Premium Content

Become an Insider member to gain access to this article,
plus all of GOHUNT's research and mapping tools.

Learn more about Insider

APPLICATION STRATEGY 2020: Washington bighorn sheep, moose, and mountain goat

Washington's 2020 bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat application overview

Jump to: NEW FOR 2020State InformationDraw SystemBIGHORN SHEEP BREAKDOWNMOOSE BREAKDOWN MOUNTAIN GOAT BREAKDOWN

Washington receives its fair share of criticism for its expensive fees. And applying for bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goat doesn’t get any cheaper compared to applying for deer and elk. But for those who are lucky enough to pull a tag, there’s nothing like hunting any of the big three species!

Note: The all species application deadline for Washington has been changed from May 18 to their new application deadline of May 21 by midnight PST. Read more about the application deadline change here

You can apply online here.

Total bighorn sheep permits for 2020

Ram permits 26
Juvenile ram permits 7
Ewe permits 50
Youth ewe permits 10
Hunters with disabilities ewe permits 3
Hunters with disabilities juvenile ram permits 2

Total mountain goat permits for 2020

Mountain goat either-sex permits 20

Total moose permits for 2020

Bull moose permits 103
Antlerless moose permits 28
Youth only antlerless 1
65 and over antlerless 4
Disabled hunter — antlerless only 4

New for 2020

  • There are now juvenile ram hunting opportunities in Washington in several units. The units are Unit 4A, Unit 4B, Unit 4C, Unit 5A and Unit 5B. Season dates vary, so be sure to check them out on Filtering 2.0.
  • Vulcan Mountain bighorn sheep unit is not open for hunting in 2020

What is the definition of a juvenile ram?

A juvenile ram is defined as a male bighorn sheep having at least one "unbroomed" horn that does not extend past an imaginary line beginning at the point on the animal’s forehead where the front of the horn base adjoins the skull and continues downward in a posterior direction through the posterior edge of the eye. A "broomed" horn is defined as a sheep horn that has been broken, splintered, frayed or rubbed in the wild, thus shortening its length and disrupting its natural taper.

See the diagram below for the legal definition of a juvenile ram.

Legal definition of a juvenile ram


State information

To view important information and an overview of Washington’s rules/regulations, the draw system, 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 identify trophy areas.

WASHINGTON STATE PROFILEBIGHORN SHEEP PROFILEMOOSE PROFILEMOUNTAIN GOAT PROFILEDraw Odds Filtering 2.0

Important dates and information

  • The application deadline is May 18.
  • You can apply online here.
  • Results for deer, elk, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, moose and turkey will be available by the end of June.
    • It is your responsibility to check your draw results.
    • Hunting licenses for mountain goat, moose or bighorn sheep do not have to be purchased unless you are selected for a special hunt permit. If selected, you must send a check or money order for the appropriate fee, to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)'s headquarters office by the deadline established by WDFW (15 day minimum) or the permit will become void and will be offered to an alternate. You may also purchase using a credit card by calling (866) 246-9453.
  • Washington does not refund any license or permit if the season has been scheduled and the hunter could have participated in the season or hunt regardless of whether the hunter did in fact participate or not. 
  • Hunter orange and/or fluorescent hunter pink is required for anyone hunting in an area open to modern firearm general deer or elk seasons.

Information for first-time applicants in Washington

If you've never applied in Washington before, you will need to have WDFW verify your hunter education information before you can apply. First step is creating your WILD ID account. Then after that you will need to get your hunter education information added to your account, but to do that takes some time. So be sure to plan ahead.

There are three ways to add your Hunter’s Education certificate to your profile:

  • Send a photo copy of your certificate to licensing@dfw.wa.gov with your WILD ID or name and date of birth
  • Fax a photo copy of your certificate to 360-902-2466 with your WILD ID or name and date of birth
  • Visit any DFW dealer location with your certificate and the dealer can enter the certificate into your WILD account.

Antlerless moose/ewe bighorn sheep

There are opportunities to draw a cow moose or a ewe bighorn sheep permit in Washington. However, draw odds are extremely steep! Expect to wait almost as long as a bull or ram permit.

See resident antlerless moose draw odds here

See nonresident antlerless moose draw odds here

See resident ewe bighorn sheep draw odds here

See nonresident ewe bighorn sheep draw odds here

Mandatory hunt reporting

Washington is a mandatory hunter reporting state. If you do not submit your report, you will be charged a $10 penalty and this penalty must be paid before you can buy a license the following year. There is an incentive for turning in this information early. Read more on that in the section below.

By Jan. 31, midnight, hunters must report their hunting activity for EACH special permit acquired AND each deer, elk, bear, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and turkey tag purchased in 2020 even if you did not hunt. For each transport tag, you will owe a general season hunting activity report AND you will also owe a hunting activity report for EACH big game special permit awarded. You cannot submit this information by mail or email.

If your season extends beyond Jan. 31, the hunter report is due within 10 days of the close of that season.

You will receive a confirmation number for each successfully submitted hunter report. Sending in tags or license to WDFW does not fulfill the reporting requirements.


Cost to apply

You do not have to front the entire license fee when applying for moose, mountain goat or bighorn sheep.

Resident big game annual license cost

Big game special hunt permit applications Cost
Special hunt permit application — quality $13.70
Big game special hunt licenses and tags Cost
Special moose license and tag $332.00
Special mountain goat license and tag $332.00
Special bighorn sheep license and tag $332.00

 

Nonresident big game annual license cost

Big game special hunt permit applications Cost
Special hunt permit application
(price per application)
$110.50
Big game special hunt licenses and tags Cost
Special moose license and tag $1,652.00
Special mountain goat license and tag $1,652.00
Special bighorn sheep license and tag $1,652.00

2020 Washington snowpack

Washington current snowpack 2020

Washington snow water equivalent update as of May 7, 2020. Source: National Resources Conservation Service

The Washington draw system

An interesting part about the draw system in Washington is that both residents and nonresidents are drawn from the same pool and, thus, have the same odds of drawing a tag.

In order to apply for special permits in Washington, you have a few steps to follow. You’ll need to first purchase the special permit application for each of the categories within each species you want to apply for. After you purchase that license, next you will select the units you want to apply for.

Unlocking Washington's system

The points system

You gain a point each year that you purchase an application. So, the first year that you apply, you will go into the draw with one point. There isn’t a zero point level, which is pretty interesting. Keep in mind that Washington has a very old point system, meaning the max point level going into 2020 will be 27.

A weighted point permit drawing system is used (squared points), which gives applicants who have failed to be selected in the past a better chance to be awarded a permit in the future. It is based on the application history of each applicant. 

Points are accumulated in each species category. 

The purchase of an application results in one accrued point for the category purchased.

When a hunter is selected, the hunter's point total for that category drops to zero.

Everyone has a chance to be selected, but those with more points have a better chance of being awarded a permit. Points cannot be transferred between individuals or categories.

Multiple hunt choices

For moose, you can purchase and submit up to five moose permit applications (one permit application per hunt category, for which you qualify). Up to four hunt choices may be selected per category.

For moose, mountain goat and bighorn sheep, you can apply for a maximum of four hunt choices per application. You do not have to apply for more than one hunt. If more than one hunt choice is requested, each hunt will be considered in the drawing in order of the priority you chose. One thing to note, is that all of your choices will be looked at before moving onto the next person.

If a youth is awarded a youth permit and turns 16 before purchasing the hunting license and tag, the full resident or nonresident price will be charged. Permit price is determined by the youth's age at the date of the special permit purchase. No refunds or exchanges will be made for those purchasing a hunting license for mountain goat, moose or bighorn sheep.

Party applications

Decide if you want to apply as an individual, as the leader of a group or as a member of a group. If you want to apply as a member of a group, you must choose a group leader. The leader of the group must submit all group members and the hunt choices at the time of submission. 

When applying as a group, each member must be eligible for the hunts that the group is applying for. If a group application is selected for permits, all of the hunters in the group receive a permit and each hunter can take an animal. The points accumulated by each hunter in the group are averaged and applied to the group application. If the number of permits available in a hunt category is less than the maximum group size, then the maximum group size is equal to the number of permits.

The maximum group sizes for each species category are as follows:

  • 8 - Deer and elk
  • 2 - Bear and mountain lion
  • 2 - Goat, moose and bighorn sheep
  • 4 - Turkey
  • 2 - Multi-season deer and elk

Washington 2020 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep breakdown

There are eight units that currently offer bighorn sheep hunts in Washington. For 2020, all of the current hunts are for California bighorn sheep.

In total, Washington state has approximately 1,380 bighorn sheep distributed in 17 identified herds, exclusive of those managed by tribal governments. Of those, Washington categorizes bighorn sheep in 11 herds as “California bighorns” and six as “Rocky Mountain bighorns.” 

In 2013, a severe outbreak caused considerable mortality in the Tieton herd, near Naches. Concern about the potential spread of disease to the adjacent Cleman Mountain herd prompted WDFW to remove this herd entirely.

Horn marking requirements:

A hunter who kills or possesses a bighorn sheep ram taken in Washington must present the horns for inspection and marking within 10 days to a WDFW regional or district office or a location designated by a department representative. Call a WDFW regional or district office to schedule an appointment with a biologist for horn marking. A WDFW employee will permanently mark an identification number on one of the horns. Inspection and marking does NOT substitute for mandatory hunter reporting. For bighorn sheep, both are required.

The goHUNT hit list units for Washington bighorn sheep

Keep in mind that you’re going to be in for an extremely long wait for any of these units. When it comes to Washington bighorn sheep units, Unit 18 has long been known to be the top of the bunch; however, Unit 14 is right up there as well. It's best to weigh your options and then cross-reference your choices on Filtering 2.0 and our standalone Draw Odds.

Top hit list units to consider for 170” or better bighorn sheep

Unit Trophy
potential
Ram:ewe ratio Public land
%
14 175"+ 118:100 65%
18 175"+ -- 39%
12 170"+ 52:100 6%
4 165"+ -- 35%
5 165"+ -- 81%
7 165"+ -- 75%
13 165"+ -- 68%
16 165"+ -- 82%

How to uncover hidden gems

If you just want to hunt bighorn sheep, maybe consider trying to draw one of the new juvenile ram sheep tags. Other than that, there are no hidden gems for the most part when it comes to trying to draw a bighorn sheep tag.


Boone & Crockett (B&C) entry trends for Washington bighorn sheep


Units listed below 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.

Washington’s top B&C producing counties since 2015 for bighorn sheep

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Chelan 4 16, 18, 14
Asotin 2 NA

B&C doesn't separate out California and Rocky Mountain bighorns.

Map of Washington's top producing B&C bighorn sheep counties all time - 2020

TOP B&C ROCKY BIGHORN SHEEP LOCATION ENTRIES SINCE 2015 - 2020 Washington


Managing points and expectations

Applying for sheep in the lower 48 states is a game of luck and putting your years in. Washington is certainly no exception. Even with maximum points of 26, a hunter only has a 0.50% chance to draw Unit 12. Yes, that’s right: after 26 years of applying, you won’t even have 1% draw odds. But someone has to draw, right?

Find your resident bighorn sheep ram draw odds here

Find your nonresident bighorn sheep ram draw odds here


Washington's 2020 moose breakdown

There are 11 different huntable moose units in Washington. All of them are located in the northeast corner of the state. Like most western states, wolf numbers are increasing and it’s hard not to think that these wolf numbers will continue to have an impact on moose populations. Back in the fall of 2019, WDFW had to kill 24 wolves in Ferry County due to cattle depredations. Wolves are definitely an issue in Washington state.

Only one moose may be taken per hunter during the hunting season.

Hunters with permits to take cow moose are requested to refrain from taking cows with calves in their immediate vicinity. Some cow moose in Washington do not produce calves in all years or may have already lost them by hunting season. WDFW requests that hunters with cow moose permits attempt to harvest these animals.

Washington bull moose are once-in-a-lifetime. If you have previously taken an antlered bull moose in Washington, you cannot apply again; however, you could apply for cow moose or raffle/auction permits.

Submission of moose incisor tooth

Hunters who are drawn for a moose permit will be provided a postage paid envelope. Successful hunters are required to pull an incisor tooth within 60 days of harvest and return it to WDFW in the postage-paid envelope in order to determine the age of harvested moose. This will not only allow a hunter to know the age of their trophy moose, but will assist WDFW in sustainably managing moose populations in Washington. Hunters who want to check the age of their harvested moose can visit the following website here.

Results are typically available approximately six months after the hunting season.

How to uncover hidden gems

The term “hidden gem” when it comes to moose hunting in the lower 48 is kind of a misnomer. Don’t think that you have any better draw odds if you just want to go moose hunting and fill the freezer on a cow moose. Even with 20 points, the majority of draw odds are less than 1% to as high as 2.1%.


B&C entry trends for Washington Shiras moose


Units listed below 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.

Washington’s top B&C producing counties since 2015 for Shiras moose

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Stevens 5 8, 7, 4, 5-GMU 111
Ferry 2 8, 7
Pend Oreille 2 10, 4, 2
Okanogan 1 8

Map of Washington's top producing B&C moose counties all time - 2020

TOP B&C SHIRAS MOOSE LOCATION ENTRIES SINCE 2015 - 2020 Washington


Managing expectations

Find the moose hunt that meets your expectations, hold out and apply each year. You’re in for a long wait no matter what unit you look at. Even with 24 points, your highest odds last year would have been 2.2%. Dive into Filtering 2.0 and our Standalone Draw Odds to compare and contrast all of your moose options in Washington.

Find your resident bull moose draw odds here

Find your nonresident bull moose draw odds here


Washington’s 2020 mountain goat breakdown

Here’s a really interesting bit of history: mountain goats have been hunted in Washington since 1897 when hunters could harvest two goats annually. Mountain goat hunting seasons were restricted in 1917 and all hunting closed by 1925. Eventually, the mountain goat populations recovered and hunting resumed in 1948. Since then, mountain goat hunting opportunities have been limited by a permit only season.

As of 2018, mountain goats in Washington were estimated to number approximately 3,624 statewide (1,043 in national parks).

Back in 1991, 218 permits were issued for mountain goats in Washington. That number eventually dropped down to 18 permits in 2008, then to 14 permits in 2013 and, now, there are 20 permits in 2020.

Anyone can apply for a mountain goat, except those who have previously taken a mountain goat in Washington after 1998. Basically, with that rule in place and the steep odds, drawing one will most likely be a once-in-a-lifetime deal. However, a hunter could still get a mountain goat tag in a raffle or purchase an auction permit.

To be a legal mountain goat, a hunter can take a goat of either sex, but the horns must be 4” or longer (except where otherwise permitted by department rule even if permits are drawn for more than one mountain goat hunt category). 

Along with that, WDFW strongly encourages hunters to refrain from shooting nannies even though nannies can be legally taken by permit holders. Mountain goat populations are very sensitive to the removal of adult females. Applicants drawn for a permit may only purchase their license after successfully completing the WDFW online mountain goat gender identification training.

With the recommended avoidance of shooting nannies, WDFW also encourages permit holders to avoid taking a radio-collared mountain goat.

Seasons

Permit holders may use any legal weapon. Archers may begin hunting on Sept. 1 except in Mt. Margaret Backcountry and Mt. St. Helens South mountain goat areas. Typically, seasons open up Sept. 15 or Oct. 1.

Mandatory inspection for mountain goat kill

A hunter who kills a mountain goat in Washington must present the head with horns attached for inspection within 10 days to a WDFW regional or district office or a location designated by a department representative. Call a WDFW regional or district office to schedule an appointment with a biologist for inspection. Inspection does not substitute for mandatory hunter reporting. For mountain goats, both are required. After inspection, the head/horns of a lawfully harvested mountain goat in Washington may be kept for personal use.


B&C entry trends for Washington mountain goat


Units listed below 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.

Washington’s top B&C producing counties since 2010 for mountain goat

County No. of
entries
Units found within county
Chelan 2 2-1, 2-3
Kittitas 1 3-6, 3-7
Skamania 1 4-8a

Map of Washington's top producing B&C mountain goat counties all time - 2020

TOP B&C MOUNTAIN GOAT LOCATION ENTRIES SINCE 2015 - 2020 Washington


Managing expectations

There are a total of 12 mountain goat units in Washington. If you want to go off straight applications, Unit 5-4, Unit 3-6 and Unit 3-7 are the most popular based solely on the number of applications at 4,746; 4,730 and 4,414 respectively. Jump over to Filtering 2.0 to learn more about your options.

You’re in for a long wait if you want to draw, but a mountain goat hunt is a hunt of a lifetime!

Find your resident mountain goat draw odds here

Find your nonresident mountain goat draw odds here

Comments

One Day Only - Get 30% Off Insider or Explorer
Last Chance for Up to 50% Off for Cyber Monday
Shop gifts curated for any kind of hunter