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Idaho Fish and Game

Mule deer

F&G Commission sets 2019-20 big game seasons and rules


Elk opportunities were expanded, some youth hunts for mule deer restored, and some white-tailed deer hunts were shortened

Idaho Fish and Game Commission on March 13 set the 2019-20 big game seasons, and a full copy of the new seasons and associated rules will be available on Idaho Fish and Game’s website in early April and paper copies will be available in mid to late April at Fish and Game offices and license vendors. 

Seasons and rules set by commissioners pertain to deer, elk, pronghorn, black bear, mountain lion and gray wolf. 

Hunters will see increases in antlerless hunts for mule deer in some units, many of which were re-established after deer herds rebounded in the last two years after a hard winter during  2016-17. 

Elk hunters will also see some increased hunting opportunities in areas where elk populations are above the department’s objectives, and tags for the popular Sawtooth Zone will remain on a first-come, first-served basis. 

White-tailed deer hunters will get shorter seasons in some units in the Clearwater Region, and a nonresident tag sold as a second tag to a resident or a nonresident will not be valid in some units in the Clearwater Region. 

Commissioners also retained female mountain lion quotas in 13 units in Southern Idaho and retained existing controlled hunts for black bears in four Southwest Idaho units, but increased bear tags by providing new controlled hunts, including youth hunts. 

Hunters are reminded that the controlled hunt application period for Moose, Bighorn Sheep and Mountain Goat is coming up April 1 through April 30, and the rules booklet will be available in March at Fish and Game offices, license vendors, but are currently available online

Applications for controlled hunts for deer, elk, pronghorn and fall black bear runs May 1 through June 5. Hunters are reminded that controlled hunt applications for either of these application periods will not be accepted via mail.

Here are some of the specific changes for the 2019-20 big game seasons approved by the commission: 

Mule deer

  • Reduce season length for mule deer in the Panhandle Region by closing it on Nov. 20 for the regular deer tag in an effort reduce harvest. 
  • Reduce antlered and antlerless controlled hunts in the Clearwater Region in units 11,13 and 18 in response to winter aerial survey data. 
  • Extend the Unit 39 youth either-sex season to end Oct. 31 in align with the general deer season. 
  • Increase antlerless deer tags from 500 to 1,500 in Unit 39 either-sex controlled hunt and include Unit 43 in the boundary. 
  • Add youth antlerless deer hunts from Oct. 10-16 to restore youth hunt opportunities to some units in Southeast Region. 
  • Eliminate all either-sex controlled hunts in units 66 and 69 as a result of winter aerial surveys. 
  • A nonresident tag limit of 240 tags was set in the unlimited antlered hunt in Unit 73.


  • Elk City Zone: Established a cap on A tags with 628 tags first-come, first-served, and Reduced the tag quota by 20 percent for B tags, taking it to 1,432 B tags available.
  • Sawtooth Zone: Elk tags will remain available on a first-come, first-served basis. Nonresident tags will be sold on May 10 and resident tags on July 12. Tags numbers will be increased this year to 1,000 for A tags and 1,800 for B tags. 
  • Smoky-Bennett Zone: Provide 2,500 first-come, first-served B tags for antlerless elk only in Units 45 and 52 with the season running from Nov. 1-30. 
  • Big Desert Zone: Provide 500 B tags on a first-come, first-served basis for antlerless only in Unit 52A only with the season running from Nov. 1-30. 
  • Snake River Zone: Removed general hunting opportunity in Unit 63 and replaced with two unlimited controlled hunts, an antlerless only hunt Sept. 1 to Dec. 31 and an either sex hunt Aug. 1 to  Aug. 30.
  • Pioneer Zone: Provide 2,500 B tags on a first-come, first-served basis for antlerless elk only with the season running from Nov. 1 to Dec. 7.
  • South Hills Zone: Established a cap on B tags with 500 tags first-come, first served basis for antlerless elk only in Unit 54 only.

White-tailed deer

  • Nonresident tags used as second tags can not be used for the general deer hunts in units 10, 12, 16A, 17, 19 and 20 in the Clearwater Region
  • General white-tailed deer hunts were reduced in units 16A, 17, 19 and 20 in the Clearwater Region, and will now run from Oct. 10 through Nov. 18
  • In the Panhandle region, the X-Tag hunt area description was changed from “within one mile of private land” to “on or within one mile of a private agricultural field.”

Black Bear

  • Controlled hunts will be continued in Southwest Region units where they have traditionally been while increasing season lengths, youth hunter opportunity and increasing tag numbers.
  • Units 31 and 22 were split into two separate fall controlled black bear hunts, and tags were increased in each, for a net increase of 150 tags between the two units.
  • Units 32 and 32A were split into two separate spring controlled hunts with 200 and 40 tags available, respectively. A new youth only spring controlled black bear hunt was also added in Unit 32, with 25 tags available. There was a net increase of 190 spring controlled hunt tags for the two units combined. The spring controlled hunts in both units run from April 1 through May 22, and the youth only controlled hunt runs from May 23 to June 15. 
  • A second tag and electronic calls may be used in Units 14, 15 and all of Unit16 (eliminating the second tag north of the Selway river only) and the season was extended in Unit 14.
  • The general spring hunt dates were extended to June 30 in Units 14, 19A, 23, 24(portion of unit only), 25, 33 and 39.
  • In the Southeast Region, general spring and fall black bear hunts were created in units 71, 72, 74, 75, 77 and 78, and a summer dog-training season was added in response to public input.

Mountain Lion

  • Existing female quotas will remain in place in the Southwest and Magic Valley regions for Units 22, 23, 24, 25, 32, 32A, 33, 34, 35, 43, 44, 48 and 49.
  • Seasons were lengthened in Units 1, 2, 3, 4, 4A, 5 and 6.
  • Use of second tags was expanded in Units 14, 15 and 16, and use of electronic calls will be allowed in Unit 14, 15 and 16
  • Female quotas were increased in Units 54 and 55 to provide additional hunting opportunity.
  • Female quotas were increased in the Southeast Region and new male lion harvest quotas were created to increase the average age of lions in the harvest and reduce overall lion abundance.

Gray Wolf

  • Wolf hunting was opened year-round on private land in Units 22, 24, 31, and all units in the Salmon Region to address chronic livestock depredations.
  • New wolf trapping seasons were added in Units 8, 8A, 11, 11A, 31, 32, 34 and 35.
  • New private land-only trapping seasons were opened from Oct. 10 through March 31 in various units in Southern Idaho in an effort to prevent wolf expansion into the area and  minimize potential wolf conflicts with livestock. 
  • Possession of tags was increased in the Panhandle, Clearwater, Upper Snake and Salmon Regions to 10 hunting and 10 trapping tags per hunter/trapper in a year. 
  • A proposed trapping season in Units 48 and 49 in the Magic Valley Region was eliminated from consideration in response to public opposition.
  • The opening date for most trapping seasons will be Oct. 10, excluding Units 1, 60, 61, 62, and 62A which will continue to open on Nov. 15, and Units 7, 9, and that portion of Unit 6 within the North Fork St. Joe River drainage will open Sep. 10.