APPLICATION STRATEGY 2016: Wyoming Elk
Wyoming's elk application overview
Branch antlered bulls that exceed 300” B&C are sure to get your heart racing. Most states have units that provide a legitimate chance to pursue bulls this size, but it could take years of applying to get that chance. Wyoming is the true exception in the West for quality bulls in easier to draw choices. What’s more is that you can hunt Wyoming during seasons that have rut action on a very regular basis. Wyoming has the best balance of quality and quantity when it comes to elk hunting. For those of you that have already discovered Wyoming and made it part of your regular elk lineup, we applaud you. For the rest of you who have yet to experience Wyoming elk hunting, you owe it to yourself to read on!
Note: The application deadline for Wyoming elk is February 1 and the application is entirely online.
Why Wyoming for elk
300" plus bulls can be found in most areas. Bulls up to 380” also range across the state.
Quality and quantity
What do we mean by this? Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) does a great job of balancing trophy quality and the quantity of elk, offering the best quality and quantity ratios for elk in the West.
Plenty of accessible public land
This state is very friendly for the public land hunter.
In some areas hunters that draw a Type 1 tag can extend their season by purchasing an archery stamp for just $30.
New for 2016
• Raffle tickets for the Super Tag and Super Tag Trifecta will be sold from January 1 through July 1, 2016 for the 2016 hunting season and the winner will be notified no later than July 15.
• Preference Point Only purchase deadline has changed to October 31 for 2016.
• Hunters can now donate their elk license to the WGFD to be reissued to disabled veterans or persons with permanent disabilities who use a wheelchair.
• The WGFD plans to issue all refunds to the credit card that was used at the time of application. There will no longer be any refund warrants mailed to the applicant.
View important information and an overview of the Wyoming rules/regulations, the draw system and bonus points, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map on our State Profile. You can also view the Wyoming Elk Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.
Important dates and information
• Deadline to apply is February 1, 2016 by midnight MST. Apply online here.
• Deadline to amend or withdraw your elk application is February 3, 2016 by midnight MST.
• July 1, 2016 will be the first day to apply for elk-only points.
• Nonresident applicants will be charged a $14 nonrefundable application fee.
• All applications for elk must be processed online.
• All refunds will be credited back to the credit card used on the application.
• If you draw a Type 1 license, you may be able to purchase an Archery Stamp to extend your season.
• Crossbows are legal weapons during any archery season in Wyoming.
• If you are successful drawing an elk license on a second or third choice, then you will not use your accumulated preference points and you will earn a point.
• Up to six hunters may apply on a party application. Preference points are averaged and entered into the drawing with the exact number to the decimal.
• Random draw portion gives absolutely no regard for preference points.
• The maximum number of points going into the 2016 draw for elk is 10 points.
• Approximately 15% of the total elk tags are issued to nonresidents.
Public land with easy access is what makes Wyoming so great. Miles of U.S.Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands are available for hunting, including some of the most wild and scenic wilderness areas in the West. A Wyoming resident or licensed outfitter must accompany nonresident hunters in order to legally hunt in a designated wilderness area. Be sure to study the Unit Profiles to locate which areas have designated wilderness, creating access restrictions for nonresidents. If you are a nonresident and would like to legally elk hunt in a wilderness area, please contact an outfitter. A complete list of outfitters in Wyoming can be found in our Outfitter Directory. Residents need not worry about the wilderness area restriction since they can legally hunt without restriction.
Super Tags and Super Tag Trifecta
Super Tag (good for one species) and the Super Tag Trifecta (good for three species) are a competitive raffle outside of the regular license lotteries. Entries are $10 for Super Tag and $30 for Super Tag Trifecta. You can submit an unlimited number of entries. The winning licenses are liberal in terms of dates and areas, but they have probably the worst odds of all your options for elk in Wyoming.
Type 1 vs Type 9 and the Archery Stamp
The two most common classifications for seasons that apply to bull elk hunting are Type 1 and Type 9. Type 1 is a code that is used for distinguishing a hunt choice that allows for the use of a rifle as a legal method of take. Type 9 will indicate a hunt choice that is reserved for archery hunting only and will have different dates for this season.
If an area, or unit, only offers a Type 1 season, but does not have a designated Type 9 season, then an Archery Stamp can be purchased that will allow the Type 1 license holder to also hunt additional days prior to the opening of the normal Type 1 season with archery equipment.
If an area has both a Type 1 and a Type 9 season offered, archery hunting is permitted during the Special Archery Season dates as long as you purchase an Archery Stamp. Keep in mind that not every area is open to the archery stamp (whether it has a Type 9 or not), it has to be listed in Section 3 of the elk regulations. Normally, the Type 9 license holders will have the first two weeks to themselves and will then be joined by the type 1 Archery Stamp hunters September 15. You can see an example of this in Area 11.
Wyoming elk breakdown
Current elk herd condition
2015 was a good year for Wyoming because of recent mild winters. Yet, recent December temperatures and snowfall already appear to be showing signs of a potentially serious winter that could create challenges for wildlife populations. Winter kill could be a possibility in 2016.
The impact of wolves on Wyoming’s elk herds
Equally significant to weather is the court ruling that has provided federal protection on wolves in Wyoming. Without human interaction through wolf management, the wolf predation on elk numbers will continue to soar. Many areas along the Western side of the state, particularly near Yellowstone Park, have already suffered significant herd loss due to wolves in recent years. As the wolf numbers continue to climb, we can expect a continuing loss in the wolf inhabited areas along the northwestern and western side of the state.
As of September 23, 2014, according to WYGF, there are at least 195 wolves in roughly 34 packs in Wyoming outside of Yellowstone and the Wind River Reservation. The pack size ranged from 2 to 22 wolves and averaged 6.1 wolves/pack.
Much of the wilderness areas and other remote country along the northwestern portion of the state has a decent population of grizzly bears. It is important to take necessary precaution when hunting in areas inhabited by grizzlies. Keep a clean camp and carry bear spray in the event of an encounter.
The draw system
It is important to understand the drawing system before you begin. You can find a complete explanation of the draw process along with important dates and fees in our Wyoming State Profile. The nonresident applicants can apply for either a regular elk license or a special elk license. The special elk license available to nonresidents has a higher price, but is designed to provide less competition and, ultimately, a better chance of drawing.
Regular vs special draw: unlocking the system
Nonresident licenses are broken into two categories in Wyoming: the regular draw and the special draw, which costs an additional $480. To show you how this works, let’s say an area has 10 licenses available. 60% of these licenses will go for the regular limited quota draw, 40% to the special draw. For the six licenses in the regular draw, 75% will go to maximum point holders who have applied for that area. The remaining 25% are awarded using a random draw. The four licenses in the special draw will be awarded using the same 75/25 split as the regular draw.
What draw is right for you?
The draw odds are slightly higher for hunters entering the special draw. The higher cost means that there are fewer people in the pool, which can be an increase of 15 to 20% to get the license you want; however, the special draw doesn’t guarantee success. The licenses for both regular and special draws are exactly the same once awarded.
Unlike many states, where if you don’t have the points you have no chance of getting a tag, Wyoming even gives hunters with a few points a chance. Even if you don’t draw anything this year, you can get a preference point to increase your chances next year.
The general elk tag
Wyoming residents that are interested in hunting elk are entitled to some of the greatest elk hunting perks around. The general tag is available over-the-counter (OTC) to residents and is open in all areas that are not holding a limited entry hunt. That means that there are over 50 areas across the state that fall into the jurisdiction of the general elk tag! Unlike resident hunters, a nonresident hunter must apply for and draw this general elk tag. Be aware that some of the areas available for this tag provide trophy bull elk hunting in extreme wilderness terrain while other areas are mainly rolling foothills or open sage country. While the designated wilderness areas are public lands, a large majority of the other general areas will have restricted access due to the large private ranches. There are several outfitters in Wyoming that offer great hunts on horseback in the wilderness areas as well as other outfitters that have incredible hunting opportunities on the large ranches.
Nonresidents can apply for the general elk license in either the Regular or Special Draw type. Historically, nonresidents have been able to draw the general elk license without any preference points through the Special Draw; however, nonresidents will need at least one preference point to guarantee success if they select the Regular Draw.
In recent years, the nonresident applicants that applied for the general elk license through the Special Draw were successful regardless of the choice listed. Drawing a license in Wyoming with a second or third choice will not use your accumulated preference points and you will actually earn a point while drawing a tag. Note: There were no second or third choice applicants drawn for general elk licenses through the Regular Draw.
Limited entry choices
Wyoming has elk areas that are highly sought after and require several years of preference points to guarantee a tag. This is no different than most Western states. The premium elk areas are found scattered across the state and big bulls are a possibility in many parts of the state. Wyoming also allocates 25% of the tags for each hunt choice to be drawn in a pure random drawing that does not factor in any points. This creates some hope for drawing the best elk areas in the state even if you have little or no points. The table listed below shows some of the top areas in the state that are known for producing some of the very best bulls.
Top hit list hunt areas to consider for 340" or better bulls
|Area 7||7 points||7 points|
|Area 19 Type 1||8 points||5 points|
|Area 30||9 points (max)||9 points (max)|
|Area 31||9 points (max)||9 points (max)|
|Area 32||9 points (max)||9 points (max)|
|Area 45 Type 1||7 points||7 points|
|Area 45 Type 9||7 points||7 points|
|Area 54 Type 1||9 points (max)||9 points (max)|
|Area 54 Type 9||8 points||5 points|
|Area 56 Type 1||9 points (max)||9 points (max)|
|Area 58||9 points (max)||9 points (max)|
|Area 59||9 points (max)||9 points (max)|
|Area 61||7 points||6 points|
|Area 62||9 points (max)||9 points (max)|
|Area 63 Type 1
w/ Area 64
|9 points (max)||9 points (max)|
|Area 64 Type 1
w/ Area 63
|9 points (max)||9 points (max)|
|Area 100||9 points (max)||9 points (max)|
|Area 124||9 points (max)||9 points (max)|
How to uncover hidden gem areas
Beyond the top shelf areas in Wyoming are dozens of other areas that are easily drawn and still allow a puncher’s chance at taking a mature bull scoring greater than 320”. Utilize our Filtering 2.0 tools and manipulate the Trophy Potential to display the hunting areas that have a legitimate chance at bulls that score 320” or better. Customize your search and click on a specific unit to access the Unit Profile in order to gain the greatest resource available to thoroughly learn an area. Our Wyoming Elk Species Profile is another great way to determine other areas and regions of the state to consider. Within the Species Profile you will find a table showing the top Boone and Crockett producing areas over the years for both typical and nontypical bulls.
Wyoming's top Boone & Crockett producing
|Park County||8||51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 66|
|Sweetwater County||4||24, 30, 31, 32, 98, 99, 100, 102, 105, 107, 124|
|Teton County||3||60, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 75, 77, 78, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 93, 95|
|Fremont County||2||24, 25, 27, 28, 47, 48, 67, 68, 69, 70, 81, 83, 95, 99, 100, 127, 128|
|Natrona County||2||7, 16, 19, 22, 23, 33, 48, 120, 122, 128, 129|
|Sheridan County||2||2, 36, 37, 38, 129|
Trending bull:cow ratio areas
You have probably noticed that we provide data on bull to cow ratios for each hunt area, or unit, in Wyoming. Male to female ratios are a critical measuring data tool for wildlife managers and indicate the current status of the herd. A higher bull to cow ratio may indicate that a unit could have a higher availability of mature bulls compared to a unit with a lower bull to cow ratio. This doesn’t always indicate that the bulls will be the highest scoring bulls, but more bulls equates to more bulls to find and harvest. When selecting an area, or comparing several areas, take this into consideration to help your decision. For a complete understanding of male to female ratios, please refer to a recent article covering this in depth.
The interesting discovery is that the top areas with the highest bull:cow ratios are not found in the top trophy producing areas. Several of these top bull:cow ratio areas are also available to hunt with a general license. All of this information can be obtained and sorted in Filtering 2.0. These are some serious sleeper areas to consider!
Top Wyoming areas for bull:cow ratios
|Area 22 - Ferris||87:100||X|
|Area 111 – Seminoe||87:100||X|
|Area 92 – Piney-Horse Creek||42:100||X|
|Area 94 – South Piney||42:100||X|
|Area 82 – Crystal Peak||41:100||X|
|Area 81 – Spread Creek||41:100||X|
|Area 70 – Buffalo Fork||41:100||X|
|Area 83 – Fish Creek||41:100||X|
|Area 78 – Wilson||41:100||X|
|Area 71 – Pacific Creek||41:100||X|
|Area 80 – Sheep Creek||41:100||X|
|Area 77 – National Elk Refuge||41:100||X|
|Area 95 – Green River||35:100||X|
|Area 96 – New Fork||35:100||X|
|Area 93 – Water Dog Lakes||35:100||X|
|Area 2 – Fortification||35:100||X|
|Area 84 – Lower Hoback||26:100||X|
|Area 85 – Fall Creek||26:100||X|
The points system
Wyoming works on preference points, not bonus points. You gain one point for every year you are unsuccessfully in the draw. Even if you miss the application deadline for licenses in February, you can purchase a point for $50 from July to October. The maximum number of points for elk is ten going into 2016.
Total number of combined elk preference points: 213,538
There is no point system for residents. It’s basically a raffle with fairly good odds. You might have 200 people applying for 100 tags. All residents can purchase OTC general elk licenses starting in July.
To maintain points and build, don’t apply for easy-to-draw areas.
Managing points and expectations
Your strategy at applying for Wyoming elk should be directly related to your upcoming goals for 2016. Wyoming elk marks the first of the Western states’ application deadlines. If you anticipate drawing a tag, or tags, in other states, then you should consider your Wyoming elk strategy based on that. Especially because you cannot turn in a Wyoming tag back in. For example, if you plan to use your accumulated points in Colorado for archery or muzzleloader mule deer or if you plan to draw an Arizona archery elk tag with your Arizona bonus points, then a late September archery elk tag in Wyoming may not be your best choice.
If you have points accumulated in Wyoming for elk and you want to make 2016 your year to hunt Wyoming, then select a unit that meets your trophy potential criteria and use our Draw Odds calculator to determine if that hunt choice is within point reach for you. The Filtering 2.0 tools are your key to discovering ideal hunting areas in Wyoming.
Remember that drawing on your second choice has been a possibility in recent years, specifically with the general license through the Special Draw. A good strategy is to apply through the Special Draw for a limited entry choice that you would love to draw as a first choice and apply for a general license as second choice. If you select this strategy, it is important to know that hiring an outfitter will greatly improve your odds of success on a big bull with a general license.
If your goal is to harvest a branch antlered bull, regardless of score, then Wyoming is your destination. There are dozens of areas available across the state that will meet your needs.
I have 0 points. What can I expect?
Your first question should be whether you want to draw or simply build points in hopes to one day have the points needed to draw a coveted limited quota tag. If you only want to build points and do not care to hunt Wyoming in 2016 for elk, then you should wait for the summer points only period to apply for your point.
If you would like to build a point and hope to draw an elk license, too, then apply through the Special Draw for a hunt choice that is difficult to draw as your first choice and list the general elk as your second choice. If you apply this strategy in the Regular Draw, then you have no chance to draw your second choice general license.
Also remember that 25% of the nonresident tags are set aside to be drawn randomly without any regard for points. Regardless of which hunt choice you list as your first choice, you always have a chance to draw.
What can I do with 3 or 4 points?
You are now becoming dangerous because you have enough points to draw some limited quota areas. The areas that are known to consistently produce the highest scoring bulls will not be within point reach yet, but some of the quality areas in the Bighorn Range are now available to you. Look to Type 1 choices in areas like 34, 35, 38, 39, 40, 41, 45, and 48. The Type 9 archery choices in Areas 35, 36, 37, or 41 are also good options. Areas 93 or 95 both have high bull:cow ratios and would be solid choices to consider.
What can I expect with 9 or 10 points?
You are at the top of the pile or within one point of the top. You have to take your points very seriously at this level. If a big bull is what you are after, then you need to focus on the “Hit List” above with areas that are known to produce bulls over 340” B&C. Utilize the Unit Profiles, Filtering 2.0 and the comparison feature to really dive in and analyze the areas. This research will enable you to select the area that fits you the best. Apply through the Special Draw to increase your odds!