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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2021: Utah Elk

UTAH'S 2021 ELK APPLICATION OVERVIEW

Jump to: NEW FOR 2021 State Information Draw System Elk Breakdown

Note: The application deadline for all Utah species is March 4, 2021 at 11 p.m. MST. Applicants wishing to purchase preference and/or bonus points only have until March 18, 2021 at 11 p.m. MST. You may apply online here.


New for 2021


State information

To view important information and an overview of Utah’s rules/regulations, the draw system and bonus points, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map, check out our State Profile. You can also view the Utah Elk Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.

Utah State Profile Elk Profile GOHUNT MAPS Draw Odds Filtering 2.0

Important dates and information

  • The deadline to apply is March 4, 2021 at 11 p.m. MST. Apply online here.
  • The bonus point/preference point only purchase and application withdrawal deadline is March 18, 2021 at 11 p.m. MST.
  • Results will be emailed or available online on or shortly before May 31, 2021.
  • Hunters must have a valid hunting or combination hunting/fishing license to apply.
  • Hunting licenses are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase. If you time it correctly you can apply for two consecutive years on one license. You do not need an active hunting license to hunt, just to apply.
  • Applicants must be 12 years old by Dec. 31, 2021 to apply.
  • Hunters must be 12 years old to hunt.
  • Hunters born after Dec. 31, 1965 must have taken an approved hunter’s education course.
  • Withdrawing or correcting an application is allowed before the application deadline. Corrections are made by withdrawing an application and submitting a new one. Be aware: you will be charged the $10 application fee again to make adjustments and reapply.
  • Nonresidents may apply and build bonus points for all available species.
  • Residents may only apply for one limited entry species: elk, antelope or deer. They may also apply for one once-in-a-lifetime species: moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat or bison. They can also apply for general season deer and the dedicated hunter program if they are not already enrolled.
  • If you draw a limited entry elk permit, you may not apply again for five years.
  • If you draw a limited entry antelope permit, you may not apply again for two years.


Applying for a state you've never hunted before can be daunting but we are here to make it easy. In the video above, Trail goes over some of the most commonly asked questions when applying in Utah.

Fees and permit costs

Utah elk fees 2021

Item Resident fees Nonresident fees
365-day hunting license $11 youth (13 and under)
$16 youth (14 to 17)
$34 adult (18 to 64)
$25 adult (65 and older)
$29 youth (17 and under)
$72 adult (18 and older)
365-day hunt/fish combination license $20 youth (14 to 17)
$38 adult (18 to 64)
$29 adult (65 and older)
$33 youth (17 and under)
$98 adult (18 and older)
Application fee per species $10 $15
Limited entry elk $285 $1,000
Multi-season limited entry elk $513 $1,805

Note: Applicants need to buy either a hunting license or combination hunting/fishing license to apply. Applicants will not be charged the cost of the permit unless they are successful in the draw.

Snowpack in Utah

2021

Utah snowpack 2021

Utah Snow Water Equivalent as of Feb. 9, 2021. Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service Utah

In regards to snowpack, currently, the entire state is in abysmal conditions, and many areas experienced record-setting drought conditions in the latter two-thirds of 2020. No area of the state is even at 70% of normal. It’s still early and it’s not uncommon for Utah to receive a good portion of its snowfall in February and early March, but if it does not, antler growth could be poor in 2021.

2020

Utah snowpack 2020

Utah Snow Water Equivalent as of Feb. 20, 2020. Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service Utah

2019

Utah February 2019 Snow water equivalent map

Utah Snow Water Equivalent as of Feb. 17, 2019. Source: Natural Resources Conservation Service Utah

The draw system

Utah issues 10% of their draw permits to nonresidents. Limited entry elk hunts are allocated through a modified bonus point system. Half of the permits for each hunt are given to applicants who apply with the most bonus points. The other half are allocated through a random draw with weight given to the number of points you have. Essentially, the more points you have, the more chances you get in the drawing. If there is an odd number of permits, the bulk go to high point holders. If there is one permit only, it will be randomly drawn. 

Applicants who are unsuccessful in the draw will get a point for each species they applied for. You can also apply for a point only. Only apply for a point only if you cannot afford the permit or the time off to hunt should you draw. With a portion of the permits being randomly drawn, you always have some chance of drawing.

Hunt choices

Applicants can select two hunt choices when applying for limited entry hunts. Every applicant’s first choice is considered before moving to anyone's second choice. It is extremely rare for a limited entry permit to be drawn as a second choice. In recent years, the very few hunts that could be drawn as a second choice were not hunts we would advise applicants to apply for unless they have a guide/outfitter lined up for those areas. The Cache, Meadowville elk hunt is a primary example of that. It’s a good guided/private land hunt, but is not a good DIY option. If you draw a permit as a second choice, you will lose all accumulated points.

Group applications

Up to four applicants can apply for limited entry hunts on one application. Nonresidents and residents can apply together. Points are averaged for a group application and rounded down to the nearest whole number. There must be enough permits to cover the number of applicants on your group application; otherwise, it will be rejected. That goes for residents and nonresidents who apply together as a group. Nonresident permits will come out of the nonresident pool for that hunt — make sure there are enough.

Draw order

Utah’s draw goes in the following order from first to last:

  1. Buck deer (multi-season premium limited entry, premium limited entry, multi-season limited entry, limited entry, Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit (CWMU) and management buck deer)
  2. Bull elk (multi-season limited entry, limited entry and CWMU)
  3. Buck antelope (limited entry and CWMU)
  4. Once-in-a-lifetime species (bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison)
  5. General buck deer (lifetime license holders)
  6. General buck deer (dedicated hunters)
  7. General buck deer (youth)
  8. General buck deer
  9. Youth any bull elk

Utah does not allow applicants to draw multiple limited entry tags in the same draw/year. You also cannot draw a limited entry and a once-in-a-lifetime (moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat or bison) permit in the same year.

Permit return

Successful applicants who wish to return a permit that they have drawn can do so 30 days prior to the start of their hunt. In this case, they can have their bonus points reinstated; however, they would not earn one for that year's application. The cost of permit will be refunded as long as it is returned 30 days prior to the hunt. If applicants drew a permit as part of a group, all members of the group must surrender their permits in order to have all of the applicants’ bonus points reinstated. Hunting licenses and application fees are nonrefundable.


Utah's 2021 elk breakdown

Utah manages their elk herds by individual unit. Each unit has a desired age class objective for harvested bulls. Age class is determined by analyzing teeth from bulls harvested each year. The average age over a three-year period guides the number of permits offered. 

Utah bull elk age class objective 7.5 to 8 years

Unit 2019 average age Three year average age
Beaver, East 7.9 7.8
Plateau, Boulder/Kaiparowits 7.7 7.7
Book Cliffs/Little Creek 7.0 7.0
Fillmore/Pahvant 6.5 7.3
San Juan 7.6 7.8
West Desert, Deep Creek 5.8 5.9

 

Utah bull elk age class objective 6.5 to 7 years

Unit 2019 average age Three year average age
Book Cliffs/Bitter Creek 6.0 6.2
Cache South 5.9 5.5
Central Mtns/Nebo 5.7 5.8
Monroe 7.3 6.8
Mt. Dutton 5.8 6.2
Panguitch Lake 6.7 6.0
South Slope/Diamond Mtn. 6.9 7.1
Southwest Desert 7.3 6.9

 

Utah bull elk age class objective 5.5 to 6 years

Unit 2019 average age Three year average age
Central Mtns/Manti 6.3 6.3
La Sal/Dolores Triangle 4.0 4.5
La Sal/La Sal Mtns 5.7 5.8
Nine Mile/Anthro 5.1 6.8
North Slope/Three Corners 6.0 5.2
Oquirrh/Stansbury 5.4 5.2
Plateau/Fishlake 6.0 6.0
Wasatch 6.2 6.3

 

Utah bull elk age class objective 4.5 to 5 years

Unit 2019 average age Three year average age
Box Elder/Grouse Creek 5.5 5.6
Box Elder/Pilot 7.7 6.5
Cache/North 4.4 4.4
Paunsaugunt 4.8 4.7

The goHUNT hit list units for Utah elk

Top hunt units to consider for 350” or better bulls
(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
Potential
Harvess
success
Resident bonus
points to
draw 2020
Nonresident
bonus points
to draw 2020
Beaver, East 380”+ Archery: 71%
Early rifle: 90%
Muzzleloader: 75%
Late rifle: 100%
Multi-season: 100%
52% with 16 points
100% with 25 points
35% with 23 points
15% with 20 points
N/A
N/A
Plateau, Boulder 380"+ Archery: 56%
Early rifle: 93%
Muzzleloader: 100%
Late rifle: 57%
Multi-season: 100%
41% with 15 points
41% with 23 points
100% with 22 points
100% with 18 points
40% with 25 points
100% with 24 points
15% with 24 points
N/A
100% with 23 points
N/A
San Juan 380"+ Archery: 50%
Early rifle: 93%
Muzzleloader: 80%
Late rifle: 79%
Multi-season: 100%
100% with 17 points
62% with 25 points
61% with 23 points
54% with 18 points
100% with 26 points
50% with 22 points
100% with 26 points
N/A
100% with 20 points
N/A
Fillmore, Pahvant 380"+ Archery: 54%
Early rifle: 68%
Muzzleloader: 89%
Late rifle: 54%
Multi-season: 67%
82% with 14 points
80% with 24 points
100% with 21 points
62% with 19 points
100% with 26 points
N/A
100% with 25 points
N/A
N/A
N/A
Monroe 370"+ Archery: 30%
Early rifle: 94%
Muzzleloader: 100%
Late rifle: 100%
Multi-season: 100%
100% with 15 points
41% with 24 points
27% with 22 points
100% with 21 points
N/A
N/A
Book Cliffs, Little Creek 370"+ Archery: 83%
Early rifle: 87%
Muzzleloader: 75%
Multi-season: 50%
100% with 12 points
35% with 19 points
52% with 17 points
N/A
N/A
Panguitch Lake 360"+ Archery: 44%
Early rifle: 80%
Muzzleloader: 83%
Late rifle: 60%
Multi-season: 50%
100% with 11 points
29% with 20 points
100% with 20 points
100% with 16 points
N/A
N/A
Mt. Dutton 360"+ Archery: 44%
Early rifle: 85%
Muzzleloader: 86%
Late rifle: 50%
Multi-season: 100%
72% with 8 points
10% with 19 points
26% with 16 points
35% with 19 points
100% with 24 points
52% with 17 points
N/A
N/A
N/A
N/A

Random permits are available in most cases. Random odds vary by the number of bonus points. Review the odds within your INSIDER account.

New archery and HAMS hunts

As indicated in the “what's new” section of this article, Utah is offering new hunts in six units. Those units are the Box Elder/Sawtooth, Cache/North, Nine Mile/Anthro, Oquirrh-Stansbury, Plateau/Barney Top/Kaiparowits, Southwest Desert/North and West Desert/DeepCreek. The archery hunts in these units will run from Sept. 1 to 30 and are the first hunts Utah has ever offered for bowhunters that will occur in the heart of the rut. These same units will be offering a HAMS hunt from Oct. 1 to Nov. 15. Be aware that there are special weapons restrictions. 

Currently, we do not have an indication of how many points it will require to draw or even the number of permits that will be allocated since Utah will not make those recommendations until late April. We do know that there will be both resident and nonresident permits available in the draw. 

Generally speaking, elk populations within these areas are not as robust as the more well known limited entry units. The trophy potential is also not going to be on par with the other units. However, a few of these units are in close proximity to some of the best units in the state. 

In our opinion, the Plateau/Barney Top/Kaiparowits, Southwest Desert/North and Nine Mile/Anthro all have decent trophy potential for the HAMS hunters who have ample time to scout and hunt. A guide will also offer hunters who draw this permit a much better opportunity to harvest as bulls can be hit or miss in these areas. The Box Elder/Sawtooth, Cache/North, Oquirrh-Stansbury and the West Desert/Deep Creek offer decent archery hunting opportunities; however, the trophy potential is going to be average, perhaps up to 320”+. 

The new HAMS and archery hunts are intriguing, but they may not be a good fit for everyone. As stated, populations and trophy potential are average within these areas. Those who are willing to invest many days or go on a guided hunt could find success.

OTC elk hunt options

In the mad dash for hunting opportunities in the West, most people do not consider Utah. Utah has historically been known for long draw odds and big bulls. The OTC elk hunts are rarely talked about in online forums or podcasts, but there are hunts available for people who just want to hunt elk. Utah offers OTC elk hunts under two different categories: general any bull and general spike elk. There are archery, rifle, muzzleloader and, even, multi-season permits. 

The general archery permits are not specific to a unit and hunters who purchase those can hunt either spike elk units and/or any bull units. Archery hunters can harvest a spike or cow elk on almost every spike elk unit or they can harvest any bull or a cow elk on any bull units. The number of archery general season permits is unlimited. 

Rifle and muzzleloader hunters must choose between buying a spike elk permit or any bull permit. Rifle hunters or muzzleloader hunters who buy a general spike tag can harvest a spike only. General any bull elk rifle or muzzleloader permits are only valid for bull elk on general any bull units. The number of any bull and spike rifle/muzzleloader permits is capped. If you plan to obtain one of these permits, we would suggest that you plan on purchasing the day they go on sale. 

General season archery elk permits go on sale July 8 while the rifle and muzzleloader permits go on sale July 13. 

For the most part, the general season any bull elk units are not what we would consider “great opportunities.” The units that have good elk populations often have private land/access issues while areas that have good amounts of public land and good access often have very few elk. The best opportunity for a general any bull elk hunt is in the Uinta Mountains in northeastern Utah. The population and amount of public land is good. Those areas are mostly wilderness so you will need to be prepared to backpack hunt or hunt with packstock. 

The spike elk units are also Utah’s limited entry elk areas. Utah uses spike elk hunting on those units to keep the bull to cow ratios within desired levels while still offering hunts for trophy caliber bulls. The spike elk hunts offer great access, large amounts of public land to hunt and you’ll likely see some of the best bull elk in the West. Harvest success for the spike hunts is often in the 20% range. Overall, the spike elk hunt in Utah is still a really good opportunity to buy an OTC permit and fill the freezer. 

You can explore both hunt options within your goHUNT INSIDER account.


Managing points and expectations

2021 maximum bonus points for elk: 28

No one applied for a hunt with more than 26 in 2020.

In 2020, there were 117 bonus point permits and 157 random permits allocated to nonresidents. There were 17,958 nonresidents who applied for those. Interestingly enough, there were another 16,423 nonresidents who applied for bonus points only. Remember that applicants who apply for a hunt will still get a bonus point if you are unsuccessful in the draw. Essentially, those 16,423 people who applied for a bonus point had no chance to draw. Building points only is not likely to move the needle for you because there are so many applicants in the system and so few permits overall.

For example, if you combine the 117 bonus permits and the 157 random permits and allocated those just to the applicants at the 12 to 27 bonus point range, it would take almost 30 years to draw — if you’re lucky. If the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) did not allow any new nonresident applicants starting this year, it would still take 124 years to get through all the one- to 27-point applicants already in the system.

Apply for hunts. Do not apply for points only.

UTAH LIMITED ENTRY BULL ELK POINTS GOING INTO THE 2021 DRAW

UTAH RESIDENT LIMITED ENTRY BULL ELK POINT TOTALS GOING INTO THE 2021 DRAW

UTAH NONRESIDENT LIMITED ENTRY BULL ELK POINT TOTALS GOING INTO THE 2021 DRAW

Find your draw odds

I have 0 to 5 elk points. What can I expect?

Residents

WIth no points, there were two hunts in the same unit that could have been drawn. Those are the archery and late rifle hunt in the Cache/Meadowville unit. This unit is primarily private land and can provide a good hunt for those willing to book with an outfitter. We do not recommend that anyone apply in this unit without booking a guide or having a very good understanding of the unit and reasonable expectations.

With three to five points, the Paunsaugunt archery and early rifle hunts were available. The population and trophy potential are average, but there is an ample amount of public land to hunt. 

Perhaps, the best option is to use the Trophy Potential filter and the standalone draw odds to apply for a hunt that has random permits available and meets your objective. 

Nonresidents

With three to five points, the Cache/Meadowville archery and late rifle permits were available. Once again, we do not recommend applying for this unit without a guide and/or access to private lands. Use the Trophy Potential filter and the standalone draw odds to apply for a hunt that has random permits available and meets your objective

Find your resident elk draw odds with 0 points here

Find your nonresident elk draw odds with 0 points here

What can I do with 6 to 10 elk points?

Residents

With six points, resident applicants should consider the Wasatch MtnsLa Sal/La Sal Mtns and, perhaps, the Paunsaugunt archery hunts. The only rifle hunt really worth considering would be the early hunt on the Paunsaugunt

Applicants with seven and eight points begin to open up some options with the archery hunts in the Book Cliffs/Bitter Creek/South, Central Mtns/Manti, Plateau/Fishlake/Thousand Lakes and the South Slope/Diamond Mtn

With nine or 10 points, the best options are going to be the Cache/South, Central Mtns/Nebo, Mt Dutton, and the Southwest Desert. The muzzleloader North Slope/Three Corners hunt is also worth considering. The La Sal/La Sal Mtns late rifle hunt can also be a good hunt with nine to 10 points.

Nonresidents

Within the six to 10 bonus point range, nonresidents do not have any good options. With nine points, a nonresident could have drawn a Paunsaugunt archery tag, which is still a relatively tough hunt with harvest success that is often below 20%. Trophy potential is also average at best. Applicants in this range should decide what their objective is for their hunt. If trophy bulls are a top priority, pick quality hunts that offer a random permit and hope for some real luck in the draw. 

Applicants in this range may consider the new archery hunts and HAMS hunts. With ample time to scout and hunt, some of these could provide a good hunt. These types of hunts are likely to be high risk — potentially high reward.

Find your resident elk draw odds with 6 points here

Find your nonresident elk draw odds with 6 points here

What can I expect with 11 to 15 elk points?

Residents

The best hunts at the 11- to 12-point range would be the Panguitch Lake, Book Cliffs/Little Creek and, possibly, Mt Dutton archery hunts. Panguitch Lake had an almost 80,000-acre fire two years ago and it is producing quality feed and a good number of trophy caliber bulls.

A few muzzleloader hunts worth researching are the Central Mtns/Nebo, La Sal/La Sal Mtns, North Slope/Three Corners and the Wasatch Mtns. The best available rifle hunts within the 11- to 12-point range would possibly be the late hunts on the Central Mtns/Manti, Central Mtns/Nebo and the Wasatch Mtns.

Applicants with 13 to 14 points might consider the muzzleloader Central Mtns/Manti, Plateau/Fishlake/Thousand Lakes and South Slope/Diamond Mtn. Also, consider the early rifle hunt in the La Sal/La Sal Mtns. The late rifle hunt on the Cache/South and Plateau/Fishlake/Thousand Lakes are also both good late season hunts at this range. 

As applicants get into the 15-point range, the best hunt is the archery Fillmore/Pahvant and Monroe. Muzzleloader hunters can look at the Cache/South. The early rifle hunts on the Central Mtns/Manti, La Sal/La Sal Mtns and South Slope/Diamond Mtn are worth considering. Late rifle hunts that are also good option at 15 points are the Cache/South, La Sal/Delores Triangle and Southwest Desert.

Nonresidents 

There was only one good hunt with 11 points, which was the Wasatch Mtns archery hunt. At 12 points, the only other hunt of interest was the La Sal/La Sal Mtns late rifle hunt. At 14 to 15 points, the La Sal/La Sal Mtns archery hunt and the Wasatch Mtns muzzleloader and October rifle hunts are interesting options. There are also a couple of late rifle hunts on the Southwest Desert and Wasatch Mtns worth considering.

FIND YOUR RESIDENT ELK DRAW ODDS WITH 11 POINTS HERE

FIND YOUR NONRESIDENT ELK DRAW ODDS WITH 11 POINTS HERE

What can I expect with 16 to 20 elk points?

Residents

Every archery hunt was available with 16 points in 2020 except for the Beaver/East and the San Juan. The best option for a bowhunter with 16 points is likely the Plateau/Boulder. Another good option for a fun hunt this year with the slightly later archery dates would be the Monroe or Fillmore/Pahvant. A few rifle hunts for applicants with 16 points are the early rifle on the North Slope/Three Corners or the Plateau/Fishlake/Thousand Lakes or the Wasatch Mtns. The late rifle hunt on the Panguitch Lake was also drawn with 16 points in 2020.

The best archery hunts at 17 to 18 point levels are the Beaver/East and the San Juan. The Book Cliffs/Little Creek, Mt Dutton and Southwest Desert muzzleloader hunts are good options. The Cache/South, Central Mtns/Manti, Central Mtns/Nebo and South Slope/Diamond Mtn are the best early rifle hunts. The best late rifle hunts would be the Plateau/Boulder. Lastly, the multi-season hunt on the La Sal/La Sal Mtns was drawn with 17 points in 2020 and would be a good hunt for someone with ample time.

At 19 to 20 points, we might suggest the Panguitch Lake muzzleloader as well as the Book Cliffs/Little Creek and Book Cliffs/Bitter Creek/South early rifle hunts. Also, the late rifle hunt on the Fillmore/Pahvant and Mt Dutton are great hunts. Lastly, the multi-season hunt on the Plateau/Fishlake/Thousand Lakes is a good hunt for someone who wants to hunt all seasons and be highly selective.

Nonresidents

Nonresidents archery hunters finally have a few better options with 16 points, including the Book Cliffs/Bitter Creek/South, Central Mtns/Manti, La Sal/La Sal Mtns and the Plateau/Fishlake/Thousand Lakes. The Wasatch Mtns muzzleloader hunt was also a good option at 16 points. Rifle hunters should consider the October rifle hunts on the Central Mtns/Manti and Wasatch Mtns

With 17 to 18 points, we would suggest the Southwest Desert and Mt Dutton archery, La Sal/La Sal Mtns muzzleloader, Central Mtns/Nebo early rifle and the late rifle hunt on the Plateau/Fishlake/Thousand Lakes

Moving into the 19- to 20-point level, the best options are the Central Mtns/Manti and Plateau/Fishlake/Thousand Lakes muzzleloader hunts. Rifle hunters should consider the La Sal/La Sal Mtns, North Slope/Three Corners and Wasatch Mtns early rifle hunts. There are also a few late season rifle hunts, including the Book Cliffs/Bitter Creek/South and the San Juan.

FIND YOUR RESIDENT ELK DRAW ODDS WITH 16 POINTS HERE

FIND YOUR NONRESIDENT ELK DRAW ODDS WITH 16 POINTS HERE

What can I expect with 21 to 27 elk points?

Residents

Every archery hunt was available with 21 points. Every muzzleloader hunt was available except for the Beaver/East, Monroe, Plateau/Boulder and San Jaun. The best options with 21 points are likely the Fillmore/Pahvant muzzleloader, the Panguitch Lake early rifle and the late rifle hunts on the Beaver/East and Monroe. A few other intriguing options are the multi-season Book Cliffs/Bitter Creek/South and the Wasatch Mtns.

With 22 to 23 points, the Monroe and the Plateau/Boulder muzzleloader hunts are great hunts. The Central Mtns/Manti multi-season hunt would also be a very good option. 

With 24 to 27 points, we might suggest the Beaver/East and San Juan muzzleloader hunts. With 25 points, rifle hunts should consider the Plateau/Boulder early rifle. With 26 and 27 points, applicants should consider the early rifle hunts on the Beaver/East, Fillmore/Pahvant, Monroe and the San Juan. The multi-season hunt on the Fillmore/Pahvant and San Juan will require maximum points. The Mt Dutton and Southwest Desert multi-season are also good options with 25 plus points

Nonresidents

With 21 points, the Book Cliffs/Bitter Creek/South and Southwest Desert muzzleloader hunts are good. Early rifle hunts on the Central Mtns/Manti and the South Slope/Diamond Mtn are both good hunts. 

Moving into 22 to 23 points, we would suggest the San Juan archery, Book Cliffs/Bitter Creek/South and Plateau/Fishlake/Thousand Lakes early rifle hunts. The Plateau/Boulder late rifle hunt and the Central Mtns/Manti multi-season is also worth considering. 

The Fillmore/Pahvant, Plateau/Boulder and San Juan early rifle hunts are all likely to require 26 points; however, those are the best hunts available above the 24 point level.

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