Tactics for Idaho's 2023 nonresident OTC general season tag sale

One of my past Idaho general season mule deer. Photo credit: Brady Miller

The past several years I've made an article like this to help nonresident hunters navigate Idaho's relatively new process for the sale of general season elk and deer tags. It's pretty crazy in my mind that we’re already halfway through November and that means a lot of us are already starting to focus on applications and strategies to pick up tags for the 2023 season. We are slowly moving the needle to application mode!

Each year, one of the first important dates is Idaho’s OTC nonresident general season tag sale date for elk and deer. So… this article is a HUGE reminder that all nonresident Idaho OTC deer and elk tags go on sale on December 1, 2022 @ 10 a.m. Mountain Time for purchasing a tag for the 2023 season.

Once December 1 arrives, you can purchase tags online, over the phone (1-800-554-8685) or at a license vender location, or Idaho Fish and Game regional office during normal business hours. Note: this is only for the general season tags and has nothing to do with controlled hunts.

As of November 15, I still haven’t seen any updated information from Idaho Fish and Game if they are making any changes to this process. If you tried to get a tag the last few years, you'll understand the process and what is at stake.

But if you’re new… this article will help to line you out on the best practices to get a tag and how to understand the system. This is a very long article, but as usual, I wanted to really provide all the intricate details to make this a smooth process for all hunters.

Jump to: Strategy for selecting a unit Fees 2022 Tag List Tips to get a tag

Quick summary of this December 1 process:

  • Near December 1, Idaho will update their quota page with their unit and zone nonresident quotas.
  • December 1, 2022 @ 10 a.m. Mountain Time is when you can purchase a nonresident elk or deer tag for the 2023 season.
  • Log in and get in the waiting line roughly 30 minutes before 10 a.m.
  • The time you log in prior to 10 a.m. MT doesn't matter.
  • At 10 a.m., everyone who was in the pre-sale waiting room will get randomly assigned a number
    • If you log in after 10 a.m., you'll be placed at the end of the line.
  • Then you will move on with a number and another countdown will begin.
    • You’ll be able to see your number in line, the number of users in line ahead of you, and your estimated wait time.
  • Once your time in the waiting room is over, the screen will move you to the licensing page. 
    • Then click on "Buy a License, Permit, or Tag" which will be in the upper-left portion of the main Idaho license purchase home page.
  • From here you can see the realtime number of available deer and elk tags and if available still, purchase one.
  • No group apps are allowed for the OTC sale date.

How to use Insider to create a unit/zone plan for this sale date

It's essential to prepare ahead of time for this tag sale date, because most likely the same long wait times that everyone experienced the past several years will happen again. Certain units and zones will sell out quickly. Because of this fact, I like to have a plan in place of at least five to 10 units in mind that I have already researched. That way I have options if the unit or zone I'm looking at sells out and I don't have to panic since I have a backup plan.

The best way to prepare for this tag sale date is by diving into GOHUNT's Filtering 2.0 on Insider. Once you're logged in, navigate to Filtering 2.0 > click on Idaho > select your species > then select your OTC season. This will then map out all of the OTC units for that species in Idaho. From there, you can manipulate the filters to start to really narrow down your search results for what you're looking for in a hunt.

Learn more about our Insider membership here

Check out the links below to take you directly to the OTC hunts for each species/weapon on Filtering 2.0:

Idaho elk zone research

If you're curious what areas of the state each Idaho elk zone is located in, you can also find that in Filtering 2.0. Once you're in Filtering 2.0, select Idaho > Species: Elk > and then at the top, tap on "Zone Profiles." A tab will open up allowing you to scroll through the list to see the elk zones mapped out. You can then click on a zone to pull up a short "Zone Profile" to really see what units are included in each zone.

Sign up for an Insider membership here

    Save and compare units

    From there, I like to jump into Unit Profiles of several units to learn more information about them. AND... now you can even save units. This is a new feature on Insider! Once you've saved some seasons, you can access your "Hunts" by hovering over you profile picture on the upper right corner of the screen on a desktop computer for example. And then click on Hunts.

    Once you're in your saved hunts section, you now have the ability to compare units, add notes, and totally customize this personalized to you research page.

    Now, dive into several those units using GOHUNT Maps to check out the terrain and public land.

    Again, due to changes that happened in 2021, get ready for a long wait and tags to sell out quickly on the initial December 1 tag sale date. If you want to see how fast certain units and zones sold out the first week of Idaho’s December 1 tag sale date, check out the graphics at the lower part of last year’s article.

    Backstory on 2021 changes that happened

    Starting in the 2021 season, nonresident hunters in most general season elk and deer hunts were limited to 10 or 15 percent of the total hunters in each elk zone or deer unit based on hunter participation estimates averaged over the last five years. The new limits do not apply to capped elk zones.

    Quick summary of the 2021 changes:

    • Nonresidents will have to pick an elk zone, as in the past, but nonresident tags will be limited in all zones that were not previously capped for both nonresidents and residents.
    • There is no change to the existing cap on nonresidents in capped elk zones.
    • Nonresident deer hunters will have to pick the unit they plan to hunt and can only hunt in that unit. So units now have nonresident caps.
    • Nonresident hunters planning to buy an elk tag and deer tag should also beware the deer tag will only be valid in one hunting unit, whereas most elk zones consist of several units. 
    • Under the new online licensing system, if you have a license and tag in your shopping cart, they are reserved for you for 20 minutes. You will have 20 minutes to complete the purchase or they will go back into the pool of available tags. 
    • 2021 they imposed a new limit on reduced-price tags for nonresident disabled American veterans, which is 500 nonresident DAV deer tags and 300 nonresident DAV elk tags for over-the-counter deer and elk hunts. After those are sold out, nonresident disabled veterans can still buy deer/elk tags if available, but at full nonresident prices. 
    • New nonresident limits apply only to general-hunt tags. Nonresidents can still apply for controlled hunts, and will remain limited to no more than 10 percent of the tags in each controlled hunt.

    And according to IDFG, nonresident tag reductions in general hunts include:

    • Elk Zones with A/B tags, and most deer units with regular or whitetail tags where current nonresident participation exceeds 15 percent of total hunters, will be reduced to 15 percent nonresidents.
    • Zones and units currently with 10 to 14 percent nonresidents will be reduced to 10 percent nonresidents.
    • Zones and units currently with less than 10 percent nonresident participation can not exceed 10 percent.
    • Twelve backcountry deer units with low hunter participation will be limited to the current level of nonresidents.

    Nonresident fees for general season hunts

    Hunting license

    You need to purchase a $185 hunting license to get a general season tag in Idaho and you need to add it to your cart before you can fully check out with a tag. If you select the tag first, a prompt will appear to select a hunting license. To make this process even smoother, I purchase my hunting license earlier in the morning before the tag sale time or to make it even easier, I ensure that I’m set up for Auto Renew.

    Note: It's not required to pick up a hunting license ahead of time before this tag sale date like I do. You can add a hunting license to your cart when you purchase a license. If you do purchase one ahead of time and can't get the unit/zone you want, no refund of the hunting license will be made. I purchase mine ahead of time due to applying for a controlled hunt anyway at a later date. Note: Nonresident hunting, fishing and combination licenses for 2023 will go on sale at midnight MST on December 1, 2022.

    Nonresident tag fees

    • $351.75 for a deer tag
    • $651.75 for an elk tag

    Note: Idaho resident deer and elk tags are not limited by quotas.

    Purchase 2023 tag once available here

    2023 Nonresident Tag Quota

    Tag TypeQuota
    Regular (both) deer and/or whitetail deer14,000
    Zone A and B elk 12,815
    Reserved whitetail deer*1,500

    * Reserved whitetail deer tags become available after the main quota of 14,000 has sold out. Includes outfitter and non-outfitted tags.

    Disabled American Veteran tags

    Beginning in the 2021 season, nonresident DAV priced tags are limited to 500 deer tags, and 300 elk tags. Once those 800 tags have been sold, DAV license holders can purchase available general nonresident tags at the nonresident price.

    2023 Idaho nonresident tag quotas by unit/zone

    Below is a table on the very tentative tag quotas for 2023 (I'll update this article once Idaho published their offical quotas).

    Currentlly the nonresident tag numbers tag limits published here were set using the previous year’s (2022) seasons and rules based on the 2023 Nonresident General Tags and Tags Allocated to Outfitters Supplement from Idaho Fish and Game.

    Once these tags start to be picked up on December 1, I’ll be updating this article just like I do each year to show you what units are selling out.


    If you need help deciding which unit or zone to pick up a tag for, be sure to check out Filtering 2.0.

    Tips for picking up a tag on December 1

    The above screenshot was grabbed while I was going through the process of the "waiting room" on last year’s December 1 tag sale.

    As I've stated each year, this is a slow tag process, it just is what it is, so have faith and I hope you get a lucky random number. I know it might be hard to do, but if you can’t be by your computer all morning, you might want to attempt to take the morning off work if Idaho is the main state you have planned to hunt. This process is very tough for someone to grab a tag who can't be glued to a computer/phone or is driving for their job, etc. But, unfortunately, if you want a tag, we all need to start thinking outside the box. So it could be worth it to “call in sick” on the morning of December 1.

    I highly recommend that you double check your log in information before the sale. And if you haven't purchased or applied in Idaho before, setup your account before this December 1 timeframe to make this process a lot smoother.

    If you really want to ensure you get the deer unit/elk zone you want, you should log in to your IDFG account roughly 30 minutes in advance of the 10 a.m. sale time. 

    Everyone logged on in advance will be put into a “virtual waiting room” and then at 10 a.m. everyone who was in the waiting room will be randomly assigned a place in line to make a purchase, so there is no real benefit to logging in well in advance of the sale. Each year I hear people claiming that logging in way early has a benefit. I have co-workers that log in 5 minutes before the 10 a.m. sale date and they have a better number than I do. Then I also have some log in earlier than me and they also get a better number than I do. So there is no benefit to logging in super early.

    Keep in mind, if you log in after 10 a.m., you will be placed at the end of the line.

    Each hunter will need to log into their own customer account to purchase a tag, and that the ability to purchase multiple tags under the same customer account is not currently available.

    The screen will keep you updated on the time remaining until the 10 a.m. "pre-waiting room" time is over.

    More on that in case it’s not clear, if you log into the Idaho Fish & Game licensing website early, you will be placed in the pre-sale waiting room. Keep your screen open and I'd suggest not refreshing the screen.

    Screenshot above will be an example of what will happen once you get your random number.

    Then right at 10:00 a.m., you’ll then be placed in the next waiting room and your screen will look something like the above screenshot. Once you are at this screen, you’ll be able to see your number in line, the number of users in line ahead of you, and your estimated wait time.

    Then you will have to wait for your turn before you can jump in to purchase a license. Again, stay on this screen.

    While on this screen, you will see some updates at the bottom if certain units/zones have sold out.

    Once your time in the waiting room is over, you'll automatically move past this screen. You can then click on "Buy a License, Permit, or Tag" which will be in the upper-left portion of the home page. This is where you'll be able to see real-time tag availability for deer units and elk zones. Units/Zones that are unavailable will be marked as "sold out."

    Once you add a tag to your cart, you will have 20 minutes to complete the sale. If you don't make the purchase in 20 minutes, the tag will be removed from your cart and made available to other hunters. Act fast and purchase a tag!

    More information on this Idaho process

    We briefly touched on the Idaho process on a recent Big Hunt Guys podcast. Check out the link below and listen to the first 19 minutes. You can listen to it wherever you consume podcasts or check out the video portion on our YouTube channel here

    BIG HUNT GUYS Ep. 41 - Brady's Mule Deer Sabbatical

    Video walkthrough on this process

    We also had Trail record a quick video on this Idaho general season tag process. You can watch that below:

    If you have any questions about this 2023 general season OTC tag sale date, be sure to drop a comment on this article. Best of luck and may the odds be ever in your favor!


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