APPLICATION STRATEGY 2019: Idaho Sheep, Moose, Goat
Idaho's bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goat application overview
Idaho has always been a sleeper state of sorts and has somehow slipped beneath the radar of many hunters. Excellent hunting can be found here along with good trophy potential, lots of opportunities and plenty of public land. 2019 will be an interesting year for moose and mountain goat applicants as the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) commission recently adopted a hefty proposal that will drastically reduce tag allocations for these species. Bighorn sheep as a whole saw some changes, but will be receiving a higher tag allocation for 2019. The tag fees are high in Idaho; however, the tradeoff is generally better draw odds and a big reduction in wait time for the tag of the lifetime.
Note: The deadline to apply for Idaho moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat is April 30, 2019 by midnight MST. Applications can be filled out online here.
Why Idaho for bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goat in 2019
Draw odds for bighorn sheep
Because Idaho forces applicants to apply for only one species a year the draw odds are noticeably higher. Several tags will be added for Idaho bighorn sheep in 2019 and the draw odds should see a small increase in some units.
Idaho houses millions of acres of public land and hunters will run into very few units that have access problems.
No bonus or preference points
Idaho does not use any type of bonus or preference points and, instead, relies solely on a random draw lottery. This provides equal chances for any applicant of any age no matter the amount of the time they have been applying.
Idaho accepts group applications for bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goat. Group sizes are limited to two party members.
New for 2019
The IDFG commission recently adopted a long list of changes for bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goat for the 2019 season. California bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goat will all see a reduction on tags—particularly in moose—while Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep will see a slight uptick in tags. These changes are going to drastically change the draw odds for applicants and special care will need to be taken when formalizing your 2019 application plan.
- Statewide, there will be 99 bighorn sheep tags available each year in 2019-20—two more than in 2018. The statewide net increases in Rocky Mountain bighorn ram tags were offset by decreases in California bighorn ram tags.
- Units 13 and 18 were removed from Hunt Area 11 in the Hells Canyon area.
- There is an increase in Rocky Mountain ram tags in the Upper Snake (Hunt Area 20A: one additional tag) and Salmon regions (Hunt Area 37: one additional tag in both the Aug. 30 through Sept. 20 season and Sept. 21 through Oct. 13 seasons).
- There is a new Rocky Mountain bighorn ram hunt in Unit 51-1 on the southern part of the Lemhi Range. In a recent summer survey, biologists counted 80 bighorn sheep—more than in the past—and ram numbers suggested that the population will support two tags.
- There are two new late-season controlled hunts in Hunt Areas 36A and 37A. Biologists initially proposed an increase in tags for existing controlled hunts in those Hunt Areas based on recent survey numbers, but, instead, allocated the increase in tags to the late hunts in response to public comments from hunters.
- The reduction of one tag in Hunt Area 26, which will have also been redrawn to exclude the portion of Unit 20A it previously included in 2017-18.
- A statewide reduction of four tags total in California bighorn ram hunts with Hunt Area 46-1 going from three tags in 2017-18 to two tags in 2019-20. Three tags for Hunt Area 54 were eliminated and the boundary for the two tags in Hunt Area 55 was expanded to include Hunt Area 54.
- Statewide, there will be 634 moose tags—of which 560 are antlered tags—available each year in 2019-20. Statewide changes total a reduction of 109 antlered tags and 62 antlerless tags from 2017-18.
- The majority of the statewide reduction in antlered tags (88%) will come from the Panhandle region, which decreased from 290 tags in 2017-18 to 194 tags in 2019-20.
- There are decreases in antlered tags in Clearwater, Southeast and Upper Snake regions.
- There is an increase in antlered tags for the Magic Valley region, including two additional tags in Hunt Area 54; a new hunt (Hunt Area 56, three tags) in Unit 56, which was split from Hunt Area 55; two fewer tags in Hunt Area 55, now composed of Unit 55 and Unit 57.
- The elimination of antlerless hunts in the Panhandle and Clearwater regions as well as Hunt Areas 66A, 76-4, 77, and 78 in Southeast Idaho.
- There is one new antlerless hunt that encompasses all of Units 75, 77, and 78 in Southeast Idaho (Hunt Area 75-1, five tags).
- There is a decrease of two antlerless tags in Hunt Area 71 in Southeast Idaho.
Rocky Mountain goat
- Statewide, there will be 44 mountain goat tags available each year in 2019-20, down from 48 in 2017-18.
- A new hunt was created—Hunt Area 51-1—with two tags available. It includes portions of Unit 51 and Unit 58. Hunt Area 37A boundary was redrawn to include other sections of Unit 51 and Unit 58.
- There are increases in tags some areas of the Frank Church Wilderness, including one additional tag each in Hunt Areas 27-2 and 27-4 due to high success rates and low nanny harvest. The boundaries on those areas have been redrawn, bringing more mountain goats into those hunt areas and allowing for greater tag numbers.
- There is an increase of one tag in Hunt Area 43 and two tags in Hunt Area 50.
- The elimination of Hunt Area 1 (Panhandle). Biologists do not believe that there are sufficient mountain goats in that Hunt Area to support a tag based on reports from sportsmen in the area, knowledge of population dynamics and herds that spend time in Idaho and Montana. Biologists plan to survey the area next year and reevaluate it.
- Hunt Area 7 is changed to Hunt Area 9 and composed solely of Unit 9—where the majority of the mountain goats in the area live. The change is an effort to shift hunters to where there mountain goat numbers are strong enough to support a tag.
- The reduction of three tags each in Hunt Areas 36-1 and 36A-1 due to declining hunter success and high incidence of nanny harvest in those regions as well as a reduction of one tag in 36A-3.
- The reduction of one tag in Hunt Area 10-1 and two tags in Hunt Area 67.
Idaho's best draw odds on Rocky bighorn sheep
|California bighorn sheep||21||17||-19.05%|
|Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep||74||80||8.11%|
|Rocky Mountain goat||74||44||-40.54%|
View important information and an overview of Idaho’s 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 species profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you locate trophy areas.
Important dates and information
- Applications for Idaho moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat are accepted beginning April 1, 2019.
- You can apply online here.
- Before applying all applicants must possess a current valid hunting license.
- First controlled hunt application period: April 1 to 30, 2019.
- Successful applicants in the first controlled period will be notified by no later than June 10, 2019.
- Second controlled hunt application period: June 15 to 25, 2019.
- Successful applicants in the second controlled period will be notified by no later than June 30, 2019.
- Leftover tags go on sale on July 10, 2019.
Cow moose draw odds
Remember, goHUNT has Draw Odds for all female species.
The Idaho draw system
Understanding the draw
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 a level playing field. In Idaho, nonresidents are granted up to 10% of a unit’s allotted quota (bighorn sheep raffle and super hunt tags do not affect this 10% allotment) though 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 is a once-in-a-lifetime state, meaning that if a tag holder fills his or her tag, the hunter may not apply again for that species in Idaho. The only special exclusion to this rule is that hunters are allowed to take both a cow and bull moose with separate permits during separate years. Tag holders who are not successful in filling their tag may apply for the same species again, but must wait for two years before applying again. In lieu of the two-year waiting period, hunters can also attempt to draw a tag during the second controlled application period, although the potential of any tags making it to this point is nearly impossible at best. While not recognized as separate species by Boone & Crockett (B&C), California bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep permits are issued separately in Idaho and both subspecies can be taken by the same hunter.
Bighorn sheep raffle
In collaboration with the Idaho Wild Sheep Foundation, the state of Idaho also offers hunters a unique opportunity in the bighorn sheep raffle. Through the raffle, hunters can purchase an unlimited amount of lottery tickets in the hope of drawing a bighorn sheep tag that can be used in any open unit in the state with the exception of Unit 11 for 2019.
- Applicants must be at least 18 years of age.
- The tag is useable in any open unit in the state with the exception of Unit 11.
- The tag is not transferable.
- The drawing will be held at 2 p.m. on the last Wednesday in July at the IDFG headquarters.
- The once-in-a-lifetime rule is waived for this tag.
- Mail-in applications only with this form.
Idaho's Super Hunts
Like the bighorn sheep raffle, Idaho also offers hunters the chance to draw one of 34 super hunt tags. With the super 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.
- 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 first drawing is May 31, 2019.
- The entry deadline for the second drawing is Aug. 10, 2019.
- Apply here.
Idaho's 2019 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep breakdown
When it comes to Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep Idaho is often an overlooked state as many hunters dream of the giant rams found in Montana, British Columbia and, more recently, in South Dakota. Idaho very rarely produces rams over the 190” mark, but it can provide opportunities at great representatives of the species in the 160” to 170” range. There’s an incredible amount of bighorn sheep country available in Idaho, ranging from the deep canyons of the Hells Canyon to the formidable and lonely Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.
Harvest trends for Idaho Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep since 2010
The graph view of this table below is a better way to look at the incredible trend.
Current Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep herd condition
Idaho’s Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep population has been doing very well during the last few years, which is evident by the small increase in tags for 2019. Pneumonia has continued to become an increasing problem across much of the West although Idaho has largely dodged the bullet so far.
How to uncover hidden gem Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep areas
While finding hidden gem units for bighorn sheep anywhere in the West is a mostly fruitless endeavor, hunters will find some chewable data in Idaho thanks to their generally higher draw odds. Below, we will break down which units provided the best draw odds for 2018 as well as units to be on the lookout for in 2019.
Idaho's best draw odds on Rocky bighorn sheep
It is important to note in the above table that most of these units are located in the very remote and rough country located in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. These areas can test even the hardiest of hunters; however, the generous odds can lure in many hunters. If applying for these areas, physical preparation should be at the top of your list followed closely by mental preparation.
Hitlist units for trophy Idaho Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in 2019
Top hit list units to consider for 170" or better Rocky Mountain bighorn rams
issued in 2018
B&C entry trends for Idaho Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
Like previously mentioned, Idaho is not well known for producing giant rams, but it does provide great opportunities for hunters to fulfill a lifelong dream. Still, studying B&C entry trends in a state can sometimes elude hunters to units that may be getting hot or even tapering off.
Idaho's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for bighorn sheep
|Units found within county|
|Idaho||3||17L, 19, 19A, 20, 20A, 21, 26, 26L, 27L, 27-2, 28-1, 28-2|
|Lemhi||2||20, 20A, 21, 26, 27-1, 27-2, 27-3, 27-5, 28-1, 28-2, 28-3|
|Owyhee*||1||40, 41-1, 41-2, 42-1, 42-2, 46-1|
Analyzing ram:ewe ratios
While researching for your application you will notice that we provide data on ram to ewe ratios for each hunt area in Idaho. Male to female ratios are a critical measuring data tool for wildlife managers and indicate the current status of the herd. A higher ram to ewe ratio may indicate that an area could have a higher availability of mature rams compared to an area with a lower ram to ewe ratio. This doesn’t always mean that the rams will be the highest scoring rams, but more available rams generally leads to a higher population of mature animals and, thus, a higher opportunity of locating trophy quality rams. When selecting an area—or comparing several areas—take this into consideration to help your decision.
Top Idaho Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep units for ram:ewe ratios
Really, when it comes to applying for bighorn sheep across the West there aren’t any secrets to speak of and hunters should generally expect a long wait for a coveted tag. Still, Idaho boasts some of the best odds for drawing a bighorn sheep tag in the West and this is a state that should be on almost everyone's radar.
The best odds will lie in the units landing in and around the gorgeous Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness (20, 20A, 21, 26, 26L, 27-1, 27-2, 27-3, 27-4, 27L and 28-1), but these hunts can be extremely tough both physically and mentally. Often, hunts in the Frank Church have been compared to those offered in the Montana Unlimited districts. Beyond these, there are several other options that land in the 2% to 5% draw odd range and still offer better odds than most states.
With Idaho, you really can’t go wrong with choosing a bighorn sheep unit to apply for considering the lowest odds found here can still compete with offerings found in surrounding states. But, as I mentioned above, there are several units that offer some incredible odds and the true hunt of a lifetime if your willing to sweat for it.
Idaho's 2019 California bighorn sheep breakdown
Along with opportunities for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, Idaho also offers hunts for California bighorn sheep, too. One cool quirk to Idaho is that the California and Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are treated as separate species and hunters are allowed to take one of each in a lifetime.
Herd conditions have continued to struggle and the three tags offered in Unit 54 were removed for 2019 following an announcement that the herd found within the unit had a non-viable population. The boundaries for Unit 55 were changed to also include Unit 54 for its two tag quota. Additionally, one tag was removed from Unit 46-1. Overall, applicants should expect very little change in opportunity and a decrease in draw odds for 2019.
Harvest trends for Idaho California bighorn sheep since 2010
Another view of the data to see the trends a little better.
Current bighorn sheep herd condition
As mentioned above, the California bighorn sheep herd in Idaho has been struggling, particularly in Units 54 and 55. For 2019, the three tags previously available in Unit 54 were removed and the two tags in Unit 55 will now also be valid in Unit 54 although it is unknown at this time if any mature rams still exist within the herd.
How to uncover hidden gem California bighorn sheep units
Unfortunately, with a small handful of tags and a struggling herd, there are not any groundbreaking secrets for drawing a California bighorn sheep tag in Idaho. Still, this is a unique opportunity to chase this subspecies and an excellent option for those who have already been lucky enough to take a Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in Idaho.
Idaho's best draw odds on California bighorn sheep
|42-1 & 42-2||4.5%||2.2%|
|42-1 & 42-2||3.1%||1.8%|
|46-1 & 46-2||3.1%||1.6%|
While looking at the table above it is worth noting that a total of 33 hunters applied for the two seasons that were offered in Unit 54. While it’s impossible to predict where these applicants may apply for this year it’s reasonable to expect a large portion of them could easily apply for neighboring Unit 55. Unit 55 saw a total of 52 applicants for two tags in 2018 and the potential of 30+ more applicants in 2019 could certainly make things interesting.
Hitlist units for trophy Idaho California bighorn sheep in 2019
Top hit list breakdown for California bighorn sheep
|42-1 & 42-2||165"+||67%||27.375"||13.5"||50:100||95.7%|
|42-1 & 42-2||165"+||67%||32.3125"||14.375"||50:100||95.7%|
|46-1 & 46-2||170"+||67%||32.625"||13.9375"||112:100||89.9%|
Analyzing ram:ewe ratios
While researching for your application you will notice that we provide data on ram to ewe ratios for each hunt area in Idaho. Male to female ratios are a critical measuring data tool for wildlife managers and indicate the current status of the herd. A higher ram to ewe ratio may indicate that an area could have a higher availability of mature rams compared to an area with a lower ram to ewe ratio. This doesn’t always mean that the rams will be the highest scoring rams, but more available rams generally leads to a higher population of mature animals and, thus, a higher opportunity of locating trophy quality rams. 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 this article.
Idaho's top California bighorn sheep units based on ram:ewe ratios
|42-1 & 42-2||50:100||165"+|
B&C entry trends for Idaho California bighorn sheep
Because B&C does not officially recognize the California bighorn sheep as a separate subspecies as that of the Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep it takes an exceptional ram to make the books. There has only been one ram entered into the books from Idaho, which was taken in 2010 and scored 185 4/8” B&C.
With the continued struggles in herd health and the closure of several hunts over the last few years, it’s hard to have much of a positive outlook when considering California bighorn sheep in Idaho. Hunters who have been lucky enough to already harvest a Rocky Mountain ram in Idaho may consider taking advantage of this rare opportunity to kill a second bighorn sheep in their lifetime. For those simply looking to get into the bighorn sheep game, it would be much more advisable to look at the hunts offered for Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep.
Idaho's 2019 Shiras moose breakdown
Historically, Idaho has also been a great producer of great moose. In the past few years, the moose populations—particularly those in the central and northern portions of the state—have been struggling immensely with most of the blame landing on wolves and ticks. For 2019, there was a decrease of 171 tags when compared to the 2018 season. While it’s unpredictable what will happen to the draw odds for 2019, it’s fairly obvious that there likely won’t be any hunts getting easier to draw.
Harvest trends for Idaho moose since 2011
Current Shiras moose herd condition
As mentioned above, the current trend of moose, especially those found in the central and northern portions of the state, are struggling. Theories are flying constantly with the two most commonly accepted thoughts being predation and ticks—an unfortunate trend that has become common among moose populations throughout the US.
IDFG is typically more proactive when it comes to addressing wildlife issues in a quick manner than other surrounding states so it will be interesting to see how the next few years play out. All negatives aside, hunters lucky enough to draw an Idaho moose tag for 2019 will still be in for a great hunt.
How to uncover hidden gem Shiras moose areas
Even with the big reduction in tags, Idaho still offers a ton of opportunity for moose and hunters will need to do research before selecting a unit to apply for. Keep in mind that most of the best draw odds will be found in units where terrain and vegetation can be extreme and animal densities can be low. These areas can produce some incredible bulls; however, hunting can be very difficult, too. Below, we will break down some of the top moose units in the state based on antler width in 2018.
Top units to consider for Idaho Shiras moose based on antler width in 2018
issued in 2018
B&C entry trends for Idaho Shiras moose
Another interesting piece of data to cross-reference with our above hitlist table is historic B&C entry trends for moose in Idaho. Studying these tables can be a great way to find areas that may have historical tendencies to produce mature bulls or even areas that may be trending up in recent years.
Idaho's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for Shiras moose
|Shoshone||8||4, 6, 7, 9, 10A-2, 10A-3, 10A-4, 10-3, 10-6|
|Bonneville||8||63, 63A, 66A, 66-1, 66-2, 67-1, 67-2, 69-1, 69-2|
|Clearwater||6||10-1, 10-2, 10-3, 10-4, 10-5, 10-6, 10A-1, 10A-2,|
|Fremont||4||60, 60A, 61-2, 61-3, 62, 62A, 63, 63A, 64, 65|
|Idaho||4||12-1, 12-2, 12-3, 12-4, 12-5, 14, 16|
Idaho has been a long time producer of big bulls and, in 2018 alone, produced four bulls in the record books—two of which went over 170”! You can really see Idaho flexing its muscles when looking at record book entries from all locations.
Again, the big talk for 2019 is centered around what's going to happen to the draw odds with the big reduction in tags. The drop in odds will likely hit harder in the northern half of the state in the most affected areas. Obviously, a loss of opportunity will drive demand, but it is also reasonable to expect that a large majority of the applicants in any given unit is largely comprised of those simply putting in for their “backyard” unit.
The small cluster of units found north of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness generally carry the best odds from year to year and may see a small dip this year. The rough country and low harvest success found in these units may make most applicants shy away; however, will still likely be the best bet for nonresidents when it comes to simply pulling a tag.
Idaho's 2019 mountain goat breakdown
Along with moose and bighorn sheep, hunters also have the opportunity to apply for Rocky Mountain goats in Idaho. 2019 will be a big year of change after just over 40% of the tags were dropped from what was previously offered in 2018. This will undoubtedly drive draw odds down—the severity of which will not be known until after the 2019 draw. Even with such a dark cloud over the fate of Idaho’s mountain goats, there will be at least some tags available and some lucky hunters will be in the mountains this fall.
Harvest trends for Idaho mountain goat since 2011
Current mountain goat herd condition
As mentioned, the health of the mountain goat as a whole in Idaho is struggling. This same trend can be seen in a few other western states and there has not yet been any rationale as to why. The most generally accepted theories lie within a loss of minerals and nutrient-rich foods found in prime mountain goat habitat coupled with the naturally slow reproduction times for mountain goats. With such a massive reduction in tags for 2019, it will be interesting to monitor the next few years to see if this aggressive move from IDFG plays out.
How to uncover hidden gem units
With an uncertain draw approaching it’s hard to guess exactly what will happen to the overall draw odds for mountain goats. Most of the mountain goat units found in south-central Idaho are comprised of very rugged terrain and, as such, typically experience the highest draw odds. his will still likely be the case after the 2019 draw.
Top units to consider for Idaho mountain goat based on horn length in 2018
Another interesting avenue of research can be found within the published data for horn length that is recorded after every season. Scrolling through a breakdown of historical data for horn lengths for any given unit can generally tell hunters one of three things: this unit is getting hot, this unit is regressing or this unit is consistent. Below, we will break down the average horn length by year and unit from 2011-2018.
Averages for horn length for mountain goats in Idaho
B&C entry trends for Idaho Rocky Mountain mountain goat
Idaho is not known for producing goats that meet the B&C minimums for entry though it does offer great opportunities at billies and nannies with horns in the 9” range in nearly every unit. Since 2010, there have been four mountain goats entered into the B&C books from Idaho.
As with moose, the biggest question heading into the 2019 draw will be “What’s going to happen to the odds?” With a reduction of just over 40%, this could be a big year in terms of change for applicants in Idaho. As in previous years, the best bet for 2019 is going to be simply picking a unit and going for it. Until 2020, it’s going to be extremely hard to predict where all of the displaced applicants will now put their money.