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Application Strategies for Youth Hunters

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years trying to figure the best way to give my kids the most hunts possible while they’re still under my roof. Amy and I have three sons: Connor (17), Caleb (15), and Colter (13). I’ve been building them points and applying for them everywhere I could since I started working for Huntin’ Fool in 2012.

The strategy I use for my boys changes yearly based on school and sports. Some years, I’m very aggressive with their application strategy. Other years, we’re only applying for the best draw hunts and then building points in every state I can for their hunting future. We live in Montana and are very close to Idaho, so there are a lot of over-the-counter opportunities for them to stay busy. In states like New Mexico and Idaho, where there are no point systems, I just apply them for good hunts that fit our schedule if they’re lucky enough to draw. If our schedule is full, I skip the states that do not have a point system.

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Most states require a youth to have taken a hunter education class. Check with the state in which you reside and ask them at what age your youth can take a hunter education class. I’m a resident of Montana, and they only allow youth 11 or older to take hunter education. After talking with the Montana Hunter Education Coordinator about my desire to have my boys hunt out of state, they decided to allow them to go through the class at nine years old. 

The states featured in this article are ones that I feel are good states to be applying for, building points for, or taking your youth on an over-the-counter hunt in. I apply or build points for my boys in all the states listed below except Alaska and Kansas. I talk to hunters all the time who are afraid to start building points for their kids as they are not sure they are going to hunt. If they choose to not hunt, it may not be a total loss as a lot of states average points when you apply as a party, so you or someone else could ride their points to draw a tag.

Two hunters pose with an elk

Alaska

Youth must complete hunter education and be 10 years old by the start date of the hunting season if they want to hold their own tags. If a non-resident youth is under 10, they may buy a hunting license and hunt under an adult’s tag without having taken hunter education. Once a youth reaches 10 years old, they must have taken hunter education to hunt. Alaska does not have a point system. There are no price breaks for non-resident youth. The non-resident hunting license is $160.

Arizona

Youth must complete hunter education and be 10 years old by the start of the hunt. They may apply for bonus points if they are 10 by the application deadline. Arizona is great to youth by offering them a combo hunting and fishing license for only $5, and the application fee is $15 per species. I apply my boys for bighorn sheep, elk, deer, and antelope. Another great thing about Arizona is that they allow a parent or guardian to transfer a tag to a youth between the ages of 10 and 17. In 2019, my boys’ grandpa, McKay, drew a Desert sheep tag and transferred it to Connor.

Colorado

Youth can apply at 11 years old as long as they turn 12 before the end of the hunting season. They must be 12 to hunt in Colorado. Youth may apply for a preference point if they turn 12 years old by December 31st of that year. Hunter education is required for all hunters born after January 1, 1949. The youth hunting license is $1.31, and youth elk, deer, and antelope tags cost $107.43. Colorado does not charge youth for points. This is a huge savings as an adult pays $100 per point for bighorn sheep, moose, and mountain goat. Youth hunters also receive preference in the secondary draw for all elk, deer, antelope, and bear tags. Colorado sets aside up to 15% of limited doe antelope, either-sex deer, and antlerless elk tags for the regular rifle seasons for youth hunters.

A young hunter poses with an elk in the mountains

Idaho

Youth must complete hunter education and can apply for tags as long as they turn 10 years old before they hunt. Idaho is really good to youth hunters and has reduced-price tags. A youth hunting license is only $91.75. Idaho does not limit the number of youth general deer tags and non-capped general elk zones. Youth can apply for any of the big game species available, but they have to follow the same rules as adults.

If they apply for bighorn sheep, mountain goat, or moose, they cannot apply for deer, elk, or antelope. Idaho does not have a point system. Idaho allows a parent or grandparent to transfer a deer, elk, or antelope tag to a youth between the ages of 10 and 17. This is my favorite state for youth hunting opportunities due to the ease of getting a general deer or elk tag over the counter. My boys have really taken advantage of the youth hunting opportunities in Idaho over the years.

Iowa

There is no minimum age requirement to apply or hunt in Iowa, but you have to have passed a hunter education class to apply. This is a preference point state, so whoever has the most points gets the tag. It costs $60.50 to purchase a deer point. I have built five points for each of my boys in this state. I have no plans of taking them to Iowa in the near future, but the points never expire, so they will have them until they use them. The reason I stop at five points is because that should draw them any tag they want. This way, if we ever decide to hunt Iowa, we’ll be able to go that year.

Kansas

There is no minimum age requirement to apply or hunt in Kansas. Any hunters 15 years old or younger may hunt without hunter education as long as they are under the direct supervision of an adult. Kansas has a reduced-price hunting license and deer tag for youth hunters. The youth hunting license is $42.50, and the deer tag is $117.50. Kansas is a preference point state, so whoever has the most points gets the tag. You can purchase a point for $27.50. You only lose your points if you fail to apply for five consecutive years. I have not purchased my boys’ points in Kansas as the deer tags are very easy to draw.

Kentucky

There is no minimum age requirement to apply or hunt in Kentucky, but you have to have passed a hunter education class. Kentucky does not have a point system. It is only $10 to apply, so I put my boys in for the rifle bull permit and the youth either-sex permit. I don’t apply them for the cow permits as that is a long way from Montana to drive to hunt a cow elk. If I lived on the eastern side of the United States, I would be applying them for the cow permits. I doubt anyone in my family will ever draw in Kentucky, but for only $10, we will keep applying.

Maine

To apply for a moose permit, a youth must be 10 years old by the start of the moose season. Any non-resident youth younger than 10 may apply for a moose point for $15. Hunter education is only required for youth 16 and older, but youth under 16 must be accompanied by an adult who has passed hunter education. I apply each of my boys in Maine for moose. A few years ago, Connor was drawn for the alternate list, but unfortunately, not enough hunters turned back their tags, so he didn’t end up with a moose tag.

A young hunter poses with a bison in the mountains

Montana

For a youth to apply for a tag in Montana, they must turn 12 by January 16 of the given year. If the youth’s guardian draws a non-resident combination, elk, or deer permit, they can purchase a reduced-price youth combo tag for the youth. Montana will allow youth to harvest a deer starting at 10 years of age. If a youth is old enough to apply for a permit, they are old enough to apply for points. This is a good opportunity to build your youth points for the future. There is no price break for youth bonus points, so they pay the same fees as the adults. As a non-resident, it will cost you $75 each to buy points for bighorn sheep, mountain goat, or moose. It costs $25 each to buy points for elk, deer, antelope, and mountain lion.

Nevada

Youth must be at least 12 years old prior to the opening of any hunt choice they apply for to be eligible. An 11-year-old who will turn 12 before the beginning of the last season on their application is eligible to apply for a bonus point. The youth hunting license is $16, but all the tag and application fees are the same as for adults. Hunter education is required for all hunters born after January 1, 1960. At this time, there are only youth deer hunts set aside for resident hunters. Hopefully, in the future, non-resident youth will also get that opportunity.

New Mexico

There is no minimum age requirement to apply or hunt in New Mexico, but you must have passed a hunter education class. New Mexico does not have a point system, so I only apply the boys on years it fits our schedule. The best thing about youth hunting in New Mexico is the season dates the state sets aside for them. Youth hunters usually get to hunt closer to the rut on some of the best elk and deer areas.

The youth hunting license is $15, but all the tag and application fees are the same as the adults. New Mexico can get expensive as you must front the entire tag fee. I usually apply the boys for at least deer, elk, and oryx each year. Another good opportunity in New Mexico is their landowner tags. These are getting more expensive every year, but several parents are taking their kids to New Mexico on the youth hunts.

Oregon

Oregon does not allow youth to apply for tags unless they will be 12 years old by the time of their hunt. Oregon allows youth 9-11 to buy points for deer, elk, antelope, and the mentored youth point, which is free. The youth license is $10, and it is $8 per application for each species, so for $34, you can be building points in Oregon for deer, elk, and antelope.

Oregon is a preference point state for all species except bighorn sheep and mountain goat. Oregon sets aside 5% of the draw tags for non-residents and then gives half of those to outfitters. If you are applying in Oregon, non-residents will get 2.5% of the deer and elk tags and 3% of the antelope tags. Most of the top deer, elk, and antelope tags take 18+ points to draw. I apply my boys for Oregon as we hunt it on a regular basis on easy-to-draw tags.

Oregon also allows youth hunters to fill other hunters’ tags under the youth mentored hunt program. Youth 9-15 may participate in the mentored hunt program. Caleb filled my antelope tag in 2018 under this program.

South Dakota

I only apply for bison in South Dakota for my boys, but someone could be putting their youth in for deer and antelope as well. Youth must be 12 years old by December 31 to apply. Youth under 16 must have passed hunter safety to apply. I put my boys in for the trophy and non-trophy bison. Each application is only $10.

A young hunter poses with a elk in the timber.

Utah

Youth must be at least 12 years old by December 31 of the given year to apply, hunt, and build points in Utah. The youth hunting license is $29, but all the tag and application fees are the same as the adults. Hunter education is required for all hunters born after December 31, 1965. General season bull elk permits are unlimited for youth hunters, and 20% of the general deer and antlerless elk permits are set aside for youth hunters in the draw.

Vermont

There is no minimum age requirement to apply for Vermont moose, but you must have passed a hunter education class. There is no minimum age to apply for points. I apply all my boys for moose here as it is only $25. The odds of drawing are poor, but it’s another chance at putting a Canadian moose on the wall.

Washington

There is no minimum age requirement to apply or hunt in Washington, but you have to have passed a hunter education class. Non-resident youth under 16 years old can apply for permits for $3.80 each. This is a great savings as the non-resident adult pays $110.50 to apply for the same permit. I have been applying my boys for Washington and will continue until they all turn 16 years old, and then I will never apply them again as it too expensive for the steep draw odds for the permits.

Last year, I applied the two younger boys for mountain goat, conflict mountain goat, any moose, cow moose, youth moose, bighorn sheep, ewe bighorn sheep, and youth bighorn sheep. It costs me just over $30 per kid to apply for those eight permits. If they are lucky enough to draw, the youth tag fee only costs $57 for any moose, goat, or sheep permit. The odds are horrible, but in 2017, Connor drew a mountain goat permit in Washington.

Wyoming

Youth must be at least 12 years old by December 31 of the given year, to apply and hunt in Wyoming for all animals except bison or to apply for points only for the species that have points available. Hunter education is required for all hunters born after January 1, 1966. Wyoming permits are issued through the draw for non-residents. They offer reduced-price youth permits for elk for $290 and for deer and antelope for $125. They also have reduced-price youth points for elk, deer, and antelope at $10 apiece. Honestly, it is a no-brainer to buy your youth points for elk, deer, and antelope as they are so cheap and you can apply with the youth and ride their points.

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It is never too early to start applying kids for tags and points. My boys have been lucky as I started applying them everywhere I could once they were old enough. If you have any questions about building an application strategy for youth, you can check out the two podcast episodes I did on youth application strategies, episodes 131 and 132 of the “Built to Hunt” podcast. You can also give us a call at the office for more youth application information.

All of the information and prices listed for this article were based on each state’s annual hunting regulations. Everything always seems to change, so check out each of the current state sections in our magazine for possible youth hunting changes within the states.

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