Understanding the Idaho General and Controlled Hunt

Understanding the Idaho Draw

Idaho is one of the most rugged states in the US, home to a healthy predator population and, yet, consistently has some of HuntScore's top ranking units for both our HuntScore and FreezerScore. Idaho also has one of the most generous tag systems in that they have both a general season and controlled hunt season. Below we’ll break down how both the general season and controlled hunts work. The general season is more like a traditional over the counter system wereas controlled hunt tags work like a typical draw system.


General Season

Idaho general season tags are available to residents and nonresidents alike. Both residents and nonresidents can purchase general season tags over the counter for a variety of species. However, there is a quota or cap on the number of nonresident licenses available for Idaho general season deer units and Idaho general season elk zones to limit the density of hunters and to increase the odds of a quality hunt.

Idaho Over-The-Counter (General Season) Opportunities

Species Resident NonResident
Antelope
Bear
Mountain Lion
Mule Deer & Whitetail Deer *
Elk *
Wolf
Sheep
Moose
Goat
* - Capped or Quota, a fixed number of tags are sold on first come basis


Idaho general season tags are available to residents and nonresidents alike. Both residents and nonresidents can purchase general season tags over the counter for a variety of species. From the table above we can see 6 species have general tags available. However, there is a quota or cap on the number of nonresident licenses available for each deer unit and elk zone to limit the density of hunters and to increase the odds of a quality hunt.

Some changes instituted for the 2020 season included limiting the number of nonresident general season licenses to not less than 10% of the rolling 5 year average of participation. The practical impact of this for 2021 was most quotas were set between 10-15% of the rolling average participation number for the unit or zone.

Ultimately, this leads to a system where nonresident general season tags for the desirable units sell out quickly. General season tags for the following year go on sale in December of the current year. So nonresidents must plan ahead. Many desirable units and zones will sell out the quota within the first day or week. So nonresident hunters need to be sure to purchase their general season tags early or wait for the controlled hunt application period.


General season tags offer a variety of methods and dates to pursue game. Often an additional archery permit tag can be purchased and many general season tags allow the taking of either male or female game. Hunting seasons for each sex may have different dates though. Dates may also vary based on the weapon or sex of the species being hunted.

Below is an example of methods of take and allowed sex for a general season deer tag for Unit 15. You can see that this particular tag allows for two methods of take, either sex can be taken and either a mule deer or whitetail deer can be harvested. Talk about opportunity!

Method Sex Dates
Archery Either Aug 30th - Sept 30th
Any Weapon Either Oct. 10th - Nov. 3rd


Controlled Season

Idaho’s controlled hunt permits are a true random draw. Irrespective of how many times you have applied in the past, an applicant in the random draw receives only 1 entry unlike many other states. This means every applicant in their respective residency pool has an equal chance of being drawn. Nonresident applicants are limited to no more than 10% of available tags.

Note that this does not guarantee that 10% of tags are available to nonresidents. If 10 tags were available for a controlled hunt and the first 10 applicants randomly selected were all residents, then zero tags would go to nonresidents.

Below are the species that have controlled opportunities for residents and nonresidents. Idaho controlled hunt opportunities cover multiple manners of take and maybe for a single sex or either sex so be sure to review regulations for each particular controlled hunt.


Idaho Controlled Season Opportunities

Species Resident NonResident
Antelope
Bear
Mountain Lion
Mule Deer & Whitetail Deer
Elk
Wolf
Sheep
Moose
Goat

Some Particulars

For the controlled hunt, if you apply in a group, the entire group receives a single application number. If that application is drawn, everyone in the group is drawn. If the group application has at least one nonresident applicant, the entire application is considered to be a nonresident application. So your friend in Idaho has to be a really good friend :)

A subtle nuance for anyone wanting to hunt Moose, Sheep or Goat in Idaho is they can only submit one controlled hunt application for one species...period. So submitting a Moose application means you cannot submit any other controlled hunt application for any other species. You can buy a general season or leftover or depredation license but not another regular controlled hunt application.

Wrapping Up

Idaho has one of the more simple draw processes of many western states. There are unlimited over the counter tags for residents (notwithstanding harvest limits) and capped or quota limits for over the counter tags for nonresidents. There is also a controlled hunt or draw opportunity in Idaho with a simple random drawing. Plenty of opportunity exists for both residents and nonresidents to hunt Idaho.


Posted: September 26, 2021

Written By: Matt Habiger

About: Matt grew up running around the oaks, pines and birches in central Minnesota. He spent his youth hunting, fishing and riding bmx. For better or worse he's a restless hunter, prone to wandering the reaches of public land. Many youthful days were spent dreaming about chasing elk, deer and bear across mountain sides with a butterscotch maple Interarms 300 Weatherby from his father. 25 years later he still has the same dreams they just happen to come true every Fall and Spring.

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