All About Hunting in Idaho

Idaho, a northwestern U.S. state, is full of greeneries and hemmed in by lofty mountains and vast stretches of wilderness that bestows enormous hunting and other outdoor recreation opportunities. Idaho is not solely famous for its potatoes; the state offers enormous hunting opportunities.  

Besides offering ample hunting opportunities, the capital of Idaho, Boise provides fishing and rafting amenities. Julia Davis Park of Idaho is a beautiful green area containing a garden of roses, museums and a zoo.

 Idaho has a diverse species of animals and the best big game hunting in the west. Moreover, you are permitted to do combination hunts, either with two big game species, or with big game animals and upland game mammals.

So, if you are a hunter, Idaho offers you with a plethora of opportunities and fulfills all of your requirements.

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1. Hunting Seasons

Hunting seasons in Idaho mainly varies depending on the factors like breeding or nesting, age or gender distribution, economic and recreational concerns.

If the animal population is large, moderators will time it to give hunters a greater advantage to hunt. If the population is dwindling, they will set the dates to give the animals a greater survival advantage. T

he Idaho Department of Fish and Game has demarcated different hunting seasons for different species of animals and has categorized them into- Big game hunting season and Small game hunting season.

How To Hunt Idaho (For Elk, Deer, and Antelope)

1.1 Big Game Hunting Season

Big game animals in Idaho mainly comprises Deer, Elk, Pronghorn, Black Bear, Mountain Lion. Although the season dates vary according to different zones, the general season of the animals is enumerated below.

  • Idaho deer seasons vary from October 10 to December 1.
  • Idaho elk seasons commence from August 1 and end on December 31.
  • Idaho pronghorn seasons range from September 25 to December 31.
  • Idaho black bear seasons are between August 30 to October 31 and April 15 to 30.
  • Idaho mountain lion seasons range from August 30 to June 30.

1.2 Small Game Hunting Season

The small game animals in Idaho consist of Turkey, Cottontail Rabbit, Snowshoe Hare, California and Bobwhite Quail, Chukar and Gray Partridge, Male Pheasants and Red Squirrel. The general season for each is as follows.

  • Idaho Turkey season starts from August 30 to January 31.
  • Cottontail Rabbit and Snowshoe Hare can be hunted between August 30 and March 31.
  • California and Bobwhite Quail hunting season begins from September 18 and ends on January 31.
  • Chukar and Gray partridge hunting season commences from September 19 to January 31.
  • Male pheasants can be hunted from October 9 to December 31.
  • Red squirrel hunting season commences from August 30 to March 31.

2. What Species to Hunt in Idaho?

A variety of animals from different species are the original inhabitants of the dense yet beautiful foliage of Idaho.

Ranging from big game, small game, upland birds to waterfowl, there is nothing that cannot be found in Idaho, thus making Idaho completely a hunter’s paradise.

2.1 Deer

In Idaho, hunters can hunt both mule-deer and white-tailed deer, mainly on public lands. Mule deer are largely spread in the central mountains and southern deserts of Idaho, whereas white-tailed deer dwell in the northern forested areas of Idaho.

The main differences between mule-deer and white-tailed deer are size of ears, color of the tail and configuration of the antler.

The mule deer’s tail is black-tipped, while the white-tailed deer’s is not so. Idaho offers not only diverse general seasons that allow hunters to harvest a buck each year, but also high-quality trophy-controlled hunts for hunters to hunt large and mature bucks.

2.2 Elk

Idaho has diverse habitats and a huge population of more than 120,000 elk. The elk has a large body with a four-chambered stomach and weighs more than twice the weight of mule deer.

Elks can produce deeper pitched (150 Hz) sounds using the larynx and have a shrill vocalization, known as bugling, which can be heard for miles.

Elk hunting in Idaho is divided into 28 elk zones with a 2-tag system in most zones- A tag and B tag. While ‘A’ tags offer more chances to muzzleloader and archery hunters, ‘B’ tags provide more opportunities to center fire rifle hunters. Hunters need to choose one zone and select either of the two tags.

2.3 Pronghorn

Pronghorns are deemed to be the fastest land mammal in the Western Hemisphere of the planet.  They have distinct white fur on their rumps, breasts, sides, bellies and across their throats.

Adult males tend to be territorial and maintain their areas with scent marking, vocalizing and challenging intruders.

The challenge to hunting pronghorn is pursuing an extremely wary animal known for its superb vision in wide-open country. To hunt pronghorn in Idaho, you need to purchase an Idaho hunting license, apply for a controlled hunt between May 1 to June 5 and purchase your tag before August 1.

If you don’t draw, try again in a second controlled hunt application form between August 5 and August 15.

2.4 Black Bear

Idaho has an enormous population of bears and their body color may range from cinnamon to brown. They have better eyesight and hearing than humans.

They regularly scale trees to feed, escape enemies and hibernate.  Tongue-clicking and grunting are the most usual sounds and are made in communication to their offsprings, and occasionally to humans.

In Idaho, hunters can hunt bears with hounds or use baits. To harvest a black bear, non-resident deer and elk tags may also be used.

2.5 Mountain Lion

Mountain lions are basically large, tan cats. Except for the whitish-grey belly and chest, they are mainly hidden under tawny-beige fur. The tip of the tail, snout and ears are adorned with black markings.

Like the house cats, they tend to growl, hiss and purr and use physical signs like feces or claw markings to demarcate their territory.

Ten months of the year can be used by the hunters to hunt mountain lions in Idaho and can also purchase multiple tags in a year. Limited application of electronic game call is allowed. Nonresident deer or elk tags may be used to harvest a mountain lion.

2.6 Waterfowl Species

Waterfowl species includes both geese and ducks. The only difference between geese and ducks is that the former is larger than the latter. Geese have longer neck, more elongated body, and longer legs as compared to ducks. Webbing on the feet of geese are more prominent than those on the feet of ducks.

In Idaho, waterfowl hunting is at its pinnacle during October and November. Nontoxic shot is required for waterfowl hunting throughout the state of Idaho. There is a very strong population of Canada Geese throughout the state that offer early hunting seasons.

2.7 Chukar and Gray Partridge

Chukars and Gray Partridge live on large tracts of public land in Idaho, and can be spotted by anyone who makes the required effort to search them. They have light brown back, grey breast and buff belly. Chukar are sometimes preyed on by golden eagles.

Chukars are mainly found in rocky, arid areas hidden under cheat grass and sage brush. Gray Partridges can be seen in the vicinity of chukars. The hunters can either have controlled and general season hunting tags.

2.8 California and Bobwhite Quail

The name “bobwhite” derives from its characteristic whistling call. Males have a white throat and brow stripe bordered by black, unlike brown colored females.

California Quail is also known as ‘valley’ quail and have a carving plume of six feathers, which are black in males and brown for females.

California Quail can be spotted in south-central Idaho, west to the Oregon border. A healthy population of quails dwell along rivers with brushy cover below 3500 feet in Idaho.

2.9 Pheasants

Male Pheasants are highly adorned with bright colors and have longer tails than females. They mainly live on seeds and insects. Off the beaten path and on the public lands where much of the best habitat can be noticed, best pheasant hunting opportunities can be found.

Hunters agreeing to wear through boot leather as well as knock doors can obtain better results. Commencing in 2020, a new pheasant stocking program has been set up to expand access to pheasant hunting in Idaho.

3. Where Can You Hunt?

3.1 Public Lands

The Idaho Department of Fish and Game offers millions of acres of public lands for hunters, anglers and others to enjoy. Two-thirds of the state is public land which is available for hunting purposes.

There are 6 Wildlife Management Areas in Idaho, which are mentioned as follows:

  • Boise River WMA
  • C.J. Strike WMA
  • Cecil D. Andrus WMA
  • Fort Boise WMA
  • Montour WMA
  • Payette River WMA

3.2 Private Lands

In Idaho, a law requiring permission to hunt on any private land would be a real challenge, since about 67% of the land is public. Hunters should get permission before hunting on private land and the state urges them to act responsibly so that access to private lands can be maintained.

Landowners usually restrict access to their property because of conflicts and tensions with the hunters, the main causes being trespassing, property damage and throwing firearms close to buildings.

Sadly, the irresponsibility of a handful of people are creating access to quality hunting to become extinct for the rest.

4. License Requirements

Idaho hunters born on or after January 1, 1975 must either complete a hunter education course to buy a hunting license or display proof of a previously held license in Idaho or another province. Without license, you will not be allowed to pursue any kind of animal, be it big or small.

How to apply for Idaho’s controlled hunts online

4.1 Age Requirements

Depending on your age, you may be required to have the Hunter Education Certificate to lawfully purchase a license or permit to hunt.

All you need to do is to complete the Idaho Hunter Education Certification requirements, choose the correct license type and then buy the license from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game website or an Idaho-approved vendor.

4.2 Types of Hunting Licenses

4.2.1 Idaho Resident

Idaho Resident is a person who has stayed in Idaho for at least 6 months. Active-duty military members are considered to be residents. All residents need to have a resident hunting license and additional tags and permits may be needed.

4.2.2 Non-Resident

All non-residents must have a non-resident hunting license and additional permits or tags may also be required. Further information is mentioned in the state’s official website.

Resident vs Non-resident Hunting Licenses with Randy Newberg

4.2.3 Youth Hunting License

Idaho residents and non-residents of ages between 10 to 17 may buy a junior hunting license and must be followed by a licensed adult. For more details, please visit the state’s official website.

4.2.4 Senior Hunting License

Idaho residents of ages between 65 or above are eligible for the reduced-fee Senior Hunting and Fishing License.

4.2.5 Military and Veteran License

Active-duty military members who are permanently stationed in Idaho may buy a resident hunting license. They must be stationed in Idaho for at least 30 days.

Moreover, active-duty military members who maintain Idaho as their official state of residence may purchase the reduced-fee Military Furlough Combination Hunting/Fishing License while on leave.

Disabled veterans who are Idaho residents may be eligible for reduced fees for licenses and tags. Disabled veterans who are non-residents and are at least 40% disabled may be eligible for reduced-fee licenses and tags.

How to buy an Idaho fishing and hunting license online

4.3 License Expiration

Hunting licenses are valid from the date of purchase through December 31 of the same year. Idaho residents are able to buy a lifetime hunting license.

5. Hunters Education

Hunter Education courses impart students the art of wildlife management, ethics, safety, survival and first aid. Completion of a hunter education course is a must to purchase a hunting license.

There are two types of hunter education courses: Instructor-led Course and Internet Course.

5.1 Instructor-Led Course

Instructor-led hunter education course is an offline classroom course recommended for students of ages between 9 and older.

5.2 Internet Course

Internet Hunter Education Course is a self-paced online course for students of ages 9 and older.

Idaho Hunter Education Card

6. Rules and Regulations

6.1 Distance Regulations

Idaho does not have a code or rule that particularly defines the distance you are required to be away from the road before discharging a firearm.

However, it is illegal if you shoot from or across a public highway. If you are off the travelled portion of the road and you are not shooting across the road, you are fine.

6.2 Legal Hunting Hours

Idaho does not stipulate any specified hunting hours except that official hunting hours must start at 30 minutes before sunrise and stopping 30 minutes after sunset.

6.3 Hunter Orange Requirement

Hunter Orange is recommended in Idaho, but only required while hunting pheasants where the upland game permit is needed and on sponsored hunts, such as organized youth hunts and also in waterfowl hunting or turkey hunting where camouflage is needed to avoid being spotted.

The minimum requirement is 36 square inches of hunter orange above the waist and an orange hat that typically fits the requirement.

6.4 Bag Limits

In Idaho, the bag limit or tag permit varies depending on the type of the size of the game. If the game is small, a high range of bag limit is allowed and if the game is big, a single animal per day is permitted.

How to Find the Best OTC Elk Hunting Units in Idaho

6.5 Can You Hunt at Night?

Night hunting at Idaho is allowed only for raccoon and coyote as long as the proper permission and spotlight permit is obtained.

If you are simply using NVG for Predatory and Unprotected Wildlife, as defined by Idaho Code, and you are not casting light of any kind, you do not require a spotlight permit.

7. Bowhunting

In order to buy an archery permit in Idaho, all bowhunters must possess a valid hunting license and exhibit proof that they have completed an approved bowhunter education course or show evidence of having been licensed for an archery-only hunt in Idaho or another province, or complete an affidavit to that effect.

Bowhunter Instructor-led course and Bowhunter Internet Course are available for students of ages 9 or older.

7.1 Bow and Arrow Requirements

The legal bow and arrow requirements for hunting in Idaho is mentioned below.

  • With any bow having a peak draw weight of less than 40 pounds up to or at a draw of 28 inches or any crossbow having a peak draw weight of less than 150 pounds.
  • With any compound bow set at more than 85% let-off.
  • With an arrow or bolt, and broadhead with a combined total weight of less than 300 grains.
  • With an arrow less than 24 inches from broadhead to nock inclusive.

8. Game Calls

Game calls refer to the signals emitted by the hunters in order to tempt the animals to the trap. There are two types of game call: hand-held and electronic. Hand-held game calls are carried out with the aid of wood or plastic and are extremely cost-friendly.

Electronic game calls are, however, not always considered legal. Recorded or amplified sounds may not be used to hunt any non-game bird or non-game mammal except coyotes.


The Gem State offers plenty of hunting to keep avid hunters blissful, including deer, elk, bear and mountain lion. Small games are in plenty. Being the residence of a huge variety of species and wildlife, hunting in Idaho will become more popular in the aeons to come.

Hunting in Idaho is managed by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. For further details on purchasing licenses, particular hunting norms or other information, please visit the department’s official website:


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