Hunt Elk In Wyoming – How To Draw A Tag

By Charles •  7 min read

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Every year I am my friends and members of my family will ask me – “How can I get a tag to hunt elk in Wyoming?”.  You see, I have a pretty good understanding of this process since I live in Wyoming now and applied for tags for years as a nonresident before I moved here.  With this in mind, I thought I would take a few minutes and break down a few of the more important things you will need to know if you are thinking of trying a elk hunt here this year.

A Brief Overview Of The Process Of “Getting” A Tag To Hunt Elk In Wyoming

Wyoming Resident Elk Tags

Getting an elk tag for Wyoming residents is a pretty simple process. 

  • A resident can apply for a limited quota tag or buy a general tag over the counter.
  • Every resident should always apply for the drawing for one of the more desired limited quota units.  After all, a resident may not get drawn but there is a chance.  Besides, if they do not get a tag in the limited quota draw, they can still buy a general tag. 
  • There is not an elk preference point system for residents; therefore, everyone has a statistically equal chance at drawing those tags.  As a result, it is nearly impossible to draw a tag in some of the blue chip units. This is because many of these units have less than a 1% chance of being drawn.

Wyoming Nonresident Elk Tags

For nonresidents, the drawing system is much, much more difficult. 

  • There are no over the counter elk tags for nonresidents.  This means every tag must be drawn and just applying for the drawing can be confusing and overwhelming. 
  • First, there is the regular draw which means that you would pay the “regular” price for a tag.  Then there is a special draw which means that you pay a higher “special” price for a tag.  This higher price basically buys you better odds of drawing in the special draw; however, in most of the blue-chip units your odds of drawing even in the special draw are very low. 
  • To make things even more confusing, there is a preference point system for non-resident elk tags.  This means that the person with the most points has the best chance of drawing a tag.  Theoretically, a person with max points in the special draw should have the best chance of drawing. However, this is not always true.  We will discuss the draw system in greater detail in an upcoming article.

A Breakdown Of The Types Of Wyoming Elk Hunting Units And Tags

General Elk Units/Tags

Many of Wyoming’s Elk units are general units and you would need a general tag to hunt these units. 

  • If you put in for a “general tag”, you can hunt any of these units during the open general seasons. 
  • In many of these general units you can buy an archery stamp. This 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 anterless elk during the late season. 
  • At the time of writing, it takes three preference points to draw a general tag for a non-resident in the regular draw. 
  • As I mentioned Earlier, general tags are over the counter for residents.

Limited Quota Archery Elk Units/Tags

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 tags is very low. 
  • These tags are generally easier to draw than the limited quota rifle tags.  In fact, it is possible to draw a few of these units with no preference points for non-residents.
  • After the June drawing there are usually leftover resident tags for these units.  Non-residents can then apply for these left-over tags in the leftover drawing 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.

Limited Quota Rifle Elk Units/Tags

The limited quota rifle units in Wyoming offer a you at a chance of an elk hunt in a unit that is managed for more “trophy” animals with lower hunting pressure. 

  • In general, these are much more difficult to draw than the general tags or the limited quota archery tags. 
  • There are a very limited number of units that can be drawn with just one point.  However, these tags usually 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, most likely 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 teose 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.
  • Hunters with these tags can only hunt in the limited quota unit they drew and no other.

Reduced Price Cow/Calf Units/Tags

If you just want to come on an excellent adventure in the west, Wyoming offers a large number of reduced price cow/calf tags. 

  • The drawing for these tags is separate from the full price tags and many units are guaranteed draws with many left over 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 left over reduced-price tag.

As you can see, it will take some research and time to figure out where you want to hunt elk in Wyoming and what type of tag you will need to hunt that unit.  Do not give up hope though.  There is plenty of information out there that will help you find an area and to help you to find out your chances of drawing that unit. The best place to start would be the Hunt Planner on the Wyoming Game & Fish Website.

Please see our article on E-Scouting for Elk


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.

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