Premium Content

Become an Insider member to gain access to this article,
plus all of GOHUNT's research and mapping tools.

Learn more about Insider

APPLICATION STRATEGY 2021: Washington Bighorn Sheep, Moose, and Mountain Goat

Main writer: Jordan Christensen of The Draw



If you’re a nonresident applying for bighorn sheep, moose and/or mountain goats in Washington, you need to know that it is rather expensive, has atrocious odds and it is often argued that these are some of the worst applications in the country. Seriously. They are all brutal odds. Yet, the rigid management strategy of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has led up to these tags being some of the best in the country for each species. If you are a true application warrior, then it’s a drug you can’t stop yourself from. And if you were to draw a line in the sand, this may be the state to consider.

Note: The all species application deadline for Washington is May 26, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PST. You can apply online here.

Total bighorn sheep permits for 2021

Ram permits30
Juvenile ram permits2
Ewe permits57
Youth ewe permits12
Hunters with disabilities ewe permits3
Hunters with disabilities juvenile ram permits2

Total mountain goat permits for 2021

Mountain goat either-sex permits17
Conflict reduction permits25

Total moose permits for 2021

Bull moose permits105
Antlerless moose permits24
Youth only antlerless1
65 and over antlerless3
Disabled hunter — antlerless only2

New for 2021

  • There are now 25 conflict reduction permits available for mountain goats in the East Olympic Mountains.
  • The season dates for all mountain goat hunts have changed and now run Sept. 1 to Nov. 30 except in Mount Saint Helens South and Mt. Margaret Backcountry 
  • There are now ram permits available in the Wenaha Game Management Unit (GMU) 169 as well as Mountain View Unit 172

What is the definition of a juvenile ram?

A juvenile ram is defined as a male bighorn sheep having at least one "unbroomed" horn that does not extend past an imaginary line beginning at the point on the animal’s forehead where the front of the horn base adjoins the skull and continues downward in a posterior direction through the posterior edge of the eye. A "broomed" horn is defined as a sheep horn that has been broken, splintered, frayed or rubbed in the wild, thus shortening its length and disrupting its natural taper. See the diagram below for the legal definition of a juvenile ram.

Legal definition of a juvenile ram

State information

To view important information and an overview of Washington’s rules/regulations, the draw system, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map, check out our State Profile. You can also view the Species Profiles to access historical and statistical data to help you identify trophy areas.


Important dates and information

  • The application deadline is May 26, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PST.
  • You can apply online here.
  • Results for deer, elk, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, moose and turkey will be available by the end of June.
    • It is your responsibility to check your draw results.
    • Hunting licenses for mountain goat, moose or bighorn sheep do not have to be purchased unless you are selected for a special hunt permit. If selected, you must send a check or money order for the appropriate fee, to the WDFW's headquarters office by the deadline established by WDFW (15 day minimum) or the permit will become void and will be offered to an alternate. You may also purchase using a credit card by calling (866) 246-9453.
  • Washington does not refund any licenses or permits if the season has been scheduled and the hunter could have participated in the season or hunt regardless of whether the hunter did in fact participate or not. 
  • Hunter orange and/or fluorescent hunter pink is required for anyone hunting in an area open to modern firearm general deer or elk seasons.

Information for first-time applicants in Washington

If you've never applied in Washington before, you will need to have WDFW verify your hunter education information before you can apply. First step is creating your WILD ID account. Then after that, you will need to get your hunter education information added to your account, but to do that takes some time. So be sure to plan ahead.

There are three ways to add your Hunter’s Education certificate to your profile:

  • Send a photocopy of your certificate to with your WILD ID or name and date of birth
  • Fax a photocopy of your certificate to 360-902-2466 with your WILD ID or name and date of birth
  • Visit any DFW dealer location with your certificate and the dealer can enter the certificate into your WILD account.

Antlerless moose/ewe bighorn sheep

There are unique applications for antlerless moose and ewe bighorn sheep. These are set aside for normal adult applicants, youth, disabled and senior applicants. Unfortunately, these still have rough drawing odds and applicants should expect a long wait to draw one of these hunts.

See resident antlerless moose draw odds here

See nonresident antlerless moose draw odds here

See resident ewe bighorn sheep draw odds here

See nonresident ewe bighorn sheep draw odds here

Mandatory hunt reporting

Washington is a mandatory hunter reporting state. If you do not submit your report, you will be charged a $10 penalty and this penalty must be paid before you can buy a license the following year. 

By Jan. 31, 2022 11:59 p.m. PST, hunters must report their hunting activity for each special permit acquired and each deer, elk, bear, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and turkey tag purchased in 2021 even if you did not hunt. For each transport tag, you will owe a general season hunting activity report and you will also owe a hunting activity report for each big game special permit awarded. You cannot submit this information by mail or email.

If your season extends beyond Jan. 31, 2022, the hunter report is due within 10 days of the close of that season.

You will receive a confirmation number for each successfully submitted hunter report. Sending in tags or licenses to WDFW does not fulfill the reporting requirements.

Cost to apply

Washington does not require the purchase of a hunting license in order to apply for bighorn sheep, moose or mountain goat. They do not require the money up front for the cost of the permit at the time the application is submitted. Only the application fee is required in order to have your chance to draw. 

Resident big game annual license cost

Big game special hunt permit applicationsCost
Special hunt permit application — quality$13.70
Big game special hunt licenses and tagsCost
Special moose license and tag$332.00
Special mountain goat license and tag$332.00
Special bighorn sheep license and tag$332.00

Nonresident big game annual license cost

Big game special hunt permit applicationsCost
Special hunt permit application
(price per application)
Big game special hunt licenses and tagsCost
Special moose license and tag$1,652.00
Special mountain goat license and tag$1,652.00
Special bighorn sheep license and tag$1,652.00

Current snowpack conditions

Washington NRCS 2021

Washington snow water equivalent update as of April 28, 2021. Source: National Resources Conservation Service

Current drought conditions

Washington Drought Monitor 2021

The Washington draw system

One of the biggest pluses about applying in Washington is that there is no quota for nonresidents. What this means is that every applicant has the same chance at drawing regardless of where you live. 

When applying, you will first need to purchase the applications you are interested in submitting. Once you have purchased them you will then need to go into the applications and select the hunts you are interested in drawing. 

Unlocking Washington's system

The points system

Washington’s point system is what I would call a pure bonus point system. Hunts are not awarded to applicants with the most number of points, they are awarded randomly to hunters in a way similar to a bucket of raffle tickets. 

In Washington, they square your points, so the more points you have, the more tickets you have in the bucket each year. You are awarded a point by purchasing an application, so you will have one point or chance in the bucket during the first year you apply. If you were to apply for 10 years, you would have 100 tickets in the bucket for your previous applications as well as one point for that year's application, which means you would go into the draw with 101 tickets that year. 

At face value, this is a great system as it gives exponential value to unsuccessful applicants. The problem with this is that the system is now very mature and going into its 29th year. For 2021, applicants could have 28 points going into the application period. When squared, this means you would go into the hat with 785 tickets and, yet, if there were 250 applicants with five points, this group of applications would have 1,250 tickets in the bucket not to mention all of the applicants with points above and below five points. As you can see, your tickets don’t have much presence in the draw when considering all other applicants.

This is why Washington is a hard state to commit to year after year. 

Points are accumulated in each species category. 

The purchase of an application results in one accrued point for the category purchased.

When a hunter is selected, the hunter's point total for that category drops to zero.

Everyone has a chance to be selected, but those with more points have a better chance of being awarded a permit. Points cannot be transferred between individuals or categories.

Multiple hunt choices

For moose, you can purchase and submit up to five moose permit applications (one permit application per hunt category, for which you qualify). Up to four hunt choices may be selected per category.

For moose, mountain goat and bighorn sheep, you can apply for a maximum of four hunt choices per application. You do not have to apply for more than one hunt. If more than one hunt choice is requested, each hunt will be considered in the drawing in order of the priority you chose. One thing to note is that all of your choices will be looked at before moving onto the next person.

If a youth is awarded a youth permit and turns 16 before purchasing the hunting license and tag, the full resident or nonresident price will be charged. Permit price is determined by the youth's age at the date of the special permit purchase. No refunds or exchanges will be made for those purchasing a hunting license for mountain goat, moose or bighorn sheep.

Party applications

Decide if you want to apply as an individual, as the leader of a group or as a member of a group. If you want to apply as a member of a group, you must choose a group leader. The leader of the group must submit all group members and the hunt choices at the time of submission. 

When applying as a group, each member must be eligible for the hunts that the group is applying for. If a group application is selected for permits, all of the hunters in the group receive a permit and each hunter can take an animal. The points accumulated by each hunter in the group are averaged and applied to the group application. If the number of permits available in a hunt category is less than the maximum group size, then the maximum group size is equal to the number of permits.

The maximum group sizes for each species category are as follows:

  • 8 - Deer and elk
  • 2 - Bear and mountain lion
  • 2 - Goat, moose and bighorn sheep
  • 4 - Turkey
  • 2 - Multi-season deer and elk

Note: We strongly suggest avoiding a group application on bighorn sheep, moose and mountain goat as the hunts are hard enough to draw already and having a party application will decrease your odds even more and limit the number of choices available as you would need to apply for only hunts with at least two permits available. 

Washington 2021 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep breakdown

There are currently 12 hunts available for bighorn sheep in Washington this year. Each of these hunts are for California bighorn sheep as the only hunters who are allowed to hunt Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep are either the auction or the raffle tag winners. 

The state currently has approximately 1,400 bighorn sheep that are spread across 17 different herds. This does not include the herds that are being managed by tribal governments. Six of these herds are Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep while the remaining 11 are California bighorn sheep. 

In 2013, a severe outbreak caused considerable mortality in the Tieton herd near Naches. Concern about the potential spread of disease to the adjacent Cleman Mountain herd prompted WDFW to remove this herd entirely.

Horn marking requirements:

A hunter who kills or possesses a bighorn sheep ram taken in Washington must present the horns for inspection and marking within 10 days to a WDFW regional or district office or a location designated by a department representative. Call a WDFW regional or district office to schedule an appointment with a biologist for horn marking. A WDFW employee will permanently mark an identification number on one of the horns. Inspection and marking do NOT substitute for mandatory hunter reporting. For bighorn sheep, both are required.

Hunters are also required to submit a harvest report online regardless if they were successful or not. 

The goHUNT hit list units for Washington bighorn sheep

Washington has brutal odds no matter how you apply. However, Unit 18 is considered the top unit in the state and has been for a number of years. Unit 14 holds its own most years and is one heck of a consolation prize. Regardless, if a ram is a ram, you may want to select some of the less notable units as your bottom two choices. It's best to weigh your options and then cross-reference your choices on Filtering 2.0 and our standalone Draw Odds.

Top hit list units to consider for 165” or better bighorn sheep

Ram:ewe ratioPublic land

How to uncover hidden gems

Unfortunately, as it is in any state and with any bighorn sheep application, there really are no secrets. However, if any bighorn sheep hunt will do, you may consider applying for the juvenile ram hunts as there are fewer applicants applying for those hunts than any of the others.

Managing points and expectations

Applying for bighorn sheep in Washington isn’t about the odds, it's about the availability of a bighorn sheep application. You are an application warrior. You need a Rocky/California bighorn ram for your slam and the thought of a bighorn sheep draw happening without your name in the hat is a pill too hard to swallow no matter the odds. The long and short is this: you are going to start at less than 1% and, even if you have applied since the very beginning (almost 30 years now), you will still have less than a 1% chance of drawing. Yet, you can’t win if you don’t play and if you need a California or a Rocky Mountain ram, then you need to get your name in this hat. Someone has to draw, right?

Find your resident bighorn sheep ram draw odds here

Find your nonresident bighorn sheep ram draw odds here

Washington's 2021 moose breakdown

There are 11 different moose units in Washington. Nine of them offer bull moose permits. Many of these units offer two different hunts — an early and late — for a total of 14 different hunt codes to apply for if you are looking to hunt bull moose. Six of these hunt codes have 10 or more moose tags available. The Selkirk Unit in the far northwest corner of the state has the most permits with 15 up for grabs in this year's draw. These are very hard tags to draw, but the age class across most all units is excellent. If you are lucky enough to draw one of these incredible hunts, you are in for some of the very best Shiras moose hunting in the country. 

Only one moose may be taken per hunter during the hunting season. If you choose to apply for an antlerless hunt, you are strongly discouraged from harvesting a cow with a calf anywhere near them. With wolf predation and other factors, the WDFW wants to give moose the best chance possible and harvesting cows with calves has a major impact on the health of the herd. 

Washington bull moose are once-in-a-lifetime. If you have previously taken an antlered bull moose in Washington, you cannot apply again; however, you could apply for cow moose or raffle/auction permits.

Submission of moose incisor tooth

If you are successful in harvesting a moose in Washington you are required to send an incisor tooth within 60 days. You will be provided a pre-paid postage envelope so you can return the tooth. Returning the tooth helps the WDFW in managing the moose populations and determining the age of the moose that are harvested. If you would like to check the age of the moose you harvested, you can visit the following website here.

Results are typically available approximately six months after the hunting season.

How to uncover hidden gems

Unfortunately, like most once-in-a-lifetime hunts in the country, there really are not any “hidden gems.” If you are looking to hunts sooner rather than later, you may have a little more luck applying for an antlerless permit, but even with 25 points, the easiest hunt to draw only had a 3.5% chance of drawing.

Managing expectations

Similar to bighorn sheep, this is not about applying because you have any real expectation. Applying for a moose in Washington is a wreckless waste of money most of the time, but if you are hopelessly addicted to the game or a resident of Washington, it is a Shiras moose application, it is likely some of the best moose hunting in the lower 48 and you can’t win if you don’t play. Swing for the fence and apply for what you believe to be the best hunts in the state and keep your fingers crossed. Someone is going to win. 

Find your resident bull moose draw odds here

Find your nonresident bull moose draw odds here

Washington’s 2021 mountain goat breakdown

Near the turn of the century it was possible to take two mountain goats annually in the Evergreen State. Things have been a bit of a roller coaster since then and, now, there are only 17 total permits up for grabs in these once-in-a-lifetime hunts. The conflict reduction hunts offer 25 more opportunities for hunters and does not have any bearing on your once-in-a-lifetime points or drawing odds. These are extremely hard permits to draw — some of the hardest in the county.

To be a legal mountain goat, a hunter can take a goat of either sex, but the horns must be 4” or longer (except where otherwise permitted by a WDFW rule even if permits are drawn for more than one mountain goat hunt category). 

Along with that, WDFW strongly encourages hunters to refrain from shooting nannies even though nannies can be legally taken by permit holders. Mountain goat populations are very sensitive to the removal of adult females. Applicants drawn for a permit may only purchase their license after successfully completing the WDFW online mountain goat gender identification training.

With the recommended avoidance of shooting nannies, WDFW also encourages permit holders to avoid taking a radio-collared mountain goat.


All but two of the normal mountain goat opportunities are now set and will run Sept. 1 through Nov. 30. The other units — Mt. Margaret Backcountry and Mt. St. Helens South — has seasons set for Oct. 1 through Nov. 30. 

The conflict reduction hunts all have different seasons that range from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30. Each are approximately a month long, but span different times. 

All permits are considered any weapon.

Mandatory inspection for mountain goat kill

A hunter who kills a mountain goat in Washington must present the head with horns attached for inspection within 10 days to a WDFW regional or district office or a location designated by a department representative. Call a WDFW regional or district office to schedule an appointment with a biologist for inspection. Inspection does not substitute for mandatory hunter reporting. For mountain goats, both are required. After inspection, the head/horns of a lawfully harvested mountain goat in Washington may be kept for personal use.

Managing expectations

There are 12 different hunt choices to choose from when considering where to apply in Washington. There are four hunt choices that have two or more permits available. The Avalanche Gorge Unit has the most permits up for grabs with a total of three. Given how hard these permits are to draw, it is a good idea to apply for the most number of permits you can when choosing which hunts to apply for. This will keep your name in the running further into the process and will likely give you the best chances. Remember that these are extremely hard permits to draw, so if you can’t help yourself — and the idea of a draw exists that you can’t imagine having your name in the hat — then swing away. If you actually draw one of these as a nonresident you will surely cement your name in the application warrior Hall of Fame. 

Find your resident mountain goat draw odds here

Find your nonresident mountain goat draw odds here


Free Trial
INSIDER Free Trial
Free Sample Unit Profile