The cost to apply for hunting tags in every western state
With hunting season across the West coming to an unfortunate and screeching halt, it’s time to head back to the drawing boards and begin dreaming and planning for the 2020 season. Deciphering the many species, seasons and regulations across the West can be a challenge in and of itself and determining when and where to distribute your application funds can be downright exhausting.
Beyond the initial complications, some states require large upfront costs to apply while others may require large fees even after you’ve already drawn the tag. Preparation and familiarity which each state's application system can lead to fewer frustrations and surprises down the road and allow you to focus more on strategy and research. Keep in mind that the total cost can vary greatly based on what species you apply for and any credit card or other processing fees. The numbers in this article are a great rough estimate of what it could cost you.
Before we dive into each state, here is a quick overview of the state by state costs to apply and how much money you'll get back. All of the fees below are based on a nonresident perspective.
Alaska is a new state we are covering for 2019/2020 and consequently has the first draw deadline of any of the western states with December 16th. A total of nine big game species can be applied for every year in Alaska and hunters have the option to put in 6 hunt choices per species. Additionally, hunters can also put all 6 hunt choices on the same hunt code!
In general, Alaska largely utilizes draw hunts for a means of population control and hunting pressure regulation. Many incredible hunts can be found within their general tag system and this will be the more popular route for most hunters.
Prerequisites for applying in Alaska
|Annual hunting license||$160|
|Application fee per species||$5|
|Application fee for muskox and bison||$10|
|Total cost to apply for all species||$215|
|Total cost to apply for all species (6 hunt choices each)||$490|
There is no nonresident tag quota in Alaska, meaning that nonresidents and residents pull their tags from the same pool and consequently have the same draw odds. Additionally, Alaska also does not use any formal point system and instead utilizes a true lottery for their drawings.
After initially drawing a permit hunters will also need to purchase the applicable locking tags for each species they will be hunt.
Cost of Alaska locking tags
Arizona offers application opportunities for deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, bison and black bear. Arizona has been regarded as a trophy state for years and, while the draw odds can be steep for premium tags, successful applicants can be in for the hunt of a lifetime. When applying, applicants do have the option to apply for bonus points only to fit their personal hunt planning.
Nonresident applicants are awarded up to 10% of the available limited entry tags. 50% of these are awarded to the highest point holders and the remaining 50% are distributed through a random draw. This system can hurt the highest point holders and increases point creep, but it also makes tags slightly more available to those with low point levels. If you’ve ever considered applying for Arizona now is the time to start!
Prerequisites for applying in Arizona
|Annual hunting/fishing combo||$160|
|Individual species application fee||$15|
|Bonus points||$15 per species|
|Total cost to apply for every big game species||$265|
One big advantage of applying in Arizona is that they do not require a large upfront money commitment; however, hunters need to be aware that large fees will be issued after successfully drawing a permit.
Cost of Arizona limited entry tags after successfully drawing
|Mule deer or Coues deer permit||$315|
|Rocky Mountain or desert bighorn sheep||$1,815|
|Bison — bull/any permit||$5,415|
|Bison — cow/yearling permit||$3,265|
|Bison — yearling permit||$1,765|
|Black bear permit||$165|
Arizona offers an interesting program for point holders called PointGuard. Under the PointGuard system, hunters can return any drawn tag and their accumulated points will not be expended. This can be useful during years where other premiere tags are drawn in other states or for other species in Arizona. There are a few keys points to PointGuard that all hunters should be aware of:
- Tags must be turned in by the end of business the day prior to the hunt beginning.
- This is only available to applicants applying online.
- Hunters must have a Department Portal Account.
- A PointGuard Membership must be purchased for each species in order to participate.
- The cost per species is $5.
- Hunters are only allowed to surrender one tag per species and will have to keep the tag the second time it is successfully drawn.
- You will not receive a refund for the cost of your tag.
- Your bonus points will be reinstated and hunters will be granted an additional bonus point for that application period.
California offers application opportunities for deer, elk, antelope and bighorn sheep. California has an interesting draw where separate parameters can be found for nearly every species. Nonresident tag allocations vary by species and tag quotas with deer specifically find resident and nonresident applicants tossed into the same pool with the same odds.
Prerequisites for applying in California
|Nonresident hunting license||$174.45|
|First/second deer drawing application||$293.65|
|Antelope, elk, bighorn sheep drawing application||$8.13|
|Total cost to apply for every big game species||$477.89|
|Total cost after deer application refund||$225.33|
If applicants are successful in the drawing they will then need to purchase the corresponding hunting license before the hunt begins. If an applicant is unsuccessful they may request a refund for the difference between the resident and nonresident deer tag application, which is $260.68.
Cost of California tags after successfully drawing
|Bighorn sheep tag||$1,605.75|
Fundraising random drawing
Another opportunity for applicants to look out for are the fundraising drawing tags. These special tags are designed with conservation in mind where all of the application monies are reserved for conservation projects. Special parameters can also be found with the fundraising draws that differ from the standard limited entry drawings:
- Any resident or nonresident over the age of 12 can apply for elk, pronghorn, antelope and deer.
- Any resident or nonresident over the age of 16 can apply for bighorn sheep.
- It costs $6.22 per application.
- There is no limit on the number of entries an applicant can submit.
- It does not affect preference points.
- A hunting license is not a prerequisite but will need to be purchased if successful in the drawing.
- Tags are awarded via a random lottery system.
- Winners are awarded corresponding tags at no additional cost.
Colorado offers drawing opportunities for deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, moose and black bear. It’s a somewhat complicated system where the main drawing system is split into two categories: preference points and weighted bonus points. Deer, elk, antelope and bear permits are distributed through a preference point system where the highest point holders are awarded tags first. Moose, mountain goat and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep permits are distributed through weighted bonus points where everyone has an opportunity to draw a tag with your odds increasing with the number of points you hold. There are no point systems for desert bighorn sheep and only one bighorn sheep species can be applied for each year.
All applications can be completed online.
Nonresident allocation of permits differs from species to species and can make a big difference on your application strategy. Nonresidents are limited to up to 35% of the total number of tags per hunt code for deer and elk when the hunt code has taken less than six preference points to draw. Hunt codes requiring more than six preference points to draw will see a limit of 20% for nonresidents. Nonresidents are limited to 10% of the total number of bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goat tags. There is no limit for nonresident antelope tags.
For 2019, Colorado has changed its application policies with the most notable change being in resident tag costs and you must purchase a qualifying license.
Prerequisites for applying in Colorado
|Wildlife habitat stamp||$10|
|Small game license||$80|
|Drawing application fee (per species)||$9|
|Preference point fee for bighorn sheep, moose or mountain goat (optional)||$100|
|Total cost to apply for every big game species without preference points||$73|
|Total cost to apply for every big game species with preference points||$453|
After successfully drawing a tag, applicants will also be charged for the appropriate tags and wildlife education fee as well as a search and rescue fee.
Cost of Colorado limited entry tags after successfully drawing
|Antlered elk license||$661.75|
|Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep license||$2,211.75|
|Desert bighorn sheep license||$2,211.75|
|Rocky Mountian goat license||$2,211.75|
|Black bear license||$101.75|
|Wildlife education fee||$1.50|
|Search and rescue fee||$0.25|
Idaho offers application opportunities for deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, moose and black bear. Idaho is somewhat unique to other western states in that it is one of the few states that does not use any type of bonus or preference point system. Instead, all controlled hunt tags are distributed through a random lottery. Beyond that, Idaho also forces applicants to choose one species per year to apply for. In other words, If you want to apply for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep you cannot also apply for mule deer. These odd rules may cause some initial confusion and frustration, but it’s important to keep in mind that this system levels the playing field for everyone and generally leads to better draw odds across all species.
Nonresident applicants in Idaho are awarded up to 10% of the total tag allotment for controlled hunts.
Idaho does not require tag fees to be paid up front for deer, elk, antelope or bear; however, applicants applying for bighorn sheep, moose or mountain goat must pay the entire upfront cost when submitting an application. The cost for the bighorn sheep, moose or mountain goat applications will be refunded if unsuccessful less the cost of the annual hunting license, application fee and processing fees. Any phone-in orders will be subject to a nonrefundable charge of 3% of the transaction plus $5.50 while online purchases will accrue a charge of 3% of the transaction total plus $3.50.
Cost to apply in Idaho
|Nonresident annual hunting license||$154.75|
|Access/depredation management fee||$10|
|Controlled hunt application fee (deer, elk, antelope or black bear)||$14.75|
|Controlled hunt application fee (bighorn sheep, moose or mountain goat||$41.75|
|License fee for bighorn sheep, moose or mountain goat||$2,101.75|
|Total cost to apply for deer, elk, antelope or black bear||$179.49|
|Total cost to apply for bighorn sheep, moose or mountain goat||$2,308.25|
|Total cost to apply for bighorn sheep, moose or mountain goat after refund||$206.50|
Successful applicants for deer, elk, antelope or bear will also be subject to additional costs for the physical hunting license.
Cost of controlled hunt tags by species for Idaho
|Black bear license||$186|
In Kansas, residents have opportunities to apply for deer, antelope and elk while nonresidents are solely limited to deer. A somewhat different drawing system is found here where hunters must first draw a whitetail deer permit through a preference point weighted system. If the applicant wished to hunt mule deer then they must also apply for a mule deer stamp at the same time; that is distributed through a random lottery. The draw odds are steep here, but Kansas is quickly becoming recognized as a trophy mule deer state.
Unsuccessful applicants are eligible for a refund of all application fees less than $27.50 in nonrefundable processing fees. Additionally, hunters can also mail their hunting license back with a request for a full refund. Kansas can be very expensive to initially apply for, but they have a great refund program.
Costs for applying in Kansas
|Nonresident hunting license||$97.50|
|Nonresident whitetail deer permit||$442.50|
|Mule deer stamp fee||$152.50|
|Total cost to apply for whitetail deer only||$540|
|Total cost to apply for mule deer||$692.50|
|Total cost to apply after refund||$27.50|
Applicants who wish only to build a point for the season can also purchase individual preference points for $26.50.
Montana offers drawing opportunities for deer, elk, antelope, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, mountain goat, moose and bison. Montana uses an interesting draw system for deer and elk. Nonresident applicants must first draw the general deer, elk or combo license and then apply for controlled hunt permits. This entire process must be done at the same time; however, permit application fees are low and will not make any major impacts on cost. Deer, elk or combination nonresident licenses are distributed through a preference point system while all other tags, including deer and elk permits, are drawn through a weighted bonus point system.
Historically, nonresident combo tags could be drawn with a 100% certainty, but this has changed in the last few years and hunters are now facing tougher odds although, currently, most applicants can draw at least every other year. Purchasing a preference point can greatly increase your odds and can be purchased either at the time of application or between July 1 and Sept. 30. Bonus points will not expire, but preference points are lost after two years of not applying for a nonresident Combination License. A base hunting license ($15) and conservation license ($10) is included in the price of the general deer, elk or big game combo license cost.
Cost of applying for Montana deer, elk and combination licenses
|General big game combo (deer and elk)||$1,041|
|Preference point (optional)||$50|
After successfully drawing a nonresident general deer, elk or big game combo license, applicants will then be put into the drawing for region-specific deer and elk permits. Nonresidents are limited up to 10% of a district’s available permits. Hunters applying for an archery-only permit must first purchase a bow and arrow stamp or their application will be nullified. The cost for the bow and arrow stamp is $10.
Cost to apply for nonresident deer and elk permits in Montana
|Bonus point (per species, nonrefundable)||$20|
|Total cost to apply for deer permit (includes general deer only)||$630|
|Total cost to apply for elk permit (includes general elk only)||$894|
|Total cost to apply for deer and elk permit (includes big game general)||$1,055|
If hunters are solely interested in drawing a permit tag they can request an 80% refund by Aug. 1. Bonus points and application fees are not refundable. Additionally, hunters who are only interested in building points for the current application year can also purchase bonus points alone from July 1 through Sept. 30.
Total cost to build points in Montana for deer and elk
|Total cost after refund to apply for deer permit with bonus point||$150|
|Total cost after refund to apply for elk permit with bonus point||$206|
|Total cost after refund to apply for deer and elk permit with bonus point||$262.20|
|Cost of deer, elk or antelope bonus point (per species)||$25|
|Cost of moose, bighorn sheep or mountain goat bonus point (per species)||$75|
Unlike deer and elk, applicants will not need to jump through a bunch of hoops when applying for moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat or bison. Moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat use a traditional bonus point system, but bison tags are distributed through a random lottery.
Cost to apply for antelope, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and bison in Montana
|Base hunting license||$15|
|Antelope application fee||$5|
|Moose application fee||$50|
|Bighorn sheep application fee||$50|
|Mountain goat application fee||$50|
|Bison application fee||$50|
|Bonus point (per species, optional)||$20|
|Cost to apply for all species||$230|
Hunters who successfully draw any of the trophy species (moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat) will also be subject to an additional fee of $1,250 per species for the physical hunting license.
Nevada features drawing options for deer, bighorn sheep, elk, mountain goat, antelope and bear. Nevada uses a weighted bonus point system that generally showcases better draw odds than a preference point system, but does not directly reward longtime applicants. Trophy qualities are very high in the Silver State and the draw odds can be steep. Still, with the random lottery system, every applicant at every point level has a chance.
Online applications are subject to a $3.50 convenience fee.
Cost to apply in Nevada
|Adult combination license||$155|
|Elk application fee||$15|
|Deer application fee||$10|
|Antelope application fee||$10|
|Desert bighorn sheep application fee||$10|
|Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep application fee||$10|
|Mountain goat application fee||$10|
|Black bear application fee||$10|
|Bonus point only (optional)||$10|
|Processing fee per product||$1|
|Predator control fee (per application)||$3|
|Total cost to apply for every species||$239|
If applicants successfully draw a permit, then they will then be charged for the corresponding big game license:
Cost of species-specific licenses in Nevada
|Mule deer tag||$240|
|Rocky Mountain or desert bighornn sheep tag||$1,200|
|Mountain goat tag||$1,200|
|Black bear tag||$300|
New Mexico offers drawing opportunities for deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, oryx, ibex, Barbary sheep and bear. Like Idaho, New Mexico does not use any form of bonus or preference points and distributes tags on a pure lottery system. Applications include all of the total costs for the licenses to be paid upfront, but, after, refunds hunters, who end up paying $13 per species per year.
Residents and nonresidents applying with a guide are limited to 10% of the available permits and 6% of the permits are set aside for nonresidents applying without a guide. The remaining 84% of the permits will be distributed to residents only.
Cost to apply for big game permits in New Mexico
|Nonresident game hunting license||$65|
|Deer (quality or high demand)||$368|
|Elk (quality or high demand)||$773|
|Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep||$3,173|
|Desert bighorn sheep||$3,173|
|Total upfront cost to apply for every species (standard deer and elk)||$7,984|
|Total upfront cost to apply for every species (quality or high demand deer and elk)||$8,294|
|Total cost to apply for every species after refund||$169|
Oregon offers drawing opportunities for deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and black bear. Oregon uses a preference point system for deer, elk, antelope and bear while bighorn sheep and mountain goat permits are distributed through a random lottery. 75% of the controlled tags will be reserved for those with preference points while the remaining 25% of the tags will be drawn at random. A maximum of 5% of deer and elk tags and 3% of antelope tags will be distributed to nonresidents while a maximum of 10% of the bighorn sheep and mountain goat tags will be reserved for nonresidents.
Cost to apply in Oregon
|Nonresident hunting license||$167|
|Columbian whitetail deer||$8|
|California bighorn sheep||$8|
|Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep||$8|
|Total cost to apply for every species||$215|
After successfully drawing a tag, applicants will also need to purchase their nonresident tag for the corresponding species:
Cost of controlled hunt licenses
Utah offers drawing opportunities for deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, moose and bison. Utah uses a true preference point system for general deer tags and a modified preference point system for all of the controlled and once-in-a-lifetime hunts. Nonresidents are limited to up to 10% of the tags in the draw with 50% of these being distributed to the highest preference point holders and the remaining 50% drawn through a random lottery.
Draw odds are steep for most species in Utah; however, nearly every unit will produce a trophy quality animal for nearly every species. Lucky applicants will find themselves with the tag of a lifetime. You can only draw one limited entry tag per year.
Cost to apply in Utah
|Nonresident one-year basic hunting license||$65|
|Limited entry deer||$10|
|Premium limited entry deer||$10|
|Limited entry elk||$10|
|Premium limited entry elk||$10|
|Limited entry antelope||$10|
|Rocky Mountain or desert bighorn sheep||$10|
|Total cost to apply for all species||$155|
Additionally, if an applicant is successful in any of the limited entry draws they will be charged for the remainder of the species-specific hunting license:
Cost of limited entry tags in Utah
|Limited entry deer||$468|
|Premium limited entry deer||$568|
|Limited entry elk||$800|
|Premium limited entry elk||$1,505|
|Limited entry antelope||$293|
|Rocky Mountain or desert bighorn sheep||$1,518|
Washington offers drawing opportunities for deer, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, moose and bear. Washington utilizes a random lottery draw weighted with squared bonus points or special permit points as they are referred to by the state. Overall, Washington is an incredibly expensive state to apply for deer and elk because hunters need to first possess a nonresident deer or elk tag before applying for any special permit hunts. Additionally, Washington state does not issue refunds for any purchased licenses. Deer and elk combination licenses can be purchased and carry lower fees as opposed to buying the licenses separately. Moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat can be applied for without purchasing the license first.
Cost of applying for special permit tags in Washington
|Deer license (prerequisite for applying)||$434.30|
|Elk license (prerequisite for applying)||$497|
|Deer and elk combo||$739|
|Special hunt permit applications||$110.50|
|Special hunt permit applications — quality||$110.50|
|Total cost to apply for every species||$1,402|
If an applicant is successful in drawing a bighorn sheep, mountain goat or moose tag, then they must submit the remaining fees associated with the tag within a 15-day period following the drawing.
Cost of special permit tags in Washington
|Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep||$1,652|
|California bighorn sheep||$1,652|
Wyoming offers drawing opportunities for deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, moose and bison. In addition to limited entry tags, hunters must also draw general deer and elk tags to hunt every year. Deer tags are distributed by regions; whereas, elk general tags can be used statewide in any general unit. Wyoming utilizes a preference point system where 75% of the permits will be distributed to the highest point holders while the remaining 25% will be reserved for a random drawing. There is not a point system for mountain goat or bison permits, which are distributed through a purely random lottery draw. Nonresidents are granted up to 15% of the available elk permits for up to 20% for all remaining species.
Additionally, hunters will have the option to participate in the regular or special draws for deer, elk and antelope. The tag allocations for these three species are divided into two where 60% of the tags will be reserved for the regular draw and 40% of the tags will be reserved for the special draw. The special draw typically sees higher draw odds, but also has a much higher cost to apply. Wyoming requires applicants to purchase their desired license upfront, but will refund all but the cost of the application and preference point fees.
If applicants are willing to spend the extra money, they can also participate in the special draw for deer, elk and antelope. This route can generally cut one to two years of your application time.
Cost of applying in Wyoming (special draw)
|Bighorn sheep license||$2,320|
|Mountain goat license||$2,162|
|Bison license (either sex)||$4,417|
|Application fee (per species)*||$15|
|Total upfront cost to apply for every species with preference point fees||$13,909|
|Total cost after refunds to apply for every species||$529|
* $15 fee already included in each species in the table above.
Note: There is no special draw for moose, bison, sheep and mountain goat.
If applicants are simply looking to build points only for the current application period they can skip out on the large upfront fees and purchase points separately anytime from July 1 through Oct. 31.
Cost of preference points only in Wyoming
|Total cost to buy points for every species||$424|
Time to hit the books
For most, myself included, taking the leap into the points and application game can very daunting and intimidating. Financial worries will be the largest limiting factor for most, but even a few hundred dollars can buy you several chances in several states for animals. Don’t be afraid to explore some of the possibilities through the draws and see for yourself how attainable the hunt of a lifetime can be. Adventures in new country are never a regrettable endeavor.
Summary of the cost to apply in each state
(all fees are based on nonresident applications)
|Alaska||Sitka Blacktail deer, elk, sheep, mountain goat,|
moose, bison, muskox, bears, wolf
|Arizona||Deer, elk, antelope,|
desert bighorn sheep, bison
|California||Deer, elk, antelope, bighorn sheep||$477.89||$225.33|
|Colorado||Deer, elk, antelope, moose, bighorn sheep,|
|Idaho||Moose, bighorn sheep,|
|Idaho||Deer, elk, antelope||$179.49||$179.49|
|Kansas||Deer, elk, antelope||$692.50||$27.50|
|Montana||Deer, elk, antelope, moose,|
bighorn sheep, mountain goat, bison
|Nevada||Deer, elk, antelope,|
California & desert bighorn sheep
|New Mexico||Deer, elk, antelope,|
desert bighorn sheep, ibex,
oryx, barbary sheep
|Oregon||Deer, elk, antelope,|
bighorn sheep, mountain goat
|Utah||Deer, elk, antelope, mountain goat,|
Rocky bighorn sheep, desert bighorn sheep,
|Washington||Deer, elk, moose,|
bighorn sheep, mountain goat
|Wyoming||Deer, elk, antelope, moose,|
bighorn sheep, mountain goat
Viewed another way showing what the percentage of costs are coming from on a state by state basis.
Keep in mind that the total cost can vary greatly based on what species you apply for and any credit card or other processing fees. The numbers in this article are a great rough estimate on what it could cost you. The total cost of building points/applying (nonrefundable fees) for all species in these states is approximately $5,123.02 annually. Keep in mind that some of the states are very hard for a nonresident to justify applying for everything. This number will also vary based on residency. If you are a resident of any of these states, your cost will be lower in your home state. There are also some loopholes in applying for several of these states that can help you save a few bucks, but this is another topic that we will examine another time.