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2019 Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho & Montana youth hunting information

Western big game hunting application strategy

A youth hunter with his hard earned 2018 Montana mule deer. Photo credit: Brady Miller

Jump to: Arizona California Colorado Idaho Montana

Getting youth involved in the outdoors and hunting is important to us so, for 2019, we will be offering youth draw odds for the states/species that offer youth-only hunts. This will allow our INSIDERS to seek out and apply youth for those hunts while they are still young enough to take advantage of those opportunities. This new youth enhancement to INSIDER will happen early in 2019. In this article series, we will outline the youth opportunities in the 10 states we cover, application and permit costs, and some strategies to hopefully help you draw a youth tag or two. This first article covers Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, and Montana. The next article will outline Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming.

Note: At the time of article completion, 2019 state rules/regulations were not available. Please refer to current regulations once the applications are open before applying.


Age and hunter’s education

Youth are eligible to apply for a tag if they will be 10 years old by the start of the hunt. Youth may apply for bonus points if they are 10 years old by the application deadline. Hunters under the age of 14 must complete a hunter’s education course to hunt in Arizona.

Permit transfer

Arizona allows a youth (10 to 17) to use the parent’s, grandparent’s or guardian’s big game permit to take big game provided the permit is legally transferred to them, the youth is accompanied by the parent, grandparent or guardian, the youth possesses a valid hunting license and, if under, 14 has been through a hunter’s education course.

Weapon information

There are a few weapons restrictions that may be particularly applicable for youth hunters. Archery hunters must pull a minimum of 30 lb draw weight. Muzzleloaders can be modern setups; any projectile, ignition fitting, and any power magnified scopes can be used.

Youth-specific hunt opportunities:

Arizona offers many youth-only deer rifle and muzzleloader hunts. A table with those is listed within the 2018-2019 hunting regulations is on pages 37 and 38. The hunts typically occur in early to mid-October with some running later in November. Most of the youth deer hunts are opportunity type hunts; there is no youth only hunts on the top tier trophy units like the famed Arizona Strip or Kaibab.

There is also youth only elk permits, but those hunts are currently only for antlerless elk. There are some decent opportunities within those hunts—most notably Units 3A, 3C, 1, 10, 22 and 23. It is worth noting that if you apply your youth for one of these hunts as any of your five hunt choices and they draw it, they will lose any accumulated bonus points.

Last year, there were no youth only antelope, bighorn sheep, or bison hunts in Arizona. Check the current regulations to see if there are youth-only opportunities for 2019.

Strategies for youth in Arizona

The Arizona youth hunting license is only $5 for residents and nonresidents and is one of the most economical states to apply your kids. Everyone should apply their youth for hunts or begin to build bonus points for their kids.

If your intent is to apply and build points for a branch antlered bull elk permit, then it’s best to avoid the youth only antlerless elk hunts. There are better states to pick up an antlerless elk permit that will not impact bonus points in states like Wyoming or Utah. Trophy deer hunts in Arizona are truly tough to come by even if you begin building points for your kids right now so you might consider some of the youth only deer hunts, but keep in mind those are opportunity type of hunts. They do offer better odds than most of the general draws. Do some research into the draw odds for the youth only deer, general draw deer hunts, and consider your objectives for your kids before making a decision.

Another consideration: youth hunters may wish to apply for a javelina hunt that will complement another deer hunt in which they may participate in this fall. Youth only deer hunters in selected units (see youth-only deer hunts on page 37) will also be provided the opportunity to purchase over-the-counter (OTC) companion javelina tags, allowing these hunters to hunt for deer and javelina at the same time. These hunts are excellent ways to introduce youth to big game hunting.

Be sure to apply your youth for any and all species that they are interested in hunting, including bighorn sheep, antelope, and bison—if you can afford the permit should they draw a random tag. The cost of those tags is the same for youth and adults!

Arizona youth application, license and permit costs (10 to 17 years old)

Youth combination license (hunt/fish)$5$5
Youth application/bonus point fee$13 /
per species
$15 /
per species
Javelina youth only tag$28$30
Elk youth only tag (antlerless)$63$65
Deer youth only tag$38$40

* Note: All other license costs for youth are the same as they are for adults.


Age and hunter’s education

Big game hunting is prohibited to youth under the age of 12 although there is no age limit to buy a hunting license as long as the youth has completed hunter’s education. Applicants must be 12 years old by July 1 in the license year in which they apply for deer, elk, and antelope. Applicants must be 16 by July 1 to apply for bighorn sheep. Everyone that applies for big game permits must have completed a hunter’s education course. To qualify for a junior hunting license, a hunter must be less than 18 years of age as of July 1 of the license year for which they are applying.

Strategies for youth in California

Generally, nonresidents don’t consider applying in California for elk, antelope or bighorn sheep and here’s why: There is typically only one permit for each species allocated statewide for nonresidents. With their draw system, that means if any antelope permit or any elk permit (including a cow elk) is drawn and awarded to a nonresident, all other nonresident applications will be rejected for these species. This makes the odds of drawing in California some of the toughest odds in the country for these species. This is the same for desert sheep. For adults, it likely doesn’t make sense because the hunting license cost to apply is expensive. For youth, though, it may be worth applying for a random chance at one of those permits. You’ll have to decide: the junior nonresident hunting license is $12.70 and each application is $8.13 for antelope, elk, and bighorn. The odds are extremely long, but it might be worth for thought.


Age and hunter’s education

Youth may apply for a tag at age 11 if they will turn 12 years old before the end of the hunting season that they applied for. Youth can apply for preference points if they turn 12 by Dec. 31 of the application year. Every youth will be required to complete a hunter’s education course before applying and they are required to carry a copy of their hunter’s education card with them in the field.

Colorado does have an apprentice license that provides a one-year waiver on the hunter’s education requirement. It can only be used once and allows for the purchase of hunting permits. The hunter must be accompanied by a mentor in the field. The apprentice must be at least 12 years old and the mentor must be at least 18 and have completed a hunter’s education course.

Permit transfer

An adult cannot transfer a hunting permit to a youth hunter in Colorado.

Weapon information

Bows must have a minimum of 35 lbs draw weight and a maximum of 85% let-off. Muzzleloader rules are more restrictive than most states; pelletized powder, smokeless powder, sabots and scopes are not permitted. Open or iron sites are mandatory.

Youth-specific hunt opportunities

A minimum of 15% of limited hunting licenses for doe antelope, antlerless and either sex deer, and antlerless elk for each unit will be available for youth (12 to 17). Those permits are available through the state draw for each season and method of take. If youth enter more than one hunt code on their application, all codes listed must qualify for youth preference (i.e. doe, antelope, antlerless elk, doe or either sex deer).

Colorado also offers some extended hunts for youth. Youth who have an unfilled limited antlerless deer, antlerless elk, or either sex elk license after their original seasons ends can participate in any open rifle antlerless deer or elk hunt that begins after the last day of the season on their original license. Antlered licenses, OTC licenses, and either sex plains rifle elk licenses cannot be converted to extend seasons. For more details, see the “youth hunting” section within the Colorado Parks & Wildlife regulations.

Strategies for youth in Colorado

Colorado’s youth opportunities are not all that enticing due to the fact that most of the permits that youth have an advantage of drawing are for antlerless species. Perhaps, the archery deer permits—most of which are either sex permits—are worth considering because 15% of those will be available to youth hunters. Cow elk hunts as a second choice may also be worth considering. Beyond that, in our opinion, it makes more sense to use the Draw Odds to review hunts that can be drawn with no points or even as a second choice that will allow youth to hunt and still build points for a future hunt. OTC elk hunting opportunities are also a good way to get youth involved in hunting.

Everyone should be applying and/or building points for all species they are interested in for the state of Colorado. The cost to apply is cheap and Colorado waves the preference point fee for youth.

Colorado youth application, license and permit costs (12 to 17 years old)

Youth application processing fee (per species)
Preference point fee for youth is waived
Habitat stamp$10$10
Youth deer license$10.75$100.75
Youth elk license$10.75$100.75
Youth antelope license$10.75$100.75

* Note: All other license costs for youth are the same as they are for adults.


Age and hunter’s education

Idaho has a great approach to getting youth involved in hunting. They recently lowered the minimum age to purchase a hunting license to 10. A 9-year-old can purchase a hunting license to apply for a controlled permit if the youth will turn 10 prior to the hunt starting should they draw it. For those wondering what a controlled permit is, it means the permits are allocated through the state draw and there are a limited number of permits. Every youth needs to show proof that they have completed a certified hunter’s education course to purchase a hunting license.

Permit transfer

An adult that draws a controlled tag for big game can transfer that permit to their child or grandchild. The youth has to be under the age of 18 and must meet the other state requirements, which must be done prior to opening day of the hunt. Only one controlled tag can be transferred to a youth per year.

Weapon information

Draw weight for bows must be at least 40 lbs and let-off cannot be over 85%. Bowhunters must also show that they have completed a bowhunter’s education course or evidence that they have held an archery permit in Idaho or another state. Muzzleloader requirements are much more primitive. Open or peep sights are permitted and only a flint, percussion cap or musket cap can be used. No scopes, sabots, pelletized powder or 209 primers are permitted.

Youth-specific hunt opportunities

Everyone has to purchase a hunting license to apply for a controlled hunt or purchase an OTC hunting permit; however, Idaho offers youth licenses at a reduced price. The junior mentored hunting licenses are cheaper, but youth hunting under this license must be accompanied in the field by an adult license holder and remain within normal hearing distance. Youth mentoring permits for deer, elk, and bear can also be purchased OTC at a reduced cost.

Youth (10 to 17) resident elk hunters who purchase a general season elk zone tag may participate in any A or B tag elk season within that zone regardless if they purchased an A or B tag originally.

Idaho also provides several controlled hunts that are youth only for deer, antelope and antlerless elk. There is also youth only extra antlerless deer tags that youth can draw as well. There are no youth only tags for moose, bighorn sheep or mountain goats. The youth-only controlled hunts can be found within the state rules and regulations. It’s also worth noting that youth hunters—like adult hunters—cannot apply for all species in the draw. They can apply for deer, elk and antelope or one of the other species, moose, bighorn sheep, or mountain goat.

Strategies for youth in Idaho

Idaho is a great state to get your youth into western big game hunting in terms of age, cost and opportunity. There are several strategies that could be employed. Here are a couple of ideas that I have been considering for my own kids.

As previously noted, the youth mentored hunting license is relatively cheap and, while kids are young, you could take advantage of the opportunity to apply them for species like bighorn sheep, moose, or mountain goat. Because you have to pick your species, Idaho has some of the best odds for those species in the West even though they don't have youth-only hunts for those. If you take that route, do some homework and make sure your child can undertake the conditions and rigors of the hunt. In this case, you could always purchase OTC deer, elk or bear tags for a good price and still go hunting if you did not draw.

Another option might be to apply your kids for a youth deer or antelope and either a controlled antlered or antlerless youth tag. There are some good units that have youth-only deer and antelope hunts. Use the filters within your INSIDER account to explore those options. Finally, you could pick good units/hunts for deer, elk or antelope and hope your youth draws a good permit and, in the meantime, perhaps hunt the OTC areas while the cost of the youth licenses is relatively low.

Idaho youth application, license and permit costs (10 to 17 years old)

Hunting license junior mentored$8.25$31.75
Hunting license junior mentored (3 years)$18.25$91.75
Controlled app fee (deer, elk, antelope) per species$6.25$14.75
Controlled app fee (moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat)$16.75$41.75
Junior deer tag (OTC and controlled)$12.50$23.75
Junior elk tag (OTC and controlled)$18.75$39.75
Junior antelope tag (controlled)$36.50$311.75
Junior bear (OTC and controlled)$7.75$23.75

* Note: All other license costs for youth are the same as they are for adults.


Age and hunter’s education

    Besides for a few exceptions listed below, all youth hunters are required to have completed a hunter’s education course. If you plan to have a youth archery hunting in Montana they will have had to complete a bowhunter’s education course or prove they have had a bowhunting permit in another state.

    Youth ages 10 to 17 can hunt deer prior to taking hunter’s education under the apprentice hunter program. They must be accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old. Apprentice hunters cannot apply for limited quota draws, but can apply for the unlimited area by sending an application to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) headquarters.

    Permit transfer

    An adult cannot transfer a hunting permit to a youth hunter in Montana.

    Weapon information

    Bows must be at least 28” in length. There is not a minimum poundage requirement, but let off can be no greater than 80%. Total arrow length must be at least 20” and weigh more than 300 grains.

    Youth-specific hunt opportunities

    The real gem in Montana is there are actually a lot of youth opportunities!

    Opportunities for youth age 10 and over

    An Apprentice Hunter is a resident or nonresident certified at an FWP office. This license allows the apprentice to hunt some species, while accompanied by a mentor, without first completing a hunter education course. The apprentice hunter may not apply for or purchase a bighorn sheep, black bear, mountain lion or wolf license or a hunting license or permit with a limited quota. The hunter must be 10 years of age or older (up to 17 years of age) at the time of license purchase. Other restrictions apply.

    An apprentice may:

    • Be a resident or nonresident
    • Obtain an Apprentice Hunter Certification for no more than two license years before they must complete a hunter safety and education course
    • Participate in any youth hunt

    An apprentice is not eligible to:

    • Obtain a special bow and arrow license without first having completed a bowhunter education course and be 12 years of age before Jan. 16 of the license year
    • Obtain a resident hound training license for chasing mountain lion
    • Participate in a hunting license or permit drawing with a limited quota
    • Obtain any bighorn sheep, black bear, mountain lion or wolf license
    • Obtain an elk license if under 15 years of age

    Violation of these terms could result in the loss of hunting privileges for up to one full license season.

    See more information about the mentor requirements and the process to obtain an Apprentice Hunter Certificate here.

    Opportunities for youth 11 years old

    A youth 11 years of age who will reach 12 years of age by January 16, 2020, may (after completing hunter education):

    • Apply for any special drawing, except spring turkey – must be able to show proof of having completed an approved hunter education course at the time of application.
    • After August 15, 2019, hunt any game species for which their license is valid during an open season.

    Youth Statewide Two-Day Deer Hunt

    Montana allows two additional days to provide a hunting opportunity to encourage youth participation in deer hunting. Legally licensed hunters 10 through 15 years of age may hunt deer during the statewide two-day youth-only deer season. This hunt is typically the two days prior to the opening of the general rifle season.

    According to FWP, during these two days, youth hunters with a general deer or deer B license may take those deer species and sex otherwise available on their general or deer B license the first day of the general firearm season in the specific hunting district the youth is hunting. A non-hunting adult at least 18 years of age must accompany the youth hunter in the field. Shooting hours, hunter safety requirements and all other regulations that apply to the regular deer firearm season also applies to this youth two-day deer season.

    Free license for terminally ill youth

    • Montana law allows a terminally ill resident or nonresident youth under 17 years of age to receive a free one-time deer and elk License.
    • The youth must be accompanied by a licensed outfitter or an adult who has a license to hunt in Montana.
    • Minimum age and hunter education requirements may be waived for this license. For information call the License Section at 406‑444‑2950.

    Available to nonresident youth only

    Nonresident Youth Combination licenses will be sold to nonresident youth 12-17 years of age over-the-counter who have an adult immediate-family member sponsor (applicant’s natural or adoptive parent, grandparent, brother or sister who is 18 years of age or older and possesses a current resident or nonresident general deer or elk license). The youth must be accompanied by the sponsor while hunting. Applications are available from FWP’s website and may be processed at any FWP Office. For further details and an application, contact Licensing at 406‑444‑2950.

    This license includes General Elk and Deer, Upland Game Bird, Fishing, AISPP, Conservation license and Base Hunting License. There is no sales limit quota.

    Strategies for youth in Montana

    Montana offers great hunting, but for a nonresident, it's not the easiest or most economical state to apply in. There is a ton of information to cover and I would encourage you to explore the state rules and regulations profile and the regular Montana draw strategy articles within your INSIDER account to learn more.

    In essence, you can apply your youth for a general season permit and then apply them for limited quota hunts if you so choose. If they are unsuccessful in the limited quota drawing, you can then choose to hunt the general season(s) that you drew or choose to receive a refund for 80% of the cost of the license. Up until recent years, the general tags had 100% odds with no preference points, but that seems to be changing. If you plan on hunting Montana in the future it may be worth applying for and then obtaining the preference point or buying one during the summer months. The limited quota draw tags run on a squared bonus point system; those bonus points can simply be purchased online during the summer months also. If you don't want to apply for permit areas, you could just pick up the OTC youth combination license. Also, last season we were told by an FWP employee over the phone that youth of any age in Montana can build points, as long as you set them up with an ALS number. This has not been confirmed in Montana's hunt regulations, and getting that in writing from FWP has been difficult. But we will follow-up on that information once we hear if that is concrete information.

    Overall, Montana is worth applying for if you can afford it. Apply for any and all species that you are interested in. The odds of drawing a good tag are low due to the system, but with a random draw, there is some chance. The best opportunities exist in the general season deer, elk, and possibly the archery 900-20 series antelope hunt. Explore the Unit Profiles, Draw Odds and other state information to help you decide. For me, Montana is a future state for my kids. I’ll buy points and, hopefully, we can hunt together in the future.

    The general deer combo (deer), the general elk combo (elk) and the elk deer combo (elk/deer) are good hunts with plenty of time to get your kids out. Also, youth (12 to 15) can harvest a cow elk with an elk license without having to draw a cow permit. 

    Montana youth application, license and permit costs (12 to 17 years old)

    Base hunting license$10$15
    Elk application fee$9$9
    Deer application fee$5$5
    Youth deer combo license$8$325
    Youth elk combo license$10$455
    Big game combo (elk/deer) licenseNA$533

    * Note: All other license costs for youth are the same as they are for adults. Bonus point fees vary by species but are generally $25 for elk, deer, antelope and $75 for moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat.

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