • Choose what harvest percentages you would like to see in the units.
  • Lastly, click on any of the remaining units to read in-depth profiles containing valuable information.

For instance, let’s say you are a nonresident hunter, want to hunt bucks with the trophy potential of 170”+ and want a unit with a controlled tag drawing rate of 40% or higher and a harvest success rate of 50% or higher. Sounds like a pipe dream, right? Most people would also agree, until they watch Filtering 2.0 go to work. Using those parameters, you will be able to narrow the search down to only 11 units. From there you can adjust the filters even further, or sort by buck:doe ratios to find a unit that might have the highest probability to find a buck that meets 170".

Top units for buck:doe ratios

Unit Buck:doe
ratio
Trophy
potentia
l
Percent 4pt
or better
OTC or
controlled
Unit 43 56:100 170"+ 43% Both
Unit 44 56:100 180"+ 72% Controlled
Unit 45 56:100 190"+ 65% Both
Unit 48 56:100 160"+ 33% Both
Unit 52 56:100 190"+ 76% Controlled
Unit 64 35:100 160"+ 44% Both
Unit 65 35:100 170"+ 31% Both
Unit 67 35:100 180"+ 71% Both
Unit 19A 33:100 170"+ 52% Both
Unit 25 35:100 170"+ 43% Both

 

Five year B&C entry trends for Idaho mule deer

Idaho's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for typical mule deer

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Bonneville 3 63, 63A, 66, 66A, 67, 68A, 69
Owyhee 3 40, 41, 42, 46, 47
Adams 2 18, 22, 23, 32, 32A
Elmore 2 38, 39, 43, 44, 45, 46
Gooding 2 45, 52, 53
Idaho 2 10, 10A, 11, 11A, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16,
16A, 17, 18, 19, 19A, 20, 20A, 22, 26
Valley 2 19A, 20A, 24, 25, 26, 27, 32, 32A, 33, 34
Washington 2 22, 31, 32

 

Idaho's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for nontypical mule deer

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Bear Lake 2 75, 76, 78
Boise 1 32, 32A, 33, 34, 35, 39
Clark 1 51, 58, 59, 59A, 60, 60A, 61, 63
Franklin 1 73, 74, 75, 77, 78
Gem 1 32, 32A, 38
Oneida 1 56, 57, 73, 73A
Owyhee 1 40, 41, 42, 46, 47
Washington 1 22, 31, 32


Top mule deer typical B&C locations since 2010



The point system or lack thereof
 

Brady with an Idaho mule deer buck taken with Whiskey Mountain Outfitters
Brady with an Idaho mule deer taken with Whiskey Mountain Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

The application strategy deployed is largely dependent on the goals of the hunter. The most popular units with the best dates and highest trophy potential will have the lowest draw odds. There are several good hunts available with reasonable draw odds that also produce a quality experience. Applying for high demand units may require years of investment before receiving that desired tag.

Find your draw odds

Managing expectations for controlled hunts

Residents

Residents typically have higher draw success than nonresidents due to the lack of the 10% cap that is in place for nonresidents. Controlled hunts with 10 or less tags are typically all drawn by resident hunters; only occasionally will a nonresident draw a tag for those units. These include many of the high demand units such as Unit 36A, Unit 58, Unit 66A, and Unit 70 — all of which had draw odds less than 3% and no tags issued to nonresidents in 2015.

Nonresidents

Because of the 10% tag cap, nonresidents would benefit from applying for those hunts with ten or more tags offered in order to maximize the likelihood of drawing a tag. There are several good units that provide a quality experience to nonresidents while maximizing the high cost of a nonresident application. Some units worth a close look are Unit 67, Unit 69, Unit 73, and Unit 42. These units all have great trophy potential with limited tags, but offer reasonable draw odds to the nonresident looking to hunt the earlier season. These are only a few of the good units available. Decide what type of experience is best for you and apply accordingly using Filtering 2.0 and Draw Odds.

OTC opportunities

OTC tags are just that: general season tags purchased by anyone. There is no quota on the number of general season tags that can be sold. OTC tags are a great way to get into the mountains while avoiding the disappointment of the draw system. Any of the general season tags can be purchased OTC.

The biggest thing to remember when purchasing an OTC tag and heading to Idaho is that everyone can purchase the same tag so there will be many other hunters in the field. That said, many of the controlled hunt units with the best trophy potential also have general season hunts during less desirable dates.

Idaho general deer harvest

The deer may be harder to find during general season, but the trophy potential is still there. If just getting in the field is what you want, an OTC tag might be right for you. If low hunter crowding and high trophy potential is more your style, you may want to stick with the controlled draw hunts.



Idaho's whitetail deer breakdown
 

Idaho whitetail buck taken with Bearpaw Outfitters
Idaho whitetail buck taken with Bearpaw Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

Idaho has healthy whitetail populations and very liberal seasons and hunting opportunities. Most of the controlled deer hunts are open to the harvest of whitetail or mule deer. Be aware that there are, of course, exceptions to this so make sure you are applying for the right hunt. There are only two whitetail specific hunts; both are muzzleloader hunts in Unit 8A and Unit 10A. The 2015 harvest success for these two hunts was 13% and 60% respectively with 100% draw odds for both. Many of the either species controlled deer tags occur in good whitetail habitat. If a whitetail is what you desire, look in the northern panhandle of the state and in the southeastern portion of the state in Unit 63A and Unit 68A.

Current whitetail deer herd condition

Idaho’s whitetail population is healthy and even increasing in most areas. The largest densities of whitetails by far reside in the northern panhandle of the state (Unit 1 through Unit 21). The southern half of the state is not managed for whitetails but there are two units in the southern part of the state with high whitetail densities (Unit 63A and Unit 68A). These units are largely private land and hunter access is very limited. The panhandle has much more area to hunt and much more public land that is easily accessible to hunters. If you are looking for an Idaho whitetail, your best bet is to focus on the panhandle.

The seasons

Idaho provides many opportunities to hunt whitetails throughout much of the state. The ideal time to hunt whitetails is during the November rut and there are many controlled deer tags as well as OTC tags that provide just that opportunity. Regardless of your weapon of choice, there is ample opportunity to pursue whitetails in Idaho.

Top units to consider for 150” or better whitetail deer
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Percent 4pt
or better
OTC or
controlled
Total # controlled
apps. in 2015
Unit 2 160"+ 48% Controlled 699
Unit 3 160"+ 60% Both 699
Unit 1 150"+ 56% Both 699
Unit 15 150"+ 55% OTC NA
Unit 16 150"+ 67% OTC NA
Unit 20 150"+ 37% OTC NA
Unit 20A 150"+ 60% Both 46
Unit 25 150"+ 43% Both 167
Unit 5 150"+ 64% Both 699
Unit 8 150"+ 65% OTC NA
Unit 8A 150"+ 66% Both 15

 



How to uncover hidden gem units

Usually, whitetails live in the lowlands among agricultural crops and river bottoms. Uncovering hidden whitetail gems often depends on access to private lands.

Idaho whitetail deer density map

Source: Idaho Fish and Game

Focus on units listed in the Idaho regulations as “high density” and “medium density” and try to gain permission to private agricultural lands or lands adjacent to agriculture. Agriculture is not a necessity for harvesting whitetails in Idaho but the largest bucks are consistently harvested near agriculture crops. Idaho is also known for having good mountain whitetail hunting on public land.

Whitetail deer population densities in Idaho

Deer
population
level
Units
Low density 19A, 20A, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 30A,
31, 32, 32A, 33, 34, 35, 36A, 36B, 37, 37A
38, 39, 40, 41, 45, 46, 50, 51, 58, 59, 59A,
60, 60A, 61, 62, 62A, 63, 64, 65, 6667
Medium density 7, 9, 10, 12, 16A, 17, 19, 20, 2121A,
23, 2429
High density 1, 2, 3, 4, 4A, 5, 68, 8A, 9, 10A, 11,
11A, 13, 14, 15, 1618, 63A, 68A

 

For this type of hunting look at the harvest statistics on Filtering 2.0 and filtering the units that have OTC hunt. Then find areas with low numbers of hunter reports, but high harvest success. This type of information can often clue you into little known areas that only a few capitalize on but with good success.

Five year B&C entry trends for Idaho whitetail deer

Idaho's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for typical whitetail deer

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Nez Perce 2 8, 8A, 11, 11A
Benewah 1 3, 4, 5, 6, 8A
Bonner 1 1, 2, 4, 4A
Boundary 1 1

 

Idaho's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for nontypical whitetail deer

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Benewah 1 3, 4, 5, 6, 8A
Latah 1 6, 8, 8A
Shoshone 1 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 10A

 



The point system or lack thereof

The application strategy deployed is largely dependent on the goals of the hunter. The most popular units with the best dates and highest trophy potential will have the lowest draw odds. There are several good hunts available with reasonable draw odds that also produce a quality experience. Applying for high demand units may require years of investment before receiving that desired tag.

Find your draw odds

Managing expectations for controlled hunts

Since there are only a couple of whitetail-specific controlled hunts, it may benefit hunters (especially nonresidents) to apply for controlled tags where there are both whitetails and mule deer. If you are not specifically interested in one or the other, then take advantage of the opportunity at either species. There are obviously units that will have much better odds of one over the other, but weigh your preference and apply accordingly. There are a few controlled hunts that are worth a close look, such as the muzzleloader hunt in Unit 10A; a controlled unit isn’t always better when it comes to whitetails.

OTC opportunities

The good news with whitetails is that there are plenty of OTC opportunities that are as good or better that the controlled hunt draw. A person does not need to invest many years and several thousand dollars to harvest a great whitetail in Idaho. For an in-depth breakdown of hunitng the OTC units in Idaho for whitetail, check out this recent INSIDER article.



Idaho's elk breakdown

Bruce with an Idaho bull elk taken with Whiskey Mountain Outfitters

Bruce with an Idaho bull elk taken with Whiskey Mountain Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

Idaho’s elk population is estimated to be at 107,000 animals statewide. Idaho issues a total of 22,365 elk tags through the controlled hunt draw. Of these tags, 3,025 are antlered only and 1,845 are either sex tags. The remaining tags are for archery only, muzzleloader only, and antlerless elk tags. Archery and muzzleloader tags are a mix of antlered only, antlerless only, and either sex elk. Nonresident elk tags will cost $416.75 in addition to the hunting license, application fees, and processing fees that must be paid when applying. The tag fee will only be charged if the applicant is successful in the draw.

Current elk herd condition

Elk herd conditions in much of the state remain robust to increasing with the exception of a few areas. The Dworshak, Lolo, Elk City, Selway, Middle Fork, Salmon, Sawtooth, and Island Park elk populations are declining mainly due to high wolf predation. All of these units have fallen below management objectives and some are struggling to maintain hunting seasons with limited tag quotas. Other areas of the state are meeting population objectives or have no numerical population objective in place.

The seasons

The most sought after controlled hunt seasons either occur during part, or all, of the rut or later in the year when snow is on the ground and fall migrations begin. Depending on your hunting style and preference, both options can produce great elk. Hunting rutting elk with a rifle can lead to high success on large bulls. Likewise, if heavy snow comes early, then the elk migration out of the high country can lead to a unique and highly productive way to find that great bull. Most of the controlled hunts for bull elk occur in October, November, and December, but a few occur as early as September.

The goHUNT hit list units for Idaho elk

Top units to consider for 330” or better elk
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
Potential
Bull:cow
ratio
Percent 6pt
or better
OTC or
controlled
Unit 40 350"+ NA* 86% Controlled
Unit 54 350"+ NA* 61% Controlled
Unit 41 340"+ NA* 73% Controlled
Unit 46 340"+ NA* 90% Controlled
Unit 30 330"+ 26:100 45% Both
Unit 30A 330"+ 26:100 51% Both
Unit 44 330"+ NA* NA* Controlled
Unit 55 330"+ NA* 67% Both
Unit 66 330"+ 26:100 21% Both
Unit 67 330"+ 42:100 70% Both

* Information not available from the sate.
 


How to uncover hidden gem elk units

There are several great late season any legal weapon elk hunts that produce great bulls every year. When snow falls the elk migrate to the deserts and foothills where they are typically more congregated and visible. Years with heavy snow can be great opportunities to harvest a great bull. Review the B&C records located in our Idaho Elk Profile to find where the best bulls are coming from in recent years and see what the hunt options are like in that area. You can then utilize Filtering 2.0 and filter out the Trophy Potential you are looking for, and also select units that meet late season dates. Also remember, if great bulls are being harvested on late season hunts they are likely migratory and spend the summer and fall months in nearby mountains. Google Earth can be a great tool to figure out where these bulls are migrating from. There is access to almost any elk unit through either the controlled draw or general season tags. If the evidence points to a particular area for big bulls there is likely a way to hunt them either on their summer/fall range or catch them in the migration. Controlled hunts with low tag numbers and high resident application numbers can indicate they know something good; consider those hunts or hunt in adjacent areas.

Top units for bull:cow ratios

Unit Bull:cow
ratio
Trophy
potentia
l
Percent 6pt
or better
OTC or
controlled
Unit 76 48:100 310"+ 43% OTC & Controlled
Unit 66A 48:100 290"+ 40% OTC & Controlled
Unit 12 44:100 310"+ 22% OTC
Unit 10 44:100 310"+ 33% OTC
Unit 64 42:100 300"+ 46% OTC & Controlled
Unit 65 42:100 290"+ 45% OTC & Controlled
Unit 67 42:100 330"+ 70% OTC & Controlled
Unit 31 40:100 320"+ 51% OTC & Controlled
Unit 36A 37:100 310"+ 54% OTC & Controlled
Unit 29 37:100 310"+ 41% OTC & Controlled

 

Five year B&C entry trends for Idaho elk

Idaho's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for typical elk

County No. of
entries
Units found
within county
Lemhi 2 21, 21A, 27, 28, 29, 30,
30A, 37, 37A, 51, 58, 59A
Twin Falls 2 46, 47, 53, 54
Valley 2 19A, 20A, 24, 26, 27, 32, 32A, 33, 34
Adams 1 18, 22, 23, 32, 32A
Blaine 1 36, 44, 48, 49, 50, 52, 52A, 53, 68

 

Idaho's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for nontypical elk

County No. of
entries
Units found
within county
Bannock 1 68A, 70, 71, 73, 74
Twin Falls 1 46, 47, 53, 54

 



The point system or lack thereof
 

Idaho bull elk taken with Deadline Outfitters
Idaho bull taken with Deadline Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

The lack of a point system can be viewed as a good thing or a bad thing, depending or your perspective. If you are just getting started in Idaho, then it is probably good since you have an equal chance of drawing a tag as everyone else. The downside is that it’s expensive to apply in Idaho because you are required to purchase a license each year and there is no reward for doing so. It is very possible to apply for many years before receiving a tag and each year your odds are no better than anyone else’s. It is up to each individual to decide if the investment is worth it.

Find your draw odds

Managing expectations for controlled hunts

As with many states/areas, the hunts with the highest harvest percentages are often the ones with the least chance of drawing a tag. Idaho produces a few good bulls each year, but is not really known for having giant elk. Idaho is managed for opportunity over trophy quality almost across the board and for every species. This makes Idaho great for being able to get a tag, but it also keeps trophy potential lower. Be realistic in your harvest objective when traveling to Idaho to hunt elk. If it is the time afield and the experience you want, Idaho is a great choice. If you are only interested in shooting 380” to 400”+ bulls you will likely be disappointed with your Idaho elk hunt.

Residents

Residents typically have higher draw success than nonresidents because they are not restricted by the 10% cap that is in place for nonresidents. Controlled hunts with 10 or less tags are typically all drawn by resident hunters; nonresidents will only occasionally draw a tag for those units. This holds true for many of the high demand units such as Unit 40, where there are low tag numbers, draw odds less than 1%, and all tags are typically issued to resident hunters.

Nonresidents

Because of the 10% tag cap, nonresidents may benefit from applying for those hunts with ten or more tags offered in order to maximize the likelihood of drawing a tag. There are several good units that provide a quality experience to nonresidents while maximizing the high cost of a nonresident application. Applying for units such as Unit 40 may not be worth the high investment for the low odds of draw success, but there may be similar opportunity on adjacent units with better draw odds such as Unit 41 and Unit 46. These are only a few of the good units available. Decide what type of experience is best for you and apply accordingly.

OTC opportunities
 

Idaho elk taken with Diamond D Outfitting
Elk taken with Diamond D Outfitting — A goHUNT Business Member

Because Idaho is managed for opportunity over quality, there are typically OTC opportunities on the same units as the controlled hunts or on nearby adjacent units. In Filtering 2.0, you can quickly filter out units that only allow OTC elk hunting. From there you can adjust the sliders to narrow down the units to your specific criteria. 

Idaho general OTC elk harvest

If you are willing to travel to Idaho and hunt with a bow there are many good options available each year. Likewise, if you are a rifle hunter just looking for an opportunity to travel to Idaho to gain knowledge and experience in an area, there are many opportunities to do so. Harvest success during general seasons are typically lower, but there is still ample opportunity to harvest an elk in Idaho. For an in-depth breakdown of hunting the OTC units in Idaho for elk, check out this recent INSIDER article.
 



Idaho's antelope breakdown

Idaho does not have the abundant antelope populations that can be found in states such as Wyoming and Montana, but they do have moderate huntable populations in a few areas. Idaho does not produce exceptionally big antelope either; most areas produce only average bucks at best. There is potential for a 75” or better buck in most areas, but they can be considered the exception. In 2016, Idaho will issue 2,345 antelope tags statewide. Of those tags, 1,155 are either sex any weapon tags, 355 are archery only tags, 230 are muzzleloader only tags, 45 are short range weapon tags, 120 are youth only tags, and the remainder are doe/fawn tags. Idaho also offers a few options for archery tags through the controlled draw that have no tag quota, which means that you are guaranteed to draw if you apply. Nonresident tags run $311.75 in addition to the same license and processing fees that apply to all draws. Tag fees will only be charged to successful applicants in the draw. There are no OTC antelope tags in Idaho.

Current antelope herd condition

Most antelope populations in Idaho vary from low to moderate with the Camas, Birch Creek, Medicine Lodge, Little Wood, Big Lost, and Little Lost valleys having the highest densities. These include Unit 37, Unit 50, Unit 51, and Unit 59. Idaho does not have the high antelope densities that can be seen in similar habitat in neighboring states. Low populations are commonly attributed to poor range quality and low precipitation.

The seasons

Idaho either sex antelope seasons typically run from Sept. 25 through Oct. 24. These dates include a portion of the antelope rut. Bucks chasing does can often be seen during this time, especially early in the hunt. The buck harvest success in 2015 across all either sex hunts averaged 75%. Archery seasons take place in August and September. A few of these archery hunts have guaranteed draw if applied for. The archery harvest success in 2015 averaged 38% across all hunts. With the exception of one hunt, muzzleloader seasons are similar to the any weapon seasons in September and October. The exception has August to September dates. The muzzleloader harvest success in 2015 averaged 48%. There are two short range weapon only hunts in Unit 36A and Unit 61, with dates from Sept. 25 through Oct. 24. These hunts averaged 78% harvest success in 2015. The 2015 harvest success averages are what can typically be expected from year to year in Idaho.

The goHUNT hit list units for Idaho antelope

Top units to consider for 70” or better antelope
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
Potential
Unit 54 80"+
Unit 37 75"+
Unit 39 75"+
Unit 52A 75"+
Unit 68 75"+
Unit 76 75"+
Unit 21A 70"+

 

Idaho controlled antelope harvest


How to uncover hidden gem antelope units

A hidden gem for Idaho antelope is a difficult proposition. There are only a few antelope units and suitable habitat is generally easily accessible and very glassable. There are a few areas such as the Owyhee Desert in southwest Idaho that is very large and remote. Large bucks live in these remote areas, but it may take some hard work to find them in the vastness of the desert. Desert areas next to agricultural crops tend to hold the majority of the antelope in each unit. With landowner permission or by hunting adjacent public land, it is possible to find and harvest a good buck. The units in the southwest part of the state typically account for the largest bucks harvested each year, but a large buck could be lurking in any of the units listed in our top unit picks.

Five year B&C entry trends for Idaho antelope

Idaho's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for antelope

County

No. of
entries
Units found
within county
Elmore 2 39, 44, 45
Minidoka 2 52A, 53, 68
Power 2 56, 68, 68A, 70, 73, 73A
Twin Falls 2 46475354
Butte 1 50, 51, 52A, 58, 63, 68
Custer 1 28, 36, 36A, 36B, 37, 37A, 50, 51
Owyhee 1 40, 41, 42, 46, 47

 

When you think of Idaho, you do not think of trophy antelope. The state by state comparison B&C tables and the average horn length graphs confirm this. What this state lacks in trophy potential, it makes up for in scenery and a great hunting experience.

Idaho antelope average horn length
Top 15 B&C antelope entry locations


The point system or lack thereof

The point and draw system for antelope is simple: every unit has sufficient tags allocated to justify a nonresident application. There is also no point system, which means that everyone has the same draw odds every year they apply. Draw success can be as low as 2%, but is typically around 4% to 6% in the best units. All either sex tags were awarded to first choice applicants in the past six years and is the only choice that matters on your application unless you are willing to draw a doe/fawn tag.

Find your draw odds

Managing expectations for controlled hunts

In reality, most antelope units offer nearly the same experience and numbers of animals. The units in Custer and Clark counties typically have the highest densities, but are not as well known for large bucks. The southwest units of Owyhee County have lower densities yet produce some larger bucks. All in all, what you should expect when traveling to Idaho to hunt antelope is a good chance at an average buck.

Residents

In every unit there are far more resident applications than nonresident applications. Residents draw the majority of the tags, but draw odds are still low for most units. Becoming familiar with an area prior to applying is a great benefit when it comes to knowing animal locations and densities. A good buck can be found in about any unit, but draw odds typically follow trophy potential of a unit. Low draw odds are generally an indicator of high trophy potential and hunt quality.

Resident bowhunters have great drawing odds in Idaho with odds ranging from 38% to 100%. Muzzleloader draw odds for a resident range from 29% to 61%. Check out Draw Odds to find a unit that is right for you.

Nonresidents

The 10% nonresident cap is in place for the antelope draws. Nonresidents drew 51 of the 1,155 either sex any legal weapon tags in 2015. Units with high tag numbers like Unit 41 and Unit 44 will have the highest draw odds and still boast harvest successes of 47% and 77% respectively. Units with low tag numbers will have far less hunter crowding, but nonresidents can typically only plan on getting up to three of the tags on those units. Overall hunters can expect low draw of less than 10% for the rifle seasons.

Nonresident bowhunters have great drawing odds in Idaho with odds ranging from 21% to 100%. Bowhunters who have early season openings in their hunt calendar should look at Idaho as an option. Check out Draw Odds to find a unit that is right for you.

OTC opportunities

There are no OTC antelope tags in Idaho. There are a few archery hunts that have unlimited tag numbers but you must apply for one of these tags in the controlled hunt draw.

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