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Idaho’s Top Elk Units!


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The Idaho elk population is in a good position entering the 2017 season. The winter was a hard one, but elk are hardy. The elk winter kill was not substantial. None of the limited entry hunts saw notable tag allocation declines, and some were increased.

If seeking a 350” bull, the options are narrow. Although several Boone and Crockett bulls are harvested each year, it is less than other states. Most of the big bull units are in the southern Idaho desert bordering Nevada and Utah or along the borders with Montana, Oregon, and Wyoming.

1. Owyhee Unit 40 is along the Oregon border southwest of Boise. Public land access is superb at 83%, and the terrain is not physically challenging. Harvest success has averaged 57% but every single one of the bulls taken the past three seasons has been at least six points.
The rifle season opens while the rut is ongoing. The bow hunt is also one of the top choices. Harvest success has been high for a bow area, at over 50% the past three seasons. Every bull taken during this time has been a six point or better.

2. South Hills Unit 46 is desert country running from near the Nevada border. The terrain is easy. 82% of the land is public, and access will not be a problem. The early (46-1) and late (46-2) hunts have high harvest success near 90%, and virtually all the bulls killed are six points or better.
The muzzleloader hunt opens during the peak of the rut. Only about 50% of permit holders shoot a bull, but 100% of those killed are six points or better.
The bow hunt here is also a top choice. The hunting pressure is small. Only 28% of guys have filled their tag the past three seasons, but 75% of these have been on six points.

3. South Hills Unit 55 encompasses all of units 55, 56 and 57. Access is good, and 54% of the area is public. There are 30 permits allocated. Harvest success has lagged the past three seasons at 58%. About 70% of those killed were six points or better. This unit is on the down trend, but still worth an application if draw odds rise from where they are currently at around 3.5%.
4. Smokey-Bennet Unit 44 is rough and public access is decent at 52%. The foothill country is mixed ownership so securing access would increase hunt opportunities. Unit 44 has registered entries for Boone and Crockett bulls. The rifle season opens during the end of the rut. Harvest success has been 77% the past three seasons, but almost 90% of these were six points or better. Draw odds are around 2%.

5. Diamond Creek Units 66A & 76 offer a backcountry hunt opportunity. 66A-1 tag includes both units. 66A is near the Wyoming border has roadless areas with suitable vegetation for growing a healthy elk herd. It offers an excellent backcountry opportunity, but the elk populations are not as dense as Unit 76. Unit 76 sits in the southeast corner Bordering both Utah and Wyoming. Road access is better than 66A, but trophy potential is lower. 62% of the combined areas is public land. Draw odds have been 3%.

About Schuyler Watt

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Schuyler was born and raised in Montana. He writes the ID and MT Member's Research Articles. He is currently a law student, but gets out with his bow as much as he can.

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  1. Does Idaho us a point system?

  2. Delbert L Carpenter

    What is the elk hunting and opportunity for success in the panhandle. I’m interested in the Montana border in the northeast corner of Idaho and Canadian border, region or district 1.

  3. Is unit 66a not a over the counter unit?

  4. Does anybody know what issue has the MRS for 2017 Idaho OTC Elk forecast? I’ve only seen the limited draw MRS in EBJ issue 101…

  5. My family and I are wanting to go on an elk hunt in Idaho fall 2018. We were looking in the palouse area unit 8. For the B antlered tag. We are from Northern Michigan, and have never been out to Idaho. We were trying to camp and do our own hunting (non-guided). I was wondering if you had an information on that area. Would that be a good area to go to? Any information I can get will be extremely helpful. Thank you in advance.

    • Anna McGarrah

      This is where we hunt. We ran into a forest service employee who told us the wolves have killed 70% of the herd in the past 20 years. The old timers who hunt this area back up those stats. We enjoy hunting the unit and there is a ton of public lands and private timber lands that allow access. It’s thick and can be steep depending on where you go. If you’re looking to hunt trophy bulls, I wouldn’t recommend this unit. Beautiful country! It would be worth buying a whitetail tag and a wolf tag! You’re best luck will be getting off the beaten trail and be willing to go into the deep dark stuff and pack something out. It can be intimidating terrain so be in shape! Best of luck!

      • Anna, I will be hunting 66A and 76 Archery 8-14 Sept 2018. My friend has a wolf tag but was told that he would never see a wolf? We also have black bear tags, what do you know about that. I’m not in good enough shape, I can already feel it!

  6. Why unit 54 was left off this list is just crazy!!!

  7. Everett White

    Staying at Hayden lake and was wondering if there are any affordable guides that are familiar with units 3 or 4

  8. Drew a unit 40 elk tag and I’m having a hard time finding info on good areas to start. Have some trips planned to scout the area, but would appreciate any info possible

    • hi Teresa I also drew a unit 40 bull tag this year, I have found finding good info on this unit has been tough I have made 1 scouting trip and done a ton of e scouting would definitely be willing to trade some info if you would lime

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