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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2017: Idaho Deer, Elk and Antelope

 

Bull elk bugling in the rut
Photo credit: Getty Images

Idaho's 2017 deer, elk and antelope application overview

Jump to: New for 2017 State Information Draw System Mule Deer Breakdown Whitetail Deer Breakdown Elk Breakdown Antelope Breakdown

When it comes to western hunting opportunities, one of the most commonly overlooked states is Idaho. With ample amounts of public land comprising nearly 60% of the state, incredibly sound game management, and trophy potentials that rival any state, Idaho should be on your radar. Idaho utilizes a true lottery system for drawing permits and does not use any form of preference or bonus points. While this system does not reward long time applicants, it does level the playing field and give everyone the same chance. As point creep becomes an increasing issue in states across the West, Idaho can provide a great escape for many applicants.

When applying for Idaho it is important to note that you may only apply for one trophy species per year. This includes deer, elk, antelope, Shiras moose, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, California bighorn sheep and mountain goat. While this fact may seem like a major detriment at first remember that Idaho has some of the best nonresident draw odds available.

Note: The application deadline for Idaho deer, elk and antelope is June 5, 2017 by midnight MST and can be completed online.



Why Idaho for deer, elk and antelope in 2017

Wide array of hunt choices

When it comes to controlled hunts in Idaho there is a plethora of options that include early and late seasons as well as weapon choices between archery, rifle, and muzzleloader.

Trophy qualities

While Idaho doesn’t consistently produce record book bulls it does offer great chances at bulls in the 340”+ range on several controlled hunts. When it comes to mule deer Idaho is currently one of the biggest sleeper states and 2016 produced some giant bucks. Book antelope are fairly uncommon with most of the bucks topping out at 75”.

Great draw odds

Because Idaho limits applicants to apply for only one species per year the odds are generally higher than other western states.



High costs of applying in Idaho

When applying for Idaho it is important to note that the hunting license is non refundable along with a few other fees associated with the application. A license for deer, elk or antelope and weapon permits are not prerequisites for the application, but will need to be purchased if successfully drawn.

Costs for controlled hunts in Idaho

LicenseResidentNonresident
Access fee$5$10
Hunting license$33.50$154.75
Application fee per species$6.25$14.75
Auxiliary fees for permits and licenses (not required to apply)
Deer license$19.75$301.75
Elk license$30.75$416.75
Antelope license$31.25$311.75
Archery permit$18.25$20.00
Muzzleloader permit$18.25$20.00

Along with the above fees applicants must pay also pay 3% of the total transaction in addition to a $3.50 fee for online processing. This means that if you buy all of the prerequisites to apply at once and apply for one species you will pay $49.60 as a resident and $188.39 as a nonresident. These costs are not refundable.



New for 2017

Sawtooth elk tags

Due to high demand, Sawtooth Zone elk tags will be sold separately from other elk tags. Nonresident Sawtooth tags will go on sale May 10, 2017 at 10 a.m. Mountain Time across all sales venues. Resident Sawtooth Zone A and B tags will go on sale July 12, 2017 (two days after other resident tags) with half of the tags sold only at license vendors starting at 10 a.m. Mountain Time. The remaining half of the resident tags will be sold only online starting at 1 p.m. Mountain Time.

Price lock

The “price lock” lets resident hunters, anglers and trappers avoid the fee increase and “lock” into current prices for at least five years for all licenses, tags and permits by purchasing an annual license every year starting in 2017. More information can be found here.

Access fee

Starting May 1, 2017, a new $5 fee for resident adults and $10 for nonresident adults will be required to purchase an annual hunting, fishing and trapping license. The fee only applies to your first annual license of the year. A $2 fee is required for residents and $4 for nonresidents to purchase all other annual licenses (junior, senior, disabled American veteran and military furlough). Those who buy a three-year license pay double those fees. Money from the fees will pay for wildlife damage prevention and compensation on private lands and access programs for hunters and anglers.

Antlerless mule deer and youth hunting

Due to extreme winter weather several antlerless mule deer controlled hunts and several youth only general antlerless hunts have been eliminated or restricted.



State information

View important information and an overview of the Idaho rules/regulations, the draw system, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map on our State Profile. You can also view the Idaho deer, elk or antelope specie profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.

Idaho State Profile Mule Deer Profile Whitetail Profile Elk Profile Antelope Profile Draw Odds Filtering 2.0

Important dates and information

  • Applications for deer and elk must be submitted by midnight MST on June 5, 2017.
  • Applications can be submitted by mail, phone, or online here.
  • Up to four hunters can apply together on a group application for deer, elk and antelope.
  • Successful applicants will be notified by July 10, 2017.
  • Second choice application period for leftover tags will run from Aug. 5 to 15, 2017.
  • Leftover tags from the second drawing go on sale Aug. 25, 2017.
  • Idaho hunting licenses are not refundable.
  • If an applicant is successful in drawing an antlered only permit for deer or elk they may not reapply for a controlled hunt for a period of one year.
  • Any person whose name is drawn in a controlled hunt for deer or elk is prohibited from hunting in any other hunt for the same species except when the hunter has drawn an extra controlled hunt tag or depredation hunt or has purchased a leftover nonresident general season tag for that species at the nonresident price.

The 2016/2017 winter
 

Idaho snow water equivalent percent of normal as of May 2017
Source: NRCS National Water and Climate Center

Winter kill is a major concern for much of the state, though primarily in central Idaho, and the total impact is yet to be told. For this past winter, Idaho Fish and Game Department (IDFG) officials provided an estimated $650,000 in supplemental feeding to curb the effects though extremely high fawn mortality rates are still expected. The main effects of this winter kill will not be felt for the next few years as the lull in fawn recruitment from this season progresses though many adult animals will have likely perished this year and could drastically impact future hunt opportunities.



The impact of wolves and other predators

Idaho intensity of predation limitations on Idaho elk populations

Idaho intensity of predation limitations on Idaho elk populations.

Wolves continue to be an issue in most of the central and northern portions of the state though Idaho has been very proactive in management practices. To date, Idaho hunters and trappers have harvested 185 wolves statewide.



The Idaho draw system

Understanding the draw

It is important to understand the draw system before you begin. You can find a complete explanation of the draw process along with important dates and fees in our Idaho State Profile. Idaho is one of the few unique states that does not use a formal system of preference or bonus points for distribution of controlled hunt permits. A simple lottery system is used, which puts every applicant—regardless of time spent applying—on an equal playing field. In Idaho, nonresidents are granted up to 10% of a unit’s allotted quota (super hunt tags do not affect this 10% allotment) although this number is not guaranteed if the quota is met by residents. This quota percentage for nonresidents is fairly common in the West, but, with a combination of high application fees and the lottery system, the draw odds are generally much higher.

Idaho’s super hunts!

Like the bighorn sheep raffle, Idaho also offers hunters the chance to draw one of 34 super hunt tags. With this tag, hunters can hunt in any open unit found in the state and may purchase as many chances at the super hunt as they wish. The cost to apply is $6 per each individual species or $20 for all four.

  • Tags are available for deer, elk, antelope and moose.
  • A hunting license is not required to apply for super hunts.
  • The entry deadline for the drawing is May 31, 2017.
  • Eight elk, eight deer, eight pronghorn and one moose will be drawn in the first drawing. One super hunt combo will also be drawn. This winner is entitled to hunt all four species.
  • The entry for the second drawing deadline is Aug. 10, 2017.
  • Two elk, two deer, two pronghorn and one moose hunt will be drawn in the second drawing along with one super hunt combo.
  • Apply here.

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, 2017 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 2017 mule deer breakdown
 

Great mule deer taken with Whiskey Mountain Outfitters
Great mule deer taken with Whiskey Mountain Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

Ask any western hunter about giant mule deer and they will quickly name off states like Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona or Utah; however, Idaho is quickly finding it’s way onto this elite list as possibly one of the biggest sleeper states around. In the past few years, Idaho has really become a place for quality deer hunting and monster mule deer. Idaho structures most of their OTC hunts to take place in the weeks prior to the main portion of the rut. While this generally means a harder hunt for most, it does allow the average size class to be higher than some surrounding states, which, consequently, produces bigger deer. Some of the most sought after permits will allow hunting during the heart of the rut and allow an obvious advantage in locating deer.

Below we will break down some of the top hunts in the state as well as outline the best tags for archery, muzzleloader, and rifle hunters.

Idaho statewide 4 point or better harvest for mule deer

Year4 point or better %
GeneralControlled
201145.1%69%
201244.7%72.2%
201342.4%71.4%
201442.4%73.2%
201543.4%74.7%
201636.4%68%

Current mule deer herd condition

Mule deer have been doing exceptional in the last few years and are at record numbers. Yet, this past winter has caused some major concern for the fate of deer in Idaho. Particularly, the central portion of the state was hit exceptionally hard with snow accumulation and the fawn mortality rate is expected to be extreme in some areas. While it’s still unclear how to this will play into the 2017 season we will likely see a big dip in mature buck numbers in the following years as the loss of fawn recruitment is realized.

The controlled seasons

Before applying in Idaho, first, carefully analyze the regulations in an effort to ensure that you draw the exact tag you're after. As we’ve mentioned before, Idaho offers many seasons based on weapon type. Choosing the right hunt for you can keep you in your element and tip the odds in your favor!

Archery

Archery hunters will find several units offering archery only opportunities spread throughout the state. For hunters looking for an early season hunt with opportunities for velvet deer there are several units with seasons that begin Aug. 15, 2017, including 21, 22, 40, 41, 44, and 45. As you begin your search, keep in mind that several units have an unlimited quota, which means they are a guaranteed draw. Unit 72 must be listed as your first choice, but Units 53, 54, 68A and 70 can be listed as second choice options and used as contingency plans to your first pick.

Top units to consider for archery only opportunites for mule deer in Idaho

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success
(2016)
4pt%Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
40190"+49510%100%19%14%
45190"+10440%100%3.2%1.8%
21180"+6583.3%ERR*100%100%
44180"+10660%60%14%6.3%
54180"+46616735.8%29%100%100%
70180"+1165244.8%50%100%100%

* Unit 21 four point percent was listed as 0% and is most likely an error in data entry by the state of Idaho.

Muzzleloader

Another great opportunity for hunters to consider is some of the many muzzleloader seasons offered in Idaho. Many of the units offers seasons during the peak of the rut including 21A, 30A, 33, 51, 52, 52A and 57. Hunters can also take their chance at one of the one to two week seasons offered in Units 22, 43 and 45. There is one late season migratory hunt offered in Unit 29. These muzzleloader seasons often carry better odds than the rifle, but keep in mind that Idaho is highly restrictive on muzzleloading equipment that will generally handicap most hunters with shots under 150 yards at most. A complete list of approved equipment can be found here.

Top units to consider for muzzleloader opportunites for mule deer in Idaho

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success
(2016)
4pt%Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
45190"+281346.4%100%26%5.1%
21A170"+55100%100%7.1%6.1%
22170"+13538.5%100%35%9%
43170"+1085046.3%37%91%71%
51170"+873944.8%60%26%16%

Rifle

The controlled hunts for the any weapon season will be among the most sought after tags, providing hunters with the opportunity to chase bucks during the peak of the rut. This is a luxury largely reserved for controlled hunts only and will generally provide the best chance at big mature deer. For hunters looking for the unique opportunity to rifle hunt velvet mule deer, check out Units 39 and 55 with hunts beginning Aug. 15, 2017.

Top units to consider for rifle opportunites for mule deer in Idaho

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success
(2016)
4pt%Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
40190"+17813575.8%80%4.6%2.6%
45190"+504182%93%3.2%1.8%
52190"+704665.7%80%6.6%6%
11180"+#1002*-74
#1003-34
64
23
86.5%
67.6%
78%
100%
13%
8.1%
5%
3.1%
11A180"+#1004-48
#1005-25
35
21
72.9%
84%
72%
83%
22%
16%
15%
11%
21180"+55100%80%4%3.5%
36A180"+44100%100%3.5%2.5%
42180"+693652.2%87%11%4.4%
44180"+21518083.7%82%5.6%3.5%
47180"+#1034-87
#1035-9
39
5
44.8%
55.6%
46%
100%
22%
5.5%
19%
2.9%
54180"+#1040-476
#1041-18
335
17
70.4%
94.4%
40%
79%
14%
2.7%
14%
1.4%
60180"+392564.1%82%2.8%2.8%
66180"+201680%67%6.4%5%
67180"+383489.5%93%4.7%2.5%
69180"+17952.9%74%3%2.7%
70180"+55100%100%1.6%1.5%

* On hunt #1002 in Unit 11 two whitetail bucks were taken. Because Idaho does not differentiate between mule deer and whitetail harvest the total hunt data may be slightly skewed.


How to uncover hidden gem deer units
 

Gary with his 2016 Idaho mule deer taken with Deadline Outfitters
Gary with his 2016 Idaho mule deer taken with Deadline Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

Applying for mule deer in Idaho can be extremely overwhelming due to the sheer number of hunt options available. First, it will be important to establish the goals for your hunt and choose the correct hunt accordingly. Some hunters may be looking for the buck of their dreams while others may be simply looking for adventure with a punched tag being a bonus.

To begin, utilize our Filtering 2.0 to carefully select parameters that meet your expectations based on trophy potentials, harvest rates or draw odds. From there, carefully analyze draw odds, applicant numbers, success rates and 4 point or better percentages to find your unit of choice. When it comes to Idaho’s controlled hunts your best bet for securing a permit will be to look into the archery and muzzleloader tags. The list below will outline the top units for trophy potentials as well hunter statistics based on all antlered controlled seasons.

Top goHUNT hit list controlled hunt units to consider for 180” or better mule deer
(not in order of quality)

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success %4pt or better %
(mule deer 2016)
40190"+23214562.5%93.3%
45190"+1498959.7%94.5%
52190"+704665.7%80%
11180"+1088780.6%89%
11A180"+986566.3%75.3%
21180"+121191.7%60%
36A180"+55100%100%
42180"+693652.2%87%
44180"+22519084.4%71%
47180"+1427452.1%68%
54180"+1,05960557.1%60.8%
60180"+392564.1%82%
66180"+33116850.8%78.3%
67180"+18211362.1%84%
69180"+66634351.5%76.7%
70180"+28717962.4%82.5%

* The above chart is based solely on controlled hunt numbers for antlered mule deer. Some of the listed units also include general OTC seasons. Because Idaho does not differentiate between mule deer and whitetail harvest the total hunt data may be slightly skewed in some units.

While not drawing your controlled hunt of choice is never a fun fact to face it is important to keep in mind that Idaho still offers some incredible OTC opportunities. Most of Idaho’s OTC opportunities are conducted during the month of October before the peak of the rut. This can allow some opportunistic hunters the chance at maximizing their season by looking for rut hunts in adjoining states to compliment their Idaho tag. Pay special attention to the regulations as several units contain both controlled and general seasons depending on weapon choice.

Another important fact to keep in mind that many of the controlled hunts are centered around rutting deer that may be migrating into the units from adjoining areas or even other states. While some units may maintain great tropy potentials and produce giant bucks it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be there during every season. The list below will outline the top units for trophy potentials as well hunter statistics based on all antlered general seasons.

Top goHUNT hit list general hunt units to consider for 180” or better mule deer
(not in order of quality)

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success %4pt or better %
(mule deer 2016)
% whitetail
11A180"+2,4561,19348.6%90.5%89%
21180"+56930152.9%22%4%
36A180"+55526247.2%45%4.5%
42180"+3259328.6%4%0%
47180"+1191916%35%0%
60180"+1,27131825%28%17%
66180"+1,28625219.6%24.5%4.5%
67180"+96619320%34.5%18%
69180"+3,28167020.4%38.5%19%

* Some of the above units also feature controlled hunts; be sure to consult the regulations for further information. The above chart is based solely on general hunt numbers for antlered mule deer. Some of the listed units also include controlled hunt seasons. Because Idaho does not differentiate between mule deer and whitetail harvest the total hunt data may be slightly skewed in some units.
 

Top units for buck:doe ratios

UnitBuck:doe
ratio
Trophy
potentia
l
Percent 4pt
or better
OTC or
controlled
Unit 4356:100170"+43%Both
Unit 4456:100180"+72%Controlled
Unit 4556:100190"+65%Controlled
Unit 4856:100160"+33%Both
Unit 5256:100190"+76%Controlled
Unit 6435:100160"+44%Both
Unit 6535:100170"+31%Both
Unit 6735:100180"+71%Both
Unit 19A33:100170"+52%Both
Unit 2535:100170"+43%Both

 



B&C entry trends for Idaho mule deer

Beyond Filtering 2.0 another backdoor asset to carefully examine is B&C entry trends for different counties throughout the state. Look for units that may be adjacent to some of the top units in the state to find hidden gem areas that may hold better draw odds or OTC opportunities.

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

CountyNo. of
entries
Units found within county
Bonneville363, 63A, 66, 66A, 67, 68A, 69
Owyhee340, 41, 42, 46, 47
Adams318, 22, 23, 32, 32A
Elmore238, 39, 43, 44, 45, 46
Gooding245, 52, 53
Idaho210, 10A, 11, 11A, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16,
16A, 17, 18, 19, 19A, 20, 20A, 22, 26
Valley219A, 20A, 24, 25, 26, 27, 32, 32A, 33, 34
Washington222, 31, 32

TOTAL NUMBER OF B&C TYPICAL MULE DEER ENTRIES ALL-TIME

 

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

CountyNo. of
entries
Units found within county
Bear Lake275, 76, 78
Cassia253, 54, 55, 56, 57
Boise132, 32A, 33, 34, 35, 39
Clark151, 58, 59, 59A, 60, 60A, 61, 63
Franklin173, 74, 75, 77, 78

TOTAL NUMBER OF B&C NONTYPICAL MULE DEER ENTRIES ALL-TIME


The lack of a points system

Tyler with an Idaho mule deer taken with Bearpaw Outfitters

Tyler with an Idaho mule deer taken with Bearpaw 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

Due to the simple fact that Idaho uses a random lottery draw without the aide of bonus or preference points the unfortunate truth is that you will never be rewarded for years of applications and your time could come any season. Establishing your goals and aspirations for mule deer hunting in Idaho early on and remaining steadfast in your decision is your best approach. With the sheer amount of hunts available it’s possible to find units that may provide exactly what you're after and still provide decent odds with the hopes of drawing a permit every few years. Beyond the controlled, hunts if you're at all interested in OTC opportunities, then Idaho should absolutely be on your radar!

While the previous winter is still looming overhead Idaho will still be a great state for anyone to look at, controlled or OTC. With enough research hunters can expect a great opportunity at bucks over the 160” mark with many units routinely producing deer in the 170” to 180” range. Better yet, several bucks approaching the 200” mark are taken every year! Idaho is quickly becoming one the top mule deer destinations of the West.

IDAHO GENERAL DEER HARVEST (2005-2016)


Idaho's 2017 whitetail deer breakdown

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 2016 harvest success for these two hunts was 25% and 39% 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.

Current whitetail deer herd condition

Idaho’s whitetail population is very 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)

UnitTrophy
potential
Percent 4pt
or better
OTC or
controlled
Total # controlled
apps. in 2016
Unit 2160"+25%Both685
Unit 3160"+7%Both685
Unit 1150"+18%Both685
Unit 15150"+18%OTCNA
Unit 16150"+13%OTCNA
Unit 20150"+32%OTCNA
Unit 20A150"+60%Both46
Unit 25150"+NABoth190
Unit 5150"+11%Both685
Unit 8150"+26%OTCNA
Unit 8A150"+22%Both9

 



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 density19A, 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 density7, 9, 10, 12, 16A, 17, 19, 20, 2121A,
23, 2429
High density1, 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

CountyNo. of
entries
Units found within county
Nez Perce28, 8A, 11, 11A
Benewah13, 4, 5, 6, 8A
Bonner11, 2, 4, 4A
Boundary11

 

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

CountyNo. of
entries
Units found within county
Benewah13, 4, 5, 6, 8A
Latah16, 8, 8A
Shoshone13, 4, 6, 7, 9, 10, 10A

 



Managing expectations for controlled hunts

Find your draw odds

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 2017 elk breakdown
 

Bull elk taken with Deadline Outfitters
2016 archery bull elk taken with Deadline Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

While Idaho may not rank among the top western states when it comes to trophy potentials, it does offer great chances for mid-tier bulls, tons of public land and a crazy amount of opportunity. Still, some great bulls reaching above 350”+ are taken every year and bulls above 310” can be found in many units. As applicants continue to build points in surrounding states Idaho is one that should remain on every hunter’s radar as a yearly destination.

Idaho is a great state for opportunity, offering weapon specific controlled hunts for archery, muzzleloader and rifle hunters. This can increase your odds of successfully pulling a tag and also reduce the number of hunters you’ll share the field with. Some of the units will split the seasons between over-the-counter (OTC) tag holders and controlled hunt permit hunts and it will become important to pay attention to the regulations in an effort to not waste time and money. In other words, If you’re an archery hunter it may not pay off to apply for Unit 31 when the archery season can be hunted OTC whereas the rifle season is controlled.

Five year harvest trends for Idaho bull elk

YearBulls taken6pt or better %
20118,41940.2%
20129,44645%
20139,34848.3%
201411,29348.7%
201513,09452%
201612,48946%

When looking at the above chart, it is important to note that the amount of bulls taken each year has been on a steady climb since 2011 and the 6 point percentage has maintained a steady climb as well. This tells us that the Idaho management plan is working and herd health is great!

Current elk herd condition

As indicated in the above table, the Idaho elk herd is stable and thriving. While this previous winter was one of the harshest the state has experienced in years, it appears that elk have weathered better than expected. Winter kill will be very regionalized and the full effects of the winter are yet to be discovered. Wolves are still a major concern along the northern and eastern portions of the state though predation has been somewhat reduced since the implementation of hunting and trapping seasons.



The controlled seasons

Before applying in Idaho, first, carefully analyze the regulations in an effort to ensure that you draw the exact tag you're after. As we’ve mentioned before, Idaho offers many seasons based on weapon type and choosing the right hunt for you can keep you in your element and tip the odds in your favor!

Archery

There are several units in Idaho that offer controlled hunt opportunities for archery hunters. Most of these hunts take place for nearly the entire month of September and will offer the best opportunities to chase bulls during the rut. This can lead to some incredibly exciting hunting opportunities and the chance to truly experience what elk hunting is all about.

Top units to consider for archery only opportunites for elk in Idaho

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success
(2016)
6pt%Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
40350"+10660%100%4%1.9%
54350"+99100%75%2.1%0.95%
41340"+10660%100%9.5%4.2%
45340"+15853.3%100%8.4%3.9%
33330"+12866.6%88%9.1%4.9%

Muzzleloader

Hunters interested in muzzleloader opportunities will find two options in Idaho: early muzzleloader and late muzzleloader. The early season will land in the later half of September and run through mid October, giving hunters the opportunity at bulls in the later stages of the rut and the possibility of some excellent hunting. Unit 39 also offers an opportunity to hunt during the entire month of September! The late seasons take place in November and December and can offer a great chance at chasing migratory elk. During years of heavy snow the odds of killing a great bull can be incredible and the hunting can be action packed. These muzzleloader seasons often carry better odds than the rifle; however, keep in mind that Idaho is highly restrictive on muzzleloading equipment that will generally handicap most hunters with shots under 150 yards at most. A complete list of approved equipment can be found here.

Top units to consider for early muzzleloader opportunites for elk in Idaho

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success
(2016)
6pt%Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
54350"+10660%67%4.2%1.1%
46340"+10770%100%7.7%2.8%
66330"+45920%60%50%46%
39310"+241250%54%8.4%5.3%
64300"+4038%66%87%50%

 

Top units to consider for late muzzleloader opportunites for elk in Idaho

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success
(2016)
6pt%Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
30A330"+301860%35%21%9.8%
55330"+911100%26%5.8%
11320"+431535%60%100%71%
33300"+421024%13%63%45%

Rifle

When it comes to controlled elk hunts in Idaho the early and late rifle hunts will be among some of the most sought after. The early antlered rifle hunts will give hunters the opportunity to chase bulls in the last half of the rut and give them the opportunity to chase bugling bulls. This will make elk much easier to locate, but elk will generally be located at higher elevations during this time and access can be an issue for some. The late season hunts take place in the last half of October and into early November or through November and into December. Depending on snow levels, the later seasons will generally hold the best opportunities for sheer numbers of elk encounters though these usually carry the lowest draw odds.

Top units to consider for early rifle opportunites for elk in Idaho

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success
(2016)
6pt%Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
40350"+6583.3%71%0.96%0.73%
30330"+251560%88%4.6%3.9%
44330"+10770%81%2.1%1.2%
11320"+784253.8%67%12%9.5%
45320"+1006969%74%7%4%
70320"+2323100%87%3.9%3%

 

Top units to consider for late rifle opportunites for elk in Idaho

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success
(2016)
6pt%Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
40350"+442454.5%85%3.7%1.8%
54350"+10660%100%1.1%0.52%
41*340"+#2016-NA
#2017-10
#2018-10
NA*
5
10
NA*
50%
100%
NA*
71%
100%
NA*
6.5%
5.9%
NA*
3.3%
2.2%
46340"+242187.5%93%2.9%1.7%
30330"+644875%59%10%5.2%
44330"+1658551.5%59%11%7.3%
55330"+302686.7%82%3.9%2.5%

* Unit 41 holds three late rifle hunts for antlered bulls for 2017 and 2018. Controlled hunt #2016 is a new hunt for this year.
 


How to uncover hidden gem elk units

Idaho bull elk taken with Diamond D Outfitting

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

Applying for elk in Idaho can be extremely overwhelming due to the sheer number of hunt options available. First, establish the goals for your hunt and choose the correct hunt accordingly. Some hunters may be content with simply experiencing the thrill of chasing elk while others may be looking for the bull of a lifetime. By carefully analyzing trends and numbers for particular units you will discover units that may suit your needs and provide better draw odds than originally expected.

To begin, utilize our Filtering 2.0 to carefully select parameters that meet your expectations based on trophy potentials, harvest rates or draw odds. From there, carefully analyze draw odds, applicant numbers, success rates and 6 point or better percentages to find your unit of choice. When it comes to Idaho’s controlled hunts your best bet for securing a permit will be to look into the archery and muzzleloader tags. The below list will outline the top units for trophy potentials as well as hunter statistics based on all antlered controlled seasons.

Top goHUNT hit list controlled hunt units to consider for 330" or better bulls
(not in order of quality)

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success
(2016)
6pt%
40350"+603558%89%
54350"+292172%81%
41340"+402973%95%
46340"+584374%96%
30330"+896371%74%
30A330"+301860%35%
44330"+18710053%79%
55330"+392769%91%

*The above chart is based solely on controlled hunt numbers for bull elk. Some of the listed units also include general OTC seasons.

If you reach the unfortunate situation where you are not successful in the controlled hunt draws, remember that Idaho can still be an incredible state to consider for OTC opportunities. Many hunters can spend a lifetime waiting on their holy grail tag and miss out on vital hunting experience in the years in between. Idaho has a massive amount of OTC opportunity for hunters of every background and can provide some excellent hunting memories as well as the necessary preparations you need when your named is finally pulled out of the hat.

Top goHUNT hit list general hunt units to consider for 330" or better bulls
(not in order of quality)

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success
(2016)
6pt%
30330"+35213337.8%27.5%
30A330"+3637821.5%21%
55330"+1452617.9%72%
66330"+2,30441618.1%32%
67330"+70311716.6%52.5%
11A320"+2853010.5%9.5%
31320"+5289718.4%40%
56320"+2875519.2%63%
69320"+2,40841217.1%69.5%

*Some of the above units also feature controlled hunts; be sure to consult the regulations for further information.
 

Top units for bull:cow ratios

UnitBull:cow
ratio
Trophy
potentia
l
Percent 6pt
or better
OTC or
controlled
Unit 7648:100310"+43%OTC & Controlled
Unit 66A48:100290"+40%OTC & Controlled
Unit 1244:100310"+39%OTC
Unit 1044:100310"+33%OTC
Unit 6442:100300"+46%OTC & Controlled
Unit 6542:100290"+45%OTC & Controlled
Unit 6742:100330"+70%OTC & Controlled
Unit 3140:100320"+40%OTC & Controlled
Unit 36A37:100310"+65%OTC & Controlled
Unit 2937:100310"+31%OTC & Controlled

 



B&C entry trends for Idaho elk

Beyond Filtering 2.0 another backdoor asset to carefully examine is Boone & Crockett (B&C) entry trends for different counties throughout the state. Look for units that may be adjacent to some of the top units in the state to find hidden gem areas that may hold better draw odds or OTC opportunities.

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

CountyNo. of
entries
Units found within county
Lemhi221, 21A, 27, 28, 29, 30,
30A, 37, 37A, 51, 58, 59A
Twin Falls246, 47, 53, 54
Valley219A, 20A, 24, 26, 27, 32, 32A, 33, 34
Adams118, 22, 23, 32, 32A
Blaine136, 44, 48, 49, 50, 52, 52A, 53, 68

Four more counties with one entry each
 

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

CountyNo. of
entries
Units found
within county
Bannock168A, 70, 71, 73, 74
Twin Falls146, 47, 53, 54
Power156, 68, 68A, 70, 73

 



The lack of a points system
 

Wendy with a great 376 inch elk taken with Bearpaw Outfitters
Wendy with a great 376 inch elk taken with Bearpaw 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

Due to the simple fact that Idaho uses a random lottery draw without the aide of bonus or preference points the unfortunate truth is that you will never be rewarded for years of applications and your time could come any season. Establishing your goals and aspirations for elk hunting in Idaho early on and remaining steadfast in your decision is your best approach. With the sheer number of hunts available, it’s possible to find units that may provide exactly what you're after while still providing decent odds and the hopes of drawing a permit every few years. Beyond the controlled hunts, if you're at all interested in OTC opportunities, then Idaho should absolutely be on your radar!

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that Idaho simply does not produce the amount of B&C book bulls that many neighboring states do. A few bulls over the 380” mark pop occasionally and there are even a few 400” bulls in the record books, but, realistically, hunters can expect trophy qualities to top out in the 350”+ range. This is not the state to look at if you want one of the biggest bulls in the country; however, Idaho has a lot to offer in terms of opportunity, success rates and memories.

IDAHO GENERAL OTC ELK HARVEST (2005-2016)


Idaho's 2017 antelope breakdown

When most hunters begin looking at antelope options in the West Idaho is commonly overlooked in favor of adjacent states such as Montana or Wyoming. While the reservations most hunters hold isn’t totally ungrounded the simple fact is that idaho can provide some great hunting with decent bucks in the 65” to 70” range, with the potential for bigger. All of the state's tags are distributed through controlled hunts with some of the archery hunts holding an unlimited quota, which are a guaranteed draw. Archery hunters can begin hunting on Aug. 15, 2017, in most areas, providing a good opportunity to shake off the dust before hunts begin for deer and elk. Opportunities for muzzleloader, short range weapons, youth, rifle and doe/fawn are also offered.

Below we will break down some of the top hunts in the state as well as outline the best tags for archery, muzzleloader and rifle hunters.

Idaho statewide antelope harvest

YearBucksDoesAvg. horn length
20111,03521612.1"
20121,19025912.3"
20131,080345NA*
20141,15932211.9"
20151,39350412.3"
20161,51932811.2"

* Horn data was not collected for this season.

Current antelope herd condition

Idaho’s antelope make up a very sparse population density when compared to other states. Heavy predation from coyotes, bobcats and eagles on fawns have led to extremely low recruitment rates. Recently, the state has launched several research campaigns in an effort to discover why populations have been stagnant and hopefully establish sound management practices to bolster numbers and increase fawn recruitment.

IDAHO AVERAGE ANTELOPE HORN LENGTH OF HARVESTED BUCKS


The controlled seasons

Before applying in Idaho, first carefully analyze the regulations in an effort to ensure that you draw the exact tag you're after. As we’ve mentioned before, Idaho offers many seasons based on weapon type and choosing the right hunt for you can keep you in your element and tip the odds in your favor!

Archery

Archery hunters in Idaho get the opportunity to begin chasing antelope on Aug. 15, 2017. These can be great opportunity hunts as it allows hunters to get into the field before the opener for more deer and elk seasons. Many of the early archery hunts will also run into the middle of September allowing hunters to hunt during the rut—a very exciting hunt! Units 21A, 40, 45 and 46 offer hunts with unlimited quotas that are a guaranteed draw. When applying, consider unlimited quota units as your second choice and save your first choice for a limited entry unit. In the table below you will notice that hunt #4039 in Unit 68 is a 100% draw odd. This is based off of last year's numbers when this hunt featured an unlimited quota. For 2017, this hunt has a quota of 75 permits.

Top hunts to consider for archery only opportunities for antelope in Idaho

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success
(2016)
Avg. horn
length
Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
5480"+221045.5%13"26%10%
6875"+#4038-33
#4039-91
23
43
69.7%
47.3%
14"
12"
41%
100%
ERR***
100%
21A70"+1,16223019.8%11"100%100%
4070"+#4030-160
#4031-238
57
66
35.6%
27.7%
11"
11"
43%
100%
43%
100%
4570"+#4032-39
#4033-67
10
1
25.6%
1.5%
10"
NA**
60%
100%
60%
100%
4670"+#4034-31
#4035-191
18
55
58.1%
28.8%
12"
10"
33%
100%
33%
100%
55NA*NA*NA*NA*NA*NA*NA*

*This is a new hunt for 2017.
**The only antelope harvested on this hunt in 2016 was a doe.
***In 2016 there were not any nonresident applicants who applied for this hunt.

Muzzleloader

For 2017, there are five controlled hunts offered for antelope in Idaho. Units 30A, 41 and 47 offer hunts starting Sept. 25, 2017, that will begin near the tail end of the rut while the two hunts in Unit 63 will offer opportunities to hunt during the peak of the rut. These muzzleloader seasons often carry better odds than the rifle; however, keep in mind that Idaho is highly restrictive on muzzleloading equipment that will generally handicap most hunters with shots under 150 yards at most. A complete list of approved equipment can be found here.

Top hunts to consider for muzzleloader only opportunities for antelope in Idaho

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success
(2016)
Avg. horn
length
Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
30A70"+402255%12"24%24%
4170"+321443.8%13"23%22%
4765"+351954.3%11"32%32%
6365"+#4043-40
#4044-45
24
31
60%
68.9%
10"
12"
32%
46%
33%
45%

Rifle

When it comes to the any weapon controlled hunts the available rifle permits for antelope will generally carry the worse odds for drawing. These hunts run from Sept. 25 through Oct. 24 and most areas will still have some rutting activity. Success rates will be the highest within these hunts simply due to the sheer distance rifle hunters are capable of shooting and will generally afford the best opportunity at some of the biggest bucks.

Top hunts to consider for rifle only opportunities for antelope in Idaho

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success
(2016)
Avg. horn
length
Draw odds
resident
Draw odds
nonresident
5480"+252080%13"2.8%1.2%
3775"+534890.6%13"4.3%3.6%
3975"+262388.5%12"2.6%2.2%
52A75"+484389.6%13"5.1%5.1%
6875"+504590%12"4.1%4.1%
7675"+55100%13"2.3%1.8%

 



How to uncover hidden gem antelope units

The simple matter of fact is that with so few unit options in Idaho there aren’t any undiscovered gem areas. That being said, hunters who elect to take up archery or muzzleloader will find themselves with the best odds of drawing. Those using archery equipment can even chase antelope every year when applying for any of the unlimited quota units.

IDAHO CONTROLLED ANTELOPE HARVEST (2006-2016)

To begin your research, utilize our Filtering 2.0 to carefully select parameters that meet your expectations based on trophy potentials, harvest rates or draw odds. From there, carefully analyze draw odds, applicant numbers and success rates to find your unit of choice. The list below will outline the top units for trophy potentials as well hunter statistics based on all controlled seasons.

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

UnitTrophy
Potential
Hunters
(2016)
Harvest
(2016)
Success
(2016)
Avg. horn
length
5480"+1135649.6%13"
3775"+534890.6%13"
3975"+312477.4%12.5"
52A75"+484389.6%13"
6875"+17411163.8%12.7"
7675"+55100%13"
21A70"+1,16223019.8%11"
30A70"+402255%12"
36A70"+99100%14"
36B70"+8675%13"
4070"+46116936.7%11"
4170"+20914067%12.5"
4570"+1383928.3%11"
4670"+31615749.7%11.3"
4970"+373081.1%7.5"
5070"+756789.3%12"
5170"+745979.7%12"
5270"+907077.8%11"
5870"+504590%13"
5970"+503570%13"

 



B&C entry trends for Idaho antelope

Beyond Filtering 2.0 another backdoor asset to carefully examine is B&C entry trends for different counties throughout the state. Look for units that may be adjacent to some of the top units in the state to find hidden gem areas that may hold better draw odds or OTC opportunities.

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

County

No. of
entries
Units found within county
Twin Falls346475354
Elmore239, 44, 45
Minidoka252A, 53, 68
Power256, 68, 68A, 70, 73, 73A
Blaine136, 48, 49, 50, 52A, 68
Butte150, 51, 52A, 58, 63, 68
Custer128, 36, 36A, 36B, 37, 37A, 50, 51
Owyhee140, 41, 42, 46, 47

TOTAL NUMBER OF B&C ANTELOPE ENTRIES ALL-TIME

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.



The lack of a points system

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

Due to the simple fact that Idaho uses a random lottery draw without the aide of bonus or preference points the unfortunate truth is that you will never be rewarded for years of applications and your time could come any season. With the lack of any major quantity of available units the draw odds for most hunts are steep with the exception of archery and muzzleloader seasons. Nearly every unit has produced some good bucks and, with some effort, some great opportunities can be found though success is never a guarantee. Archery hunters will see the best chances at hunting antelope yearly.

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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