2023 Heads Up: Draw Applications, OTC Tags and Preference Points for Most Popular Western States

The first months of the new year are not only the time for outdoor shows, but also the moment when you should check the calendar for draw applications – if you want to do a limited-draw hunt in one of the Western American states, that is. Here are the most important deadlines for 2023 that you don’t want to miss. 


  • February 14, 2023 – deadline for elk and pronghorn
  • June 13, 2023 – deadline for fall turkey, javelina, bison, deer, bighorn, sandhill crane
  • October 10, 2023 – deadline for javelina, bear, turkey, and bison, Spring season 2024. 

There are three application deadlines for various limited draw applications in Arizona. One is already running – the draw for Arizona elk and pronghorn antelope hunts; the deadline here is second Tuesday in February, which would be Valentine’s Day this year – 11:59 p.m. (Arizona time) Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, to be precise. The second one, for deer (mule and Coues), bighorn sheep, sandhill crane, as well as turkey (Gould’s and Merriam’s), javelina, and bison, will open in May with the deadline on June 13, 2023 (again, second Tuesday in June). Don’t forget that you need a valid Arizona hunting license to apply for the draw. If you plan to hunt javelina, bear, turkey or bison in the spring season of 2024, put a reminder in your calendar somewhere in September – the application deadline for these hunts is the second Tuesday in October (October 10th for 2023). 

Leftover permit-tags will be available for purchase after the draw results are announced. Even if you don’t plan to hunt in Arizona this year, you may still want to take part in the draw to accumulate bonus points, or buy preference points. And if you haven’t yet completed the Ethical Hunting Arizona online course, it may be a good idea to do so and secure the lifetime bonus point that comes with it. 

Last but not the least, try your luck in the Arizona Big Game Super Raffle, that gives the winner an opportunity to harvest one animal in the selected category, from August 15, 2023 to August 14, 2024, with any legal hunting means, and over almost all of the state. The tickets for elk, pronghorn, and turkey can be bought between January 1 and February 28, for mule deer, Coues whitetail, and mountain lion – from March 1 to April 30, and for bighorn sheep, buffalo, bear, and javelina between May 1 and June 30. There are other prizes, including hunts in Texas and New Mexico, and Swarovski optics; a consolation prize for not winning is knowing that you’ve contributed to conservation of Arizona wilderness and wildlife. 


  • February 7, 2023 – deadline for spring turkey
  • April 4, 2023 – deadline for bear, deer, elk, moose, pronghorn, Rocky Mountain bighorn, desert bighorn, mountain goat (primary draw)
  • July 5, 2023 – deadline for bear, deer, elk, pronghorn (secondary draw)
  • August 1, 2023 – over-the-counter and leftover licenses go on sale. 

You may want to double-check the Colorado Parks & Wildlife website at the end of February, because that’s when the more detailed information about the draw as well as the updated hunting regulations for the 2023-24 hunting season will be announced. However, no big changes are expected. Applications for the primary draw for bear, deer, elk, moose, pronghorn, bighorn sheep and mountain goat hunts in Colorado are accepted until April 4, wild turkey (spring season) – until February 7. For bear, deer, elk, and pronghorn the draw will still take place in two tiers, with applicants who haven’t been successful in the first draw having an opportunity to try their luck again in the secondary draw. 

You don’t want to miss the start of OTC and leftover tag sales in early August. Colorado has a generous OTC deer and elk permit program, for both antlered and antlerless animals, archery and second and third rifle seasons. The most desirable of those, of course, will probably be gone in the first hours or even minutes after the start of the sale; some tags can be bought up to the end of the season, but 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.


  • February 15 – deadline for spring bear
  • March 1 – deadline for spring turkey
  • April 30 – deadline for moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat (first draw)
  • May 31 – deadline for Super Combo (first draw)
  • June 5 – deadline for deer, elk, pronghorn, fall bear, fall turkey, swan (first draw)
  • June 25 – deadline for moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat (second draw)
  • August 10 – deadline for Super Combo (second draw)
  • August 15 – deadline for deer, elk, pronghorn, fall bear, swan (second draw) 
  • December 1, 2023 – elk over-the-counter tags for 2024 go on sale 

Both resident and non-resident hunters in Idaho have a decent chance of purchasing deer and elk tags over-the-counter in Idaho, but if you want to do it, you have to start about a year in advance of the hunt. The OTC tags for 2024 will go on sale on December 1, 2023, and by that time you should be ready with your Idaho Fish & Game registration, and know which unit you want to target, because most of the best tags will be gone by December 2.

The controlled hunt application period runs January 15 – February 15 for spring bear, and February 1 – March 1 for spring turkey. There are two draw periods for moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, pronghorn, deer, and elk in Idaho. First draw dates are April 1 – April 30 for moose, sheep, and goat, May 1 – June 5 for deer, elk, fall bear, pronghorn, swan, and fall turkey. Second draw takes place June 15 – June 25 and August 5 – August 15, accordingly. Note that the unsuccessful applications for the first draw are not automatically transferred to the second draw. 

And, of course, there’s the big one – the Idaho Super Hunt Combo. If you win that, you can hunt a deer, an elk, a pronghorn and a moose, on top and above all other tags and licenses you might have in Idaho. There will be two winners for the Super Hunt Combo, and 32 tags for individual species will also find their happy hunters in two draws, 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.


  • April 1, 2023 – deadline for deer and elk
  • May 1, 2023 – deadline for moose, bison, bighorn sheep, and mountain goat
  • June 10, 2023 – deadline for pronghorn, and “type B” deer and elk tags 
  • September 30, 2023 – deadline for bonus points purchase

Montana guarantees perhaps the largest number of deer and elk tags to non-residents through limited draw. There are General Big Game Combo licenses (good for deer and elk), General Elk Combo, and General Deer Combo. You can apply from March 1, and the drawing takes place two weeks after two weeks after the deadline for the relevant application. The so-called “Type B” licenses are available as the second draw, and in some areas over-the-counter. The deadline for limited draw applications for moose, bison, bighorn sheep and mountain goat hunting in Montana is May 1, and for pronghorn antelope June 10, along with “type B” 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 bonus point; this option is open from July 1 to September 30. 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%.

Leftover tags and returned licenses are not available over-the-counter. If you’re interested in buying a leftover or returned license, you should put your name on a special subscription list; Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will then select hunters randomly from the list and offer them the desired tag(s). The opening dates for entering the subscription will be announced at the MFWP website. Montana has a landowner preference program, but landowners may sponsor non-resident hunts only for deer (there are both whitetails and mule deer in Montana); 2,000 such licenses per year are allowed statewide.

New Mexico

  • February 15, 2023 – deadline for bear and turkey
  • March 22, 2023 – deadline for Barbary sheep, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, ibex, javelina, pronghorn, oryx, and private land deer hunts
  • March 27, 2023 – over-the-counter licenses go on sale 

It’s necessary to purchase a non-refundable hunting license before applying for a draw hunt for Barbary sheep, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, ibex, javelina, pronghorn, and oryx in New Mexico. New Mexico encourages early applications, and those who apply for the 2023-2024 big game hunt draw before March 15, 2023 may win one of the sponsor-provided prizes. The draw results will be announced on April 26. Over-the-counter type licenses in New Mexico will go on sale on March 27. 

84% of big-game tags are reserved for New Mexico residents, 6% for non-residents, and 10% as special quota for hunters who have a contract with an outfitter. New Mexico Game and Fish advises non-residents from applying to units with twelve or fewer licenses if applying without outfitters, and to units with six or fewer licenses if applying for an outfitted pool, as drawing a tag in this situation is statistically highly unlikely. Mind also that a combined resident/non-resident application is subject to non-resident quotas. Tags drawn from the special outfitter pool will be forwarded directly to the specified outfitter. 

New Mexico has a landowner preference program, which can be used by both resident and non-resident hunters. When the landowner registers their land with the New Mexico Game and Fish, they get a ranch code, which the hunter can enter when applying for a draw hunt. In fact, some units have hunts available only on private land, and you can’t apply for a tag in those units without a ranch code. Information on the properties that participate in the program is available on NMGF website. 

Leftover tags are distributed 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.


  • January 31, 2023 – deadline for spring turkey and Wyoming Super Tag 
  • April 17, 2023 – deadline for bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat, and bison 
  • May 31 – deadline for deer, elk, antelope, fall turkey, and sandhill crane
  • October 31 – deadline for preference points 

Wyoming is accepting applications for antelope, deer, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, and spring turkey from January 3. For bison hunts the application period starts on March 1, and for fall turkey and sandhill crane on April 3. The deadline for spring turkey is January 31, for bighorn, moose, mountain goat and bison – April 17, and deer, elk, antelope, fall turkey and sandhill crane – May 31. Draw results will come out on February 3 for spring turkey, May 4 for bighorn, moose, mountain goat, and bison, June 15 for antelope, deer, and elk. 

Leftover licenses for deer, elk, and antelope will be available for a special draw, with application period from June 19 to June 23, 2023. The results will be announced June 6, and the licenses that still remained after the two rounds of the draw will go on sale on first come, first served basis on July 12, 2023. 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. 

Since 2013 Wyoming offers a Super Tag raffle for bighorn sheep, Shiras moose, Rocky Mountain elk, mountain goat, mule deer or white-tailed deer, wild bison, pronghorn, mountain lion, gray wolf and black bear. There will be one winner for each species, and in addition a Super Tag Trifecta, where the winner can choose for any three of the nine animals. Hunting is limited to regular hunting seasons, and for some species to specific units, but winning the Super Tag doesn’t affect one’s preference points, other applications, and doesn’t count for once-in-a-lifetime species such as mountain goat. The deadline for the raffle is January 31, and the winners will be announced on February 15. 


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