APPLICATION STRATEGY 2019: Wyoming Elk
Wyoming's 2019 elk application overview
Wyoming offers phenomenal elk hunting. The populations are generally very healthy and are at or exceeding herd objectives throughout most of the state. The Cowboy State also has decent trophy potential and long hunting seasons—even in general hunt areas. Those are the positive points and the reason we will continue to apply in Wyoming ourselves and advise anyone who is interesting in elk hunting to apply or build points there as well.
However, there is some bad news, Wyoming elk licenses are getting harder to draw every year, especially for hunts with good trophy potential, good amounts of public land, and good access. Point creep is a problem in most states, but it’s particularly rough in Wyoming. This is partly due to demand and the fact that applicants can buy points without even applying. Hunters can throw their application in the mix during any given year, which seems to be happening more now with the improved economy.
Elk permits are expensive. For a nonresident, it will cost $1,283 for the special draw and $707 for the regular draw. Additionally, this year, there is an added 2.5% credit card processing fee on all applications/license purchases. And, finally, it is still illegal for a nonresident to hunt within a United States Forest Service (USFS) Designated Wilderness Area (DWA) without a guide or registered resident guide to accompany them. This law eliminates some areas entirely and portions of other areas to many nonresidents.
So, there’s the good and bad and, in all honesty, most of us are going to have to dig deeper into the research and, perhaps, our pockets to figure out the best strategy. Luckily, if you are reading this and are a goHUNT INSIDER we have already done a ton of the work for you. Everything you need to know to apply and make the most of your 2019 Wyoming elk application is right here.
Note: The application deadline for Wyoming elk for nonresidents is Jan. 31, 2019, by 11:59 p.m. MST and the application is entirely online. Resident elk limited quota applications are due by May 31.
Why Wyoming for elk in 2019
Wyoming is a great state to hunt elk for several reasons: thriving elk populations, long seasons, good quality, and the scenery is almost unmatched. To get into the nitty gritty, residents of Wyoming arguably have the best chance to experience a quality elk hunt every year over any other state. The resident draw for limited entry hunts is completely random with no point system. The draw odds for residents are good. For example, a Type 9 (archery) Area 38 tag has 23% draw odds. That same hunt for a nonresident in the regular draw with nine preference points is 1.6%. Plus, if a resident does not draw a limited entry tag, they can simply purchase a general season elk tag and hunt any general unit. It makes you wonder if you shouldn’t pack up and make a permanent move to the Cowboy State!
For nonresidents, elk tags are becoming more difficult every year to draw; however, Wyoming is still a good state to apply in. They offer a 16% nonresident, 84% resident split for elk permits, which is more liberal than any other state. Wyoming allocates permits through a state draw with a preference point system in place, but there are still random permits for almost every hunt available. You could draw the permit of a lifetime during any given year! Overall, Wyoming is a phenomenal elk state with plenty of public land and opportunity to hunt. Everyone with an elk addiction should be applying in Wyoming!
New for 2019
IMPORTANT: Change to Wyoming preference point purchase
For Deer, Elk, and Antelope you will not automatically receive a preference point if you are unsuccessful in the draw. If you are unsuccessful in the draw you will need to log into your account from July 1st to Oct 31st and purchase a preference point.
New INSIDER Feature: Applications by point level
goHUNT now displays the number of applicants at each point level below the cut-off draw line for each hunt. This has never been available for Wyoming before! This will give applicants a much greater understanding of point creep for each hunt and allow them to apply with a much better understanding of their chances.
Effective January 2019 there will be a new credit card processing fee on all applications, licenses and permits paid for with a credit card. The fee will be 2.5% of the total. If you apply for elk then the extra fees will be $17.66 for the regular draw and $32.07 for the special draw.
- Area 123 will be closed for 2019.
- Area 113 was last hunted in 2017 and it will be open for 2019. Odds in 2017 were approximately 38% with max points in the regular draw and 75% with max points in the special draw. It’s expected to require max points (13) in 2019 to draw these licenses. There are not likely to be any random licenses available for Area 113 in either draw.
View important information and an overview of the Wyoming rules/regulations, the draw system, preference points, SuperTag and SuperTag Trifecta, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map on our State Profile. You can also view the Wyoming Elk Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.
Important dates and information
- You can apply for elk beginning Jan. 2, 2019 at 8 a.m. MST.
- The nonresident deadline to apply is Jan. 31, 2019 by 11:59 p.m. MST.
- The resident deadline to apply is May 31, 2019 by 11:59 p.m. MST.
- Apply online here. Applications are only accepted online.
- The deadline to amend or withdraw your nonresident elk application is Feb. 4 by 11:59 p.m. MST.
- Nonresident draw results will be available Feb. 21, 2019.
- Resident draw results will be available June 20, 2019.
- Refunds for unsuccessful applicants will be returned to the credit card that was used.
- The preference point only purchase period is from July 1 to Oct. 31, 2019.
- Failure to apply or purchase preference points for two consecutive years will cause all previous points accumulated to be purged.
- You cannot return an elk license for a refund or get preference points back
- The application period for leftover deer, elk and antelope licenses is June 25 to 29, 2019.
- Results of the leftover drawing will be available July 12, 2019.
- Licenses remaining after the initial drawing and the leftover drawing go on sale on a first come first served basis on July 16, 2019.
How to apply
If you have never applied in Wyoming you have to set up an account on their state game and fish website located here. You’ll need to enter your personal information (name, social security number, etc.) after which you will be given a sportsman ID number that you can use to log onto your account and apply for hunts. When you apply, you’ll need to log in, select the hunt you wish to apply for and then enter your credit card information and check out. All of the fees, license included, will be charged to the credit card when you apply. You will receive a refund for the license if you are unsuccessful after the draw is complete.
Dollar amount to apply
Wyoming requires applicants to submit the full cost of the license and the application fees. If you are unsuccessful in the draw you will receive a refund for the cost of the license. You will not receive a refund for the application fee.
Nonresident elk fees for 2019
|Item||Regular - Adult||Special - Adult||Youth|
|Full Price Elk||$707||$15 - App Fee|
$692 - License Fee
|$1,283||$15 - App Fee|
$692 - License Fee
$576 - Special Fee
|$290||$15 - App Fee|
$275 - License Fee
Elk - cow/calf
|$303||$15 - App Fee|
$288 - License Fee
|N/A||N/A||$115||$15 - App Fee|
$100 - License Fee
Resident elk fees for 2019
|Item||Elk - Adult||Elk - Youth|
|Full Price Elk||$62||$5 - App Fee|
$57 - License Fee
|$30||$5 - App Fee|
$25 - License Fee
Elk - cow/calf
|$48||$5 - App Fee|
$43 - License Fee
|$25||$5 - App Fee|
$25 - License Fee
If unsuccessful in the draw you will be refunded the cost of the permit. You will not be refunded the application fee or the preference point fee. Keep in mind the archery stamp is $72 for nonresidents.
The Wyoming draw system
Wyoming has a random draw for residents with no point system. Every resident that applies is on an equal playing field. The nonresident elk draw works on a modified preference point system with 75% of the permits for each hunt given to the applicants with the most points and 25% being randomly allocated. The randomly allocated permits are drawn with no acknowledgment of the number of points that applicants have. Meaning, if you don’t draw a permit in the top point pool of any given hunt, you have the same chance as every other applicant in the random pool regardless of the number of points anyone has. In the case that there are more maximum point holders than there are preference point licenses for any given hunt, the licenses will be randomly allocated among the top point holders. For example, there were six licenses for the top point holders for the elk Area 100 regular draw and there were 70 applicants with maximum points. Those six licenses would be randomly drawn among those 70 top point holders. Any applicants that aren’t successful will then be rolled into the random pool and will again have a chance to draw from the random license.
Preference points are gained each year that you are unsuccessful in the draw or you can purchase points from July 1 to Oct. 31, 2019. Only one point can be gained each year. You cannot apply and gain a point and purchase a point later during the point only time frame. The maximum number of preference points for elk is 13 going into the 2019 draw.
What is the special and regular draw?
The special draw and the regular draw are separate pools of licenses. The only difference between the special and regular licenses is that the cost of the special license is $576 more than the regular license. The potential benefit to applying in the special draw is that you may have better odds of drawing a license because fewer applicants are typically willing to pay the extra cost. This is not always the case. Review the Draw Odds to see if the added cost is worth it.
Nonresident license quota split
To revisit the license split, 60% go to the regular draw and 40% go to the special draw. Within both the regular and special draw, 75% of the licenses go to high point holders for each hunt and 25% go randomly. Let's look at an example to see how it breaks down.
30 total licenses for this example:
- 25 resident licenses (84%)
- 5 nonresident licenses (16%)
- 3 regular licenses (60% of nonresident quota)
- 2 special licences (40% of nonresident quota)
Regular draw split
- 2 regular preference point licenses (75% of non-resident regular draw quota)
- 1 regular random license (25% of non-resident regular draw quota)
Special draw split
- 1 special preference point license
- 1 special random license
In some cases, there are not enough nonresident permits total to have any filter down into the random pools. If you are below the maximum point line and taking a swing for the fences approach and hoping to draw a great random license, be sure to apply for an area/hunt that has a permit available in the random pool. Otherwise, you are essentially wasting your application in the draw.
Wyoming will allow up to six people to apply on a party application for elk. Residents and nonresidents may not apply together in a party application. Applicants in a party have their preference points averaged out to the fourth decimal point and the application goes into the draw with that exact number. For example, a party application of three hunters with 5, 3 and 2 preference points will go into the draw with 3.3333 points. The party is treated as a single application and, if it’s drawn, all members of the party will receive a license.
What if a there is only one license remaining in a draw and a party application is selected?
Wyoming will over-allocate the quota to accommodate the party, meaning that even though there was only one license, all three members of the party will still get a license.
What does license type mean?
We often get asked about what type means when considering applying in Wyoming. License type indicates limitations such as sex of the animal, length of the season, type of weapon or the portion of the hunt area in which the license is valid. The following table can help you understand the difference in types.
License types in Wyoming
|Type 1 and 2||Antlered or any elk||Full price|
|Type 4 and 5||Antlerless||Full price|
|Type 6 and 7||Antlerless||Reduced price|
|Type 9||Archery only||Full price|
|General||Antlered elk||Full price|
A Type 1 license
Valid for the season and weapon as indicated within the state regulations—typically a rifle hunt. In addition, most Type 1 licenses will also allow hunters to purchase an over-the-counter (OTC) archery stamp and bowhunt during the entire month or a portion of September. See the table below for archery units/seasons for details of what hunts allow archery hunting also.
Type 2 license
Most often a Type 2 license varies by season or boundary. For example, Area 16 has both a Type 1 and Type 2—the first type starting Oct. 1; the second type staring Nov. 1. Some vary by what portion of the hunt area is valid to hunt. For example, Area 54 Type 1 is valid north of the Clarks Fork River; Type 2 is valid south of the river. It’s also important to note that some Type 2 tags allow hunters to hunt the entire hunt area with the purchase of the archery license during the archery dates.
Type 9 license
Are archery hunts that are only valid in the hunt area and during the archery dates indicated. Something to be aware of is some areas allow Type 1 license holders to hunt along with Type 9 hunters for the whole hunt—or portions of it—if they buy the archery license and want to hunt. This may add some additional pressure to those areas. Once again, see the table below for details.
Allow hunters to hunt in any general hunt area. Purchasing an archery license will also allow general season hunters to hunt with a bow and return to hunt during the rifle season if they have not yet filled their license. Once again, see the table below for details and archery season dates.
Type 4 and 5
Are full priced cow/calf licenses. One thing to be aware of is that if you apply for one of these licenses as your first choice and draw it you will lose any accrued preference points.
Type 6 and 7
Are reduced price licenses and will not use your points. In fact, you apply for those on a separate application within the state draw system. The drawing for reduced price licenses is random with no respect to points.
How many choices do I have on my application?
Applicants can select up to three hunt choices when they apply. Every applicant in the draw has their first choice considered before moving to second and third choices. Essentially, to draw a license as a second choice there must be surplus tags after every applicant's first choice is considered. You can check the second choice draw odds within your INSIDER account by manipulating “select your draw choice.” You only lose preference points if you draw your first choice.
Archery areas/seasons that can be hunted with purchase of the archery license
|1, 7-10, 12, 13, 15, 16,|
19, 21-25, 27, 30-33, 47-49,
55, 56, 58, 59, 61-64, 83, 87-94, 96,
99, 100, 102-111, 114, 116-118,
120, 122, 124-128, 130
|All||Sept. 1-30||Valid in the entire area(s)|
|3||All||Sept. 1-14||Valid in the entire area(s)|
|11, 36, 37, 67-69||All||Sept. 15-30||Valid in the entire area(s)|
|60, 70, 71, 73, 97, 98||All||Sept. 1-19||Valid in the entire area(s)|
|78, 80-82, 84-86||All||Sept. 1-25||Valid in the entire area(s)|
|6||General, 6||Sept. 1-30||Valid off of National Forest|
|6||1, 4||Sept. 1-30||Valid in the entire area(s)|
|28||General, 4||Sept. 1-30||Valid in the entire area(s)|
|34||1||Sept. 1-30||Valid in the entire area(s)|
|34||6||Sept. 1-30||Valid off National Forest|
|35||1, 4||Sept. 15-30||Valid in the entire area(s)|
|35||6||Sept. 15-30||Valid off National Forest|
|41, 45||1, 4, 5||Sept. 15-30||Valid in the entire area(s)|
|95||1, 4, 5, 6||Sept. 1-30||Valid in the entire area(s)|
|95||2||Sept. 1-30||Any elk valid within the Green River Drainage upstream from|
the outlet of Lower Green River Lake, including that
portion east and south of Mill Creek
How many elk tags can I get?
A hunter can have up to three elk licenses in a year. A hunter could apply for a full price Type 1, 2, 9 or general season limited quota and a Type 4 or 5 (cow/calf) as a second or third choice on the same initial application. They can also apply for a reduced price Type 6, 7 or 8 in the reduced price draw, which is a separate application. That reduced price cow elk application is due by May 31 for residents and January 31 for nonresidents. Since it is a separate application from the bull elk application, hunters will not lose or gain points when applying for cows.
Wyoming contains vast expanses of public land. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and United States Forest Service lands stretch on for miles in many areas of the state, but nonresidents cannot hunt portions of it on their own. A nonresident cannot legally hunt a Designated Wilderness Area on their own. They must be accompanied by a licensed Wyoming outfitter or licensed Wyoming resident. A Wyoming resident guide license may be obtained from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) by any resident possessing a valid big or trophy game license. A resident guide may only take up to two nonresidents in a wilderness area per year. There is no cost to obtain a resident guide license. A resident guide cannot accept any gratuity or compensation. If you are a nonresident who would like to hunt within a wilderness area there are many good options for outfitters. A complete list of outfitters in Wyoming can be found in our Outfitter Directory. Wyoming residents may hunt wilderness areas with no restrictions.
Wyoming's 2019 Elk Breakdown
Wyoming’s elk population is doing very well. Statewide, the population is estimated at more than 104,800, which is 25,800 elk over the objective. Below, we will touch on population trends by herds/areas.
Black Hills Herd
This herd is meeting objective, with an estimated population at approximately 2,700. The herd unit encompasses a tremendous area with about 59% of it being occupied habitat. Of the occupied habitat, an estimated 73% is located on private land. The biggest portion of occupied public land is located within the Black Hills National Forest in Area 1.
Laramie Peak/Muddy Mountain
The estimated population is projected to be 7,600, which is 1,400 elk over the 5,000 objective. This may have come down some with longer seasons in recent years, but populations are still high. This herd area is managed to maintain a higher bull:cow ratio and older age class bulls. Due to the management strategy and the large tracts of private land that occur in these areas, there is an opportunity to harvest a great bull; however, access and public land can be an issue for hunters in these areas.
The estimated population of 1,302 is a few hundred over the objective. One large private ranch within the central part of the area holds the vast majority of the elk. There is elk habitat on surrounding public land and Hunter Management Areas.
The Pine Ridge herd occurs almost entirely on private land along the Pine Ridge escarpment in the north-central part of the area. The population meets its objective at an estimated 900 elk.
It is currently estimated at 2,800; the population is 600 head of elk over the objective of 2,200. About half of the total areas are considered occupied elk habitat with high elevation summer range being mostly USFS and spring and winter range comprised of steep foothills and drainages managed by the BLM and private lands.
This has a proposed estimate of 2,400 elk with an objective of 2,000. It has good portions of USFS and BLM throughout with recent fires further improving habitat and feed conditions. There is some designated wilderness that can limit nonresident access and there are established populations of grizzly and wolves.
The epitome of elk country, these units range from big, deep-timbered canyons and towering peaks to rolling foothills and flats. The 2018 midwinter population count was 5,631; the objective is 4,400. This is a mostly migratory herd occupying the backcountry Thorofare and Yellowstone National Park during the spring and summer months. During the fall and winter months, the herds migrate out into the foothills and valleys. This is great elk habitat and great trophy potential, but vast amounts of designated wilderness, backcountry terrain, occupied grizzly and wolf habitat.
These areas contain one of the few herds that are currently sitting below population objective. The current population estimate is 2,633 with an objective of 3,300. It is a mix of migratory and resident herds with the Sunlight Basin and Crandall areas herds migrating and the Absaroka Front and Beartooth Face herds typically non-migratory. It is a mix of mostly public land and designated wilderness areas in Areas 51 and 53. Area 54 has a complex mix of public, USFS and BLM land. There is excellent trophy potential, but it can be tough to find bulls at times. These are grizzly and wolf areas.
Green River Region
With an estimated population of 1,300, this is an interstate herd shared between Utah and Wyoming. Elk typically winter in the high Uintas in Utah and migrate to Wyoming to winter. There is a limited amount of public land winter range, which is the primary issue for most hunters. Years with early storms and cold temperatures provide a better opportunity.
South Rock Springs
There are approximately 1,049 elk shared by three states: Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. The herds seems to interchange between the three states, but particularly between Colorado and Wyoming. Of the three units, Area 31 typically has the largest population, with Areas 30 and 32 following. There are good portions of public land, good access and no grizzlies.
With a current objective of 5,000 and an estimated 9,644 elk, it’s debatable whether the herd is really that robust; however, it is safe to say that it’s over objective by a fair amount. Area 108 is the only one that is not a general season area. There is good habitat and good access to public land throughout most, but high hunting pressure and an increase in hunt days per harvest.
It has an estimated population of 1,800, which is 600 over the objective of 1,200. Area 100 is a large area with elk herds inhabiting pockets in lower densities. There has been evidence that herds have increased due to migration from surrounding hunt areas. Some portion of the area is completely unoccupied. It has open desert shrub habitat, plenty of public land and access.
West Green River
These areas have an objective of 3,100 and an estimated population of 3,874 elk. Even though the herd is over objective, there has been a growing opinion that the herd should have a larger objective and managed for more elk. Pockets of elk can be tough to find at times. These areas are mostly BLM and private lands with good public access and opportunity to hunt. These are general season areas.
This area is managed a bit differently with no population objective. Rather, this hunt area is managed for an average age of harvest of seven years old and a 60% hunter to landowner satisfaction rate. Currently, the three years’ average age of bulls harvested is 7.1 years old and satisfaction rates are 78% and 80%. There is great BLM public access in the southern portion of the area and great trophy potential.
Game and fish changed the objective from a postseason population to a hunter satisfaction objective a few years ago. Many of the elk within this area summer in Wyoming and winter in Idaho to the west. Harvest rates in 2017 were good, but the overall number of elk harvested is quite low. Overall, low population of resident elk but the area is meeting hunter satisfaction rates. There is low hunting pressure in this area in comparison to others.
This is a huge area with a floating objective of 8,800 to 13,200. Currently, the population is estimated at 10,877. It’s largely a migratory herd that winters in the National Elk Refuge, the Gros Ventre drainage, and some other scattered winter ranges. During recent years, the number of elk has been increasing on the refuge and decreasing across the other winter ranges. There is strong evidence that elk that historically utilized the Gros Ventre drainage are transitioning migration and winter range to avoid high-density wolf areas. It is important to note that even though data shows that elk are changing their winter ranges, they are still utilizing the same summer and fall ranges. There is tons of public land in most areas and a mix of general and limited quota hunt opportunities.
Here, there is a floating objective of 3,520 to 5,280 and a current herd estimate of 3,756 elk. Both areas encompass large portions of designated wilderness areas, but there is enough non-wilderness USFS public land for a nonresident to hunt on their own. The general hunts do not allow spike elk harvest, which has been implemented to increase the number of bulls in the population.
The objective ranges from 1,760 to 2,460 with a current estimate of 2,400. An interesting statistic unique to these areas is that in 2017, antlered elk comprised 56% of the annual total harvest and 52% were 2 plus-year-old bulls. There is good access and good amounts of public land.
The objective set at 5,500 with a current count of 5,542. A portion of this herd migrates, spending summers in the neighboring Jackson and Cody areas. This herd is further segregated into three sub-groups with the Dunoir/Spring Mountain herd being both the largest and exceeding objective. The South Dubois sub-group is meeting objective and is the next largest herd while the East Fork herd is below objective and the smallest herd. Area 68 has good access and portions of public land, Area 69 is entirely designated wilderness area or private, Area 67 is a combination of wilderness, public and private land, and Area 127 is almost entirely reservation. This is occupied grizzly bear country.
South Wind River
The current estimate of 2,736 elk is slightly over the 2,600 objective. These areas are comprised of mostly public land with very good access. There are some designated wilderness in Areas 99 and 28. Summer range exists in the upper elevations in Areas 25, 28 and 99. Area 25 is primarily composed of rolling BLM land.
There is a small herd estimated at 582 with an objective of 500. Very few elk inhabit Area 128 and most within Area 24 occur on and around Green Mountain and Crooks Canyon. This is mostly rolling BLM land, which offers great access.
There is an objective of 350 with a current estimated herd of 800. This management objective was allowed to exceed the bull:cow ratio (30:100) and increase the number of branch-antlered bulls, which is expected to exceed 66%. Access is a major issue, especially in the southern portion of Area 111. Recent fires in the Seminoe Mountains and the eastern Ferris Mountains have benefited the herd and created good feed. There is great trophy potential.
This is a small population estimated at only 40 to 80 elk. The herd consists of small groups of elk scattered in open sage desert terrain. Most elk are found in the southwest, southeast and northwest corners of the unit. There is some migration between neighboring Area 100.
The management herd objective is 1,440 to 2,160 elk and the current population estimate is 3,900. Area 6 is largely private land with tough access. There is some USFS land in the southern portion and some BLM and state lands in the northern portion.
There is an estimated population of 8,700 elk. The management objective ranges between 4,800 to 7,200. Areas 9, 10, 12 and 110 are general season units. Areas 8, 114 and 125 have limited quota hunts. There are good portions of public land and numbers of elk on the general season areas, but a limited amount of accessible public land in the limited quota hunts.
Area 16 is about 1,000 elk over objective. The estimated population is 1,808 and a management objective of 800. Decent amounts of BLM and Hunter Management Areas. Elk largely located through the central portion of the area with some moving to the south-central part of the area during the winter months.
This hunt area has a population objective of 40 elk and a landowner/hunter satisfaction rate of 60%. Current satisfaction rates are not meeting objectives although the population estimate is over 400 elk. This herd area is comprised of a mix of rangelands, dryland, irrigated croplands and riparian areas. Over 88% of the occupied habitat is privately owned. Hunters can hunt the Broom Creek Hunter Management Area.
This is one of only a few herds in the state that may be slightly below objective, which is 1,100 with an estimated population of 891. This herd experiences the coldest winter temperatures of any herd in western Wyoming, resulting in being a migratory feedground dependent herd. This is primarily public land with good access and some wilderness in the eastern portion of Area 87.
This area has an objective of 2,400 with an estimated herd of 1,492. Both are general season areas with good portions of summer and fall range. There is good access into USFS land and some lower range BLM lands. There has been a decrease in the number of elk harvested and harvest rates in recent years.
Upper Green River
There is a current estimated population of 2,544, which meets the 2,500 objective. Wolves and grizzly bears have reduced the number elk and, consequently, hunter participation in the northern portion of these areas. A large portion of elk habitat in Area 96 lies within wilderness areas. Area 93 and 96 both have some accessible USFS land, but a good portion of the lower range is privately owned.
This area has an estimated 1,977 elk with an objective of 1,900. The two areas encompass a large area, but only about 21% of it is considered occupied elk habitat. Out of the USFS that exists, over half is within wilderness areas. The USFS that exists outside of the wilderness area is tough to access and is mostly accessible by foot or horseback. Harvest rates regularly correlate with early October snowstorms and cold temperatures, which increase harvest success.
- Closed for 2019
This region has an estimated population of 5,849, which is about 1,500 elk over objective. There are limited quota hunts in Areas 35, 38, 39 and 40. There are general season hunts in Areas 36 and 37. The population data suggests that this is the third highest count and is higher than the previous five-year average. It is worth noting that the majority of the increased elk came from Areas 37 and 38. Area 36 showed a decrease while Area 35 increased. Also worth noting is that 26% of the total bull harvest was credited to archery hunters and, of those, 94% were adult bulls. There is particularly good archery hunting across the area group with no wolves or grizzlies.
It has an objective of 3,300 elk with an estimate of 4,200 to 5,000 elk. The largest populations occur in Areas 33 and 34 with over half of the elk within this herd group in those two areas. A portion of elk counted in Area 34 are likely to have migrated from Area 35 during the fall and winter months. It is worth noting that 95% of the bull harvest was comprised of adult bulls. The area group is a complex mix of BLM, state and private land. Access can be tough to navigate.
Area 123 is closed for the 2019 season; Area 113 will have a limited quota late season hunt. The management objective is based on landowner/hunter satisfaction rates. The hunter satisfaction rate was very high—at 89%—in the most recent report. Estimates suggest that the herd size is approximately 850 elk with the bulk occurring in Area 123, but it can fluctuate. These areas are managed to provide high success rates on mature bulls and regularly closes, rotating areas from year to year to provide a quality experience. In portions of Area 113, there is a fair amount of public land, which allows for a reasonable harvest. Additionally, with the re-routing of county roads due to shifts in coal mining activity, some areas of public land are more accessible than they have been in the past.
The impact of wolves on Wyoming’s elk herds
Biologists believe herds have begun to stabilize in recent years although some herds have adjusted migration routes and winter ranges due to pressure. Wolves were removed from the endangered species list in April of 2017. Wolf management is now being led by the state of Wyoming and hunting is actively being used as a tool to manage populations.
Regulations to hunt wolves are typically released in early July. In 2018, the state defined 11 hunt areas located around Yellowstone National Park. Within those 11 areas, seasons generally ran from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31. Each area has a set quota and once hit, the season closes. The total quota in 2018 for all 11 areas was 63 wolves. Hunters can purchase an OTC wolf permit and harvest one wolf per calendar year.
Outside of those zones, wolves are managed as a predatory animal and can be harvested without a license at any time of the year. There are currently an estimated 347 wolves statewide with 238 of those occurring outside of Yellowstone National Park and the Wind River Reservation. With hunting currently being used as a management tool, elk herds could improve, at a minimum, maintain current numbers.
At this time, 2018 harvest data was not available, but during the 2017 season, 43 wolves were legally harvested with one illegal take out of the trophy zones and 33 wolves were taken under predatory management status.
The initial recovery plan called for the minimum population of 500 grizzly bears. Since 2000, the population has continued to steadily grow and expand well beyond the Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone. The most recent estimate of the population is approximately 700 grizzly bears, but it’s very likely greater than that. The impact on elk populations from grizzly predation is debated, but it certainly is not helping those areas. Grizzly/human conflict has continued to increase since the early 2000s.
Wyoming gained state control of grizzly bear management for the first two-thirds of the year and held a drawing for the first hunt. On Sept. 24, a federal judge in Montana overturned the ruling and returned management to the federal government, effectively stopping the planned hunting season. The state of Wyoming is currently appealing the decision and time will tell if indeed the state will once again gain management and grizzly bear hunts will occur.
Hunting in grizzly country can be intimidating and there is real cause for concern. Look for an upcoming article on precautions and strategies for hunting in grizzly bear areas.
We often get asked about the trophy potential in Wyoming. Generally speaking, trophy potential is good across the state with a handful of really big bulls harvested every year. If you think about what allows a bull to grow an impressive set of antlers, there are three main factors: genetics, age and feed. Genetics throughout the state are great, so let’s take a look at the other two factors.
Typically, the biggest bulls are harvested from areas where they can reach an older age class (5 to 10+) and the feed is favorable. Terrain and accessibility are worth considering if you are looking for a big Wyoming bull. Hunt areas concentrated around Yellowstone National Park: 51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64 all have a history of producing great bulls. When doing a deep dive into why that is the case, all of these hunt areas consist of big, remote, quality elk habitat. Most of those areas also contain large portions of designated wilderness areas. Wilderness areas provide seclusion, allowing some bulls to get older. The amount of wilderness in these areas is problematic to most nonresident hunters, but if you can hunt with a guide, a resident, or the borders of the wilderness on your own, the opportunity for a bigger bull is typically better.
Private land is the other type of refuge that allows bulls to mature and grow a trophy rack. Areas 7, 19, 16, 22, 24 and, perhaps, to a lesser extent, areas like 49, 120 and 122 can produce bigger bulls due to the fact that there are complex mixes of private and public land. Feed is typically very good in these areas as well. Drought can be an issue in these lower elevation areas, but over the past few years, the winter precipitation has been good and feed should be great once again in 2019. Again, these areas can provide an excellent guided hunt on a private ranch, but the DIY hunter will have to do some real homework.
The other areas that produce big bulls every year are ones that are managed conservatively to provide that caliber of bull. These Areas 100, 124, 30, 31 and 32 provide good access and large portions of public land, but the licenses are very limited and the odds of drawing them are slim. These are not traditional elk habitats and antler development can be somewhat dependant on drought. The past few years have been good, precipitation has been up and the antler growth should be good if the trend continues through the 2019 winter months.
That leaves many unmentioned areas, including most of the general season areas. Within those options, the same factors apply. When evaluating possible areas to hunt, consider the terrain, the land ownership makeup, and think about areas that can provide the refuge required for a bull to get old. Overall, trophy potential is relatively good throughout the state with almost every area capable of producing 300” to 320” bulls.
General season hunt
Interest in the Wyoming general season elk hunt continues to grow and with good reason. Wyoming’s point system has put most applicants in a position where their odds of drawing a good limited quota hunt is very low. The wilderness law and large sections of private land in other portions of the state further limit opportunity.
On the flip side, 51 of the state’s elk areas offer a general season hunt and a license holder can hunt any of them. Seasons are long and hunters can hunt both the archery and rifle hunt until they are successful. Nonresidents have to draw, but the number of points required to obtain a license is still much less than almost every other option. Harvest success statewide for the general season hunts was 21% in 2017, the bulk of that occurring during the rifle hunt
|General Elk||Nonresident elk|
|Pref. Pt. Odds||64% with 2 points||97% with 1 point||Over-the-counter|
Moving into the 2019 draw and likely every year after, we anticipate the general season hunt to become harder to draw. It’s tough to anticipate exactly what the cut-off will be for the general season elk draw. Using the new data we have collected, odds with 1.5 points in the special draw should be about 80% and it will take two points to guarantee it. In the regular draw, odds with 2.5 points are projected to be about 50% and three points will be needed to guarantee a license. As more hunters begin to understand how poor the odds of drawing the high-quality hunts are, the general season hunt point creep could jump higher. Time will tell, but if you have been considering the general season hunt and have enough points, it may be time to pull the trigger rather than wait.
goHUNT Hitlist For General Season Elk Areas
|Area||Trophy potential||Bull:Cow Ratio||Harvest|
Areas 59, 56 and 60 have huge chunks of wilderness and are best suited for a guided hunt. Areas 36 and 37 provide good archery hunting opportunities, good access, no grizzly bears and no wolves. The Sierra Madre Areas 13, 15 and 21 provide good archery and rifle hunts, plenty of public lands and good access. Area 67 has a good portion of wilderness and grizzly bears are dense, but there is a decent chance at a great bull. The other areas listed above in western Wyoming can also be good during both the archery and rifle hunts. There are many more options as well. We will discuss how to find other hidden gems in a later section.
Limited Quota Hunts
The best hunts in terms of quality—both trophy and decreased hunting pressure—have a limited license quota and are allocated through the draw for both residents and nonresidents. As expected, these hunts generally require several preference points to draw. Wyoming randomly allocates 25% of their licenses for each hunt in the drawing. So, even if you don’t have maximum points, you have a chance to draw the random tag(s). If you take a swing for the fences approach, be sure that the hunt you apply for has a random license available. Some hunts may not have enough licenses for any to be available in the random draw.
One other point: like most things in this world, if it’s too good to be true it probably is. If a hunt requires very few points to draw, it’s worth investigating why. Those hunts usually have very little public land to hunt, occur in wilderness areas or have a combination of issues. It’s not impossible to find success on those hunts, but it will take real effort, research, time or, perhaps, a guide.
Below we have listed the top hunts in terms of trophy potential. If your primary objective is to get a chance at a trophy bull, these your best bets.
goHUNT Hitlist Limited Quota Hunt Areas To Consider for 340" or Better Bulls
|Pts. Reg. |
|7-1||350"+||33:100||72%||9 (23%)||<9 (100%)||Yes|
|22-1||340"+||102:100||74%||12 (13%)||12 (6.1%)||No|
|16-1||340"+||40:100||81%||<12 (45%)||11 (14%)||Yes|
|16-2||340"+||40:100||82%||11 (50%)||<11 (100%)||No|
|54-1||350"+||27:100||68%||12 (21%)||11 (50%)||No|
|54-2||350"+||27:100||79%||10 (25%)||8 (100%)||No|
|54-9||350"+||27:100||39%||<10 (100%)||<10 (100%)||No|
|56-1||340"+||35:100||40%||12 (4%)||12 (13%)||No|
|56-9||340"+||35:100||35%||0 (9%)||0 (29%)||No|
|58-1||350"+||35:100||82%||12 (25%)||12 (23%)||No|
|59-1||350"+||35:100||55%||12 (20%)||12 (8.3%)||No|
|59-9||350"+||35:100||33%||0 (29%)||0 (25%)||No|
|63/64-1||350"+||31:100||55%||12 (82%)||12 (61%)||Yes|
|63-2||350"+||31:100||NA||12 (82%)||11 (33%)||No|
|64-2||350"+||31:100||65%||10 (58%)||10 (100%)||Yes|
|31-1||340"+||35:100||79%||12 (5.7%)||12 (13%)||Yes|
|60-9||340"+||35:100||41%||0 (100%)||0 (100%)||No|
|61-1||340"+||35:100||33%||9 (62%)||9 (100%)||Yes|
|61-2||340"+||35:100||80%||12 (25%)||12 (20%)||No|
|62-1||340"+||31:100||54%||11 (30%)||11 (42%)||Yes|
|100-1||340"+||65:100||98%||12 (8.7%)||12 (16%)||Yes|
|124-1||350"+||NA||90%||12 (1.5%)||12 (7.1%)||No|
|19-1||340"+||33:100||60%||9 (18%)||<9 (100%)||Yes|
|19-2||340"+||33:100||83%||8 (100%)||<7 (100%)||Yes|
How to uncover hidden gem Wyoming elk areas
If you take a peek at the table listed above you’ll quickly notice that the top tier trophy hunts can be tough to draw and many of them occur in areas that are hard to access due to private land or wilderness. Point creep isn’t getting any better either. If may be time to dig in and try to find a hidden gem and go hunting.
Utilizing our Filtering 2.0 tool, INSIDERS can use the trophy potential, season, public land percentage and harvest success to explore the possibilities. You’ll begin to see a pattern. Easier to draw hunts are typically one of the following: Type 9 (archery only), mostly private land or DWA, access is tough or the trophy potential isn’t as high. Work within those parameters and you’ll find the hidden gems.
A few tips to think about:
Consider a guided hunt. Two things limit DIY hunter access: wilderness and private land. There is some very good trophy hunting in those types of areas and you might consider going on a guided hunt. Typically, you can draw tags for those areas with far fewer points and you’re likely to have a very good guided hunt.
Bighorn Mountain hunts: There are several archery and rifle hunts in the Bighorn Mountain hunt areas in north-central Wyoming. In reality, the archery hunting is better than the rifle hunting. This is due to timing. Elk inhabit the high elevation public land areas during the bowhunt and then early snowstorms often push elk onto private land prior to or during the rifle hunt. This is generally the case, but not always and not every bull moves off. The archery hunts are good and, with some research and hard work, hunters find success on the rifle hunts every year.
Late season hunts and private land: There are a few late season hunts that require fewer points to draw. Cold weather and locating elk on public land can be challenging. These types of hunts require some research, scouting and luck, but there are a few less obvious quality opportunities out there.
Wilderness/private land/public land: There are areas that are easier to draw that are largely wilderness. Some of those have public land outside of the wilderness. By hunting the edges or if inclement weather pushes elk out of the wilderness onto public USFS and BLM lands you could experience a great hunt. Other areas are a mix of public and private land. It will require some research into how to access public land and, perhaps, a bike or willingness to pack in a long way, but there are some opportunities there.
B&C entry trends for Wyoming elk
Areas listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Areas in this table are included if any part of the area is found within the county. Data provided below courtesy of the Boone and Crockett Club.
Wyoming's top Boone & Crockett producing
|Park||18||51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 66|
|Sweetwater||5||24, 30, 31, 32, 98, 99, 100, 102, 105, 107, 124|
|Teton||3||60, 67, 68, 70, 71, 72, 73, 75, 77, 78, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 93, 95|
|Fremont||3||24, 25, 27, 28, 47, 48, 67, 68, 69, 70, 81, 83, 95, 99, 100, 127, 128|
|Carbon||2||7, 10, 11, 13, 15, 16, 21, 22, 24, 108, 110, 111, 114, 118, 124, 125, 128, 130|
|Natrona||2||7, 16, 19, 22, 23, 33, 48, 120, 122, 128, 129|
|Sheridan||2||2, 36, 37, 38, 129|
Wyoming's top Boone & Crockett producing
|Big Horn||1||39, 40, 41, 45, 54, 66|
|Park||1||51, 53, 54, 55, 56, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 66|
The points system
Wyoming works on a preference point system, not a bonus point system. You obtain a preference point for every year you apply and are unsuccessful in the draw. You can buy a point from July 1 to Oct. 31 if you failed to apply in the initial draw. An elk point will cost a nonresident $50. The maximum number of points for elk is 13 going into 2019. Keep in mind that the youth preference point fee for elk is $10. This is a great state to start building points for a young hunter. See more information on Youth Application Strategy for Wyoming here.
- Total number of elk preference points in 2019: 338,854
- Total number of elk preference points in 2018: 292,800
- Total Number of elk preference points in 2017: 250,540
To give it some perspective at $50 per point that equals $16,942,700.00 in point/revenue over the past 13 years.
There was a 13.6% increase in total preference points from 2018 to 2019. In the last two years, there has been a total of 26.1% increase in total preference points.
Residents: The Wyoming residents draw process is 100% random for deer, elk and antelope. There are no preference points for residents. If unsuccessful in the draw, residents can purchase OTC general elk licenses starting in July. They could also include the general hunt as a second or third choice on their application and will be guaranteed to draw it.
Managing points and expectations
There are a few factors to consider when you apply for elk in Wyoming.
1.) You cannot return a license. Make sure that the hunt you apply for is indeed one that you are willing to burn your points on.
2.) You’ll need to decide if you want to apply in the regular or special draw. The best hunts have odds that are very nearly the same and, in some cases, the odds of the regular license are better. This was the case for the Area 63 Type 2 tag this past year. Examine the Draw Odds to determine if going into the special draw is worth the extra cost of the license. In most cases, the extra cash can help you draw a year sooner.
3.) The number of preference points in Wyoming continues to swell. More people are applying and buying points every year. Wyoming allows up to six applicants to apply on one application. Preference points are averaged for the group and Wyoming will over-allocate tags to accommodate a party. If you have very few points, it’s worth combining in a party application with someone who has more if you can convince that hunter to do so.
4.) If you take a swing for the fences approach, make sure you apply for a hunt that has a random license available. You can determine that by reviewing the standalone Draw Odds. If there is at least some percentage chance all the way to the zero point level there is a permit available in the random draw.
5.) We often get asked if the general season license is available as a second choice for nonresidents. It has not been and will not be in 2019 in either the regular or special draw. If you want to draw the general season hunt make sure you apply for it as your first choice.
I have 0 points. What can I expect?
A brand new applicant has some decisions to make before applying. If your objective is just to hunt, consider applying for an antlerless tag. The full price antlerless elk Type 4 and 5 tags have much better odds—many of which can be drawn as a second choice, which allows you to build points and still hunt.
If you want a chance to hunt a big bull, perhaps take a swing for the fences approach. Apply for a good hunt as your first choice and look to apply in the reduced price draw for an antlerless Type 6 or 7 license. You’ll have a chance to draw a great tag in the initial drawing and, if you are unsuccessful, you’ll get a point. Then, in the reduced price draw, you’ll have another chance to draw an antlerless license at a cheaper price.
If you're looking for a chance to hunt any bull, review the standalone draw odds for the best odds/hunt that makes sense for you. If may require some research or, perhaps, a guide. For example, Area 60 Type 9 has 100% odds with no points. It has awesome trophy potential, good harvest success and can be a phenomenal guided hunt. Finally, consider the general season hunt. Random odds with no points are 14% (regular draw) and 29% (special draw).
What can I do with 3 to 8 points?
With three points you should strongly consider the general season license. General season areas have good elk populations and decent trophy potential. With over 50 general season areas and the opportunity to hunt both archery and rifle hunts, the general season is tough to beat with three or four points.
There are also many other options between three and eight points—many of which can provide an awesome guided hunt like Areas 55, 56, 59 and 60 Type 9 archery. Areas 36, 37, 41 or 67/68/69 might be intriguing to a DIY bowhunter. Areas 33, 34 Type 1 could be good with research and time to hunt. There are also several hunts—Areas 96, 97, 98, 99 or 25/27—that could be good within this point range.
It’s important to note that if you are within this range and holding out for the top hunts in the state, it’s unlikely that you will catch up. Be sure to check out the detailed Draw Odds pages of each hunt you are considering to see how many applicants are ahead of you. This is a new feature for 2019 on goHUNT. You can always apply and hope to draw a random license, but realize you might never draw. For example, Area 100 Type 1; moving into 2019, there would be 254 applicants with eight to 13 points. Typically, there are six preference point licenses. At this rate, if you had eight points, you could be waiting 42 years to draw!
What can I expect with 9 or 10 points?
An applicant within this point range has some good options. Among some of the best are 7-1, 54-2, 54-9, 64-2, 61-1, 19-1,19-2 and, perhaps, 118-1, 120-1, 45-1 or 45-9. There are others also; some may yield more public land to hunt or, perhaps, better trophy potential. Use Filtering 2.0 and the standalone Draw Odds pages to find hunts that meet your objective that is available in that point range. Some may require you to jump into the special draw, but it could be worth it.
Within this point range is where applicants really have to begin to analyze the detailed Draw Odds pages to see how many applicants might be out ahead of them and adjust accordingly. For example, an applicant with 10 points that have been trying to draw a regular 31-1 license might think they are getting close. In reality, generally, three licenses are available and with 96 applicants either ahead or in the same pool as them, they could be waiting 32 years to draw.
Don’t waste your points! Do the research and go hunting!
What can I expect with 11 or 13 points?
Unfortunately, at 11 or 13 points your options of very similar to the options in the nine to 10 point range. A couple hunt areas that do jump out are 55-1 and 63-2; both would likely require a guide. Area 55 does have a small portion of the hunt area outside wilderness. Area 64-2 or 24-1 in the special draw could be interesting. If you have 13 points, consider Areas 32-1, 58-1, 61-2 or 63/64-1. Those are not guaranteed but have the best odds for maximum point holders. If you are committed to stay the course with hunts in Areas 100, 124, 22, 30, 31, 56 and 59, then, at least check the detailed draw odds pages and see if the wait is going to be worth it. Odds are very low for those—even with maximum points.