From Huntin’ Fool: Get a 2023 Idaho Tag Now

Idaho continues to offer many hunting opportunities for those willing to work hard on December 1st to pick up their tag. The demand for over-the-counter tags is off the charts, and we anticipate it only getting worse. All elk zone non-resident tags are under a quota system, and most zones will sell out on the first sales day on December 1st. Over-the-counter deer tags for non-residents are now restricted to all open seasons for one game management unit and are subject to a per unit quota. For this reason, all hunters should select their unit and purchase their 2023 tags on December 1st when the tags go on sale at 10:00 AM MST.

Although Idaho offers over-the-counter tag opportunities, non-residents are limited to a statewide overall quota for all general season hunts and a quota per unit/zone. Keep in mind that residents are not limited by an overall tag quota for deer and elk, but they are allowed to buy nonresident tags as second tags after August 1st if non-resident tags have not sold out.

If you intend to apply in the 2023 draw for controlled hunts, keep in mind that you can still purchase a non-resident general elk or deer tag on or after December 1, 2022, and you can later exchange the general tag for your controlled tag if you’re lucky enough to draw a controlled hunt. Sales open at 10:00 AM MST on December 1, 2022, online at the Idaho Fish and Game website. A virtual waiting room is provided for those who login to the website 15 minutes early. Sales also open at 10:00 AM MST on December 1, 2022, at Idaho Fish and Game offices and vendors.

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This article and the included tables are for over-the-counter tags for mule deer, whitetail deer, and elk. We have included this information for these tags to help in choosing over-the-counter hunts for the 2023 season. For further information on Idaho’s rules and regulations, refer to Idaho’s Big Game Regulations online. A supplement will be provided before December 1st that clearly shows the non-resident and outfitter tag allocations for 2023.

To purchase an over-the-counter tag online, go to or stop by any Idaho Fish and Game office or any of the hundreds of license vendors throughout the state. Typically, the website will be slow and has been known to crash on December 1st. Last year, most hunters had better luck getting their desired tags at the vendors.

Idaho Elk

Idaho is a great destination for over-the-counter elk hunters. Beginning with the 2021 season, over-the-counter non-resident tags were limited in all zones in addition to the statewide overall non-resident quota. The change increased demand for these tags, and many of the more popular hunts sold out last year within minutes of going on sale on December 1st. If you want a chance to pick up one of the better over-the-counter hunts for 2023, you will need to do so as soon as these tags go on sale at 10:00 AM MST. The information in the elk tables has been provided so you have some information about these hunts if you want to try to purchase a tag for the 2023 season. 

One thing to remember is that you can buy a tag and then if you draw a controlled elk tag, Idaho will swap your tag. Most zones have healthy elk populations. In the archery elk table, we listed the number of hunters who hunted in 2021 to give you an idea of the amount of hunting pressure you can expect in each zone. Idaho has plenty of over-the counter rifle elk tags, too, but these are often tough hunts in rough country. Many Idaho elk hunters kill bulls on a consistent basis with hard work and research. In the table, we listed all of the rifle elk zones with over-the-counter antlered elk tags. 

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Idaho Mule Deer

Idaho’s general mule deer tags are a great choice for someone looking to add another fall hunt or for those who want to learn an area and go back year after year to where they can always get a tag and have a fun hunt. Beginning with the 2021 season, non-resident deer hunters had to pick the over-the-counter unit they plan to hunt and can only hunt in that unit. The information in the deer table has been provided so you have some information about these hunts if you want to try to purchase a tag for the 2023 season. 

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Idaho’s mule deer hunting is slowly rebounding from the winter kill of 2016/2017. The past few winters have been relatively mild, and the population of mule deer is rebounding. There are some great bucks in Idaho, but you are going to have to work a lot harder as there are not many mature bucks available. In the table, we cover some of the better general mule deer tags in the state. Most of these units can produce a good hunt if you are just looking for a buck. In most of these areas, hunters must have realistic expectations and plan on hunting average bucks, but there is always a chance for a great buck in any unit in Idaho.


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Idaho Whitetail Deer

Whitetail populations took a hit in 2021 when an EHD outbreak killed between 6,000-10,000 in the Clearwater region. The state population of whitetail is only down about 5%, so there is still going to be good whitetail hunting in the areas that did not have a die-off. Most of the archery hunts take place in August and September with a few later hunts in November and December. Most of the rifle hunts are in October with some running into November and hitting the rut. 

There are several options for whitetail deer, but if you are looking for big chunks of public land, look in the Craig Mountains area south of Lewiston (unit 11). There is plenty of walk-in country to roam in search of a nice buck. Another area is Kooskia/Kamiah (units 10A, 11A, and 16). The Panhandle still has a healthy whitetail population. A hunter can find 100-130″ bucks if they put in the time and research. If you are hunting in northern Idaho, we highly recommend you have a couple wolf tags in your pocket.

Another great thing about Idaho is that if you have a deer or elk tag, you can harvest a black bear, wolf, or mountain lion if the season is open in the area you are scouting for hunting, and you can put either your deer or elk tag on the harvested animal. Idaho is a great state to hunt if you don’t draw any tags or if you are just looking for a good hunt you can go to on a yearly basis.

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