It’s a draw

Wyoming offers many excellent hunting opportunities for residents and nonresidents. A first-time Wyoming hunter can easily be overwhelmed trying to decide where to hunt, how to get a license, what to apply for and how the draw is conducted. Covering some of the most frequently-asked questions can help hunters of all experience levels when considering a Wyoming hunt.  


Q: I am new to hunting in Wyoming. How can I get started?

A: Start planning as soon as you think you might want to hunt in Wyoming. The more time you have, the better prepared you will be when it is time to decide where you want to apply and for what species. Draw application periods for many big game hunts typically open on the first business day in January; but, depending on your residency and the license you are applying for, the deadlines vary.  The Wyoming Game and Fish Department offers  great resources to help a person make an informed decision about what hunts are suitable for them. The best place to start is the Wyoming Hunt Planner on the Game and Fish website. The interactive guide to hunting in Wyoming is a gateway to  land status maps, hunt area numbers, license types and drawing odds. Also — it’s all free. If you can’t find what you need online, a quick phone call to the Game and Fish telephone information center or any regional office can guide you to the information you will need in order to plan your hunt.  Another key point: each person applying for licenses through the electronic license system is required to set up a user account with a login and password. Once a user account is created it is important for the sportsperson to remember their username and password. This login information is needed to access any account information in the future.


Q: I recently moved to Wyoming. When can I apply for or purchase resident licenses?

A: To qualify for any resident Game and Fish license, preference point or permit, a person must live in and physically reside in Wyoming for one full year before applying or buying any licenses as a resident. You can’t claim residency in any other state during that time. This means if you moved to Wyoming in July 2021, you would not qualify to purchase or apply for any resident licenses until July 2022. If you apply for a license before you are a resident, you must apply as a nonresident, even if the hunting season opens after you obtain residency status. Any person who does not meet the residency requirements must apply as a nonresident.


Q: What is a general license?

A: General licenses are issued for deer, elk and turkey in Wyoming. General licenses offer a lot of flexibility for hunts, which is a great advantage for people who are just starting to hunt Wyoming. They work differently for resident and nonresident hunters. Wyoming resident hunters who were unsuccessful in drawing a full-price license may purchase one general license for deer, elk or wild turkey —one for each species—. General licenses can be purchased over-the-counter anywhere that sells licenses after all of the draws have concluded. Wyoming residents can hunt in any open general season and for the respective species with their license — and that can mean exploring all over the state! General licenses for elk and deer are limited in number for nonresident hunters; nonresidents who want to hunt the general season need to apply for the general license in the initial limited quota draw. For general elk licenses, nonresidents must apply for the draw in the month of January and specify GEN as the desired license area. Holding a general elk license allows a hunter to hunt in hunt areas with a GEN season during the dates specified in the regulation. When it comes to a general license for deer,  nonresidents are required to specify a general region when they apply, and may only hunt the general seasons within the general region specific to that license. For example, a nonresident who drew a deer Region W general license in 2021, would be able to hunt in deer areas 82, 100 and 131 for the dates specified in the regulation as general seasons in those hunt areas. A general license is never valid for a limited quota season, or in areas that are solely limited quota. Even if a nonresident draws a Region W license, it is not valid to hunt deer areas 101 and 102. Even though they appear to fall within the region boundaries, those licenses are limited quota and a hunter would need to hold a license specific to those areas to hunt.


Q: Do I need to apply for my licenses?

A: Any hunter who is vying for a limited quota license should apply in the initial draw. License draws are conducted for the following species: antelope, bighorn sheep, deer, elk, moose, mountain goat, sandhill crane, wild bison and wild turkey. All limited quota licenses are offered in the initial draw, including reduced-price licenses for doe/fawn deer and antelope, as well as reduced price cow/calf elk licenses.  


Q: Do I have to apply for a full-price license before I can apply for a reduced-price license?

A: It is not necessary to apply for or purchase a full-price license in order to apply for a reduced-price license, which are Type 6, 7 or 8. For deer and antelope, a person can apply for a maximum of two reduced-price licenses in the initial draw. For elk, a person may only apply for one full-price license, which are General, Type 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 9, and one reduced price license in the initial draw. After the initial draw a person may apply for and receive up to three elk licenses in the leftover draw and first-come, first-serve basis, of which no more than one license shall be a General, Type 0, 1, 2, 3 or 9 license. 


Q: What are preference points? Can I choose not to use them?

A: Preference points are a way for hunters to improve their odds of drawing a full-price license, especially in a hard-to-draw hunt area. The more points you have, the better chance you have of drawing. Most hunters use preference points in effort to draw a license for a bull or buck of their chosen species. Preference points are available for:

• resident and nonresident moose
• resident and nonresident full price bighorn sheep
• nonresident elk
• nonresident deer
• nonresident antelope

If you have preference points, there is not an option to apply without using them. Everyone applying for full-price licenses participates in the preference point draw, including applications with zero preference points. All preference points are used if an applicant draws their first choice; however, preference points are not used if an applicant is unsuccessful in drawing their first choice license or draws their second or third choice. 


Q: I want to hunt antelope in Wyoming. Can I purchase a license over the counter?

A: All antelope licenses in Wyoming are limited quota, meaning they are limited in number. You need to select a hunt area and apply for that license in the draw. Only licenses that are not allocated in the initial draw and leftover draw are available to be purchased over the counter beginning in mid-July. The licenses that are left usually are restricted to private land and there may be little-to-no access. Whenever applying for any license, a person should check the limitations of that license, including having access to hunt if they are successful in drawing the license. It is important for hunters to obtain access permission before applying for or purchasing a license.


Q: Should I apply as an individual or as part of a party?

A: If you’re planning to hunt with your friends or family, a party application might be a good choice. Party applications are only accepted for elk, deer, antelope, turkey and sandhill crane.  Up to six people can apply as a group; sandhill crane parties are limited to two hunters. When applying as a party all applications go into the draw together; therefore, all applicants in the draw can expect the same draw results. In the initial limited quota draw all applications must be the same including residency, special or regular and hunt areas, meaning residents and nonresidents cannot apply as a party. In the leftover draw residents and nonresidents can submit applications as a party. In a party application, preference points are averaged among party members. So if a hunter has 10 points and applies as a party with someone who has no preference points, the party’s preference points are averaged. In this case the average would be 5 points, so the party applications would be entered into the drawing with 5 points. Preference points are averaged and rounded to four (4) decimal places. This can help or hinder chances of drawing depending on the point total of each party member. 

Q: If I put a youth  as the party leader will my odds of drawing increase?

A: Youth don’t get an advantage in the draw, so it won’t help your odds. Wyoming draws are conducted with no personal, identifiable information included. Each application is entered into the draw with a random identification number and a computerized, selection process is used to carry out the draw. Applying as a party results in the same random numbers being assigned to all applications in the draw. If the applications are chosen during that particular step in the draw, the licenses will be issued to all members that applied as part of the party. The party organizer has no effect on the outcome of the draw. 


Q: I am interested in archery hunting for big game. What do I need to do?

A: Wyoming does not require hunters to choose their weapon during the draw application. If you successfully draw or purchase a big game license, it’s valid as specified in the regulation for the regular season. To hunt  during the special archery season — which is prior to the opening day for rifle hunting — hunters need to purchase a special archery permit in addition to their license. The special archery permit only allows hunters to use their license as specified and within the areas it is valid, but it allows them to hunt on that license during the special archery season. For instance, if a person holds a general elk license, the special archery permit would allow them to hunt in any area with a general elk season listed, during the special archery season. A great benefit of this system is if hunters are unsuccessful filling their tag during the archery season, they can hunt the regular season with a firearm or bow on that unused license.  Some limited quota hunting seasons are restricted to archery hunting only. Archers possessing a Type 9 archery only license are not required to purchase an archery permit. However, they can only hunt in the hunt area(s) and during the dates their license is valid as identified in the regulations. There is no special archery season for the Type 9 license. 

— Regina Dickson is the information and education specialist in the Green River Region. This is her first story for Wyoming Wildlife.

To start planning your hunt in Wyoming, visit the Wyoming Hunt Planner at

Photographer Info
Mark Gocke/WGFD

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