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Idaho OTC Elk Tags: Hurry or Be Left Out

Closeup photo of ElkThere is no other state in the Western US comparable to Idaho when it comes to providing you the opportunity to go elk hunting every year, using OTC (over-the-counter) tags. However, as controlled-hunt tags in neighboring states become increasingly difficult to draw, the demand for Idaho OTC tags has been increasing also. An example of this is the nonresident Salmon B elk tags, which sold out this year in just 3 days (Dec. 1–3, 2019), and resident tags sold out within a week of that. Most elk zones in Idaho have limited quotas for OTC tags, which are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Elk tags for the Middle Fork Zone, which includes Unit 27 where Wild Idaho Outfitters operates, are limited to 174 nonresident A tags and 267 nonresident B tags. Last year (2019) the Middle Fork nonresident B tags sold out by June 7th, and all nonresident elk tags in Idaho, including Middle Fork A tags, were gone by August 16th. (Resident tags did not sell out.) This year, Idaho Fish & Game expects nonresident Middle Fork tags to sell out much earlier.

In the past, hunters have often held off purchasing OTC tags until they have seen their controlled-hunt draw results. The controlled-hunt draw results for Wyoming and Idaho come out June 20th and July 10th, respectively, which is cutting it close for buying OTC tags if you don’t draw. Keep in mind though, general OTC elk tags can be exchanged for controlled-hunt tags if they are drawn in July. This is an important strategy to consider: if you buy an OTC elk tag early, you can still apply for an Idaho controlled hunt tag, and if you don’t draw you still get to go elk hunting with your OTC tag. If you do draw, you just swap out your OTC tag for the draw tag. With the increasing demand for Idaho OTC tags, I would highly recommend keeping a close eye on the number of remaining tags available, if you want to ensure a spot in the woods this fall. You can do this by checking, and searching for, “nonresident tag quotas”. If you get left out and do not obtain an elk tag before they’re gone, there is also the option to purchase Outfitter Set-Aside tags until August 1st. Be vigilant, quick, and decisive.

Good hunting.

Joe Cavanaugh

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