No Tags, No Worries

Want to hunt elk this fall, yet didn’t draw a tag?  No worries. Tags are still available in several places around the West by over-the-counter (OTC) purchase.  The days when gramp’s used to show up and buy a tag at the local sporting goods store the day before the opener aren’t completely gone. You can still hunt OTC elk tags in several places around the West.  Here are 3 awesome elk hunting states that offer over-the-counter hunts for resident and non-residents alike.

Three Incredible OTC Elk States


Elk, endless wilderness areas and Idaho go together like bread and butter.  Idaho has tons of opportunity to hunt OTC elk, most of the state is OTC with only a few exceptions where a draw controlled tag is required.  The number of tags available varies unit by unit and are sold at a first come, first serve basis. FYI, they are on sale now!  Last year non-resident OTC elk tags sold out in November for the first time since 2008.  Like most western states there is plenty of public land that hold elk across Idaho, in fact, about 65% of Idaho land is public land.  According to Idaho Department of Fish and Game, “elk hunting is managed in 28 elk zones with a 2-tag system in most zones – A tag & B tag. In general, ‘A tags’ provide more opportunity for muzzleloader and archery hunters and B tags provide more opportunity for center fire rifle hunters. Hunters may select one zone and choose either an A tag or a B tag.  An incredible mixture of elk hunting opportunity is available to the hunter, thanks to Idaho’s diverse habitats and a population of about 107,000 elk. The Idaho elk hunter can pursue bulls that vanish like ghosts in the sagebrush deserts, chase herds in the lung-busting climbs of the central Idaho mountains, or stalk the thick-timbered ridges of northern Idaho.”  Tags are on sale now so get them before they’re sold out, still a lot left.


  • Resident: Tag $36.75, Hunting License $15.75
  • Non-resident: Tag $416.75, Hunting License $154.75


Idaho OTC Elk units

Idaho OTC Elk units.  PC: Idaho Fish and Game.


This is one of the most popular states to hunt elk out West.  One reason for that is that Colorado has the largest elk herd in the country, hovering around 250,000 to 300,000 total elk across millions of acres of public land.  Another reason for its popularity is the moderate tag prices.  Although Colorado is only about 35% public land there is still millions of acres of public land elk habitat.  The state is divided into 185 hunting game management units.  The Western part of the state has much more public land than the eastern part.  OTC elk tags in Colorado will be on sale for 2018 on August 9th.  These licenses are unlimited in number and available in a range of units and seasons. They go on sale There are unlimited OTC licenses for cow and either-sex archery elk, bull elk in the 2nd and 3rd rifle seasons and either -sex elk in the plains.  See the below maps


  • Resident: Tag $46.00, $10 habitat stamp
  • Non-resident: Tag $661, $10 habitat stamp
  • No separate hunting license required

OTC archery either-sex elk units. PC: Colorado Parks and Wildlife


OTC Archery cow elk units. PC: Colorado Parks and Wildlife


OTC rifle 2nd and 3rd season. PC: Colorado Parks and Wildlife


OTC rifle plains units. PC: Colorado Parks and Wildlife


Utah is known for its big bulls and extremely hard to draw Limited Entry elk units, but you can still hunt elk OTC across the state every year.  Utah offers a couple types of OTC elk hunts that are a blast to hunt, one is a spike hunt and the other is an any bull hunt.  The Utah spike hunt is one of the most unique elk hunting experiences in the West.  Many of the extremely hard to draw premier big bull units allow OTC spike hunting in them.  The spike hunt in these units can be extremely fun as you run among the giant bulls and herds of cows trying to find a non-branched antlered bull.  It’s low stress and just plain exciting chasing spikes in these elk rich units full of big bulls.  Sometimes it even gets difficult dodging these big bulls trying to find a spike.  You definitely won’t go home without plenty of opportunity, and you’ll have a good chance at filling that freezer with a spike (archery hunt is spike or cow).  Again we can’t emphasize how much fun this hunt is.  There are always plenty of elk to see and chase.  Most units offer spike hunts for archery, muzzleloader and rifle.

There are also a number of any bull units that offer opportunity at more mature bulls, although these units are hunted hard and for the most part hold fewer elk.  Mature bulls come off these units every year, it can happen for you if you put in the work.  Don’t expect to road hunt these areas.  Hiking in, getting away from the crowds and persistence is the name of the game in the any bull units.  With Utah being around 70% public land there are plenty of places to hunt.  Tags are sold OTC beginning  July 17th.


  • Resident: Tag $50.00, Hunting License $34.00
  • Non-resident: Tag $393.00, Hunting License $65


Utah elk units. PC: Utah Division of Wildlife.

Utah elk units. PC: Utah Division of Wildlife

As Good As It Has Ever Been

Elk hunting is as good as it has ever been across the country.  Take advantage of these OTC elk hunts and the vast tracts of public land YOU OWN!  Make sure to have your OnXMaps phone app to know where landownership boundaries are, water sources, recent burns and other good features too. The best way to do these OTC hunts is get 1 or 2 buddies and split the cost of gas, food, and other expenses and have someone to go explore new hunting grounds with.  You’ll need them hopefully to get that photo or video of you with your Western OTC elk.  The “good ‘ole days” of elk hunting are NOW!

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