APPLICATION STRATEGY 2020: Wyoming Elk
Wyoming's 2020 elk application overview
The application deadline for Wyoming elk for nonresidents is Jan. 31, 2020, by 11:59 p.m. MST. The application is entirely online. Apply online here. Resident elk limited quota applications are due by May 31, 2020.
New for 2020
IMPORTANT: New for 2020, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) will not publish tentative season information in the application packet for elk. Instead, hunters can reference the 2020 regulations and archery season dates. Final season information will be published on May 1.
Nonresident applicants have until May 8 to modify or withdraw their applications. Draw results will post the third week in May. Wyoming’s draw system still requires you to front the entire cost of license with your application by Jan. 31. Those funds will not be refunded to your card until late May if you are unsuccessful in the draw.
Preference point reminder: Unsuccessful applicants will not automatically be given a preference point after the draw. You must purchase a point during the point only timeframe which is July 2 to Nov. 2, 2020.
INSIDER feature: goHUNT displays the number of applicants at each point level below the cut-off draw line for each hunt. This gives applicants a much greater understanding of point creep for each hunt and allows them to apply with a much better understanding of their chances. Refer to the detailed Draw Odds pages for hunts you are considering to see the point breakdown.
View important information and an overview of the Wyoming rules/regulations, the draw system, preference points, SuperTag and SuperTag Trifecta, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map on our State Profile. You can also view the Wyoming Elk Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.
Important dates and information
- You can apply for elk beginning Jan. 2, 2020 at 8 a.m. MST.
- The nonresident deadline to apply is Jan. 31, 2020 by 11:59 p.m. MST.
- The resident deadline to apply is May 31, 2020 by 11:59 p.m. MST.
- Apply online here. Applications are only accepted online.
- Deadline to amend or withdraw your nonresident elk application is May 8, 2020 by 11:59 p.m. MST.
- Nonresident draw results will be available by the third week of May.
- Refunds for unsuccessful applicants will be returned to the credit card that was used.
- The preference point only purchase period is from July 1 to Nov. 2, 2020.
- Failure to apply or purchase preference points for two consecutive years will cause all previous points accumulated to be purged.
- You cannot return an elk license for a refund or get preference points back
THE WYOMING DRAW SYSTEM
Wyoming has a random draw for residents with no point system. The nonresident elk draw works on a modified preference point system with 75% of the permits for each hunt given to applicants with the most points and 25% being randomly allocated. The randomly allocated permits are drawn with no weight given to the number of points that applicants have. Any applicants who aren’t successful in the preference point draw will then be rolled into the random pool and will have a chance to draw from the random licenses available.
The maximum number of preference points for elk is 14 going into the 2020 draw.
What is the special and regular draw?
The special draw and the regular draw are separate pools of licenses. The difference between the special and regular licenses is that the cost of the special license is $576 more than the regular license. The potential benefit to the special draw is better odds of drawing a license because fewer applicants are typically willing to pay the extra cost. This is not always the case. Review the Draw Odds to see if the added cost is worth it.
Wyoming will allow up to six people to apply on a party application for elk. Residents and nonresidents may not apply together in a party application. Party applications have their preference points averaged out to the fourth decimal point. For example, a party application of three hunters with five, three and two preference points will go into the draw with 3.3333 points. The party is treated as a single application and, if it’s drawn, all members of the party will receive a license. Wyoming will allocate permits over the hunt quota to cover a party application, so there is no decrease in odds for group applicants.
How many choices do I have on my application?
Applicants can select up to three hunt choices when they apply. Every applicant in the draw has their first choice considered before moving to second and third choices. Essentially, to draw a license as a second choice, there must be surplus tags after every applicant's first choice is considered. You can check the second choice draw odds within your INSIDER account by manipulating “select your draw choice.” You only lose preference points if you draw your first choice.
Full price and reduced price licenses
There are two separate drawings for full price and reduced price elk licenses. There are separate applications for those. Type 1, 2, 9, 4, 5 and 0 are all full priced licenses. Reduced price are Types 6, 7 and 8, which are all antlerless (cow/calf) licenses. The full price draw works on the modified preference point system. The reduced price draw is random and permits are randomly allocated. Your preference points will not be impacted if you apply for and draw a reduced price license.
Designated Wilderness Areas (DWA)
A nonresident cannot legally hunt a DWA on their own; they must be accompanied by a licensed Wyoming outfitter or licensed Wyoming resident. A DMA is a United States Forest Service (USFS) designation.
A Wilderness Study Area (WSA) is a BLM designation and a nonresident can hunt those areas without a guide.
Before applying, be aware that there are large tracts of USFS DWAs in many hunt areas. Every year, we receive email questions after the draw from applicants who have drawn licenses that are comprised of all DWA or large portions of DWA and they are trying to figure out how to hunt. Please do some research and apply accordingly.
Since 2000, the grizzly population has continued to grow and expand well beyond the Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone. The most recent estimate of the population was approximately 700 grizzly bears.
Hunting in grizzly country can be intimidating and is a real cause for concern. If hunting in occupied grizzly bear areas is something you do not want to do, please do some research and apply for areas where that is not an issue. See the map below for estimated grizzly bear range.
Wyoming grizzly bear range in 1990 and 2018. Source: Wyoming Fish and Game Department
Wyoming's 2020 elk breakdown
Wyoming’s elk populations are strong with almost every area outside of occupied grizzly/wolf habitat either meeting or exceeding population objectives. In many areas of the state, populations are far exceeding objectives.
General season elk hunting has perhaps never been better in Wyoming. With 50+ general hunt areas—and most offering healthy populations of elk with decent trophy potential—it’s a great time to hunt on a general season license.
Trophy potential is good in Wyoming, but it’s not great. It is not Arizona or Utah in terms of quality. Certainly, a handful of 370” plus bulls will be taken every year; however, for the most part, top end bulls will be in the 300” to 330” range. In terms of trophy quality, bigger bulls are almost always associated with three types of units: roadless remote wilderness terrain, areas that are mostly private land and units that are managed for quality by offering fewer numbers of licenses. All of these can be somewhat of a roadblock for the DIY nonresident hunter. DWAs cannot be hunted without a guide, private land is, well, private and the good limited quota licenses are very tough to draw. If there are hidden gems—and there are—they exist in less pressured areas that are remote (but not wilderness, or on the edges of private land. Guided hunts are also a great way to harvest a bigger bull.
Below are population trends by herds.
Population trends by herds
|Herd hunt areas||Population estimate||Population objective||Wolf/grizzly area||Notes|
|1, 116, 117||2,500||N/A||No||73% of occupied habitat is private. Area 1 in the best public option of the three.|
|7, 19||5,000||11,182||No||Mix of public/private. Can be tough to navigate access.|
|23||1,383||1,000||No||Large private ranch within the central part of the area holds the vast majority of the elk.|
|41, 45||2,977||2,200||No||Three year average population of 819 in Area 45 and 1,912 in Area 41. Good public land access.|
|62, 63, 64||2,176||2,000||Yes||Good portions of USFS and BLM throughout. There are some designated wilderness areas.|
|55, 56, 58, 59, 60, 61, 66||5,868||4,400||Yes||Great elk habitat and trophy potential, but vast amounts of designated wilderness, backcountry terrain.|
|51, 53, 54||2,737||3,300||Yes||Mix of public land and wilderness areas in Areas 51 and 53. Area 54 has a complex mix of public, USFS and BLM land.|
|106, 107||1,600||N/A||No||Interstate herd with Utah, most elk summering in the Uinta Mountains in Utah wintering in Wyoming.|
|30, 31, 32||N/A||1,000||No||Herd shared between Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, with the largest segment of the population residing in Colorado.|
|13, 15, 21, 108, 130||7,000||5,000||No||Areas 108, 130 have limited public access. 13, 15, 21 have a good mix of public lands and good access.|
|100||1,950||1,200||No||Great public access, rolling milder terrain. Extremely tough to draw a license.|
|124||N/A||N/A||No||Small population in pockets over a tremendous amount of country.|
|73||N/A||N/A||Yes||Interstate population shared between elk summering in Wyoming and wintering in Idaho.|
|102, 103, 104, 105||3,047||3,100||No||Pockets of elk can be tough to find at times. These areas are mostly BLM and private lands with good public access and opportunity to hunt.
These are general season areas.
|70, 71, 72, 75, 77, 78, 80, 81, 82, 83||9,627||11,000||Yes||Tons of public land in most areas and a mix of general and limited quota hunt opportunities.|
|84, 85||4,090||4,400||Yes||Large portions of wilderness areas, enough non-wilderness public land for a nonresident to hunt.|
|88, 89, 90, 91||1,867||2,200||Possible||There is good access and good amounts of public land.|
|67, 68, 69, 127||6,069||5,500||Yes||Area 67 is a mix of public, private, and wilderness. Area 68 offers good access and amounts of public. Unit 69 in entirely wilderness.
Area 127 is almost entirely reservation.
|25, 27, 28, 99||2,992||2,600||Possible||Some designated wilderness in Area 99 and 28. Summer range exists in the upper
elevations in Areas 25, 28 and 99. Area 25 is primarily composed of rolling BLM land.
|24, 128||742||500||No||Most elk inhabit Area 24 on Green Mountain and Crooks Canyon. Mostly rolling BLM land, which offers great access.|
|22, 111||600||350||No||Mix of public and private in Area 22. Access is an issue in the southern portion of Area 111.|
|118||N/A||75||No||Consists of small groups of elk in open sage terrain. There is some migration between neighboring Area 100.|
|6||3,527||1,800||No||Area 6 is largely private land with tough access. There is some USFS land in the southern
portion and some BLM and state lands in the northern portion
|8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 110, 114, 125||9,165||6,000||No||There are good portions of public land and numbers of elk on the general season areas, but a limited amount of accessible public land in the limited quota hunts.|
|16||2,131||800||No||Decent amounts of BLM and Hunter Management Areas. Elk largely located through the central portion of the area.|
|3||N/A||40||No||Over 88% of the occupied habitat is privately owned. Hunters can hunt the Broom Creek Hunter Management Area.|
|86, 87||993||1,100||Possible||Primarily public land with good access and some wilderness in the eastern portion of Area 87.|
|92, 94||2,150||2,400||Possible||General season areas with good access into USFS land and some lower range BLM.|
|93, 95, 96||2,512||2,500||Yes||A large portion of elk habitat in Area 96 is wilderness. Area 93 and 96 both have some accessible USFS land, a good portion of the lower range is private|
|97, 98||1,954||1,900||Yes||Large area, but only about 21% of it is considered occupied elk habitat. Of the USFS that exists,
over half is within wilderness areas.
|35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40||5,599||4,350||No||Mix of limited quota and general season hunt areas. Good populations, good access and portions of public land.|
|33, 34, 47, 48, 49, 120||4,892||3,300||No||Largest populations occur in Areas 33 and 34. Opportunity is largely contingent on private land access.
Access Yes Walk-in Areas provided access to private lands and adjacent BLM and state lands, most are located in Area 120.
|123||N/A||N/A||No||Estimates suggest that the herd size is approximately 850 elk with the bulk occurring in Area 123. Complex mix of private and public.|
General season hunt
Wyoming’s point system has put most applicants in a position where their odds of drawing a good limited quota hunt are very low. The wilderness law and large sections of private land in other portions of the state further limit opportunity.
On the flip side, 51 of the state’s elk areas offer a general season hunt and a license holder can hunt any of them. Seasons are long and hunters can hunt both the archery and rifle hunt until they are successful. Nonresidents have to draw, but the number of points required to obtain a license is still much less than almost every other option.
|General elk||Nonresident elk (regular)||Nonresident elk (special)||Resident|
|Preference point odds||37% with 2 points||38% with 1 point||OTC|
Moving into the 2020 draw, we anticipate the general season hunt to become harder to draw. With 1.5 points in the special draw odds applicants should draw. For the first time, it would not surprise us if it requires more than one point to guarantee a general license in the special draw.
In the regular draw, with 2.5 points applicants should draw but it could require three. As more hunters begin to understand how poor the odds of drawing the high-quality hunts are, the general season hunt point creep could jump higher.
goHUNT hitlist for general season elk areas
|Area||Trophy potential||Bull:cow ratio||Harvest success||Branch-antlered bull success||% public land|
Areas 59, 56 and 60 have huge chunks of wilderness and are best suited for a guided hunt. Areas 36 and 37 are on the lower end of harvest success, but the branch-antlered bull harvest is high as is the bull:cow ratios. There are also no grizzly bears or wolves to deal with. They both offer good archery hunts. Area 67 is a mix of public, private and wilderness and has a well established grizzly population. If you can manage the likelihood of a grizzly encounter, Area 67 offers the chance at a bigger bull. Areas 82, 83, 84 and 85 all offer good bull:cow ratios, decent harvest success and, most impressively, a high percentage of branch-antlered bulls to harvest. Area 73 is another standout with high harvest success and high number of branch-antlered bulls to harvest.
Limited quota hunts
Wyoming’s best hunts in terms of the quality of hunt experience and trophy quality are allocated through the draw. These hunts have extremely limited quotas and because of this it’s gotten very tough to draw those licenses. Going into 2020 the maximum point total is 14. The top tier hunts are going to require 14 points plus some real luck to draw. Limited quota hunts in the top Areas 22, 56, 59 and 124 all have odds of less than 10% in the regular draw with maximum points. In the special draw, odds are slightly better, but are still less than 100%.
Wyoming does allocate 25% of the licenses for each hunt randomly. This means that if you have less than the number of points to draw, you have at least some chance to draw as long as there is a license available. If you decide to take this approach, make sure there is at least one tag available. To check that, open the standalone Draw Odds for Wyoming elk and scroll through the list of all the odds. If there is at least some percentage all the way to the zero point level, then there was at least one random license allocated.
If a hunt requires very few points to draw, it’s worth investigating why. Those hunts usually have very little public land to hunt, occur in DWAs or have a combination of issues. It’s not impossible to find success on those hunts, but it will take real effort, research, time or, perhaps, a guide.
Below we have listed the top hunts in terms of trophy potential. If your primary objective is to get a chance at a trophy bull, then these are your best bets.
goHUNT hitlist limited quota areas to consider for 340” or better bulls
|Area-type||Trophy potential||Bull:cow ratio||Harvest success||Points required (regular)||Points required (special)||Random tag(s) available|
|7-1||350”+||51:100||55%||10 (48%)||9 (36%)||Yes|
|54-1||350”+||38:100||61%||13 (40%)||13 (40%)||No|
|54-2||350”+||38:100||60%||12 (100%)||<9 (33%)||No|
|54-9||350”+||38:100||27%||10 (50%)||9 (67%)||No|
|58-1||350”+||38:100||83%||13 (50%)||13 (75%)||No|
|59-1||350”+||38:100||91%||13 (9.1%)||13 (33%)||No|
|59-9||350”+||38:100||30%||2 (100%)||0 (100%)||No|
|63/64-1||350”+||30:100||55%||13 (100%)||12 (21%)||Yes|
|63-2||350”+||30:100||50%||10 (100%)||7 (100%)||No|
|64-2||350”+||30:100||38%||11 (17%)||11 (51%)||Yes|
|124-1||350”+||N/A||80%||13 (6.7%)||13 (7.7%)||No|
|16-1||340”+||30:100||68%||13 (100%)||12 (11%)||Yes|
|16-2||340”+||30:100||75%||13 (60%)||12 (33%)||No|
|19-1||340”+||51:100||51%||11 (100%)||9 (100%)||Yes|
|19-2||340”+||51:100||73%||9 (100%)||7 (40%)||Yes|
|22-1||340”+||362:100||73%||13 (5.7%)||13 (20%)||No|
|31-1||340”+||53:100||84%||13 (11%)||13 (9.7%)||Yes|
|51-9||340”+||19:100||30%||5 (31%)||3 (100%)||Yes|
|51-1||340”+||19:100||36%||9 (76%)||8 (51%)||Yes|
|56-9||340”+||38:100||7%||<9 (100%)||0 (100%)||Yes|
|61-1||340”+||38:100||64%||9 (47%)||9 (23%)||Yes|
|61-2||340”+||38:100||62%||12 (100%)||11 (100%)||No|
|62-1||340”+||30:100||72%||12 (26%)||12 (37%)||Yes|
|100-1||340”+||76:100||90%||13 (12%)||13 (20%)||Yes|
How to uncover hidden gem Wyoming elk areas
If you take a peek at the table listed above you’ll quickly notice that the top tier trophy hunts can be tough to draw and many of them occur in areas that are hard to access due to private land or wilderness. Point creep isn’t getting any better either. If may be time to dig in and try to find a hidden gem and go hunting.
Using our Filtering 2.0 tool, INSIDERS can select trophy potential, season, public land percentage and harvest success to explore the possibilities. You’ll begin to see a pattern. Easier to draw hunts are typically one of the following: Type 9 (archery only), mostly private land or DWAs, tough access or low trophy potential. Work within those parameters and you’ll find the hidden gems.
THE POINTS SYSTEM
Wyoming works on a preference point system, not a bonus point system. You obtain a preference point when you buy one from July 1 to Nov. 2. An elk point will cost a nonresident $50. The maximum number of points for elk is 14 going into 2020. Keep in mind that the youth preference point fee for elk is $10. This is a great state to start building points for a young hunter.
|Preference points||Total applicants||Total points at each level|
There was a 14% increase in total preference points from 2019 to 2020. In the last two years, there has been a total of 27.6% increase in total preference points.
Residents: The Wyoming residents' draw process is 100% random for deer, elk and antelope. There are no preference points for residents
Managing points and expectations
Before diving into what you might expect depending on the number of points you have, we have a few key pieces of advice worth considering.
- Regular or special? The best hunts have odds that are very nearly the same. Examine the Draw Odds to determine if going into the special draw is worth the extra cost of the license. In most cases, the extra cash can help you draw a year sooner.
- Wyoming allows up to six applicants to apply on one elk application. Preference points are averaged for the group and Wyoming will over-allocate tags to accommodate a party. If they are willing, consider applying as a party with other applicants that have more points to boost your total.
- We often get asked if the “general season” license is available OTC. It is for a resident, but nonresidents must apply for a general season license and draw it. Also, the general season license will not be drawn as a second choice in the regular or special draw
I have 0 points. What can I expect?
First, consider your objectives. Is your objective to hunt elk and possibly fill the freezer? Is your objective to hunt bull elk? Is your objective to hunt and hopefully put a trophy set of antlers on the wall?
If you are more of a meat hunter, you have a few options. You can review the odds for antlerless elk; the full priced Type 4 and 5 licenses have much better odds of drawing. You can also review the odds for the Type 6 and 7 antlerless elk and apply for those in the reduced price license drawing. In that scenario, you could apply in the full priced drawing for a good limited quota license and also apply for antlerless elk licenses in the reduced price drawing. Remember that those are separate drawings. Also worth considering: several Type 4 and 5 licenses can be drawn as a second choice and you won’t lose your points if you draw a license as a second choice.
If you're looking for a chance to hunt any bull, review the standalone draw odds for the best odds/hunt that makes sense for you. If may require some research and likely a guide. For example, Area 47 Type 1 special draw has 100% odds with no points and a harvest success rate of 55% in 2018. Access is very tough in this hunt area, but a guide, trespass fee or some real research and navigation skills may offer a decent hunt. There are some opportunities with no points, but they may not be the best for most DIY hunters.
If you want a chance to hunt the best areas for a big bull you have a couple options. One, apply for a great hunt as your first choice. Remember to only apply for one of the top tier hunts that has a random permit available. Likely the best options in this category are Areas 16 (Type 1), 31 (Type 1), 62 (Type 1), 63/64 (Type 1) and 100 (Type 1). The second option is to apply for the special archery Type 9 hunts in areas like 56 or 59, but before you take that route, make sure you have a guide booked. Those areas are remote and will require a guide.
What can I do with 3 to 8 points?
If you have three points, you should strongly consider the general season license. Building more points at this stage in the game is unlikely to help you all that much down the road due to point creep. The general season license offers you the chance to hunt any of the 50+ general season areas. Broadly speaking, general areas have healthy elk populations and the trophy quality in many is as good as it is in some of the limited quota areas that require as many and more points to draw. If you have three to five points, the general season license is worth a long look.
There are some good options for the bowhunters in this point range. Type 9 hunts in Areas 35 and 41 are both good hunts in the Bighorn Mountains. Type 9 in Areas 51, 53, 67/68/69 are all good hunts in great elk country and the opportunity for a bigger bull is decent. Be aware that those areas do have large portions of wilderness and grizzly encounters are a real possibility.
Rifle hunters have a few good options as well. The Type 1 hunt in 25/27 can be good. Area 33 and 34 can be good late in the season with a guide or some map and GPS work. Areas 38, 39, 40 and 41 can all be good if the weather holds off. Many years, these areas can have early winter weather and many elk will have transitioned into private property, so these units are somewhat of a gamble. A rifle hunt in Unit 55 is good guided option. Areas 93, 95, 96, 97, 98 and 99 are all good options, but also have a lot of designated wilderness.
For other options, you can use Filtering 2.0 and the standalone Draw Odds pages to find hunts available in that point range. If you are within this range and holding out for the top hunts in the state, it’s unlikely that you will catch up. Be sure to check out the detailed Draw Odds pages of each hunt you are considering to see how many applicants are ahead of you.
What can I expect with 9 to 11 points?
Rifle hunters might research Areas 1, 7, 11, 19, 45, 49, 51, 61 and 64. Area 63 Type 2 could also be very good with a guide (entirely wilderness). In addition, there may be a few other hidden gems with some additional research in areas like 108, 118 or 120.
Within this point range is where applicants really have to begin to analyze the detailed Draw Odds pages to see how many applicants might be out ahead of them and adjust accordingly. It may be that the top tier hunts are still a decade or more out ahead of you. Don’t waste your points and time—do the research and go hunting!
What can I expect with 12 to 14 points?
At 12 or 14 points your options of very similar to the options in the nine to 11 point range. A few hunts that are of interest in Units 16, 24, 62, 63, 111. Those hunts all had 100% odds within this point range and applicants should review their points, information on Unit Profiles and odds for each to see if one is a good fit.
If you are committed to the top tier hunts in Areas 100, 124, 22, 30, 31, 56 and 59, check the detailed draw odds pages and see if the wait is going to be worth it. Odds are very low for those—even with maximum points.