The Biggest Changes to Hunting Out West: Huntin’ Fool’s Updates

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From Huntin’ Fool: As state agencies continue to modify and adapt their systems to respond to increased demand and a shortened supply of big game permits, it becomes necessary for sportsmen to stay current with the changes and potential modifications. Non-residents continue to lose their overall quotas and prices continue to rise across many states. The following information will help sportsmen recognize new opportunities and modify their application strategy for this year.


The biggest changes in Alaska are usually related to weather conditions or the Federal Subsistence Boards voting to close areas to sport hunting. The unsubstantiated closures have been in the central Brooks Range and unit 23 for caribou. Stay tuned for more updates this spring as more meetings are on deck. The Board of Game also voted to move unit 23 caribou hunting for non-residents to a limited draw hunt beginning in 2025.


Most of Arizona’s draw tag opportunities remain unchanged; however, they continue to mess with the non-resident opportunity for archery over-the-counter tags. Starting with the 2023 calendar year, the non-resident archery deer tag quota was set just under 3,000 tags. These tags went on sale online on December 1, 2022, and sold out completely within 48 hours. Fast forward to the 2024 tag sale day, which was November 2, 2023, and all of the tags sold out in under 4 hours. This means that you may not purchase an OTC deer tag to hunt any of the 2024 seasons if you didn’t already purchase a tag.

If you were lucky and hold an archery tag, keep in mind that you must also follow the harvest quota thresholds per unit as it will close to all deer hunting once a certain number of buck deer have been harvested and reported, regardless of future season dates. This harvest quota resets with each regulatory year (July 1 to June 30).

Arizona will most likely offer more “limited-entry” big game permits that are special, extra opportunities they have created to collect application fees. These hunts are raffle type and only offer one tag per hunt. Keep watching the AZGFD website for more information on when these applications will open.


Colorado released 10 gray wolves from Oregon into the northwest portion of the state. They plan to release another round of the carnivores next winter. It’s only a matter of time before our elk populations start to feel the effects of this reintroduction “plan.”

Two working group committees have been meeting the past few months to make recommendations to the CO Commission in regards to the next five years of season structure as well as drastic changes to the overall draw process. Finalizations will be made at the June and July meetings with the hopes of being implemented for the 2025 season.


Idaho continues to make it a disaster for non-residents to obtain general elk and deer tags during their December 1 sale day. When 2024 tags went on sale last December, their website was inundated with tens of thousands of non-residents trying to get a tag. The legislature would like to see the non-resident general tags be taken to a controlled hunt draw instead of over-the-counter. Demand continues to increase, and there is no equal way to play the game at getting a general tag under their “first-come, maybe first-served” program. Some tags will be returned to the Department and placed on sale once a month on predetermined dates.

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In 2022, Nebraska restricted non-residents to 15,000 deer permits, of which no more than 5,000 archery and 2,000 muzzleloader permits can be sold to non-residents. In 2023, the quota was reduced to 10,000 total non-resident permits with no more than 3,000 permits for archery and 1,000 permits for the muzzleloader season. 2023 was the first year the over-the-counter archery antelope permits were discontinued and permits were only available in the draw. Stay tuned for more information as they could potentially lower the non-resident quotas for the 2024 season.


Nevada continues to offer their first-come, first-served tag sales program online but restricts non-residents to only purchase returned non-resident quota tags. This makes the chance of a non-resident grabbing a tag next to impossible. In better news, two resident Shiras moose bull permits will be offered this year in Nevada. This is great news for their increasing moose populations and someday we hope to see a non-resident tag.

New Mexico

The largest change in New Mexico is the new regulation change from last year that removes the use of riflescopes or mounted optics during all muzzleloader hunts. Muzzleloader restrictions remain the same, but they can no longer have a scope mounted atop. All muzzleloaders must only have open or peep sights. Red dots and 1x scopes are not allowed. 

The state’s Game Commission is also considering creating a minimum age of 9 years old for youth hunters who have hunter education to be able to apply in the draw. Their goal is to institute this minimum age in time for the 2025 draw.


The biggest change for Utah was made last year, moving the application deadline from early March to late April (April 25, 2024). This movement will provide insight into proposed permit numbers before the application would need to be submitted. This should greatly help non-residents or those with points looking to have a peek into how many permits will actually be available in the draw.

All license and permit fees for residents increased for this year. The hunting license fee for non-residents will also increase from $72 to $120 for a 365-day license. The application fee per species increased by one dollar, up to $16 each.

Utah overhauled the statewide elk management plan last, which has directed the Division of Wildlife to change season quotas, target harvest and age structures, season dates, and available weapon types. Most limited-entry units now have a mid-season (October) rifle hunt that will follow the early archery and early rifle hunts. Most units also have a late archery hunt in early December. The idea behind these changes was to allow for the opportunity to provide more permits to sportsmen while maintaining the trophy quality that Utah has been known for.

The statewide mule deer management plan is now under review and sits with their new committee. Expect drastic changes to be discussed and voted upon at the November and December 2024 regional and board meetings.

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Wyoming continues to flirt with the price ceiling on their big game licenses. The special price license for elk, deer, and antelope has greatly increased while the general license fee has stayed the same. 

The general elk license for non-residents that used to be valid statewide in all open units was divided into 3 general regions for 2024, eastern, western, and southern. Applications still had to be submitted by January 31 but draw results will not be available until late May. The April 2024 commission meetings will determine the extent of the season closures, antler restrictions, and license quotas.

The biggest issue when it comes to our downgrade to a 10% cap on non-resident sheep and moose licenses is the way that the state runs their preference vs. random draws. Currently, 75% of the licenses are awarded to those with the most preference points, and 25% are awarded randomly in the draw to any applicant, regardless of their point level. This means that if there are three or fewer licenses available for a specific hunt, there will not be a random license available at all in the non-resident draw. Frankly, this means that if you have 20 points or more for sheep and moose, you may still have a chance in the draw, but if you sit below the 20-point level, you may never have a chance at a preference license. 

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