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Application Strategy 2022: Idaho Elk, Deer, and Antelope

 


Photo credit: Thinkstock

The deadline to apply for Idaho deer, elk and antelope is June 5, 2022 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.


WHATS NEW FOR 2022?

CWD

CWD has become more prevalent in certain areas of Idaho and the IDF&G has recently made some changes to the season structure in unit 14 where more tags will be distributed.

EHD
Five extra antlerless deer hunts in the Clearwater Region were eliminated in response to an outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease in 2021.

Archery equipment

Beginning July 1, 2022, it is legal to use mechanical broadheads and lighted nocks in the taking of wildlife during any archery season.


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.


Important dates and information

  • Applications for deer, elk and antelope must be submitted by 11:59 p.m MST on June 5, 2022.
  • 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.
  • There is new protocol for picking up returned tags in Idaho. Read more here.
  • The second drawing application period for leftover tags will run from Aug. 5 to 15, 2022.
  • Idaho hunting licenses, access fees and application fees are nonrefundable.
  • If an applicant is successful in drawing an antlered only permit for deer, elk or antelope, 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.

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 fewer than 10 available tags, only one shall be issued to nonresidents.

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

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.


IDAHO’S 2022 ELK BREAKDOWN

Not typically known for giant bulls, Idaho does offer great opportunities for hunters on either over-the-counter (OTC) tags or controlled hunts. Opportunity is widely available throughout the state for anyone willing to work for it; however, the best conditions, trophy potential, and even the dates are found within the controlled hunting opportunities. 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 ten year elk harvest trends

Year General tag
elk killed
Controlled tag
elk killed
Total killed
2012 10241 5784 16025
2013 9853 6373 16226
2014 12886 7190 20076
2015 15048 8799 23847
2016 13172 7493 20665
2017 13282 8559 21841
2018 13473 7898 21371
2019 13804 5831 19635
2020 15050 6994 22044
2021 12776 6776 19552

Current elk herd condition

As stated earlier, Idaho does not typically offer the trophy potentials for bulls that are found in some of the surrounding states, but it does have a ton of opportunity for those willing to work for it. Herds found in the northern half of the state are continuing to struggle, primarily due to predation; however, the rest of the herds remain strong. The 2021/2022 winter did see some snowstorms, but the effects of these were fairly short lived and will not make an impact on calf recruitment. With the current drought situation in the West, many of us are anxiously watching precipitation charts and are hopeful that most of the northern states will not see any major effects.

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 previously 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, anyone holding one of these tags can be in for a great hunt. 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 sizes.

Breakdown of Idaho’s controlled archery only elk tags

(not in order of quality)

Units Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
2021
resident odds
2021
nonresident odds
Controlled
hunt area
18 320''+ 40% 16% 4.4% -
39 310''+ 34% 15% 9.6% -
40, 41, and 42 350''+ 31% 4.6% 2% 40-1
44 330''+ 43% 9.8% 3% -
45 and 52 320''+ 20% 29% 12% 45-1
41, 46, and 47 340''+ 15% 14% 2% 46-1
54 350''+ 66% 3.1% 0.35% -

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 tend to shy away from these tags even though season dates can be prime for harvesting mature bulls. Good drawing 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.

Breakdown of Idaho’s top controlled muzzleloader hunts for elk based on 6 point % in 2021

(not in order of quality)

Units Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
2021
resident odds
2021
nonresident odds
Controlled
hunt area
6 point %
36A and 50 310''+ 25% 100% 38% 36A-2 100%
54 350''+ 55% 3.1% 0.61% - 100%
39 310''+ 32% 11% 7.7% - 83%
66 and 69 330''+ 36% 35% 19% 66-1 77%
50 300''+ 44% 77% 37% 50-1 55%
64,65, and 67 310''+ 18% 100% 60% 64-1 50%
41, 46, and 47 340''+ 28% 39% 5.9% 46-1 50%

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 tail end 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.

Breakdown of Idaho’s top controlled rifle hunts for elk based on 6 point % in 2021

(not in order of quality)

Units Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
2021
resident odds
2021
nonresident odds
Controlled
hunt area
6 point %
66A and 76(2229) 330''+ 100% 5.1% 2.3% 66A-1 100%
58, 59, and 59A 310''+ 100% 5.5% 5.5% 58-1 100%
36A 310''+ 100% 16% 6.1% 36A-1 100%
11 320''+ 32% 7.1% 4% - 100%
51(2033) 300''+ 83% 4.2% 3.3% - 100%
41, 46, and 47 340''+ 42% 6% 3.2% 46-1 100%
42(2017) 310''+ 62% 3.5% 1.1% - 100%
40, 41, and 42 340''+ 100% 0.69% 0.38% 40-1 100%
54 350''+ 62% 0.98% 0.26% - 91%
45 320''+ 72% 3.7% 2.3% - 90%

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.

See your draw odds


IDAHO’S 2022 MULE DEER BREAKDOWN

While struggling some in recent years, Idaho has been historically producing good mule deer bucks for years. Recently, herds have struggled to maintain healthy levels but moderate winters have been helping; however, good, solid hunting can still produce some incredible bucks. 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 in the last five years

Year General tag 4pt % Controlled tag 4pt %
2017 45% 70%
2018 37% 68%
2019 39% 67%
2020 35% 66%
2021 33% 66%

Current mule deer herd condition

Overall, the deer populations have been holding somewhat steady although those found in the north have experienced some struggles. The central and eastern portions of the state experienced large winter kill during the 2016/217 winter, but reports have been coming in over the last year that the numbers of mature bucks have been slowly returning and fawn numbers have been looking great.

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. In the following tables, we are going to look at some of the best hunts to consider based on each weapon type for 2022.

Archery

Out of the controlled hunts, the archery hunts generally carry the best odds of drawing, but at the cost of typically less desirable dates and lower hunter success levels. Still, with the cost of admission, the archery hunts can be a great opportunity for anyone to consider.

Breakdown of Idaho’s top controlled archery hunts for mule deer based on 4 point % in 2021

(not in order of quality)

Units Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
2021
resident odds
2021
nonresident odds
Controlled
hunt area
4 point %
52 190''+ 39% 32% 13% - 100%
45 190''+ 40% 19% 1.6% - 100%
21, 21A, 28, 29, 30, 30A,
36, 36A, 36B, and 37A
180''+ 20% 100% 25% 21-1 100%
44 180''+ 27% 32% 8.6% - 92%
40 190''+ 39% 30% 9.1% - 73%
72 and 76 180''+ 11% 100% 100% 72-1 61%
70 180''+ 27% 100% 100% - 56%
22 170''+ 10% 22% 14% - 50%

Muzzleloader

While muzzleloaders are extremely regulated in Idaho, hunters can find great opportunities if they are willing to put up with the limitations. Most of the muzzleloader controlled hunts take place during the mule deer rut and will provide hunters excellent opportunities to look over a number of bucks.

Breakdown of Idaho’s top controlled muzzleloader hunts for mule deer based on 4 point % in 2021

(not in order of quality)

Units Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
2021
resident odds
2021
nonresident odds
4 point %
52 190''+ 100% 17% 3.7% 100%
68 160''+ 37% 31% 31% 100%
21A 170''+ 100% 10% 9.5% 100%
57 170''+ 53% 56% 5.6% 88%
52 190''+ 52% 17% 3.7% 84%
45 190''+ 50% 23% 5.8% 71%
74 160''+ 59% 12% 9.5% 67

Rifle

As the most popular weapon choice, the controlled rifle season hunts will generally carry the lowest odds for applicants. 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.

Breakdown of Idaho’s top controlled rifle hunts for mule deer based on 4 point % in 2021

(not in order of quality)

Units Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
2021
resident odds
2021
nonresident odds
4 point %
11A 180''+ 74% 16% 10% 100%
21 180''+ 100% 2% 1.5% 100%
23 150''+ 34% 12% 8.2% 100%
28 170''+ 100% 2% 1.3% 100%
36A 180''+ 100% 2.3% 1.6% 100%
36B 180''+ 60% 0.98% 0.75% 100%
70 180''+ 67% 1% 0.89% 100%
38 170''+ 76% 11% 11% 100%
46 and 47 160''+ 49% 6.1% 3.5% 100%

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!

See your draw odds

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.


IDAHO’S 2022 ANTELOPE BREAKDOWN

Idaho has a smaller, but healthy population of antelope. Trophy potentials and generally lower than some of the surrounding states but some great bucks are taken in Idaho every year. Archery hunts typically offer the best chances for securing a tag and harvest statistics are still fairly high among these. Along with archery, hunters will also have the chance to apply for muzzleloader and rifle hunts. One caveat with antelope hunts to keep in mind is that ​​any person drawn for a controlled antelope hunt (including either sex and doe and fawn) is not eligible to apply the following year for any controlled pronghorn hunt.

Idaho statewide 4 point or better harvest in the last five years

Year Total
harvest
Success %
(all seasons)
Average
horn length
2017 1675 60% 11.6''
2018 1845 65% 9.6''
2019 1520 54% 11.5''
2020 1723 58% 11.2''
2021 1502 52% 11.4''
*2018 horn length data seemed to have incorrect values from the state. IDFG reported three 0" buckhorn lengths and one buck had 1” horns. We removed those data points as those are most likely errors on the state end.

Current antelope herd condition

Antelope populations continue to do well in the state despite the smaller population sizes. The winter of 2021/22 has proven to be fairly light but some of the existing drought conditions could cause horn growth issues for antelope. Still, hunting conditions for the 2022 season should be fairly par for the course.

The controlled hunt seasons

Idaho has a good number of controlled hunt options for antelope for applicants to consider. These can be primarily broken down into categories based on weapon type. 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.

Archery hunts with unlimited quotas can only be listed as your first choice only.

Breakdown of Idaho’s controlled archery seasons for antelope based on average horn length in 2021

Unit Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
2021
Resident odds
2021
Nonresident odds
Avg. horn
length
68(4043) 80''+ 8% 38% 38% 15''
68(4044) 80''+ 8% 100%     100% 14''
54 80''+ 14% 38% 8% 13''
44, 45, 48, and 52* 70''+ 16% 100% 100% 12.8''
46 and 47 70''+ 44% 50% 48% 12.1''
36 and 36A* 70''+ 16% 100% 100% 11.7''
55 75''+ 12% 20% 4.7% 11''
40, 41, and 42 70''+ 26% 62% 62% 11''
52A and 53* 75''+ 12% 100% 100% 10.8''
21A, 29, 30, and 30A 70''+ 20% 100% 100% 10.7''
*Unlimited permits available for this hunt

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 hunters the opportunity to chase bucks during the peak of the rut. 

Breakdown of Idaho’s controlled muzzleloader only antelope tags

(not in order of quality)

Unit Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
2021
resident odds
2021
nonresident odds
Average
horn length
30A 70''+ 54% 23% 16% 9.7''
41 70''+ 55% 21% 18% 10.4''
47 70''+ 39% 28% 25% 11.3''
63(early) 65''+ 38% 27% 19% 12.5''
63(late) 65''+ 40% 32% 31% 11''

Rifle

By far, the best odds for success at a mature buck will be found with the rifle season. As stated, draw 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.

Breakdown of Idaho’s controlled rifle seasons for antelope based on average horn length in 2021

Unit Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
2021
Resident odds
2021
Nonresident odds
Avg.
horn length
55 75''+ 87% 1.9% 0.57% 14.1''
54 80''+ 70% 2.7% 0.93% 13.8''
38 70''+ 89% 5.4% 3.5% 13.1''
37 and 37A 75''+ 87% 3.2% 2.7% 13.1''
68 80''+ 19% 3.1% 2.7% 13.1''
46 70''+ 85% 2.9% 2.8% 12.8''
36B and 28 70''+ 83% 5.9% 3.7% 12.8''
52A and 53 75''+ 72% 3.9% 3.7% 12.8''
40 70''+ 58% 3.6% 3.4% 12.7''
29 65''+ 96% 5.9% 5% 12.7''

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 might 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.

See your draw odds

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