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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2020: Idaho Elk, Deer, and Antelope

Idaho elk, mule deer, and antelope application strategy 2020

Idaho's 2020 elk, mule deer, and antelope application overview

Jump to: NEW FOR 2020 Draw SystemState Information Elk Breakdown MULE DEER BREAKDOWN WHITETAIL DEER BREAKDOWNANTELOPE BREAKDOWN 

The deadline to apply for Idaho deer, elk and antelope is June 5, 2020 at 11:59 p.m MST. You can apply online here, in person at any Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) office or license vendor, or by phone by calling 1-800-554-8685. Fees do apply to online and phone purchases.

Note: As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, the in-person option for applications may become increasingly difficult. For 2020, it would be best to plan on online or phone applications. See all current COVID-19 state impacts on hunting here.


New for 2020

Starting in 2020, any residents who apply for a controlled elk tag will not be able to purchase a capped elk zone tag until five days after they go on sale. The rule is in effect regardless of whether the applicant draws the controlled hunt tag or not. Read more here.

Upcoming changes for 2021

As of March 3, 2020, a new bill has been signed into law in Idaho that will greatly change tag and license prices for nonresident Idaho hunters. The new law goes into effect for the 2021 season and will be active when tags go on sale on Dec. 1, 2020. For example, der will see a 16.57% increase, elk a 56.39% increase and antelope a 9.94% increase. Bighorn sheep, moose and Rocky Mountain goat tags will all see a nearly 25% increase on tag prices. While it's unknown what effect the increased tag prices will have on draw odds, it's certainly something applicants should keep in mind for next year.

Bottom line: if you’re on the fence about applying in Idaho, then 2020 should be on your radar to potentially avoid adding $500 to your application costs. A fully detailed explanation of the tag fee increase can be found here.


The Idaho draw system

Idaho is one of the few unique states that does not use a formal system of preference or bonus points for the distribution of controlled hunt permits. A simple lottery system is used, which puts every applicant—regardless of time spent applying—on a level playing field. In Idaho, nonresidents are eligible to draw up to 10% of any given species controlled hunt tags (bighorn sheep raffle and super hunt tags do not affect this 10% allotment) although this number is not guaranteed. In hunts with less than 10 available tags, only one shall be issued to nonresidents.

Idaho 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 first drawing is May 31, 2020.
  • The entry deadline for the second drawing is Aug. 10, 2020.
  • Apply here.

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

Idaho’s draw odds can be a little complicated with the way that they cap the nonresidents at up to 10% of the tags. However, the way that they run the drawing 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.


State information

View important information and an overview of Idaho’s 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 species profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you locate trophy areas.

Idaho State Profile Elk Profile MULE DEER PROFILE ANTELOPE PROFILEDraw Odds Filtering 2.0

Important dates and information

  • Applications for deer, elk and antelope must be submitted by 11:59 p.m MST on June 5, 2020.
  • Applications can be submitted online here.
  • Mailed applications are no longer accepted.
  • Up to four hunters can apply together on a group application for deer, elk and antelope.
  • New protocol for picking up turned back tags in Idaho. Read more here.
  • The second drawing application period for leftover tags will run from Aug. 5 to 15, 2020.
  • Idaho hunting licenses, access fees and application fees are nonrefundable.
  • 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 unlimited controlled hunt tag or depredation hunt or has purchased a leftover nonresident general season tag for that species at the nonresident price.

Current weather/snowpack for 2020

Idaho moisture levels 2020

Image date: April 20, 2020. Source: NRCS National Water and Climate Center

Idaho drought monitor 2020

Source: US Drought Monitor

Idaho's 2020 elk breakdown

While Idaho does not typically offer the size of bulls found in some of the surrounding states it does offer some incredible opportunities for those willing to work. Great hunting can be found on with over-the-counter tags (OTC), but most of the best hunting — and hunting dates — will be found with the controlled hunt tags. Some units feature both controlled and OTC hunt options — a fact that needs to be watched closely to stay legal, but can also play big into your favor when it comes to backdooring some mature bulls.

Idaho elk harvest trends since 2010

Year General tag elk harvested Controlled tag elk harvested Total harvested
2010 11,789 5,351 17,140
2011 9,866 4,898 14,764
2012 10,241 5,784 16,025
2013 9,853 6,373 16,226
2014 12,886 7,190 20,076
2015 15,048 8,799 23,847
2016 13,172 7,493 20,665
2017 13,282 8,559 21,841
2018 13,473 7,898 21,371
2019 13,804 5,831 19,635

Current elk herd condition

Overall, the elk in Idaho are doing fairly well and have remained mostly stable over the past few seasons. Herds in the panhandle are still struggling with issues like predation; however, the 2019/2020 winter has been fairly normal. Calf recruitment and antler growth should be good heading into the spring months. 


The controlled hunt seasons

While Idaho offers some great OTC hunting, the primary objective of this article is to take a solid look at the limited entry opportunities available for hunters. As we mentioned, the best hunting dates and areas are generally reserved for controlled hunts. Coincidentally, these hunts generally see the highest success rates and highest rates of mature elk harvested. Idaho offers a large number of controlled hunts—most of which are season specific—and it will be important for hunters to pay close attention to their hunt codes when applying. In the below section, we take an indepth look at the best controlled hunts for Idaho elk.

Archery

Because the archery seasons traditionally fall in line with the September rut, these seasons will generally experience the toughest draw odds in the state. Drawing these tags can be a long shot, but the hunting experience can create lasting memories for life. There are only a handful of archery only controlled hunt areas in Idaho and most of these are centered around the southwestern corner of the state. Here, hunting pressure is regulated enough that bulls can grow to great size. 

Breakdown of Idaho’s controlled archery only elk tags
(not in order of quality)

Unit(s) Trophy
Potential
Harvest
success
2019 resident
odds
2019 nonresident
odds
40, 41, 42* 350”+ 44% 2.9% 1%
54 350”+ 66% 2.9% 0.79%
41, 46, 47** 340”+ 33% 8.2% 1.6%
44 330”+ 53% 9.4% 1.8%
18 320”+ 25% 19% 2.9%
45, 52*** 320”+ 24% 19% 5.3%
39 310”+ 32% 6% 4.3%

*Valid for hunt area 40-1
**Valid for hunt area 46-1
***Valid for hunt area 45-1

Muzzleloader

Idaho is very strict with their muzzleloader laws and really restricts hunters with any type of modern technology on their firearm. Because of this, many hunters will shy away from these tags even though season dates can be prime for harvesting mature bulls. Great odds can be found across the board for these. This can be an excellent option for someone to consider if they are willing to put in the extra effort required.

2020 goHUNT hit list for Idaho muzzleloader elk
(not in order of quality)

Unit(s) Trophy
Potential
Harvest
success
2019 resident
odds
2019 nonresident
odds
54 350”+ 74% 4.5% 1.2%
41, 46, 47* 340”+ 47% 19% 3.3%
39 310”+ 41% 6.7% 4.1%
30A 330”+ 40% 35% 18%
50** 300”+ 35% 92% 36%
36A, 50*** 310”+ 20% 100% 80%
36A**** 310”+ 19% 100% No apps
66, 69***** 330”+ 18% 39% 17%

*Valid for hunt area 46-1
**Valid for hunt area 50-1
***Valid for hunt area 36A-2
****Valid for hunt area 36A-12
*****Valid for hunt area 66-1

Rifle

As the most popular weapon of choice, the rifle seasons for Idaho elk will see some steep odds, but also have the widest variety of opportunities. Idaho offers both early and late rifle hunting opportunities with the early hunts generally occurring around the tailend of the rut while the late hunts are more primarily focusing on migratory elk. Good opportunities can be found with both tags although hunting conditions can be tough during the late hunts.

2020 goHUNT hit list for Idaho early rifle elk
(not in order of quality)

Unit(s) Trophy
Potential
Harvest
success
2019 resident
odds
2019 nonresidents
odds
50* 300”+ 94% 5.9% 3.6%
48 310”+ 86% 13% 6.7%
70, 71, 72, 73, 73A, 74** 320”+ 82% 3.4% 2.9%
51 300”+ 80% 5% 3.6%
40, 41, 42*** 350”+ 74% 0.69% 0.43%
44 330”+ 66% 3.8% 2.3%
56**** 320”+ 64% 8.9% 4.6%
30, 30A, 58, 59, 59A***** 330”+ 63% 4% 2.4%

*Valid for hunt area 50-1
**Valid for hunt area 70-1
***Valid for hunt area 40-1
****Valid for hunt area 56-1
*****Valid for hunt area 30-1

2020 goHUNT hit list for Idaho late rifle elk
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
Potential
Harvest
success
2019 resident
odds
2019 nonresident
odds
45 320”+ 92% 3.3% 1.9%
54 350”+ 84% 1.2% 0.51%
42 310”+ 71% 4.7% 1.2%
52 310”+ 69% 11% 4.3%
55, 56, 57* 330”+ 67% 4.9% 2.5%
50** 300”+ 61% 12% 8%
41*** 340”+ 54% 8.0% 4.3%
31 320”+ 50% 7.8% 5.6%

*Valid for hunt area 55-1
**Valid for hunt area 50-1
***Valid for hunt area 41-1

Boone & Crockett (B&C) entry trends for Idaho elk

Units listed in the following tables may not have a current hunt for this species. Units in this table are considered if any part of the unit is found within any part of the county. Data provided below courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club.

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

Map of Idaho's typical elk B&C all time entries 2020

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
Blaine 1 36, 48, 49, 52, 52A, 68
Jefferson 1 60A, 63, 63A
Oneida 1 56, 57, 73, 73A
Power 1 56, 68, 68A, 70, 73
Twin Falls 1 46, 47, 53, 54

Map of Idaho's nontypical elk B&C all time entries 2020


Managing expectations

With the lack of any formal bonus or preference point system, applicants in Idaho will never be rewarded for their length of application for any given unit; however, the playing field is level for everyone. Under this system, your name could be drawn for the tag of a lifetime during any application. Establishing your goals and aspirations for Idaho early in your strategy will be key to ensuring that you draw your most desired tag. With the sheer amount of controlled tags available most hunters can likely find a hunt with decent odds to suit their needs.

Find your resident controlled elk draw odds here

Find your nonresident controlled elk draw odds here


Idaho's 2020 mule deer breakdown

Historically speaking, Idaho has been an incredible state for trophy mule deer, and still is, although it has become somewhat overshadowed in recent years. With good, solid hunting, hunters can still expect opportunities at great representative bucks at or above the 175”+ mark on a good chunk of the controlled hunts. Most of the OTC hunts take place in October — before the rut — with the best hunting dates saved for those with controlled tags. 

Idaho statewide 4 point or better harvest since 2016

Year

4 point or better %
General tag Controlled tag
2016 41.54% 67.81%
2017 44.78% 69.75%
2018 36.69% 67.67%
2019 39.34% 66.79%

Current mule deer herd condition

Overall, mule deer in Idaho are doing fairly well. The central portion of the state and the area along the Wyoming border is experiencing a lower crop of mature bucks currently due to the winterkill of 2016/2017, but that should rebound over the next year or two. This winter has been mostly mild so far and, barring any late spring snowstorms, we should see a great fawn recruitment. 


The controlled hunt seasons

Some incredible opportunities can be had through hard work on the OTC tags; however, it’s not a surprise that the best dates and largest bucks are routinely found during controlled hunts. A huge array of hunts are offered in Idaho with weapon selection being the biggest limiting factor that applicants will need to first consider. 

Archery

Due to lower success rates and earlier hunting dates, the controlled archery hunts in Idaho generally see some of the best draw odds.

2020 goHUNT hit list for Idaho archery mule deer
(not in order of quality)

Unit(s) Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
2019 resident
odds
2019 nonresident
odds
70* 180”+ 54% 8.6% 8.6%
78 170”+ 47% 17% 4.8%
45 190”+ 38% 16% 2%
53 170”+ 37% 100% 100%
44 180”+ 35% 30% 7.3%
70** 180”+ 29% 100% 100%
22 170”+ 28% 29% 15%

*Antlered deer only. Also valid for an additional rifle season.
**Either-sex permit. Archery only.

Muzzleloader

While Idaho is highly restrictive on muzzleloaders and their accompanying accessories, there are some excellent opportunities to be had. Most of the seasons fall directly in line with the mule deer rut and hunters will find some of the best opportunities of the year to look over all of a specific area's bucks.

2020 goHUNT hit list for Idaho muzzleloader mule deer
(not in order of quality)

Unit(s) Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
2019 resident
odds
2019 nonresident
odds
21A 170”+ 67% 9.1% 6.8%
52 190”+ 62% 18% 2.6%
22 170”+ 39% 26% 16%
51 170”+ 38% 15% 10%
57 170”+ 38% 41% 4.4%
43 170”+ 34% 90% 88%
65 170”+ 27% 24% 21%

Rifle

As the most popular weapon choice in the West, the rifle hunts for Idaho mule deer will generally carry the lowest odds for all three season types. Most of the rifle hunts take place in or around the rut with many extending throughout the duration of the rut. The draw odds are steep, but these seasons will generally provide the best opportunity for trophy bucks in Idaho.

2020 goHUNT hit list for Idaho rifle mule deer
(not in order of quality)

Unit(s) Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
2019 resident
odds
2019 nonresident
odds
54* 180”+ 86% 2.2% 1.1%
21 180”+ 76% 2.4% 1.6%
36A 180”+ 75% 2.5% 1.8%
44 180”+ 74% 4.9% 2.7%
60** 180”+ 73% 2.3% 2.3%
11A*** 180”+ 69% 26% 11%
47**** 180”+ 67% 5.0% 2.7%

*Hunt #1041
**Valid for hunt area 60-1
***Hunt #1004
****Valid for hunt area 47-1

B&C entry trends for Idaho mule deer

Units listed in the following tables may not have a current hunt for this species. Units in this table are considered if any part of the unit is found within any part of the county. Data provided below courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club.

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

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Adams 3 18, 22, 23, 32, 32A
Bonneville 3 63, 63A, 66, 66A, 67, 68A, 69
Elmore 3 38, 39, 43, 44, 45, 46
Owyhee 3 40, 41, 42, 46, 47
Camas 2 43, 44, 45, 52
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

Map of Idaho's Typical mule deer B&C all time entries 2020

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

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Cassia 3 53, 54, 55, 56, 57
Bear Lake 2 75, 76, 78
Custer 2 27, 28, 36, 36A, 36B. 37. 37A, 50, 51
Lemhi 2 21, 21A, 27, 28, 29, 30, 30A, 37, 37A, 51, 58

Map of Idaho's nontypical mule deer B&C all time entries 2020


Whitetail deer in Idaho

Along with mule deer, hunters will also have the opportunity to hunt whitetail deer nearly statewide. Most of the whitetail hunting is conducted through general tags and hunters can find some exceptional bucks — particularly in the panhandle. Additionally, many of the general tag options allow hunters to hunt whitetail during the rut with rifles. You can find more information about whitetail options on Filtering 2.0.

Map of Idaho's typical whitetail deer B&C all time entries 2020

Map of Idaho's nontypical whitetail deer B&C all time entries 2020


Managing expectations 

With the lack of any formal bonus or preference point system, applicants in Idaho will never be rewarded for their length of application for any given unit and the playing field is level for everyone. Under this system, your name could be drawn for the tag of a lifetime during any application. Establishing your goals and aspirations for Idaho early in your strategy will be key to ensuring that you draw your most desired tag. With the sheer amount of controlled tags available, most hunters can likely find a hunt with decent odds to suit their needs. Additionally, the OTC hunts in Idaho can be great options to look at!

FIND YOUR RESIDENT CONTROLLED MULE DEER DRAW ODDS HERE

FIND YOUR NONRESIDENT CONTROLLED MULE DEER DRAW ODDS HERE


Idaho's 2020 antelope breakdown

Idaho has a decent population of antelope although trophy potentials tend to pale in comparison to some of the surrounding states. Draw odds for rifle hunters are steep, but muzzleloader and archery hunters will find great opportunities. Many of the archery tags have unlimited quotas and are consequently a guaranteed draw.

Harvest trends for Idaho antelope since 2014

Year Total harvest Success % Average horn length
2014 1,496 62% 11.9”
2015 1,907 66% 12.3”
2016 1,789 67% 11.6”
2017 1,675 60% 11.6”
2018* 1,845 65% 9.6”
2019 1,520 54% 11.5”

*2018 horn length data seemed to have incorrect values from the state. IDFG reported three zero inch buckhorn lengths and one buck had 1” horns. We removed those data points as those are most likely errors on their end.

Current antelope herd condition

The small population of Idaho antelope are doing well after a fairly normal winter in terms of accumulation. An incident with a train, which is a common winter occurrence, took out a decent sized herd in eastern Idaho that may cause some lingering issues for the next few seasons in that immediate area; however, lasting effects will be minimal. Hunters with any tag throughout the state will be in for a fun and enjoyable hunt in 2020.


The controlled hunt seasons

As stated earlier, Idaho offers a bunch of hunt options for antelope with these being primarily broken down by weapon choice. Because of this, paying close attention to the regulations and hunt codes will be vital when applying for your permit. The best success rates will be found with the rifle hunts; however, draw odds for these are often steep. Archery hunts carry the best odds, but the hunting is obviously more challenging

Archery

The best draw odds will almost always be found with the archery seasons. In addition, several of the hunts have an unlimited tag quota. Most of the hunts begin a few weeks ahead of the general big game archery seasons and can provide a great opportunity to shake off the cobwebs for your fall. As a bonus, some of the season dates extend through the antelope rut, which can be an incredibly exciting hunt.

2020 goHUNT hit list for Idaho archery antelope
(not in order of quality)

Unit(s) Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
2019 resident
odds
2019 nonresident
odds
55, 56, 57* 75”+ 70% 18% 3.8%
54 80”+ 37% 31% 8%
46, 47** 70”+ 21% 28% 21%
40, 41, 42*** 70”+ 20% 46% 46%
68 75”+ 20% 25% 25%
40, 41, 42**** 70”+ 19% 100% 100%

*Valid in hunt area 55-1
**Hunt #4034
***Hunt #4030
****Hunt #4031

Muzzleloader

Idaho only offers a handful of opportunities for muzzleloader antelope, but some great opportunities can be had. Most of the seasons begin towards the tail end of the rut, but some do afford the hunters to chase bucks during the peak of the rut. 

2020 goHUNT hit list for Idaho muzzleloader antelope
(not in order of quality)

Unit(s) Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
2019 resident
odds
2019 nonresident
odds
30A 70”+ 83% 19% 15%
41 70”+ 46% 15% 14%
63* 65”+ 44% 36% 36%
63** 65”+ 42% 36% 35%
47 65”+ 36% 19% 18%

*Hunt #4044
**Hunt #4043

Rifle

By far, the best odds for success at a mature buck will be found with the rifle season. As stated, odds are steeper with these hunts than those found during the archery or muzzleloader seasons. For the most part, these hunts take place during the dead period between the end of general archery and the beginning of general rifle for most species. This can be a great time to get out with a bonus tag in your pocket while not detracting from any other hunts.

2020 goHUNT hit list for Idaho rifle antelope
(not in order of quality)

Unit(s) Troph
potential
Harvest
success
2019 resident
odds
2019 nonresident
odds
29, 37, 37A* 65”+ 95% 3.2% 2.5%
39 75”+ 94% 2.6% 2.5%
46 70”+ 91% 2.8% 2.8%
63 65”+ 91% 4.8% 4.8%
28, 36B** 65”+ 90% 8.2% 5.4%
55, 56, 57*** 75”+ 90% 2.4% 0.63%
59, 59A**** 70”+ 88% 4.3% 4.3%

*Valid for hunt area 37-1
**Valid in hunt area 36B-1
***Valid for hunt area 55-1
****Valid for hunt area 59-1

B&C entry trends for Idaho antelope

Units listed in the following tables may not have a current hunt for this species. Units in this table are considered if any part of the unit is found within any part of the county. Data provided below courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club.

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

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Twin Falls 4 46475354
Elmore 2 39, 44, 45
Minidoka 2 52A, 53, 68
Power 2 56, 68, 68A, 70, 73, 73A

Map of Idaho's antelope B&C all time entries 2020


Managing expectations 

With the lack of any formal bonus or preference point system, applicants in Idaho will never be rewarded for their length of application for any given unit; however, the playing field is level for everyone. Under this system, your name could be drawn for the tag of a lifetime during any application. Establishing your goals and aspirations for Idaho early in your strategy will be key to ensuring that you draw your most desired tag. With the sheer amount of controlled tags available, most hunters can likely find a hunt with decent odds to suit their needs. Archery hunters may consider the units with unlimited quotas for a guaranteed hunt every fall while rifle hunters may need to settle in for a long wait on their desired tag.

FIND YOUR RESIDENT ANTELOPE DRAW ODDS HERE

FIND YOUR NONRESIDENT ANTELOPE DRAW ODDS HERE

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