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Idaho OTC Deer Tags: A Finite Resource

Mule Deer Buck Idaho has some great opportunities for hunting trophy mule deer with OTC tags on public land—as good as or better than anywhere in the West. General, OTC, any-weapon deer tags are valid in any game unit in the state which is not limited to controlled-hunt tags only. This includes the general deer seasons in Units 27 and 28 where Wild Idaho Outfitters and Castle Creek Outfitters operate.

Although a general, any-weapon deer tag is valid over much of the state, the dates of opening day and the length of the season fluctuate from one game unit to the next. Roughly speaking, you can hunt mule deer somewhere in Idaho with an OTC, any-weapon tag from September 15th to October 31st. There are also OTC, any-weapon whitetail-only deer tags for the northern game units, which extend deer season into December. Unit 27 general deer season opens during the last stages of velvet on September 15th, and carries through to the beginning of the rut on October 31st, (a full 6 weeks). Unit 28 general deer season runs from October 10th to October 24th (2 full weeks).

Idaho OTC deer tags are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, though nonresident tags are a finite resource, as they have a predetermined, state-wide quota. Resident tags do not have a cap. Nonresident, OTC deer tags that are not sold by August 1st may then be purchased as a “second deer tag” by residents or nonresidents, for the cost of a nonresident tag.

As controlled-hunt tags in neighboring states become increasingly difficult to draw, the demand for Idaho OTC tags has been increasing also. Last year for example, there were still 1,000 nonresident OTC deer tags available when I arrived in Challis, Idaho the third week of August. As I had come to Challis to guide hunts, not to hunt myself, I hesitated to buy to one. When I returned to the vendor to purchase a tag 3 days later, they had already sold out.

This year, Idaho Fish & Game expects nonresident OTC deer tags to sell out shortly after the leftover nonresident tags go on sale as “second-tags” the first of August, if not sooner. With the increasing demand for Idaho OTC tags, I would highly recommend keeping a close eye on the number of remaining tags available throughout the summer if you want to ensure an opportunity to hunt deer this fall. You can do this by clicking on this link: https://idfg.idaho.gov/tag/quotas-nonresident

Idaho also offers some OTC archery-only deer tags, although the selection is somewhat limited compared to some Western states. Worthy of mention is a Unit 28 archery-only deer season that runs the entire month of December. As far as I know this is a mostly untapped resource, waiting for serious bow hunters to explore. There are also archery-only deer seasons in the month of September for Units 36A, 36B, and 37, which border the Challis area.

Good hunting,

Joe Cavanaugh

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