APPLICATION STRATEGY 2019: Idaho Elk
Idaho's 2019 elk application overview
When it comes to the sheer opportunity for elk in the West it’s hard to make any compelling arguments without mentioning Idaho. Relatively inexpensive tags, a phenomenal over-the-counter (OTC) tag system and a plethora of controlled hunt options make this a no-brainer. Idaho is not known for producing the same sized bulls as some of its neighboring states, but trophy potentials are still good and some great bulls are taken every year. Here, hunters will find generous season dates and a multitude of options depending on your weapon of choice. When applying for Idaho it is important to note that you may only apply for one trophy species per year. This includes deer, elk, antelope, Shiras moose, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, California bighorn sheep and mountain goat. While this fact may seem like a major detriment at first, it’s important to see that this drastically drives down applicant numbers and increases draw odds!
Note: The application deadline for Idaho deer, elk and antelope is June 5, 2019, by midnight MST and can be completed online.
Why Idaho for elk in 2019
On top of an already huge pile of OTC hunts, Idaho also offers hunters a bunch of options when it comes to limited entry opportunities.
Many tags in the state allow hunters to hunt a variety of seasons and with different weapon types, including archery, rifles and muzzleloaders.
Because Idaho’s application deadline is so late (and after most of the other western states) it can be a great contingency plan if previous draws did not work out in your favor.
Low tag costs
Compared to many of the other western states, Idaho has very affordable tags and, in some cases, hunters are even allowed to buy two each of both deer and elk tags!
New for 2019
- Mailed in applications will no longer be accepted starting in 2019.
- Elk City Zone: A cap was established on A Tags with 628 tags first-come, first served, and the B tag cap was reduced 20% to 1,432 available tags.
- Pioneer, Smoky-Bennett, South Hills and Snake River Zone: In all or a portion of these elk zones, general capped B Tags have been put in place to provide antlerless hunting opportunity.
- Snake River Zone: Removed general hunting opportunity in Unit 63 and replaced with two unlimited controlled hunts: an either sex hunt Aug. 1 30 and an antlerless only hunt Sept. 1 to Dec 31.
View important information and an overview of the Idaho rules/regulations, the draw system, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map on our State Profile. You can also view the Idaho mule deer and whitetail deer profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.
Idaho's elk hunter numbers for the last five years
|Year||No. of hunters|
Important dates and information
- Applications for deer, elk and antelope must be submitted by midnight MST on June 5, 2019.
- Applications can be submitted through the mail or online here.
- Mailed applications are no longer accepted in 2019.
- Up to four hunters can apply together on a group application for deer, elk and antelope.
- Successful applicants will be notified by July 10, 2019.
- The second drawing application period for leftover tags will run from Aug. 10 to 17, 2019.
- Leftover tags from the second drawing go on sale Aug. 26, 2019 at 10 a.m. MST.
- Idaho hunting licenses, access fees and application fees are nonrefundable.
- If an applicant is successful in drawing an antlered only permit for deer or elk they may not reapply for a controlled hunt for a period of one year.
- Any person whose name is drawn in a controlled hunt for deer or elk is prohibited from hunting in any other hunt for the same species except when the hunter has drawn an unlimited controlled hunt tag or depredation hunt or has purchased a leftover nonresident general season tag for that species at the nonresident price.
Cost to apply
|Adult hunting||$15.75||Adult hunting||$154.75|
|Junior hunting||$8.25||Junior hunting||$31.75|
|Application fee||$6.25||Application fee||$14.75|
|Elk tag (if drawn)||$36.75||Elk tag (if drawn)||$416.75|
|Junior elk tag (if drawn)||$18.75||Junior elk tag (if drawn)||$39.75|
Current weather/snowpack for 2019
The 2018/2019 winter in Idaho was fairly normal although a few late storms did hit a few areas of the state. The spring has been warm and constant throughout much of the state, resulting in a quick, but safe, snowmelt, leaving great springtime conditions for ungulates. Antler growth should be great for this year and herd health should be excellent.
Idaho's draw system
Understanding the draw
It is important to understand the draw system before you begin. You can find a complete explanation of the drawing process along with important dates and fees in our Idaho State Profile. Idaho is one of the few unique states that does not use a formal system of preference or bonus points for distribution of controlled hunt permits. A simple lottery system is used, which puts every applicant—regardless of time spent applying—on an equal playing field. In Idaho, nonresidents are granted up to 10% of a unit’s allotted quota (super hunt tags do not affect this 10% allotment) although this number is not guaranteed if the quota is met by residents. This quota percentage for nonresidents is fairly common in the West, but, with a combination of high application fees and the lottery system, the draw odds are generally much higher.
Idaho super hunts!
Like the bighorn sheep raffle, Idaho also offers hunters the chance to draw one of 34 super hunt tags. With this tag, hunters can hunt in any open unit found in the state and may purchase as many chances at the super hunt as they wish. The cost to apply is $6 per each individual species or $20 for all four.
- Tags are available for deer, elk, antelope and moose.
- A hunting license is not required to apply for super hunts.
- The entry deadline for the drawing is May 31, 2019.
- Eight elk, eight deer, eight antelope and one moose will be drawn in the first drawing.
- One super hunt combo will also be drawn. This winner is entitled to hunt all four species.
- The entry for the second drawing deadline is Aug. 10, 2019.
- Two elk, two deer, two antelope and one moose hunt will be drawn in the second drawing along with one super hunt combo.
- Apply here.
Unlocking Idaho’s system
Idaho does not utilize a bonus or preference point system so everyone has equal draw odds regardless of the number of years a person has been applying. The key to unlocking Idaho’s system lies in our Draw Odds calculator and looking at the harvest success information. More information on Idaho's draw system can be found on our Idaho state profile.
Note: Idaho residents or nonresidents can buy one unsold nonresident general season deer and/or elk tag at the nonresident price starting Aug. 1, 2019, that can be used as a second tag.
As a nonresident, how can my draw odds be the same as residents?
Idaho’s draw odds can be a little complicated with the way that they cap the nonresidents at up to 10% of the tags. However, the way that they run the drawing process can be a benefit to nonresidents. Any time that the ratio between resident to nonresident applicants is higher than 9:1, meaning nine residents to one nonresident, the nonresident applicant has basically the same odds as a resident. With this ratio, there are not enough nonresident applicants to fill the 10% of the total permits offered for that unit so the cap or quota doesn’t come into play.
Idaho's 2019 elk breakdown
Idaho is not insanely well known for producing giant bulls, but what is lacks it trophy potentials it more than makes up for with opportunity. Both controlled hunts and OTC hunts are available for elk with the best units and season dates generally being reserved for the controlled tags. Some units feature both controlled and general seasons—a fact that needs to be watched closely to stay legal but can also play big into your favor when it comes to backdooring some mature bulls.
Below we are going to explore all that Idaho has to offer for elk and simplify the process of creating your hunting strategy.
Idaho statewide 6 point or better harvest for elk since 2014
|Year||6 point or better %|
Current elk herd condition
Overall, elk in Idaho are doing well and herd health has been great. The winter of 2018/19 has more or less been fairly normal although there has been some late winter and early spring snow storms. The northern tip of the state is experiencing a drier than normal spring while the rest of the state is looking great. Calf recruitment and antler growth should be great for 2019 if this trend continues.
The controlled seasons
While Idaho offers some great OTC hunting, the primary objective of this article is to take a solid look at the limited entry opportunities available for hunters. As we mentioned, the best hunting dates and areas are generally reserved for controlled hunts. Coincidentally, these hunts generally see the highest success rates and highest rates of mature elk harvest. Idaho offers a large number of controlled hunts—most of which are season specific—and it will be important for hunters to pay close attention to their hunt codes when applying. In the below section, we take an in-depth look at the best-controlled hunts for Idaho elk.
Because the archery dates tend to land during the peak of the rut these hunts can see some of the toughest draw odds in the state. While drawing these tags can be a long shot, there is no better way to experience what elk hunting the rut is truly about.
2019 hit list of controlled archery hunts for Idaho elk
Along with archery opportunities, hunters will also find some excellent options open to muzzleloader hunting. In Idaho, muzzleloader laws are very strict and hunters are granted very few modern advantages. Because of this, some hunters may shy away from these tags although several hunts allow hunting during the rut or during late season migration periods. The bottom line is to consider a tougher weapon choice because it can often lead to easier to draw tags.
2019 hit list of controlled muzzleloader hunts for Idaho elk
Along with the archery seasons, the rifle controlled hunts will also see steep odds and heavy applicant numbers. These hunts are generally focused around the tail end of the rut or on migratory elk. With hard hunting, either of these season dates can produce good bulls with the early rifle hunts even offering opportunities for rifle hunters to chase bugling bulls.
2019 hit list of controlled early rifle hunts for Idaho elk
2019 hit list of controlled late rifle hunts for Idaho elk
How to uncover hidden gem elk units
When planning your Idaho hunt, it will be important to first utilize our Filtering 2.0 platform to better narrow down your choices. Adjusting the various sliders will help you to fine-tune the filtering software to find only the hunts that meet your criteria. Historical graphs found within the detailed unit profiles can be strong indicators of hunting pressure changes, harvest success rates, and past draw data.
As we mentioned before, the best dates and units are generally reserved for the controlled hunts, but nearly 80% of the state can be hunted with the general OTC tags—most of which also be available during the rut.
2019 hit list for general tag hunts for Idaho elk
|6pt or better|
Along with some of the great filters found on our Filtering 2.0 map, another great statistic to keep an eye on is the bull:cow ratios. These ratios show a relationship of how many bulls reside in a unit per 100 cows that reside in the same unit. While a high bull to cow ratio doesn’t necessarily guarantee older bulls it does allude to the fact that the average age class of bulls within that given area is likely older.
Top bull:cow ratios reported in Idaho
Boone & Crockett (B&C) entry trends for Idaho elk
Along with our Filtering 2.0 platform and historical data, another great piece of information to refer to is B&C record book entries. These entries, sorted by county, can be a big piece of the puzzle when piecing together your Idaho hunting and application strategy. These entry trends can clue hunters in on trending areas and areas that have historically held bigger and more mature animals.
Idaho's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for typical elk
|Units found within county|
|Lemhi||2||21, 21A, 27, 28, 29, 30,|
30A, 37, 37A, 51, 58, 59A
|Twin Falls||2||46, 47, 53, 54|
|Valley||2||19A, 20A, 24, 26, 27, 32, 32A, 33, 34|
|Adams||1||18, 22, 23, 32, 32A|
|Blaine||1||36, 44, 48, 49, 50, 52, 52A, 53, 68|
Top all time entries for B&C typical elk
|Location||No. of entries|
Idaho's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for nontypical elk
|Bannock||1||68A, 70, 71, 73, 74|
|Blaine||1||36, 48, 49, 52, 52A, 68|
|Jefferson||1||60A, 63, 63A|
|Oneida||1||56, 57, 73, 73A|
|Power||1||56, 68, 68A, 70, 73|
|Twin Falls||1||46, 47, 53, 54|
Top all time entries for B&C nontypical elk
|Location||No. of entries|
Managing points and expectations
With the lack of any formal bonus or preference point system, applicants in Idaho will never be rewarded for their length of application for any given unit; however, the playing field is level for everyone. Under this system, your name could be drawn for the tag of a lifetime during any application. Establishing your goals and aspirations for Idaho early in your strategy will be key to ensuring that you draw your most desired tag. With the sheer amount of controlled tags available most hunters can likely find a hunt with decent odds to suit their needs.
While waiting for your name to be drawn for a controlled tag consider some of Idaho’s OTC tags. These tags can be had for cheaper than most states while still providing excellent harvest success rates, plenty of opportunities and decent trophy potentials. Idaho can also be a great state to fill in “down” years while waiting to draw in neighboring states.