Non-Resident Guide To Picking A OTC Elk Unit

NON-RESIDENT GUIDE TO PICKING A OTC ELK UNIT

Part #1

In this series the 1stRut family is going to walk through the steps that we do to pick an OTC unit (or 5) to begin to dive deeper into your research. Admittedly, this series will not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is not nearly as exciting as discussing camo patterns, broad heads, or boots but this is a process that some of us enjoy. I enjoying being in the process of elk hunting year round so this is just an extension of my elk season.

This is going to seem overly simplistic, but you need to know which states offer OTC tags available for nonresidents. (This is assuming you are like me and travel west)

  • Non-Resident OTC Elk Tags
  • Washington
  • Oregon
  • Idaho
  • Utah
  • Colorado

This list is current, and there are ways to hunt other states such as Wyoming and Montana but we can cover that in a separate post.

Let’s pick a state to target, say Idaho.

Our next step is to jump out to the states department of fish and wildlife. In our case the link is below.

https://idfg.idaho.gov/

Now that I am here, what am I looking for? The answer to that questions is easy to answer, I am looking for the states big game publication.


Once you are find the big game publication, lower right hand section of the screenshot above. Download it for future reference. There is a ton of information in these and many things you need to pay close attention to. I think it is important to read the regulations each year for the state you are hunting in. Every year the rules can change, and you can find yourself in hot water without knowing it. It is your responsibility as a hunter to know the state’s rules and regulations. 

  • Topics To Keep An Eye On:
  • Season Dates
  • Legal Game (Male with x points or x height point)
  • Hunter Orange Requirements
  • CWD Requirements
  • Tag Procedures
  • Bow Let-Off & Broadheads

This list is not exhaustive, but gives you a flavor of topics that can change. Frequently, states will publish a page or two focusing on changes in regulations etc. Idaho’s publication has a “What’s New?” section to cover this.


NON-RESIDENT GUIDE TO PICKING A OTC ELK UNIT

This list is not exhaustive, but gives you a flavor of topics that can change. Frequently, states will publish a page or two focusing on changes in regulations etc. Idaho’s publication has a “What’s New?” section to cover this.

Familiarize yourself with units in state. These will be published in the regulations as well.

Familiarize yourself with units in state. These will be published in the regulations as well.

Familiarize yourself with units in state. These will be published in the regulations as well.

Also, Idaho currently splits the state and OTC tags  into zones, so it is important to look at the map in the big game publication to understand which tag you need.


Now that you have familiarized yourself with the regulations and units, now it is time for the fun part.

 Let’s find the statistics that are published by your target states department of wildlife. Some states house these under a “Hunt Planner” section of their website..


Note: Some states provide PDF’s, other states such as Idaho have a data table that you can manipulate. 

To get the data you need, simply click on elk in the drop down menu and select the year 2019 (or the year you are interested in).

Now you can select your weapon of choice, in this example I am selecting Archery.


NON-RESIDENT GUIDE TO PICKING A OTC ELK UNIT

Now that you have the data in front of you, the fun begins. At least for a self-proclaimed nerd like me. One of the really cool parts about Idaho, is you can download the data into excel. I start by pulling 4 years of statistics and download them to excel then copy and past them into individual tabs. 

Once I have the data on individual tabs, I summarize the data. The first data point I want to look at is success rate. Seems reasonable, right but I want to know the Top-10 units that guy’s and gal’s are getting it done. That is step one in my mind, I want to harvest an animal, I am not concerned with a trophy because I love to eat wild game.

This is what our data looks like at this point. Now we need to narrow it down. For us, we are not concerned with trophys but meat, so we are looking for opportunity. We are going to narrow the data down to archery only hunts and units that have we can chase a bull or cow. 

Luckily, Idaho makes this easy. In the hunt planner tool we can filter the tags this way.


NON-RESIDENT GUIDE TO PICKING A OTC ELK UNIT

You can see the filters set in the image below/right depending on desktop or mobile.

  • Elk
  • Archery Only
  • Either Sex
  • General Season

It produces the data set below.


It produces the data set below or to the right.


We will now download this data and cross reference with the summary data we pulled earlier.


Now that it is in excel, I am going to delete units that are private only or any that are not in the date range I am looking for. I want to hunt in Sept so there were a few that I removed that were later season hunts.


At this point, I am going to manipulate the data so I have Tag and units in a format I can pull into my summary file. Once the data is manipulated it will be in a list format with unit in one column and the tag name in one column. This will allow me to easily pull it into my summary tab.


Once I pull this into the summary it will look like the table below/right.


At first glance, you are probably saying wow, Unit 68A that is where I am going, but hold on not so fast. We need to look at the numbers harvested in these units. If 68A is 50% success over four years, were there only two hunters in that unit for some other reason and one elk was killed? Let’s pull in the numbers harvested and see what that shows us.


Now it paints a better picture, the success rate is great in 68A, but if only an average of 11.75 elk are killed each year in that unit, and if you remove 2018 it is quite a big lower. At this point I would remove it from my list. I am looking for opportunity. I want to be in a unit that a large number of elk are harvested and I fully understand that with that comes hunters and hunting pressure, but you can’t kill them if they are not there.




After I remove the units that don’t have a tag that I am interested in, then I filtered the data to show me units that had on average over 50 elk harvested. I will sort this list then start a deep dive into the research on these units. Then I will work through the list and identify 5 units that I will then dive into map research and google earth research.



I hope this helps you and as always if you have questions feel free to reach out 1strutcontact@gmail.com. If you want the excel file for your use I can make that available as well, just send us a note.
Part 2 is on it’s way, stay tuned and we will be adding to this page. We will walk through how we will go about narrowing it down by looking at the units to understand type of land, public vs. private, wilderness areas, access points and more.


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