Best Idaho General Deer Units and Elk Zones

Idaho General Seasons

Idaho's general OTC elk and deer tags for 2021 go on sale Dec. 1st. These tags offer an opportunity for those still fueled by the crushing heartbreak or joyful success of the current season to start obsessing about the next year. However, rather than spend all Thanksgiving researching which general zone or GMU to buy a tag for, HuntScore has done the heavy lifitng. So read this article, pick a zone and/or GMU and apply. Then spend the next 8-10 months e-scouting, exercising, hitting the range and dialing in your gear! Also, be on the look out for our "Follow" feature in Spring 2021. It will allow you to get notifications pushed to you about the unit(s) or tag(s) that peak your interest.

Note that a big change for nonresident tags in 2021 occured. Quota caps on elk zones were adjusted and deer tag sales are now restricted to a game management unit instead of a zone. So we've broken our analysis out accordingly and provide more recommendations for deer units than elk. This change was implemented to spread out nonresident hunters.

Using the last two decades of harvest data published by Idaho Game and Fish, we forecast 2021 harvest statistics using an ARIMA time series models. Most folks are probably not familiar with this technique but suffice it to say these models take a historical trend, apply some fancy mathematics and produce predictions. ARIMA models tend to perform well and are a staple for many forecasting tasks.

We generate forecasts for total harvest, hunter success, hunter days and % of harvest meeting an antler point threshold. With our predictions in hand, we normalize each variable on a 0 to 100 scale within the species (elk, deer) and manner of take (archery, rifle) and weight the factors according to the following formula:

score = total_harvest*.2 + success*.4 + days*.15 + points*.25

This yields a score between 0 and 100 for each zone or GMU that is weighted toward success but accounts for the 3 other factors as well.

If you don't like our approach, we provide time series plots of historical harvest data for Idaho general zone elk and gmu deer so you can compare zones/units to your heart's content. However our Top 10 recommendations for each season and manner of take are in the tables below. Good luck with selecting an Idaho general season tag.

Top 10 Idaho 2021 Archery Deer GMUs

Unit Score 2021 Predicted Success
2 65.0 17.3%
1 64.0 12.3%
40 62.0 30.1%
15 61.0 30.2%
24 60.0 26.7%
63A 59.0 31.0%
28 58.0 24.8%
11A 55.0 17.4%
63 49.0 11.8%
43 49.0 16.8%

Top 10 Idaho 2021 Firearm Deer GMUs

Unit Score 2021 Predicted Success
10A 78.0 48.6%
11A 73.0 52.3%
30 72.0 46.3%
15 70.0 45.5%
14 65.0 36.0%
51 64.0 29.9%
1 64.0 23.0%
28 63.0 33.3%
8A 63.0 31.3%
17 60.0 38.8%

Top 10 Idaho 2021 Archery Elk Zones

Unit Score 2021 Predicted Success
Diamond Creek 86.0 22.5%
Pioneer 65.0 11.3%
Sawtooth 62.0 19.9%
Brownlee 58.0 19.4%
Island Park 56.0 16.6%
Beaverhead 56.0 17.8%
Panhandle 52.0 6.4%
Smoky - Bennett 43.0 10.0%
South Hills 41.0 11.3%
Snake River 40.0 20.8%

Top 10 Idaho 2021 Firearms Elk Zones

Unit Score 2021 Predicted Success
Weiser River 68.0 20.4%
Panhandle 66.0 14.1%
Salmon 64.0 21.7%
Elk City 63.0 25.4%
Pioneer 60.0 17.7%
Dworshak 59.0 18.2%
Diamond Creek 57.0 19.5%
Tex Creek 53.0 17.3%
Brownlee 49.0 20.5%
Big Desert 49.0 25.1%

Historical Trends

Deer Archery General Harvest Trends


Overall harvests trends for Idaho general archery units are broken down below. Compare units by selecting any set of units.

Total Harvest

Success Rate

Days Per Hunter

% Harvested with 4 or 5+ Points

Deer Firearms General Harvest Trends


Overall harvests trends for Idaho general firearms units are broken down below. Compare units by selecting any set of units.

Total Harvest

Success Rate

Days Per Hunter (To Harvest)

% Harvested with 4 or 5+ Points

Elk Archery General Harvest Trends


Overall harvests trends for Idaho general elk zones are broken down below. Compare zones by selecting any set of zones.

Total Harvest

Success Rate

Days Per Hunter

% Harvested with 6+ Points

Elk Firearms General Harvest Trends


Overall harvests trends for Idaho elk general firearm zones are broken down below. Compare zones by selecting any set of zones.

Total Harvest

Success Rate

Days Per Hunter (To Harvest)

% Harvested with 4 or 5+ Points

Posted: November 25, 2020

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