Idaho elk hunting is as good as it has ever been, herd populations are above objective in most units, while other areas are holding strong and only a handful of areas are showing decline. These are wonderful times to be an Idaho elk hunter! Idaho does not offer a bonus or preference point system and therefore odds are a bit tougher to calculate, Idaho also caps nonresident permits at no more than 10% of the current year resident quota. These are actually good factors, and in my opinion, are the way draws should be handled throughout the west. If you are wanting to apply for a top-notch hunt with high harvest success Idaho has a long list of opportunities, however, if you are looking for a trophy elk unit, the list gets short quick. Here are a few of the chart toppers from the Gem state that have the highest potential for both harvest success and trophy opportunity.
South Hills Unit 46 is one of the best units in Idaho, excellent public land access, mild to medium terrain, and one of the more likely places to shoot a cranker bull. There are three seasons for any weapon hunters, all of which perform very well. Take a look at the stats, each hunt choice is noteworthy. The muzzleloader hunt in this unit has great season dates, however, the stats don’t reflect the best of odds. Nonetheless, there is excellent potential and likely harvest for those willing and able to put in the miles.
Smokey-Bennet Unit 44 – The early hunt here is a rifle rut hunt opportunity. Season runs from September 25th through October 10th similar to the Owyhee unit previously mentioned. However, in contrast to the Owyhee unit this hunt does not run in conjunction with the archery hunt. So as best I can tell you will have the area to yourself in regard to elk hunting. Season dates scream potential, draw odds are very low, but harvest of 6–point bulls is way up there at 72% average over the past three years.
Owyhee Unit 40-1 is probably one of the best for bigger bulls. With the season running in late September and into early October, this is a rifle rut hunt and that is a unique opportunity. These elk herds are not bursting at the seams, but when you find bulls you are likely to see a shooter. There are only five permits allocated, thus nonresident permits are not likely, however, IDFG will allocate a single permit here on rotation, so keep an eye out! The terrain is varied, some areas are pretty rugged and others are medium, but either way you are likely to put some miles in and be prepared for a rugged pack out. High public land and good access make this hunt choice excellent. Draw odds reflect this and are slim at best.
The archery hunt choice here is also a chart-topper. Draw odds are tough for archery but a solid bet, harvest stats are absolutely incredible for an archery hunt. The downer here is that IDFG has the archery hunt and the any-weapon hunt running simultaneously, something that isn’t found very often. The stats don’t seem to be hurt by this but it sure could make for some interesting encounters.
South Hills Unit 55-1 – Located on the southern border along the Nevada/Utah junction. This hunt is lacking in the harvest stats, the 3-year harvest average is sitting at 55%. However, last year harvest success came in at 75% and 83% of those were 6-point or better and rumor has it there are some big bulls being killed down there. Public land percentage is decent and the terrain is varied, ranging from lowland agricultural to mildly rugged islands of mountains. Trending back up, this is a unique opportunity and has potential for someone willing to unlock it.
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