2022 Heads Up: Draw Applications, OTC Tags and Preference Points for Most Popular Western States

The United States is blessed with an abundance of hunting opportunities, and the relevant public offices in all states strive to give equal access for all citizens, resident and non-resident. For the most desirable species, such as the elk, this usually means distribution by limited draw, which normally take place well in advance of the hunting season. It would be impossible to give the whole information about it in one blog post, but here are a few dates and facts for the states most popular with non-resident hunters that you don’t want to miss. 


The application window for elk and pronghorn permit-tags for the season of 2022 is now open, and the deadline is February 8, 2022. The draw for deer, bighorn sheep, fall turkey, fall bison, and sandhill crane is to take place on the second Tuesday in June, i.e. June 7. The drawing for the spring javelina, bison, bear and turkey hunts for the season of 2022 has already been held, but leftover permit-tags may still be available.

An interesting new development is the Ethical Hunting Arizona online course. It is open for hunters 18 years of age and up, and those who successfully complete it will receive a Lifetime Bonus Point, that will greatly increase their chances of success. Bonus points are as important in Arizona as in any other state, and are awarded automatically for each successful draw application. You can also purchase them. Leftover permit-tags may be bought over-the-counter through a mail-based application process. The application window will be announced after the draw results, and is usually scheduled for late May; watch the Arizona Game and Fish website for precise dates. 

You may also try your luck at the Arizona Big Game Super Raffle. There are seven categories: Antelope, Coues Whitetail, Buffalo, Desert Bighorn Sheep, Mule Deer, Elk and Turkey, and the winner in each category will get the right to hunt the relevant animal for 365 days in almost every part of the state. In addition, three more tags will be issued for black bear, mountain lion and javelina in a special Jaws and Paws Sweepstakes. There are extra prizes including Swarovski optics. The tickets price start at $25, and can be purchased now; the drawings will take place May 7 for Jaws and Paws, and on July 20 for the general raffle. 


The exact dates for big-game limited draw application in Colorado will be announced in late February, along with the publications of the relevant hunting regulations. First draw will take place in the second week of April. Unsuccessful applicants will be able to apply again for the secondary draw of leftover licenses in the second half of June. Tags that are left over after the secondary draw will become available over-the-counter in early August. Colorado has a generous OTC deer and elk permit program, with antlerless and either-sex tags for archery seasons, and antlered tags for second and third rifle seasons.

Certain units have nearly unlimited elk hunting opportunities, and in fact at the time of writing there are still dozens of elk and deer tags available for the season 2021-22. However, the units for which they are issued can’t usually boast of high success rates. Note that before you can participate in Colorado big game draw, you will need to purchase a Colorado hunting license, but over-the-counter tags do not require this.


Idaho issues quite a lot of deer and elk tags over-the-counter – 12,815 elk tags for the 2022 hunting season, to be exact, but there’s a catch. The OTC tags go on sale on December 1 of the previous year. On that day, the Idaho Fish & Game system directs all the hunters who want to buy tags to an online waiting room, and grants them access to the tag purchase page one by one, at random, making the process effectively a draw. Most of the tags are sold by December 2; however, at the time of writing, 93 non-resident elk tags were still available. 

If you missed your chance with the over-the-counter tags, you can still participate in the limited draw process, known in Idaho as “controlled hunt”. The application dates for spring bear hunts are January 15 – February 15, and for spring turkey February 1 – March 1. For moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, pronghorn, deer and elk Idaho has a two-tier system of controlled hunt draw. Application dates for moose, sheep and goat are April 1 – April 30 (first draw) and June 15 – June 25 (second draw). For deer, elk, fall bear and pronghorn applications are accepted May 1 – June 5 (first draw) and August 5 – August 15 (second draw). Fall turkey dates are May 1 – June 5, and for swan August 5 – August 15. 

But the royal prize of Idaho limited draw is the Idaho Super Hunt Combo, that allows the lucky winner to harvest a deer, an elk, a pronghorn and a moose. Two such combos, as well as 32 tags for individual species, are drawn each year, the deadlines being May 31 (first draw) and August 10 (second draw). Note that you will need a valid Idaho hunting license to enter the regular controlled hunt draw, but not for the Super Hunt draw. 


Montana issues 17,000 General Big Game Combo (deer and elk), 17,000 General Elk Combo, and 4,600 General Deer Combo licenses for non-residents, that are available through limited draw. The applications are accepted from March 1, and the deadlines are April 1 for deer and elk, May 1 for moose, bison, bighorn sheep and mountain goat, and June 10 for pronghorn, and “type B” deer and elk tags. Hunters who weren’t successful in the draw receive a preference point, and those who do not participate in the draw can purchase a preference point as well. This is a good idea to do if you plan to hunt in Montana in the future; while preference points do not guarantee drawing a tag, draw statistics suggest that with two bonus points the chances of winning are approximating 100%. 

Tags left over from limited draw, as well as returned licenses, are available through special subscription system. Hunters who are interested in purchasing these tags should enter their names in the subscription lists, and the tags will be offered randomly to hunters from the lists. Check out Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks system for the opening dates for entering the subscription. Montana has a landowner preference program, but landowners may sponsor non-resident hunts only for deer; 2,000 such licenses per year are allowed statewide.

New Mexico

The official deadline for Barbary sheep, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, ibex, javelina, pronghorn and oryx hunts in New Mexico, for the 2022-2023 hunting season, is March 19. However, New Mexico encourages you and other hunters to apply early. Those who apply before March 9 may have a chance to win a prize from sponsors including Kawasaki and Sportsman’s Warehouse. Draw results will be available on April 27. The deadline for wild turkey and black bear draw hunts is February 9, with results on February 23. Over-the-counter hunting licenses for the 2022-2023 hunting season go on sale from March 23.

There is a landowner preference program that allows the tags to be transferred to non-resident hunters. In fact, when landowners register their property with the New Mexico Game and Fish department, all they need to do is to provide the hunter with a ranch code. Then the hunter can get their tag online on the New Mexico Game & Fish website, where they can also find the list of all properties that are enrolled in this program. New Mexico allocates a special quota for non-resident hunters who have a contract with an outfitter – 10% of all tags for a certain year (non-residents without a contract with an outfitter are allotted 6% of the tags, and residents get 84% of all tags). Leftover tags are distributed among in the fourth round of draw; to take part in this you will have to tick the relevant box in your application. New Mexico does not award bonus points to applicants who weren’t successful in the previous years.



You don’t have much time to lose if you plan to apply for non-resident limited draw elk tags – the deadline is January 31. The application deadline for moose, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat is February 28, and for wild bison March 31. For deer and pronghorn you can take your time until May 31. Wild turkey applications are until January 31 for the spring season, and April 1 – May 31 for the fall season; general turkey licenses are also available. The results of the draw will be announced on May 5 for bighorn, bison, moose and mountain goat, May 19 for elk, and on June 16 for deer and antelope. Non-resident elk – January 3 – January 31.

Elk, deer, and antelope tags left over from the first draw are distributed through special leftover draw. The application period for this draw is June 20 – June 24, and the results will be announced on July 7. Starting with this year, the licenses and tags left over from both the first and the leftover draw will be available on a first come, first served basis from July 13, 2022.  Wyoming Game and Fish Department warns that the majority of leftover tags are for units with limited access – e.g., lots of private land – and strongly encourages the hunters to make sure they can secure access before purchasing the license. 

Another period that you don’t want to miss if you really want to hunt in Wyoming is the purchase of preference points (July 1 – October 31). Preference points greatly increase your draw odds, but in Wyoming they are not awarded automatically in case you haven’t drawn a tag this year. You must specifically apply for your preference point, and if you don’t buy a preference point for two years in a row, all your accumulated points are lost.  


Leave a Reply