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YOUTH APPLICATION STRATEGY — Take Your Kids Hunting Part 1

Trail Kreitzer's eldest son, Landon Kreitzer, with his cow elk he shot in Utah last year. Photo credit: Trail Kreitzer


It seems like years ago but, back in January of 2020, I asked my oldest boy, Landon, “What do you want to hunt this coming fall?” I have been applying for him and buying points in states where it made sense since he was 12, so when he enthusiastically stated, “I want to hunt bull elk!” I knew that I had some options for him. One of the best options was in Colorado. I applied for a permit for him, which he drew, and we backpack hunted for five days together during early October. We saw elk every single day, had many close encounters with rut crazed bulls and he even had chances at a couple. He did not tag out, but we had an experience I hope he will never forget. I know I won’t. 

The opportunities to get your kids out hunting in the West are probably better than you might think. In this series of articles, I will explore opportunities in the West for youth.


Your INSIDER account offers draw odds specifically for youth in states where those opportunities exist. To explore those odds, log into your INSIDER account, hover over the INSIDER icon in the header bar. When the pop-up box appears, select “draw odds.” Next, select the state you are researching and when the option for types of residency show, select the “youth” option. Finally, select the species you are interested in researching.


Age and hunter’s education

Youth may apply for a tag at age 11 if they will turn 12 years old before the end of the hunting season that they applied for. Youth cannot hunt with the license until they turn 12. Youth can apply for preference points if they turn 12 by Dec. 31 of the application year. Every youth will be required to complete a hunter’s education course before applying and they are required to carry a copy of their hunter’s education card with them in the field.

Colorado does have an apprentice license that provides a one-year waiver on the hunter’s education requirement. It can only be used once and allows for the purchase of hunting permits. The hunter must be accompanied by a mentor in the field. The apprentice must be at least 12 years old and the mentor must be at least 18 and have completed a hunter’s education course themselves. 

Permit transfer

An adult cannot transfer a hunting permit to a youth hunter in Colorado.

Weapon information

Bows must have a minimum of 35 lbs draw weight and cannot exceed a let-off percentage of more than 80%. Muzzleloader rules are more restrictive than most states: pelletized powder, smokeless powder, sabots and scopes are not permitted. Open or iron sites are mandatory.

Colorado youth application, license and permit costs (12 to 17 years old)

Qualifying License (annual small game)$1.26$1.26
Application Fee (per species)$7.00$9.00
Youth deer license$15.68$102.78
Youth elk license$15.68$102.78
Youth antelope license$15.68$102.78
*Note: All other license costs for youth are the same as they are for adults.

What makes Colorado a great state for youth hunting? 


Colorado is very generous to out-of-state youth hunters, especially when it comes to price. In order to apply in Colorado, an applicant must purchase a qualifying license. For both resident and nonresident youth, that license is $1.26. Each species that a youth applies for is an additional $9.00. There are no point fees for youth and you can apply for points only. The license costs are also very moderately priced (as you can see above): $102.78 for a deer, elk or antelope youth license. 

To give you an idea of what a good deal Colorado offers youth hunters, for my elk hunt in Colorado as an adult, the cost was $82.78 (qualifying license) + $9.00 (application fee) + $10.00 (habitat stamp) + $670.75 (either sex elk license) = $772.53. My son’s total cost for his elk hunt was $113.04. If my son drew a limited entry elk tag in our home state of Utah the cost would be more than double! 

One other hot tip concerning cost to apply. In Colorado, the $100 preference point fee for moose, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and mountain goat is not charged for youth applicants. Applicants need three points to be considered in the draw for those species. After you have those three points, you have the chance to apply and hope to get lucky and not pay for the point, or apply and pay for the point as well. Considering the nonresident odds with three points and 20 points in often a less than 2% difference it may not be worth paying the $100 point fee every year. The bottom line: build those three points (at a minimum) for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat for your youth before they have to pay the $100 point fee as adults.


Colorado doesn’t offer special youth buck or bull permits that are set aside specifically for them.

It does offer a minimum of 15% of limited hunting licenses for doe antelope, antlerless and either sex deer and antlerless elk for each unit for youth (12 to 17). Those permits are available through the state draw for each season and method of take. If youth enter more than one hunt code on their application, all codes listed must qualify for youth preference (i.e. doe, antelope, antlerless elk, doe or either sex deer).

Colorado also offers 15% of the archery deer permits — many of which are either sex — to youth applicants. Colorado does offer some extended hunts for youth. Youth who have an unfilled limited antlerless deer, antlerless elk or either sex elk license after their original seasons end can participate in any open rifle antlerless deer or elk hunt that begins after the last day of the season on their original license. Antlered licenses, over-the-counter (OTC) licenses and either sex rifle elk licenses cannot be converted to extend seasons. For more details, see the “youth hunting” section within the Colorado Parks and Wildlife regulations.

Perhaps the best opportunity in Colorado is in the sheer number of hunts they offer. Colorado is a true preference point state, meaning that the applicants who apply for any given hunt are given the permits regardless of whether you are an adult or youth. There are hunts for individuals with zero points on up to a couple decades worth of points. There really are great elk and deer hunts that can be drawn with zero up to three or four points and there are many OTC elk hunting opportunities. Colorado has archery, muzzleloader, second, third and fourth rifle seasons in most units and some even have early rifle hunts. Use your INSIDER account’s draw odds and Filtering 2.0 to find the best hunting opportunities for your youth and take them to Colorado. You will not regret it!


Age and hunter’s education

Besides the exception listed below, all youth hunters are required to have completed a hunter’s education course. Youth must turn 12 years of age by Jan. 16 of the license year to purchase or apply for licenses and hunt after Aug. 15 of the license year. Youth planning to archery hunt in Montana will have to complete a bowhunter’s education course or prove they have had a bowhunting permit in another state.

Youth ages 10 to 17 can hunt deer prior to taking hunter’s education under the apprentice hunter program. They must be accompanied by an adult at least 21 years old. Apprentice hunters cannot apply for limited quota draws, but can obtain a certificate and purchase some general licenses to hunt without completion of hunter education. See the “apprentice hunter” section of the rules and regulations for more information. 

It should be highlighted that you can purchase points for youth at six months old. All you need is the information required to establish a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) Automated License System (ALS) number/account and you can buy preference and bonus points for youth. It’s worth buying bonus points for your kids, which will increase their odds of drawing special limited quota permits when they are old enough to apply and draw permits. 

Permit transfer

An adult cannot transfer a hunting permit to a youth hunter in Montana.

Weapon information

Bows must be at least 28” in length. There is not a minimum poundage requirement, but let off can be no greater than 80%. Total arrow length must be at least 20” and weigh more than 300 grains.

Montana youth application, license and permit costs (12 to 17 years old)

Base hunting license$10.00$15.00
Special elk application fee$9.00$9.00
Special deer application fee$5.00$5.00
Preference point fee for general licenseNA$50.00
Bonus point fee for special license (deer, elk, antelope)$15.00$25.00
Bonus point fee for special license applications (moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat)$15.00$75.00
Youth deer general combo license$8.00$325.00
Youth elk general combo license$10.00$455.00
Big game combo (elk/deer) licenseNA$533.00
*Note: If you apply online there is a $1.25 convenience fee plus a 2.5% of total processing fee
**Note: All other license costs for youth are the same as they are for adults.

What makes Montana a great state for youth hunting? 


Montana is not the cheapest state for nonresident youth hunters, but similar to Idaho, it offers great opportunities at a decent price. Be aware you must front the fees for the deer, elk or big game combo license that you apply for. If you apply for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat, you will be charged the cost of the permit only if you draw. You will need to do some planning to capitalize on drawing for your youth, which I will cover in the next action, but nonresident youth can hunt for deer for under $400 and elk for under $500. Antelope are even cheaper at a cost of around $200. If your kids draw a moose, bighorn sheep or mountain goat permit, you will pay the full nonresident license fee. Point fees are also the same for youth and adults. 


Montana has a more complex application system than other western states. In essence, an applicant must apply for a general season combo license and then apply for special (limited quota) permits if they so choose. If they are unsuccessful in the special permit drawing(s), they can then choose to hunt the general season license if they drew it or choose to receive a refund for 80% of the cost of the general season license.

The general season hunts are great opportunities for you and your kids. The seasons are relatively long and there are many areas where hunters can hunt on the general season license. The general licenses are allocated on a preference point system, where 75% of the licenses are allocated to the nonresident applicants with the most points. The other 25% are randomly allocated. There are a couple ways to get your youth a general deer, elk or big game combo license. One, a nonresident youth general license can be obtained OTC if they have an immediate adult family member sponsor who also possesses a current general big game, deer or elk combo license. This means that an adult nonresident hunter can draw a general combo permit and then fill out an application at any MFWP office for their youth and obtain a license for them to hunt also. Adults should review the odds in their INSIDER account and make sure they have the preference points to draw. Up until recently, the general tags had 100% odds with no preference points, but that has since changed. 

Another option for youth is for them to draw a general combo license. In this scenario, you’ll want to buy preference points for your kid(s) a couple years before they turn 12 and you want to draw a license. You can only obtain up to two preference points without applying in the draw before points are purged so plan accordingly. 

The special hunting licenses work under a bonus point system. Bonus points are squared in the drawing and give applicants better odds of drawing those randomly allocated permits. As previously noted, you can buy bonus points for your kids at six months of age. We recommend buying bonus points for your kids for all species that you are interested in or can afford. This will increase the odds of them being able to draw the special permits when they are old enough to hunt and have completed hunter’s education.

Youth statewide two-day deer hunt

Montana allows two additional days to provide a hunting opportunity to encourage youth participation in deer hunting. Legally licensed hunters 10 to 15 years of age may hunt deer during the statewide two-day youth only deer season. This hunt is typically the two days prior to the opening of the general rifle season.

Cow elk

In many units, youth ages 12 to 15 can harvest a cow elk with their license without having to draw a cow elk permit. See the Montana hunt rules and regulations for specifics. 

Overall, Montana offers great opportunities to get your kids involved in hunting. It does take some planning and preparation, but you should be buying points and planning to take your kids hunting in Montana.


Age and hunter’s education

Idaho has a great approach to getting youth involved in hunting. The minimum age to purchase a hunting license is 10. A nine-year-old can purchase a hunting license to apply for a controlled permit if the youth will turn 10 prior to the hunt starting should they draw it. For those wondering what a controlled permit is, it means the permits are allocated through the state draw and there are a limited number of permits. Every youth needs to show proof that they have completed a certified hunter’s education course to purchase a hunting license. 

Permit transfer

An adult that draws a controlled tag for a big game animal can transfer that permit to their child or grandchild, excluding moose, bighorn sheep or mountain goat. The youth has to be under the age of 18 and must meet the other state requirements, which must be done prior to the opening day of the hunt. Only one controlled tag can be transferred to a youth per year.

Weapon information

Draw weight for bows must be at least 40 lbs and let-off cannot be over 85%. Bowhunters must also show that they have completed a bowhunter’s education course or evidence that they have held an archery permit in Idaho or another state. Muzzleloader requirements are much more primitive. Open or peep sights are permitted and only a flint, percussion cap or musket cap can be used. No scopes, sabots, pelletized powder or 209 primers are permitted.

Idaho youth application, license and permit costs (10 to 17 years old)

Annual Junior Hunting License$8.25$91.75
Junior Access Fee$2.00$4.00
Controlled app fee (deer, elk, antelope) per species$6.25$18.00
Controlled app fee (moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat)$16.75$45.75
Junior deer tag (OTC and controlled)$12.50$176.75
Junior elk tag (OTC and controlled)$18.75$299.75
Antelope tag (controlled)$36.50$342.75
Junior bear (OTC and controlled)$7.75$116.75
*Note: All other license costs for youth are the same as they are for adults.
**Note: There is also a 3% of the total transaction fee plus a $3.50 online purchase fee

What makes Idaho a great state for youth hunting? 


Up until this year, the best reason for taking your kids to Idaho to hunt would have been price, but that is no longer the case for nonresidents. Going into 2021, nonresident youth hunting costs increased tremendously, ranging from an increase of 391% up to 654%, depending on the item. Thanks Idaho, nothing like pinning parents wanting to take kids hunting with the highest cost increases! Everyone has to purchase a hunting license to apply for a controlled hunt or purchase an OTC hunting permit. Applicants must also front the entire cost of the permit if they apply for moose, bighorn sheep or mountain goat. Applicants can apply for controlled deer, elk and antelope or only one of the following species; moose, bighorn sheep or mountain goat. Applicants cannot apply for everything; either the three (deer, elk and antelope) or one of the others. Remember that Idaho does not have a point system. The drawing for controlled permits is completely random. 

While Idaho is by no means the most economically friendly option to take your kids hunting, it does still offer good opportunities to hunt. Idaho offers OTC hunts for elk and deer and, as you can see in the fees table above, you can still take a kid deer hunting for around $275 or elk hunting for about $400. Residents can do so for much cheaper. 


As indicated, the OTC hunts are good opportunities and, if you decide to pursue Idaho, it’s worth buying your youth the hunting license and the OTC tag of your choice when those open up for sale on Dec. 1, 2020. Then, I would also apply your youth in the drawing(s) later in the spring. If they draw a controlled deer or elk tag, you can then return the OTC tag and purchase the controlled tag that they drew. 

Idaho does offer “youth only” hunts in some general OTC areas as well as some controlled draw hunts that are set aside for youth. As you scroll through the Idaho regulations you will see those outlined in their season tables. Look for the 2021 Controlled Hunts Youth Only Deer, the 2021 Controlled Hunts Youth Only Antlerless and Either Sex Elk, and the 2021 Controlled Hunts Youth Only antelope tables in the upcoming rules booklet for the draw options. The youth only controlled hunts are not all that enticing, but there may be a few worth considering. Look at the regulations for more information. Otherwise, consider applying them for some of the better tags.

With the increased cost, Idaho is not the gem state it once was for youth hunters, but it still represents a great opportunity to hunt.


Age and hunter’s education

New Mexico is one of the best states to apply for your kids. There is no minimum age to apply for permits and hunt in New Mexico. New Mexico does require youth under the age of 11 to be accompanied by an adult. Youth must have completed a hunter’s education course to apply or purchase a license and carry it with them in the field if they are younger than 18.

Another opportunity is the mentored-youth hunting program. First-time hunters at least 10 years of age — but younger than 18 years of age — can pass an online quiz and receive a mentored youth hunt number. This number enables a youth to hunt under the supervision of an adult mentor, purchase a game hunting license and apply for or purchase hunting licenses for the following species: deer, turkey, javelina and small game. Mentors can be either a parent, guardian or an adult with parental consent, must be 18 years of age or older and must possess a valid hunting license. 

Permit transfer

Adults cannot transfer permits to their youth. The only exception is that an adult can transfer a permit to a youth who has been approved through a nonprofit wish-granting organization.

Weapon information

There is no minimum let off or draw weight for bowhunting. Modern muzzleloaders are also allowed, including in-line ignition, magnified scopes, sabots and belted bullets.

New Mexico youth application, license and permit costs (under 17 years old)

Youth hunting license$10.00$15.00
Application fee (per species)$7.00$13.00
Youth deer$29.00Not Issued
Youth deer (standard)$41.00$283.00
Youth deer (quality or high demand)$41.00$368.00
Youth elk (standard)$58.00$548.00
Youth elk (quality or high demand)$58.00$773.00
*Note: All other license costs (bighorn sheep, ibex, oryx, barbary sheep) for youth are the same as they are for adults.

What makes New Mexico a great state for youth hunting? 


New Mexico is very good to youth hunters. The cost of nonresident permits is not cheap, but the cost to apply is relatively inexpensive. You will need to buy your kids the youth hunting license ($15) and then you will pay a ($13) application fee per species. You have to front the cost of the permits you apply for — that is one major drawback — but you are refunded after the draw if you are unsuccessful for everything except the hunting license and application fees. If you want to apply in New Mexico — and I would highly recommend it — you’ll need to have the credit card room to front the cost of those permits. If you apply for deer, elk and antelope only you may front as much as $1,761. If you do draw a permit, the cost of those is high in comparison to other states; however, New Mexico does offer great hunting.


All permits are offered in the state drawing. New Mexico has a random draw for allocating permits. There is no preference or bonus point system, Every applicant has an equal chance of drawing. Residents are allocated 84% of the permits while 10% are allocated to the guided hunter pool and 6% are available to nonresidents. Each applicant will have their first, second, and third choices considered before moving to the next applicant. You can enter a fourth choice, but it will only be awarded if it’s leftover and, by entering a fourth choice, you are also agreeing that you will accept any leftover permit in the region of the state you apply for. We recommend applicants apply for the best hunt (worse odds) as their first choice and stagger towards good hunt (better odds) and decent hunt (best odds) as their second and third choices. 

New Mexico offers many hunts that are set aside specifically for youth. It’s one of the only states to do so. It’s worth noting that youth can also apply for and draw any permit. It used to be that the odds of drawing the youth only permits was better than the regular draw permits. That may not be the case for the hunts you are interested in. For example, a Unit 15 youth nonresident muzzleloader hunt had 2% odds. The regular nonresident odds for all muzzleloader hunts in Unit 15 were higher. The dates for the youth hunt are slightly better, but the point is that just because it’s a youth only hunt does not mean that the odds are automatically better. Review both the youth hunt odds and the regular odds to see what makes the most sense. You can mix and match your choices on your application. 

The nonresident odds for youth elk, antelope and ibex are not great. If you are willing to go on a guided hunt, you should consider applying your kids in the guide pool. Those youth hunt guide pool permits have better odds of drawing. Odds for mule deer and Coues deer youth hunts are generally pretty good. The mule deer trophy quality in New Mexico isn’t great, but those two species are your best chances to take your kid hunting in New Mexico. 

Resident youth have much better odds of drawing the youth permits. INSIDERS should use their account to pick hunts and apply accordingly. Another fantastic option for resident youth are the “encouragement elk licenses.” Resident youth who applied and were unsuccessful in the draw are eligible to purchase one of what has historically been almost 2,000 antlerless elk permits through the state online license system. Those permits typically go on sale in early July. You can find more information in the 2020-2021 rules and regulations booklet or by calling (888) 248-6866 after the initial draw is complete.

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