How To Apply for a Wyoming Elk Tag – 4 Important Terms You Need to Know

By Charles •  8 min read

Many people find the process to apply for a Wyoming elk tag confusing.  In fact, I know a lot of longtime residents that still have not quite figured it out, and they do not have it nearly as bad as the nonresidents.  If this is your first or your twenty-fifth time applying, there is no shame seeking out some help. After all, we are talking about going on your dream elk hunt.

Before I discuss the terms you will need to understand, I will briefly discuss the differences between how residents and non-residents apply for a Wyoming elk tag.

How Do Residents Apply for a Wyoming Elk Tag

Residents do not have to apply for elk tags if they choose not to (I find it more than all little exciting waiting for the draw result to be released myself).  Residents can buy a general tag over the counter if they choose and not worry about applying or they can apply for a full priced limited quota tag.  Since there is not a preference point system for resident elk tags, everyone has a statistically equal chance at drawing the limited quota elk tags.  This means that for some of the blue-chip units it is nearly impossible to draw a tag.  However, even if a resident does not draw in the limited quota draw, they can still buy a general tag over the counter.

How Do Non-Residents Apply for a Wyoming Elk Tag

For nonresidents, the application process for elk tags is much more difficult.  Nonresidents must apply for a Wyoming elk tag if they want to hunt.  There are no nonresident over the counter elk tags and it is not possible to buy landowner or outfitter tags in Wyoming.  I will focus on how the application process works, mainly for nonresidents, in hopes of clearing up some of the confusion.

Terms You Need To Understand

1. Regular Draw for a Wyoming Elk Tag

The regular draw simply means that the applicant pays the “regular” price for a tag when they apply.  Of the elk tags allotted to nonresidents, 60% of them will go into the regular draw. 

2. Special Draw for a Wyoming Elk Tag

Meanwhile, the special draw simply means that the applicant pays a higher “special” price for a tag.  The special elk tags account for 40% of all nonresident elk tags.  The theory behind the special draw is that higher price basically buys you better odds of drawing; however, in most of the blue-chip units your odds of drawing are still very low, even when paying a higher price.

3. Preference Points for a Wyoming Elk Tag

To make things even more confusing, there is a preference point system for non-resident Wyoming elk tags.  This means that the applicants with the most points have the best chance of drawing a tag.  Theoretically, a person with max points in the draw should have the best or a guaranteed chance of drawing but this is not always true, due to low numbers of tags.  However, to make sure that everyone that applies has a statistical chance of drawing, 75% of allotted elk tags go into the preference point drawing and the remaining 25% of elk tags will go into a random drawing. This applies both to regular and special draws.

If in a given unit the commission allotted 100 elk tags for nonresidents, the breakdown would end up as follows.

Regular DrawSpecial Draw
Total Wyoming Elk Tags In A Unit6040
Preference Point Draw4530
Random Draw1510
Example of how Wyoming Game and Fish allocates non-resident tags

4. Wyoming Elk License Types

In Wyoming, there are general tags and limited quota tags.  The limited quota tags break down further into different types.  License types mean there a limitation on the elk tag that may restrict the hunter to the taking of a specific sex of elk, a specific season, a specific type of weapon, or a portion of the area. This limitation defines, when, where and how that particular license can be used.

GENGeneralFull Price Fees
Type 1 & 2Antlered or AnyFull Price Fees
Type 4 & 5AntlerlessFull Price Fees
Type 6 & 7Cow/Calf ElkReduced Price Fees
Type 9Archery OnlyFull Price Fees
Types of Wyoming Elk Tags

General Elk Tags

Many of Wyoming’s Elk units are general units. 

  • This means that if you put in for a “general tag” you can hunt any of these units and any of the open general seasons. 
  • In many of these general units, you can buy an archery stamp which will allow you to hunt during the archery season in addition to the rifle season. 
  • A few of these units also allow you to hunt with your general tag for antlerless elk during the late season. 
  • At the time of writing, it takes three preference points to draw a general tag for a non-resident.
  • General elk tags are over the counter for residents.

Limited Quota Elk Tags

Type 1 & 2

These licenses are limited quota rifle units in Wyoming that offer you a chance of an elk hunt in a unit that is managed for more “trophy” animals with lower hunting pressure.  Type 2 licenses typically have different season dates or special hunt boundaries within the unit.

  • In general, these units are much more difficult to draw than the general elk tags. 
  • However, there are a very limited number of units that can be drawn with just one point.  These elk tags do have limited public access, lower success rates, or lower quality bulls but they still offer excellent hunts. 
  • While there is always a statistical chance of randomly drawing a tag, to draw a tag in one of the highly coveted blue-chip areas that offer monster bulls nonresidents will need to have max points. 
    • Due to point creep someone who has just started collecting points will likely never draw these units. 
  • For those that know what to look for, there is still hope.  There are many limited quota units in Wyoming that can be drawn with three to five plus points that offer excellent hunts with a very high likelihood of tagging a monster bull. 
  • Like the general season, hunters can buy an archery tag and hunt during the archery season.  However, they can only hunt in the limited quota unit they drew and no other.
Type 9

There are some units in Wyoming that offer a limited quota archery tag. 

  • If you draw this tag, you will be able to hunt a special archery season that is only open for people with this tag. 
  • This restriction applies to all hunters, resident and non-resident, so hunting pressure for these elk tags is very low. 
  • In addition, these elk tags are generally easy to draw.  In fact, a few of these units can be drawn with no preference points.
  • After the June drawing, there are usually leftover resident elk tags for these units.  Non-residents can then apply for these left-over elk tags in the leftover draw that takes place in July. 
  • The one downfall of the limited quota archery tag is that it is a true archery only tag.  This means that you cannot use it to hunt during the rifle season.
Type 4 & 5

There are a number of units throughout Wyoming that offer cow elk tags at full price.  These tags are usually during the prime migration times and/or offer extended seasons.  These tags provide an excellent opportunity for the hunter that wants to experience the wilds of Wyoming and some excellent wild game meat.  In addition, many times there are leftover tags for these types and provide an opportunity for the hunter that did not draw a tag otherwise.  These tags can be used during the archery in the units they are good in for antlerless elk with an archery stamp.

Type 6 & 7

That is not the end of the elk hunting opportunity in Wyoming though.  If you just want to come on an excellent adventure in the west, Wyoming offers a large number reduced price cow/calf elk tags. 

  • The drawing for these elk tags is separate from the full price elk tags and many units are guaranteed draws with many leftover elk tags. 
  • This means that many times if you did not draw in the first draw, you could apply for a left-over cow/calf tag and still hunt elk in the west. 
  • In fact, even if you did draw you could still apply in the left-over drawing. 
  • That’s because in Wyoming you could actually end up with up to three elk tags every year. 
    • One full price elk tag, one reduced price tag from the normal drawing, and then you can apply for or buy a leftover reduced-price tag. 
  • Like many of the other elk tags, these tags can be used during the archery in the units they are good in for cow/calf elk with an archery stamp.


Charles is a man who loves the outdoors. He moved to Wyoming specifically to spend more time in the mountains and wilderness. A hunter and fisherman, Charles knows how to enjoy nature and all that it has to offer. He is an outdoorsman through and through, and he wouldn't have it any other way. Charles is the President of Absaroka Enterprises, an company focuse on outdoor entertainment and endeavours. He's also an Editor for Alpha and Omega Outdoors, an online hunting, fishing, camping, trapping, and all around outdoors blog.