Idaho Elk, Mule Deer and Black Bear Blog

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Analyzing Controlled-Hunt Statistics: Priorities First

We’re well into controlled-hunt application season throughout most of the West. If you’re not already analyzing harvest statistics, draw odds, and overall scores and ratings on specific game units and seasons, you still have time to start. Facets that figure into the equation of best-choice-in-tags to apply for include: potential trophy quality; past success rates; hunting pressure; difficulty of terrain; accessibility of accommodations; and of course—draw odds. The place to start is to first analyze what you consider the most important components of a quality hunt, and rate them according to your personal priorities. Look for a realistic balance of what you consider most important for a good hunt and tag availability.

State fish and game departments provide statistics to aid hunters in making a choice in which tag(s) to apply for. The Idaho Fish and Game website,, offers information on the total number of tags per controlled-hunt, the overall success rate, total hunter days afield, and draw odds for residents and nonresidents. As a gauge of trophy quality, the site provides the percentage of bulls harvested with 6+ points, and the percentage of bucks harvested with 4+ points and 5+ points.

There are also some very useful websites and printed material from sources such as Eastmans’ Hunting and Top Rut that take game department statistics and crunch them with more statistics to come up with a rating system for each individual controlled-hunt. These sources can speed up your research time considerably. Keep in mind though, many of these second-source ratings weigh heavily on Boone & Crockett trophy standards. Again, tag-application selection really boils down to your priorities.

My personal priorities in the tag selection process start with minimal hunting pressure, as long as the hunt is balanced with a realistic opportunity at a mature bull or buck. Whether or not the mature bull or buck measures up to B&C trophy standards is less of a concern, though I’ll take it if it comes my way. Difficult terrain, to me, equates to less hunting pressure and better odds of mature animals. For elk and deer tags I’m willing to gamble with up to 1:15 draw odds, though 1:5 is much better; and I always have OTC opportunities in mind for backup, as I greatly cherish hunting each and every year.

The application deadline for Idaho trophy species tags (sheep/moose/goat) is April 30th. The deadline for elk/deer/antelope controlled-hunt tags in Idaho is June 30th.

Good hunting,

Joe Cavanaugh

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