Tactics for Idaho's 2024 nonresident OTC general season elk and deer tag sale date

Brandon and Nate's late-night packout with two Idaho bucks. Photo credit: Chiam Loyd

Idaho general OTC deer and elk licenses go on sale December 1 at 10 a.m. MT

It's that time of year again! Over the past several years, I've written an article like this to help nonresident hunters navigate Idaho's process for the December 1 sale of general season elk and deer tags. By now, I'm sure most people understand how this works, but it can still be fairly confusing if you're new to trying to pick up an Idaho tag.

One of the first important dates for hunting research each year is Idaho’s OTC nonresident general season tag sale date for elk and deer.

This article is a HUGE reminder that all nonresident Idaho OTC deer and elk tags go on sale on December 1, 2023 @ 10 a.m. Mountain Time for purchasing a tag for the 2024 season

Once December 1 arrives, you can purchase tags online, over the phone (1-800-554-8685), at a licensed vendor location, or at an 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. If you pick up a general tag, you can still apply for a controlled hunt later in 2024, and if you draw a controlled tag, you will be given the option to turn in your general tag for the controlled tag.

For 2024 it seems that this tag process will be the same as in years past. If you've tried to get a tag the last few years, you'll understand the process and what is at stake. Here is a direct quote from Idaho Department of Fish and Game, "Demand for tags is expected to be high on Dec. 1 and we ask for your patience throughout the day. Hunters should plan accordingly; expect long wait times, system slowness, and a limited number of products available for purchase."

This article will help line you out on the best practices to get a tag, how to research these hunts, and provides an understanding of the system. This is a very long article, but 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 2024 Tag List Tips to get a tag

Here is a quick summary of this December 1 process:

  • You can visit Idaho's nonresident deer and elk quota and limit page to see the quotas and unit/zone limits ahead of time.
  • December 1, 2023 @ 10 a.m. Mountain Time is when you can purchase a nonresident elk or deer tag for the 2024 season.
  • Log in and get in the waiting room/line roughly 30 minutes before 10 a.m.
  • The time you log in prior to 10 a.m. MT doesn't matter.
    • For example, if you log in 30 minutes early, it doesn't mean you will get a better random number than someone who logs in at 9:45 a.m.        
  • 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 random number, and another countdown will begin.
    • You’ll now 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, Permits, or Tags" which will be in the upper-left portion of the main Idaho license purchase home page.
  • From here, you can see the real-time number of available deer and elk tags and, if available still, purchase one.
    • If you don't currently have a hunting license, you will be prompted to add one to your cart.
  • Note: No group apps are allowed for the OTC sale date.

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

I've always said that it is very 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. Do keep in mind that 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 that I have already researched, that I'd be happy to pick up a tag for. 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 tool 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. Then my next approach would be to head over the Unit Profile for that unit to read up on it, and finally, I'll jump over to GOHUNT Maps and really dive into the habitat and terrain. This is also when I'll play around with different mapping layers.

Learn more about a GOHUNT 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 about 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.

Elk hunting in Idaho is managed in 28 elk zones with a two-tag system in most zones - A tag & B tag. Hunters may select one elk zone and choose either an A tag or a B tag. In general, A tags provide more opportunities for muzzleloader and archery hunters, and B tags provide more opportunities for rifle hunters.

    Save and compare units

    Again, I like to jump into Unit Profiles of several units to learn more information about them. AND... remember can even save units. This is a new feature on Insider we released earlier this year! 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 Hunt Planner.

    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.

    Sign up for an Insider membership here

    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. Each year, I purchase mine ahead of time due to applying for a controlled hunt at a later date. Note: Nonresident hunting, fishing, and combination licenses for 2024 will go on sale at midnight MST on December 1, 2023.

    2024 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 a 2024 tag once available here

    2024 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
    Nonresident DAV elk300
    Nonresident DAV deer500

    * 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 (DAV)

    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. These tags also go on sale on December 1 at 10 a.m. MT.

    Disabled American Veterans must be at least 40 percent service-connected disability to buy discounted tags, and they must submit the required DAV certification documents to Fish and Game before Dec. 1 so that there is time for the buyer’s profile to be reviewed and updated with DAV status. Any DAV certification documentation submitted to Fish and Game after Nov. 27 may not be reviewed in time for the Dec. 1 sale.

    Idaho lifetime license holders must wait to buy tags

    Nonresidents with Idaho lifetime hunting licenses cannot buy deer and elk tags during this sale. They can buy tags during the 2024 resident tag sales period, and are not subject to the nonresident tag limits.

    Junior mentored hunters

    Nonresident junior mentored hunters planning to hunt in a capped elk zone should try to buy capped zone tags on Dec. 1 because they will likely sell out fast. Reminder that all junior mentored hunters must be accompanied by an adult 18-years or older who holds a license and tag that is valid for the same species as the youth hunter. 

    2024 Idaho nonresident tag quotas by unit/zone

    Below is a table on the tag quotas for the 2024 hunting season.

    Currently, the nonresident tag numbers tag limits published here were set using the previous year’s (2023) seasons and rules based on the 2024 Nonresident General Tags and Tags Allocated to Outfitters Supplement from Idaho Fish and Game. Nonresident hunters in general season deer and uncapped elk zone hunts are limited to 10 or 15 percent of the total hunters in each unit or elk zone. Some backcountry deer units have been limited to the five-year average number of nonresidents, where overall hunter numbers have been relatively low. When purchasing a nonresident tag, you must choose the unit or zone from those available. 


    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 an Idaho general season nonresident deer or elk tag on December 1, 2023 for the 2024 season

    The above screenshot was grabbed while I was going through the process of the "waiting room" on a previous years 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 login information before the sale. And if you haven't purchased or applied in Idaho before, set up your account before December 1 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 had co-workers that log in 5 minutes before the 10 a.m. sale date, and sometimes they randomly have a better number than I do. Then I also had some log in earlier than me, and they also got a better number than I did. 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 based on trying this system in the past, 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.

    The 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 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 the waiting room screen. You can then click on "Buy a License, Permit, and Tags" 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 30 minutes to complete the sale. If you don't make the purchase in 30 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 touched on the Idaho December 1 tag sale process on Episode 94 of the Big Hunt Guys podcast. Listen on Spotify here. You'll also be able to listen to it wherever you consume your podcasts.

    Tag refund process

    If you do, for some reason, need to return a tag you picked up, you can learn more about Idaho's tag return process here.

    If you have any questions about this 2024 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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