Do you ever wonder why it is so hard to find out how many hundreds or thousands of nonresident elk hunters are putting in for a tag in a western state?   I was recently trying to determine what the real draw odds are in the 2024 Arizona Elk draw.   A review of the 2023 AZ draw  ( stats shows a lot of hunters putting in, but it does not show how many are nonresidents and with Arizona only giving 10% of tags to nonresidents and rising nonresident hunters in all western states it’s important to know the facts.  Here are the 2023 AZ draw stats in pdf on the AZ website, it just shows the total hunters for each elk draw unit.  Still good information but not granular enough for a nonresident number cruncher.

I tried to figure it out last year by signing up for Eastmans Tag Hub, but unfortunately, the real data necessary to figure out tag strategy vs donation (if you are wasting your money on tags you can’t draw in 100 years) was missing.   This got me thinking, why would the Western hunting magazines want us to know the terrible odds of drawing Western state elk tags?  If I knew the truth, I might cancel my subscription and be content hunting in my backyard or I might save my dollars for my kid’s college fund.  If I figured out the odds were a fraction of 1% or at best 1% in the trophy units, it was likely I would NOT spend $250/state/year to apply in states like Arizona, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Oregon, and Idaho.

The same argument could go for the Western States Game Management Agencies, which depend on hunter ignorance and charge nonresident hunters a $165 “qualifier” small game tag (that they will never use) to just apply for a big license in that state.  I bought 8 small game tags in Arizona for about $1100 over the past 8 years and never chased a bunny rabbit in the state before finally figuring out I was wasting time and money applying in their draw.  Turns out, historically I was applying for Units that have nonresident odds of about 1 in 300 for drawing a bull elk tag.  On top of that, the number of nonresident applicants in these elk hunts is surging upward each year.  The Fleecing of hunters with a carrot tag is real, but can we ever get the trophy tag or do they just get our cash?  Most of us will just donate to the wildlife coffers (good cause) but if you don’t play you can’t win.  My cut-off is 3%, if the odds are below 3%, I am out. 1% odds are crap, but 1/3 of 1% is moronic.  Below you will see the link to figure out the Nonresident odds in AZ.  It’s your money, play the numbers and figure out how much is too much for you.

So I reached out to Arizona Game and Fish and they sent me this link to research nonresident trophy elk and antelope odds in Arizona. Here is the chrome-extension they sent me but you can also use the download pdf link:// / .  This report shows the number of resident and non-resident applicants per hunt number.  Now you just have to figure out which hunt number goes to which hunt unit, it’s never easy but be persistent.  Arizona is a crap show when it comes to having a draw system that is understood by hunters.  You have to have an interpreter or NASA guide walk you through the various levels of fog, but the main thing you should understand is only 10% of the tags go to nonresidents.  This is fair, most western states only give 10% of their big game licenses to non-residents.

Colorado is the main exception, no state treats its resident big game hunters worse than Colorado, on the surface they give 25% of their tags to non-residents.  However, once you take into consideration the fake tag caps (see fake allocation caps) and that 20% of all big game licenses go to private land owners, who sell them to nonresidents, the real truth is 40-50% of all of Colorado big game tags end up in the pockets of nonresidents (see Colorado sells more nonresidents elk tags than all 7 western states combined). The mountains are so overcrowded in Coloado that resident hunters in the OTC hunts are down by 20% (8,000) since 2014.  Don’t worry nonresidents are up by 10,000 since 2014 so the hunting pressure is only getting worse.   Big game is a state resource and any state that gives more than 10% of its big game tags to nonresidents is breaching the Public Trust and selling resident tag equity for money or outfitters or both. No state breaches the public trust more than Colorado.  I recently saw how Colorado is allowing nonresidents a place on a license draw process working group.  This is the equivalent of allowing illegal aliens to vote in our elections.   As a nonresident applying for Arizona Elk tag what do you think I would vote for?  More Nonresident Elk tags.  I am a visitor when in Arizona and I should have no voting rights, this is common sense and secures the public’s trust of residents.   However, in Colorado, money fogs fairness and resident tag equity is out the back door.  After watching the first public meeting of this “working group” on YouTube, it was no surprise that they did not even recognize Resident Tag Allocation Equity as an issue to discuss.  There were members in the group actually putting a thumbs down over discussing tag allocation equity for residents, but this is no surprise because only 5 of the group members are resident hunters, the rest of the group is nonresidents, outfitters, commissioners that are outfitters, and CPW staff.  So 80% of the working group wants more nonresident tags or more nonresident money same difference.

Disclosure -data within this article is from various sources (CORA, online, and print (some data can be very fragmented to collect)).  All info is subject to errors and you should verify all numbers with your own research.  

Down from the soap box, this article pertains to the actual trophy units in Arizona (see Excellent rating in Eastman’s Hunting Journal- MRS section) has anyone else noticed how skimpy the MRS section is getting in Eastmans, it’s almost time to cancel that as well.   In 2017 I drew a 7E (marginal) tag with 5 points in Arizona based on a recommendation by a friend.  This turned out to be like hunting elk in Colorado where you only see branch-antlered bulls.  The only difference was that compared to Colorado there were hardly any hunters- LOL.  But who wants to drive a thousand miles and spend thousands of dollars to hunt a branch antler- not me?  Most hunters apply in AZ in the hope of finding a 370-400-inch monster elk.  Why else would you contemplate applying for 30-100 years at a rising cost of $250 per year?  After all, you will have invested at least $7500 in application fees over 30 years and then you drop a couple thousand on tag and supplies to get there, or more if you hire a guide ($10,000) when you draw the tag.  You should hire a guide if it takes 30 years to draw a unit you have never scouted.

I’m not going to go through every unit in AZ you can do that and send me the spreadsheet.  Use the link above and research before applying.  I also combined the 1st Pass and 2nd Pass NR applicants to get a total number of nonresident applicants for each unit.  Yes, the bonus points can up your odds very slightly but understanding the basic math on these trophy elk tags is a game changer.  Get educated before you invest thousands of dollars and divert money from your kid’s college fund, retirement fund, or give to a cause that might save this country for your grandkids

AZ Trophy Elk Unit Odds

  • Unit 27 Rifle, Nov, about 2700 nonresidents for 40 tags = .01 (If no one else applies, will take 68 years for all NRs to draw)
  • Unit 23N Rifle, Sept, about 1900 nonresidents for 2 tags = .001 (If no one else applies, will take 950 years for all NRs to draw)
  • Unit 23S Rifle, Sept, about 900 nonresidents for 1 tag = .001  (If no one else applies, will take 900 years for all NRs to draw)
  • Unit 9 Muzzleloader, Sept, about 1500 nonresidents for 2 tags = .001  (If no one else applies, will take 750 years for all NRs to draw)
  • Unit 9 Archery, Sept, about 700 nonresidents for 2 tags= .003  (If no one else applies, will take 350 years for all NRs to draw)
  • Unit 3C Archery, Sept, about 1500 nonresidents for 10 tags = .0067 (If no one else applies, will take 150 years for all NRs to draw)
  • Unit 1, Rifle, Nov, about 2700 nonresidents for 30 tags = .01 (If no one else applies, will take 90 years for all NRs to draw)
  • Unit 23, Rifle, Dec, 2113 nonresidents for 15 tags (see below) = .007 (If no one else applies, will take 141 years for all NRs to draw) problem is at least 400 new applicants will apply next ear, which means after 2024 it will take 168 years for all the Nonresidents to draw (if no one else applies) – see below its a brutal path.
Unit 23 Arizona Elk Odds Nonresidents

Unit 23 Arizona Elk Odds Nonresidents

2023 AZ Elk Hunt, Hunt 3030, Unit 23, Dec, Fifteen Nonresident Tags for NR applicants
Bonus Points Nonresident Applicants (Total NR Bonus 1 + Bonus 2) % Increase from the prior year 15 NR Tags for 2113 NR Applicants = .007.  If no one else applied it would take 141 years for all applicants to draw this tag. But next year there will likely be over 400 new applicants based on trends.
0 388 46%
1 265 -8%
2 287 35%
3 213 148%
4 86 -41%
5 146 11%
6 132 6%
7 125 37%
8 91 28%
9 71 29%
10 55 25%
11 44 2%
12 43 43%
13 30 -12%
14 34 100%
15 17 -6%
16 18 -28%
17 25 56%
18 16 60%
19 10 25%
20 8 100%
21 4 33%
22 3 50%
23 2
Total 2113