The Biggest Changes to Hunting Out West: Huntin’ Fool’s 2023 Updates

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 that may be just around the corner. 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 for Dall sheep in the Central Brooks Range as well as caribou in unit 23 are still in effect and most likely will not be overturned before the fall 2023 hunting season.


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 for the 2023 calendar year, the non-resident archery deer tag quota would be set at 2,890 tags. These tags went on sale online on December 1, 2022, and sold out completely within 48 hours. This means that you may not purchase an OTC deer tag to hunt any of the 2023 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 has released preliminary plans for the reintroduction of gray wolves to begin later this next fall. However, there is no management plan in place. It’s only a matter of time before our elk populations start to feel the effects from this reintroduction “plan.”

Colorado has changed the hybrid draw process for 2023 to update the average calculation to incorporate a three-year current rolling average. In the past, the average was calculated up to the 2009 drawing. Many hunts for deer and elk will be affected in the drawing this year with this change. Any hunts in the hybrid draw will be subject to an 80% resident/20% non-resident quota. Hunt codes that do not make the qualifications to have a hybrid draw will remain at the 65% resident/35% non-resident quota.


Idaho continues to make it a disaster for non-residents to obtain general elk and deer tags during their December 1 sale day. When 2023 tags went on sale, their website crashed multiple times and tens of thousands of non-residents were left with nothing except frustration. Demand continues to increase, and there is not an 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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Montana had mandy changes for 2022 with the 900-20 archery elk unit split up into multiple areas and some changes to the preference point draw process for general licenses. For 2023, there have been no final changes made; however, there is talk about shortening the archery and rifle season dates. Once Montana comes out with the elk and deer regulations, we will provide updates.


In 2021, Nebraska jumped on the restricting non-resident bandwagon by hitting us with a quota on over-the-counter archery permits for antelope of 250, a number that used to be unlimited but that now sells out in just a few hours. In 2022, they decided to restrict non-residents to a total of 15,000 deer permits, of which no more than 5,000 archery and 2,000 muzzleloader permits can be sold to non-residents. Stay tuned for more information as they could potentially lower the non-resident quotas for the 2023 season.


Nevada continued to offer their first-come, first-served tag sales program online with a few changes this year. Users were no longer able to open multiple browser windows and attempt to flood the random system. While it seemed to be more “fair,” you definitely needed to spend a bunch of time staring at your screen in order to see a tag pop up this past season.

New Mexico

The largest change in New Mexico this year is the new regulation change 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. While there is much buzz about changing the private lands, EPlus, elk system in regards to landowner vouchers, no official changes have been made. Keep in mind if you are looking at antelope hunts in New Mexico this year, many season dates have been moved out of August and spread out from August through October.


The biggest changes to Oregon this year are the hunt season dates for deer, elk, and antelope. Most of the seasons will roll a week later. This is really going to help the archery elk hunters as the season will run until October 1 for 2023, whereas it ended September 25 in 2022. That additional week should make for a great week of chasing rutting bulls with a bow. The later dates on the deer season will also be good as it will get the hunt closer to the rut in some areas as well as cooler temperatures for hunters hunting the southeastern desert areas for rifle deer. There is also a new controlled youth archery elk hunt that will be offered for 2023. There will be 330 tags available for this new permit. Youth that draw this permit can hunt all units statewide except for Mt. Emily, Sled Springs, Walla Walla, and Wenaha.


At first glance, the biggest change for Utah is the movement of the application deadline from its usual early March deadline back to late April (April 27, 2023). This movement will hopefully 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.

Utah once again has overhauled the statewide elk management plan, 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.

General elk permits have also had a few changes for the 2023 season. All any-bull units will now have a split rifle hunt in October with each hunt running seven days. There is still a quota of 15,000 first rifle and muzzleloader permits to be sold; however, the second rifle hunt on any-bull units is unlimited, just like the general archery permits. Multi-season permits for any bull units are no longer available, but they will still be available for spike-only hunts.

Also, beginning in July 2023, all license and permit fees for residents will be increasing about 10% across the board. The hunting license fee for non-residents will also be increasing from $72 to $120 for a 365-day license.

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Wyoming continues to adopt new changes and hear comments on proposals created by the Wyoming Wildlife Task Force. The 2023 season will launch one of the largest changes we have seen as it relates to license allocation. The 90/10 percentage split is now in effect for bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat, and bison licenses. This means that residents will receive 90% of all of the licenses and only 10% will be available for non-residents. Up until this year, sheep and goat licenses had a 75/25 percentage split and moose and bison licenses had an 80/20 split. This means we have lost at least half of the available licenses for 2023 non-resident applications when compared to last year. The good news is that—for now—we will retain our 16% cap on non-resident elk licenses. Due to the substantial effect this will have on the amount of available licenses, the draw deadline for sheep, moose, goat, and bison has been pushed back until April 17th for the 2023 draw. This should give applicants time to see proposed license quotas and better select their application choices. 

The biggest issue when it comes to our downgrade to a 10% cap on non-resident 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 before their 2025 change in the draw structure. 

The proposal as it currently stands for 2025 and beyond would be to adjust the draw to become entirely random with preference points being converted to bonus points that would give the applicant extra chances in the random draw based off of their point level. This would favor the applicants that had participated the longest, but never guarantee a successful result, no matter how many years they wait. We also are now facing a substantial price increase that will most likely be in full effect for the 2024 season. This includes raising the special elk license fee to almost $2,000 for a non-resident. If you’ve been building points in Wyoming, you’ll want to think about drawing sooner than later no matter which species you are able to draw a license for.

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