APPLICATION STRATEGY 2018: Utah Sheep, Moose, Goat, Bison
Utah's 2018 sheep, moose, goat and bison application overview
Utah allows nonresidents to apply for all species: elk, deer, antelope, desert and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison. With most of the bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison permits being randomly allocated, it’s worth the $10 application fee to have your name in the draw, especially if you are already buying the hunting license to apply for deer, elk and antelope.
Residents have to pick one of the once-in-a-lifetime (OIL) species when they apply. Pick your favorite or review the odds for all species and and begin applying for the one with the best chance of drawing. For the most part, Utah’s bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison hunts offer a good opportunity to see quite a few animals and harvest a good representative of the species. This article will cover everything you need to know to apply and hopefully draw a OIL permit in Utah.
Note: The application deadline for all Utah species is March 1, 2018 at 11 p.m. MST. Applicants wishing to purchase bonus points only have until March 15, 2018 at 11 p.m. MST. You may apply online here.
Once-in-a-lifetime permits in 2017*
|Rocky Mountain goat||94||10||104|
Why Utah for sheep, moose, goat, bison
- Utah has stable populations of almost all OIL species and manages for high harvest success.
- Most hunts have long seasons dates, giving hunters ample time to hunt and harvest.
- Utah has vast amounts of public land and accessibility is very good.
- Every applicant has a chance in the draw as long as there is a permit available for the unit you apply for.
- Utah is one of the very few places in the world that offers a free-range hunt for American Bison.
- Mountain goat hunting in Utah has good trophy potential and harvest success rates in every unit are higher than almost any other state or unit.
New for 2018
Changes to the Hunter Mentoring Program
- Any qualified adult (21+) can now mentor a resident youth as long as the child’s parent or legal guardian provides written permission. The mentor can be a resident or nonresident but the youth must be a resident.
- A mentor can now share any hunting permit—not just big game.
- A mentor can now identify up to four minors to be mentored on a single permit. Mentors may only mentor one youth in the field at a time and only one animal may be harvested.
- Youth are limited to one mentored hunt of the same species and sex per year, but they may also hunt on any permits they personally draw.
- You may enroll in the Hunter Mentoring Program by printing the application form, completing it and returning it to a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) office.
- Book Cliffs, Wild Horse Bench bison unit has had a boundary change. Make sure to review the unit map.
- In 2018, one Henry Mountains archery bison permit will be available for nonresidents.
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
A new hunt for residents only:
- Fillmore, Oak Creek: Nov. 1 to 30
- Box Elder, Pilot Mountain: Sept. 1 to Oct. 30
- Central Mountains, Nebo/Wasatch Mountains: Nov 1 to 30
Rocky mountain goat
A new hunt for residents only:
- La Sal, La Sal Mountains: Sept. 10 to Nov. 30
- Wasatch Mountains, Box Elder Peak: Sept. 10 to Nov. 30
- Wasatch Mountains, Lone Peak: Sept. 10 to Nov. 30
- Wasatch Mountains, Timpanogos: Sept. 10 to Nov. 30
View important information and an overview of the Utah’s 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 Utah rocky bighorn sheep, desert bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy units.
Important dates and information
- Deadline to apply is March 1, 2018 at 11 p.m. MST.
- Bonus point only applications will be accepted up to March 15, 11 p.m. MST.
- You may apply online or by calling or visiting any UDWR office.
- Results will be emailed or available online on or shortly before May 31, 2018.
- Hunters born after Dec 31, 1965 must have taken an approved hunter’s education course.
- Applicants must be 12 years old by Dec 31, 2018 to apply and hunt in Utah.
- Hunters must have a valid hunting or combination hunting/fishing license to apply.
- Hunting licenses are valid for 365 days from the date of purchase. If you time it correctly you can apply two consecutive years on one license. You do not need an active hunting license to hunt, just to apply.
- Withdrawing or correcting an application is allowed before the application deadline. Corrections are made by withdrawing an application and submitting a new one. Be aware: you will be charged the $10 application fee again to make adjustments.
- Group applications are not allowed for OIL species.
- Utah issues 10% of their draw permits to nonresidents.
- Nonresidents may apply for and build points for all available species.
- Residents may apply for one limited entry species: elk, deer or pronghorn as well as only one OIL species (bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat or bison).
- If you are unsuccessful in the draw, you will be awarded a bonus point. You may also purchase points only, but you still have to have a valid hunting license to do so.
- OIL means you can only draw and hunt in Utah for each one of the following species in your lifetime (bull moose, bison, desert bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goat).
- An individual who draws an OIL species permit may surrender it back to UDWR prior to the start of the season. If surrendered prior to opening day, you will receive your bonus/preference points back.
- Reporting your hunt information is required for any OIL within 30 days of the end of your hunt even if you did not harvest. If you do not report your harvest you will not be allowed to apply the following year unless you pay a $50 late fee.
Amount to remit
Utah OIL fees for 2018
|Item||Resident fees||Nonresident fees|
|365-day hunting license||$16 youth (14 to 17)|
|$25 youth (14 to 17)|
|365-day hunt/fish combo license||$20-Resident youth (14 to 17)|
|$29 youth (14 to 17)|
|Desert and Rocky bighorn sheep||$513||$1,518|
|Rocky Mountain goat||$413||$1,518|
$1,110 (Antelope Island)
$2,615 (Antelope Island)
The draw system
Understanding the draw
Applicants must have a 365-day hunting or hunting/fishing combo license to apply. You do not need one to hunt, so if you time it correctly by buying and applying near the end of the application timeframe one year and then apply the next year early in the application period, you may only have to buy one license every two years.
UDWR utilizes a bonus point system for OIL species. For every year that you apply for a OIL species and do not draw, you will be given a bonus point for that species. You may also buy a bonus point only. Every bonus point you have is essentially the number of times your name goes into the draw. Statistically, the more points you have, the better the odds.
Utah also gives 50% of the permits for any given hunt to the applicants with the most bonus points in that pool. The other 50% will be randomly drawn. If there is an odd number of permits, the bulk will be randomly drawn. If there is one permit, it will be randomly drawn. This is why even applicants with no points have at least some chance to draw as long as there is at least one permit. Be aware if you are applying for a hunt that only has one permit available, you will never be guaranteed to draw it.
The random draw process is relatively simple. Each applicant is assigned a randomly generated number for each bonus point they have. The applicants with the lowest generated random number will draw the permits until they are gone.
Book Cliffs, Wild Horse Bench—Hunter’s Choice Bison
Total permits: 42
Total nonresident permits: 4 (10%
Total resident permits: 38 (90%)
Nonresident bonus point permits: 2
Nonresident Random permits: 2
Resident bonus point permits: 19
Resident random permits: 19
Unlocking Utah’s system
OIL hunt choices
Utah allows applicants to enter one hunt choice for OIL species. If you draw a permit and hunt, then your accumulated points will be purged
Utah’s draw goes in the following order from first to last:
- Buck deer (multi-season premium limited entry, premium limited entry, multi-season limited entry, limited entry, CWMU, and management buck deer)
- Bull elk (multi-season limited entry, limited entry, and CWMU)
- Buck antelope (limited entry and CWMU)
- Once-in-a-lifetime species (sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison)
- General buck deer (lifetime license holders)
- General buck deer (dedicated hunters)
- General buck deer (youth)
- General buck deer
- Youth any bull elk
The order in which the draw happens is important to consider because Utah does not allow you to draw a limited entry and an OIL tag in the same year. For example, if you apply for a limited entry permit of any kind and draw it, your OIL species application(s) will be pulled. You’ll still receive a bonus point for those, but they won’t be considered in the draw.
For all species, the maximum point amount is 25 for 2018; however, there may not be applicants that have 25 points who applied in the 2017 draw.
There is no OIL youth-specific point system in Utah. Youth have no tags or special seasons for OIL species.
We recommend that you review your bonus points, Draw Odds and develop a strategy. If you are close to that maximum bonus point spot for drawing a once-in-a-lifetime tag, perhaps don’t shoot yourself in the foot by applying for and drawing an easier bull elk permit and, subsequently, taking your name out of the once-in-a-lifetime drawing.
Here’s why that matters
It’s important to look at the permit allocations and applicant breakdowns on the Unit Profiles and Draw Odds from the previous year and evaluate your application strategy. A call to a district biologist is also a good idea in order to assess how many permits may be available since Utah doesn’t set their allocations until after the application deadline. If you are building points and have been for a long time, it may benefit you to take a quick look at how many points it took to draw one of the available maximum point permits.
For all species, the maximum point amount is 25 for 2018; however, there are some species where there are no longer applicants that have 24 points.
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
Desert bighorn sheep
Utah's 2018 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep breakdown
Current bighorn herd condition
Utah has nine Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep units for 2018. Of those, three units/populations are considered California bighorn sheep areas: Antelope Island, Box Elder, Newfoundland Mtn and Fillmore, Oak Creek. The Fillmore, Oak Creek is a new hunt for residents in 2018. That population was established through transplanted sheep from Antelope Island beginning in 2014. The other units are considered Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep areas. The state does not distinguish between the two in their rules and regulations guidebook. Populations are mostly stable in all areas, with some areas showing slightly declining populations and others increasing somewhat. The three largest populations are the Book Cliffs, Newfoundland Mountains and the Nine Mile (Jack Creek and Grey Canyon)—all of which boast populations of 230 to 450.
For nonresidents, there will be three permits available—one permit in each of the following units: Book Cliffs, South, Box Elder, Newfoundland Mtn and Nine Mile, Gray Canyon. The trophy potential is mostly average across all units with the Book Cliffs and Nine Mile (Jack Creek and Grey Canyon) units offering the best chance at a 175” ram.
Bighorn sheep permits are any legal weapon, which means that hunters can hunt with a rifle, muzzleloader, or bow and arrow. Most units have a month-long season, running from Nov. 1 to 30. The Box Elder, Newfoundland Mtn unit has two seasons: Oct. 27 to Nov. 16, which only has permits available to residents, and Nov. 17 to Dec. 9, which has one nonresident permit. The Box Elder, Pilot Mtn has a season that runs from Sept. 1 to Oct. 30 and is likely to have one resident permit only.
The Antelope Island hunt (available to residents only) has some special rules and regulations. The Antelope Island hunt is a short eight-day hunt Nov. 14 to 21. Hunters may be accompanied by up to four non-hunting companions. A mandatory orientation is held prior to the hunt at the Antelope Island State Park Visitor Center. All hunters and their companions have to check in with park management at the beginning of their hunt and check out at the end of their hunt.
The goHUNT hit list units for Utah rocky bighorns
Most Rocky Mountain bighorn rams harvested are going to score between 150” to 170”. Occasionally a high 170” to 180” ram will be harvested. Two rams were harvested in recent years in the Central Mountains, Nebo/Wasatch Mountains unit that scored north of 190”, but it’s unlikely that this area holds those kinds of rams in any number. The two best units for trophy potential continue to be the Book Cliffs and Nine Mile (Jack Creek and Grey Canyon) units. The Box Elder, Newfoundland hunts offer the opportunity to look over a lot of bighorn sheep and have a fun successful hunt.
Top hunt units to consider for 165” or better Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
|Book Cliffs, South||175"+||100%||Yes (1)||96%|
|Nine Mile, Grey Canyon||175"+||100%||Yes (1)||85%|
|Nine Mile, Jack Creek||175"+||100%||No||72%|
|Central Mountains, Nebo/|
|Fillmore, Oak Creek||165"+||New hunt||No||--|
How to uncover hidden gem rocky bighorn units
There are very few secrets in bighorn sheep hunting. A quick review of the permit quotas and odds will tell you that there are three units with one nonresident permit a piece. The Box Elder, Newfoundland Mtn has the best odds, followed by the Nine Mile, Grey Canyon and the Book Cliffs, South. The difference between the odds is minuscule; however, the trophy potential is much better for the Book Cliffs and Nine Mile (Grey Canyon and Jack Creek) units.
Residents have six units that have bonus point permits available. If you have a 19 points or more it’s worth reviewing the detailed Draw Odds page to research your options. If you have less than 19 points, all units are likely to have less than 1% random odds.
Boone & Crockett (B&C) entry trends for Utah Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
Utah's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
|Units found within county|
|Grand||4||Book Cliffs, South|
|Emery||2||Nine Mile, Grey Canyon, Nine Mile, Jack Creek|
|Utah||2||Central Mtns, Nebo/Wasatch Mtns, Fillmore, Oak Creek|
|Carbon||1||Central Mtns, Nebo/Wasatch Mtns, Nine Mile, Jack Creek,|
Nine Mile, Grey Canyon
|Duchesne||1||Nine Mile, Jack Creek, Central Mtns, Nebo/Wasatch Mtns|
Managing points and expectations
2018 maximum points for rocky bighorn sheep:
I have 0 to 18 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep points. What can I expect?
Residents have ten unit options, all of which have less than 1.2% odds up to the 17 point level. The late Box Elder, Newfoundland Mtn hunt had 41% odds with 18 points. If you are within this point range, you can apply for the hunts with the best odds or apply for the best trophy potential units. The difference between the odds is minimal. You may also consider the Fillmore, Oak Creek and Box Elder, Pilot Mtn hunts being that they are both new for this year.
Nonresidents can apply for either the Book Cliffs, South, Box Elder, Newfoundland Mtn or Nine Mile Gray Canyon hunt. All three have less than 1% odds for the entire zero to 19 point range. Pick the unit with the best odds or the unit with the best trophy potential.
I have 18 to 25 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep points. What can I expect?
Residents at the bottom end of this point level should review the Box Elder, Newfoundland Mtn hunts. If you are toward the top end of the point range, you likely already have your mind made up, but the Book Cliffs, South and two Nine Mile units (Grey Canyon and Jack Creek) have bonus point permits and are worth considering.
Nonresidents still have less than 1% odds for all three hunts that have a nonresident permit. Once again, pick the best odds hunt or the unit with the best trophy potential. The difference in odds is less than minimal.
Utah's 2018 desert bighorn sheep breakdown
Utah is one of the very few states that offer an opportunity to draw and hunt desert bighorn sheep. Desert bighorn sheep occur across Utah’s Colorado Plateau into the red rock terrain of the San Rafael Swell and the Colorado River and its tributaries. There are twelve units that offer hunts, four of which offer a nonresident permit. Each one of those four units will have one nonresident permit each. For residents, every hunt has some permits that will be allocated to the maximum bonus point holders as well as some that will be randomly allocated.
Current desert bighorn sheep herd condition
The current desert bighorn sheep herds are relatively stable. Some herds are on a slight decline and some seem to be increasing somewhat. Utah has been very proactive in transplanting sheep from other states and areas with high populations to areas where herds have struggled. These transplants have helped herds, but new recruitment/lamb production has been very slow. The largest herds occur within the Zion, Kaiparowits, East and West units, San Rafael South and North units and the Pine Valley. The number of permits offered has been on the decline since it reached an all-time high in 2011. Permit numbers for 2018 are expected to be very similar to 2017 numbers.
Desert bighorn sheep hunts are any legal weapon, which means that hunters can hunt with a rifle, muzzleloader or archery equipment. Season dates are very liberal for most hunts, giving hunters almost two months to hunt. Most units have dates that run from Sept. 15 to Nov. 10. The exceptions: the Pine Valley hunt runs from Oct. 27 to Dec. 30 and the Zion has two hunts with one running from Sept. 15 to Oct.1 2 and another from Oct. 13 to Nov. 10.
It should be noted that the nonresident who draws the Zion permit can hunt both the early and late hunts. Nonresidents that draw the Kaiparowits, East may also hunt the Escalante unit. Nonresidents that draw the San Rafael, South hunt may also hunt the San Rafael, North unit.
The goHUNT hit list units for Utah desert bighorn sheep
Top hunt units to consider for 160” or better desert bighorn sheep
|Kaiparowits, West||165"+||100%||Yes (1)||97%|
|Kaiparowits, East||165"+||100%||Yes (1)||98%|
How to uncover hidden gem desert bighorn units
There are no true hidden gems for nonresident desert bighorn sheep units in Utah. There are four hunts that will have one permit a piece for nonresidents. Those units are the Kaiparowits, East, Kaiparowits, West, San Rafael, South, and the Zion. The odds were less than .25% from zero to 24 bonus points in 2017. The best odds were the San Rafael, South, but the difference between it and other unit odds was minimal, typically 0.03 to 0.08%.
Residents can choose from 13 hunts—all of which have resident bonus and random permits available. Random odds are less than 2.5% below the 19 bonus point level for all hunts. The San Juan, Lockhart and the Escalante have the best random odds.
Boone & Crockett (B&C) entry trends for Utah desert bighorn sheep
Utah's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for desert bighorn sheep
|Kane||8||Kaiparowits West, Kaiparowits East,|
|Washington||5||Zion, Pine Valley|
Managing points and expectations
2018 max points for Desert bighorn sheep:
I have 0 to 18 desert bighorn points. What can I expect?
Residents from zero to 18 points have 2.5% odds or less, with most hunts having below 1% odds depending on the unit and point level. Applicants can apply for units that have slightly better odds or swing for the fence and apply for the best units. The Kaiparowits, Escalante has the best odds. The Zion and the Kaiparowits West and East units offer the best hunts for a good ram.
As previously indicated, nonresidents have four hunts they can apply for. The odds from zero to maximum points is less than .25%. The best odds are the San Rafael, South and the Kaiparowits, East units.
I have 19 to 25 desert bighorn points. What can I expect?
Residents at the 19 point level can research the Henry Mountains, Kaiparowits, Escalante, San Juan, Lockhart and San Rafael, Dirty Devil units. Across all of these units, it’s still likely to take a couple of years to guarantee a permit due to points creep, but they are worth some further research. At the 20, 21, 22 and 23 point levels you have some options, especially if you aren’t hung up on trophy potential. If you do want a chance at harvesting a bigger ram, then it’s worth waiting for the better units. Review the Draw Odds, trophy potentials and Unit Profiles to help you make the best selection for your points.
Nonresidents still only have the four hunts that they can apply for. As long as there is only one permit available for any given hunt, that permit will always be randomly allocated. Once again, the odds are best for the San Rafael, South and the Kaiparowits, East units.
Utah's 2018 Shiras moose breakdown
Moose are well established in the northern half of Utah. Populations and permit numbers peaked in the early 2000s, but have been on a steady decline until recent years. Utah is near the southern extent of Shiras moose range and, although it can support smaller populations, Utah is not likely to support populations that existed in the early 2000s. According to research, overpopulation and disease are the cause of the rapid decline. The state currently offers twelve moose units, three of which will have nonresident permits available. Permit numbers for the 2018 season won’t be set until after the draw deadline, but it’s anticipated that once again the Wasatch Mountains/Central Mountains unit is likely to have one bonus point permit and one random permit for nonresidents. For residents, the Kamas and South Slope Diamond Mtn/Vernal are the only two units that are unlikely to have bonus point permits. Trophy potential is mostly average across the state. Every year a few trophy 40” bulls are taken, but most bulls harvested are simply mature and will not make B&C.
Note for residents: There are more than double the amount of people applying for this OIL species than any other species. If you are a resident just starting to apply for a OIL species, then we suggest that you strongly consider another species with better odds of drawing a permit.
Current moose herd condition
Current estimates suggest that Utah’s moose population is approximately 2,600. According to the state’s most recent data, it seems that the populations are stable and could finally be on the upswing. Based on the fact that wildlife officials believe that overpopulation was a major cause of the crash that occurred over the past ten years, we may actually begin to see a few more permits allocated to manage habitat conditions and populations.
Bull moose hunts are any weapon permits. You can use a rifle, muzzleloader or archery equipment if you choose. Hunts are relatively long and occur from Sept. 15 to Oct. 18, which should fall during the moose rut.
Many are not aware that there are 27 Cooperative Wildlife Management Units (CWMU) hunts offering permits available for residents to draw. Nonresidents may not apply for CWMU permits, but it’s likely that there are bull moose landowner tags available for purchase on some of these properties. See the UDWR guidebook for more information on CWMU hunts. It’s worth noting that all but two CWMU bull moose hunts had 100% harvest success in 2016.
The goHUNT hit list units for Utah moose
Top hunt units to consider for trophy moose
|Unit*||Harvest success||Average age|
|Wasatch Mtns/Central Mtns||97%||4.2||Yes (2)||99%|
|North Slope, Summit||100%||5.3||Yes (1)||89%|
|South Slope, Yellowstone||60%||5.4||No||57%|
How to uncover hidden gem moose units
Nonresidents have three units they may apply for. The Wasatch Mountains/Central Mountains unit had one bonus point permit that was drawn at the 22 point level. Randomly allocated permits for all units had less than 0.4% across every point level, from zero to 22 points. The Cache unit had the best odds and, interestingly enough, the age class for that unit is trending upward with an average age of 5.1 in 2016.
Residents at the 21 point level were in contention for bonus point permits in 2017. At any point level less than 21 points the majority of hunts had odds that were less than 1%. The best random odds were the East Canyon, Morgan-Summit, Morgan-South Rich, and the South Slope, Diamond Mt/Vernal units. Of those, it’s worth noting that the first two are mostly composed of private lands. The real hidden gems for residents are in the CWMU units. As previously indicated, all but two of those areas had 100% harvest success and the odds of drawing most of these areas is better than the traditional choices.
Boone & Crocket (B&C) entry trends for Utah Shiras moose
Utah's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for moose
|Units found within county|
|Weber||6||East Canyon, Morgan-South Rich|
|Morgan||3||East Canyon, Morgan-South Rich|
|Summit||3||Chalk Creek, East Canyon, Kamas, East Canyon/ Morgan-Summit,|
North Slope/Summit, North Slope/Three Corners/ West Daggett,
Wasatch Mtns/Central Mtns
|Wasatch||1||Wasatch Mtns/Central Mtns|
|Duchesne||1||South Slope, Yellowstone, Wasatch Mtns/Central Mtns|
Cow moose opportunities
Cow moose draw odds
Managing points and expectations
2018 max points for Shiras moose:
I have 0 to 20 moose points. What can I expect?
Residents within this point range can either apply for the top trophy units or try to play the odds and consider the East Canyon, Morgan-Summit, Morgan-South Rich and the South Slope, Diamond Mt/Vernal units. The other option would be to research the CWMU hunt odds.
Nonresidents and residents within this point range will not be in contention for a bonus point permit. Nonresidents should consider applying for the best trophy unit or the best odds unit. The difference in odds is minimal, typically a 0.2% odds difference between them.
I have 21 to 25 moose points. What can I expect?
Residents toward the bottom of this point range might consider the East Canyon, East Canyon, Morgan-Summit, Morgan-South Rich or South Slope, Yellowstone units. At the 23 to 25 point level, most hunts are within reach. The best of which are likely the North Slope, Summit, or South Slope, Yellowstone or any unit where a giant bull has been scouted. Within this point range, it would pay dividends to spend some real time scouting several of these units to try to turn up a trophy bull.
Nonresidents have one unit where a bonus point permit was allocated. That unit was the Wasatch Mountains/Central Mountains and the permit was allocated at the 22 point level in 2017. Reviewing the detailed Draw Odds page for that hunt suggests that it will once again take 22 points at least to draw. If you have less than 22 points, the Cache unit had the best random odds.
Utah's 2018 Rocky Mountain goat breakdown
Utah offers a good opportunity to hunt and harvest a mature billy or nanny. Populations are mostly stable although permit numbers have been steadily declining since 2012. In recent years, UDWR has transplanted mountain goats from larger populations to establish new herds, which may have been the cause of the loss in permit numbers. Both the newly created populations and the nursery herds may take several more years to rebound to the level where they can offer permits in bulk. In the long run, the transplants and management strategy will lead to more hunting opportunity; however, for now, permits remain below the 2012 levels.
It’s also worth noting that the former Wasatch units have been subdivided into four separate units, which are the Wasatch Mts, Box Elder Peak, Wasatch Mountains, Lone Peak, Wasatch Mountains, Provo Peak and the Wasatch Mountains, Timpanogos. All of these only have permits available for residents only.
Utah does have good trophy potential; a record book billy could be harvested in almost any unit during any given year. The Ogden, Willard Peak, Beaver, and the Uintas (Uintas, Unitas East, Unitas West, Unitas Central, Uintas Leidy Peak) units have been hotbeds for trophy mountain goats over the past several years.
Current mountain goat herd condition
Mountain goats are distributed along the Wasatch front peaks up to the Ogden, Willard Peak unit in the north to the Central Mountains, Nebo unit in the south. The high Uintas range in northeast Utah also has a good population of mountain goats with the highest populations found in the North Slope/South Slope, High Unitas West, and North Slope/South Slope, High Unitas Central units. In the southern end of the state, the Beaver unit has a well-established herd, while the Mt Dutton and La Sal, La Sal Mountains are relatively new populations.
The Mt Dutton and La Sal, La Sal Mtns units will both have permits available this year for residents only. The three largest herds in the state are found in the North Slope/South Slope, High Uintas West, North Slope/South Slope, High Uintas Central, Ogden, Willard Peak, and the Beaver units.
All mountain goat hunts are any legal weapon hunts (except for the archery-only hunt on the North Slope/South Slope, High Uintas Central), but a hunter can use a rifle, muzzleloader or archery equipment if they desire. The North Slope/South Slope, High Uintas Central archery hunt is only available to residents and held prior to the any weapon season on that unit. That archery hunt will take place Aug. 18 to Sept. 9.
The Beaver and Ogden, Willard Peak units each have two seasons. The earlier Beaver hunt occurs from Sept. 8 to 23 while the latter offers hunters much more time to hunt, running from Sept. 24 to Nov. 14. The Ogden, Willard Peak unit has three hunts: two that are “any mountain goat” and one that is for female mountain goat only. The early any mountain goat hunt runs from Sept. 10 to 23; the latter runs from Sept. 24 to Nov. 14. The female mountain goat only hunt runs from Oct. 8 to Nov. 15. Most of the other hunts run from mid-September to the end of October.
There are some considerations before you decide what permit to apply for and deciding on when to hunt if you draw a permit. Most mountain goat hunters want to hunt and harvest a mountain goat with a quality hide. Long hair and a thick winter coat are big parts of the allure of a trophy mountain goat. Some of the early seasons may not give hunters that opportunity. The archery only hunt ends on Sept. 9 and takes only two fewer points to draw than the any weapon hunt in the same unit. It may be worth considering your objectives if you have waited 13 years to draw a tag and wait for a few more for the late season dates.
Mountain goats live in the alpine peaks and rocky cliffs of Utah’s high country and weather could potentially be an issue if the hunts are scheduled too late. Consider the timing of your hunt and watch the weather reports. Hunt late enough that the goats are “haired out”, but early enough that access and safety are not an issue.
The goHUNT hit list units for Utah mountain goats
Top hunt units to consider for trophy mountain goats
|Unit||Harvest success||Average age|
|Beaver||89% (1st season)|
100% (2nd season)
|Ogden, Willard Peak||100% (all seasons)||3.4||Yes (2 early, |
|North Slope/South Slope,|
High Unitas West
|Chalk Creek/Kamas||100%||5.7||Yes (1)||75%|
How to uncover hidden gem mountain goat units
Nonresidents can choose between seven hunt options, one of which is for female only on the Ogden, Willard Peak unit. The Beaver and Ogden, Willard Peak early any mountain goat hunts both have a bonus point permit for nonresidents that were drawn at the 18 and 17 bonus point level. The other permits offered are all randomly allocated. Below the 17 point level, odds were less than 1% for all but the female only hunt on the Ogden, Willard Peak. Odds for it were slightly better, although still less than 2%. Overall, the female hunt and the North Slope/South Slope Unitas units have the best odds.
Residents with 13 to 14 points should research the female and archery hunt odds and unit profiles to see if that is the type of hunt they are looking for. Above 14 points, residents begin to have some options, which we will explore later. If you have less than 13 points, your best bet is to play the odds. If a unit has easy access and a good population, the odds will reflect that. Stay away from these units to increase your odds of drawing a permit. Overall, harvest success in every unit was 100% except for the Beaver early hunt where one hunter did not fill their permit. Factor in that the highest average of days hunted was 8.5 and the statewide average was 3.8 days and you can quickly see that any mountain goat permit in the state is a good one.
Boone & Crockett (B&C) entry trends for Utah mountain goats
Utah's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for mountain goats
|Units found within county|
|Summit||4||Wasatch Mtns/Box Elder Peak/Lone Peak/Timpanogos, Chalk Creek/Kamas, Uintas,|
North Slope/South Slope (High Uintas East, High Uintas West,
High Uintas Central)
|Box Elder||3||Ogden, Willard Peak|
|Utah||2||Wasatch Mtns/ Provo Peak, Central Mtns/ Nebo, Wasatch Mtns/Box Elder Peak/Lone Peak/Timpanogos|
|Duchesne||2||Chalk Creek/Kamas, Uintas, North Slope/South Slope (High Uintas Central,|
High Uintas East, High Uintas Leidy Peak, High Uintas West)
Managing points and expectations
Nanny mountain goat opportunities
There is also a nanny mountain goat hunt on Ogden, Willard Peak for both residents and nonresidents.
2018 max points for mountain goat:
I have 0 to 12 mountain goat points. What can I expect?
Residents at the 12 point level can review the detailed Draw Odds page for the nanny hunt on the Ogden, Willard Peak or the archery-only hunt on the Unitas central. Consider what you want out of your hunt. Perhaps one of these can provide the opportunity you will be satisfied with. Below the 12 point level, odds are best in a few of the High Unitas units. Review the Draw Odds and Unit Profiles to determine which is the best fit for you.
Nonresidents in this point range have the option of either applying for a trophy area with easy access like the Beaver or Willard Peak units or playing the odds and applying for the female hunt on Willard Peak or one of the High Unitas units. At 12 points, nonresidents are not in contention for a bonus point permit for the Beaver early or Willard Peak early hunts.
I have 13 to 23 mountain goat points. What can I expect?
Residents with points at the bottom end of this range might consider the female only hunt on Ogden, Willard Peak and the archery-only hunt on the North Slope/South Slope, High Uintas Central. At the 15 to 17 point level, residents have multiple options including the High Unitas units, Chalk Creek/Kamas, Uintas, and the Ogden, Willard Peak. With 20 points, most hunts can likely be drawn.
It took at least 17 points for a nonresident to compete for a bonus point permit in 2017. It’s likely that if you fall between the 13 to 17 point range going into the 2018 draw you will not have enough points to draw a bonus point permit. If you are in this range, adopt the strategy from the paragraph above. At the 18 point level, nonresidents should research the Ogden, Willard Peak early hunt. Odds for that permit are still not going to be 100% but at that level, you should be in the running for that permit. With 19 or 20 bonus points, you should be able to draw either the Beaver or Willard Peak, with Beaver unit offering the easier hunt.
Utah's 2018 bison breakdown
Utah is among a handful of states that offer hunts for free-range bison. There are four units where applicants can apply and hunt for both bulls (either sex) and cows. The Henry Mountains is the most well-known unit with bison ranging from the highest peaks out through the lowland sage steppe and pinyon-juniper terrain.
The Book Cliffs unit has two areas where applicants can apply: the Book Cliffs, Wild Horse Bench/Nine Mile and the Book Cliffs. The Wildhorse Bench is a smaller area located in the northwest portion of the Book Cliffs unit. This unit borders the Ute Reservation and offers long season dates to allow hunters to find and harvest a mature bull. The Book Cliffs unit has a healthy growing population of bison and offers hunters a very good hunt.
Antelope Island also offers some permits. For 2018, there will not be a permit available for nonresidents. Antelope Island is a state park and hunting there is somewhat regulated. Bison hunts on Antelope Island are fun, easier hunts that typically require a day or two at most to harvest. Trophy potential is very good.
Current bison herd condition
Bison populations are doing very well in Utah. The Henry Mountains continues to be at or slightly over objective with an estimated herd of approximately 400. The Book Cliffs have a growing population and is also nearing the herd objective of 450. Antelope Island maintains an objective of 500; any bison above that number are rounded up during an annual event and auctioned off. Trophy potential for all three herds is excellent with mature trophy bulls available in every population.
In 2017, Utah offered 154 bison permits, which was up from 93 permits in 2016. Last year was the highest number of permits offered since 2008. Most notably, the Wild Horse Bench unit offered 25 more permits last year than it did the year before. The Book Cliffs unit also offered 13 cow only permits in 2017, which was a new hunt. Overall, bison hunting opportunities are very good in Utah.
Bison hunts are any legal weapon hunts (except for the archery-only Henry Mountains hunt from Oct. 5 to 19). You can hunt with a rifle, muzzleloader or even archery equipment if you choose. The Antelope Island hunt is a relatively easy hunt, running Dec. 3 to 14. Park officials typically close Antelope Island State Park for a day to allow hunters the opportunity to hunt and harvest.
The Book Cliffs units are divided into two: Book Cliffs and Book Cliffs, Wildhorse Bench. The two Book Cliffs hunt runs from Oct. 13 to Nov. 30 and Nov. 10 to 30 (cow only). The Book Cliffs, Wildhorse Bench hunt runs from Aug. 1 to Jan. 31, 2019. On the early hunts, bison should be at slightly higher elevations prior to deep snows and colder temperatures. On the later hunts, you should expect colder temperatures and bison potentially moving to lower elevations and cover.
The Henry Mountains hunts are divided by dates and hunter’s choice/cow-only. The archery only hunt runs from Oct. 5 to 19. The either sex hunts run Nov. 3 to 15 and Nov. 17 to 29. The two later hunts are cow-only and run Dec. 1 to 14 and Dec. 15 to 31. The later hunts are likely to be cold and much tougher hunts. If you harvest a bison, be prepared for the amount of work required to pack one out. They are very big animals.
How to uncover hidden gem bison units
If you want to hunt bison and score doesn’t matter, then consider one of the cow only hunts on either the Book Cliffs or the Henry Mountains. Cow hunts have better odds than the either sex hunts. Also, the Book Cliffs, Wild Horse Bench has had better odds than the Henry Mountains or the Book Cliffs hunts. This hunt may take more days and effort to harvest, but harvest success was still 94% in 2016. The archery-only Henry Mountains hunt also had slightly better odds. Any unit can produce a B&C bull.
Boone & Crockett (B&C) entry trends for Utah bison
Utah's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for bison
|Units found within county|
|Uintah||1||Book Cliffs/Wild Horse Ranch|
Managing points and expectations
Cow bison opportunities
2018 max points for bison:
I have 0 to 13 bison points. What can I expect?
Residents at 10 to 13 points should consider the Henry Mountains late cow hunt or the Book Cliffs cow hunt. If a bull is your objective, the Book Cliffs, Wild Horse Bench and the archery Book Cliffs hunts provide the best odds. Review the Draw Odds pages and make the best selection for your objectives and number of points.
Nonresidents have eight hunts that they can apply for in 2018. The archery-only Henry Mountains hunt is a new hunt for nonresidents in 2018 and it is likely to only be one randomly allocated permit. There are four hunts that had bonus point permits for nonresidents, all of which required 14 or more points. The Henry Mountains late cow hunt could potentially be drawn with 13 points in 2018. All other hunts had less than 3% odds through the entire point range. Once again, the cow only hunts will have the best odds.
I have 14 to 25 bison points. What can I expect?
Residents hoping for a chance to hunt a bull bison will need at least 19 points to be considered in the bonus point pool for the Book Cliffs, Wild Horse Bench hunt. All other units are highly unlikely to have bonus point either-sex permits available to residents with less than 19 points. With 20 to 24 points, residents have options to draw a permit—all of which have very good trophy potential and high harvest success. The Antelope Island hunt is the easiest hunt for a big mature bull.
Below the 18 point level, residents who want to hunt a bull bison should review the Draw Odds and apply for the hunts with the best odds. Residents with 15 to 18 points can consider the cow only hunts on the Book Cliffs and Henry Mountains. Of these hunts, the Book Cliffs have the best odds and are probably the better hunt.
The nonresident either-sex permits on the Henry Mountains and Book Cliffs, Wild Horse Bench will take a minimum of 22 points to contend for a bonus point permit. If you are only considering bull bison hunts and have less than 22 points, use the Draw Odds to apply for the hunt with the best odds. The Henry Mountains late cow hunt could have been drawn with 14+ points while the early cow hunt was drawn with 18 points, but there were no other applicants for that hunt in the 11 to 17 point range. Both are worth considering if you are in the 14 to 21 point range and want to improve your chances of going hunting.