Washington Hunting Overview
Washington state is a haven for big game hunters, boasting a wide variety of species and a large number of hunting opportunities. The state offers widely-available elk and deer general season hunts for specific GMUs, as well as special permits that are issued exclusively via the drawing. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife manages hunting and tags, with special permit drawings for deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep and turkey. While generally not known for producing trophy animals, good bulls and bucks are taken on general tags every year. Hunters can choose to apply for Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, Shiras Moose, and Rocky Mountain Goat, with permits being once-in-a-lifetime if successful.
For deer hunters, the state has three species: mule deer, whitetail, and blacktail. Elk hunters can chase both Rocky Mountain and Roosevelt elk. The state also offers hunting opportunities for black bear. Washington Special Permit Applications are separated into categories within each species, with expensive application fees and rough draw odds for nonresidents. However, hunters looking for great trophy opportunities can justify the cost per application. Additionally, over-the-counter tags are available for some species, making it easier for hunters to get started without the need for a draw. With a large variety of big
Big Game Species
Washington state offers a diverse range of big game species for hunters to pursue, including elk, deer, black bear, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey. While elk and deer are the most commonly hunted species, mountain goat, bighorn sheep, and moose offer once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for successful hunters. Over-the-counter tags are available for some species, while others require a special permit that is issued exclusively via the drawing. Annually, approximately 200,000 hunters participate in big game hunting in Washington state, with the majority being residents. Nonresidents make up around 10% of the total number of hunters, and many are drawn to the state for the chance to hunt trophy animals.
Draw and OTC Sales and Dates
|Washington Special Permit Application||Mule Deer, Columbian Blacktail Deer, Elk, Roosevelt Elk, Sheep, Mountain Goat, Moose||December 1, 2022||May 24, 2023|
Washington Hunting Point System
Washington state uses a squared bonus point system for big game hunting draws. Each year that a hunter is unsuccessful in drawing a special permit, they receive another point. Bonus points are both species and category specific, with categories representing different types of hunts for each species. Hunters can apply for a maximum of four hunt choices per application, except for quality deer and elk categories which only allow for two hunt choices. When a hunter is drawn, all of their application choices are considered before moving on to the next applicant. Points cannot be transferred between individuals or categories, and when a hunter is selected for a special permit, their point total for that species/category drops to zero. Additionally, hunters must front the tag fees up front for deer, elk, and bear, but not for moose, sheep, or mountain goat unless they are successful in drawing a permit. Washington does not offer refunds for any hunting license purchases.
Washington Point Types
|Deer - Antlerless||Bonus Point||Both|
|Elk - Antlerless||Bonus Point||Both|
|Moose - Antlerless||Bonus Point||Both|
|Moose - Bull||Bonus Point||Both|
|Black Bear||Bonus Point||Both|
|Deer - Buck||Bonus Point||Both|
|Elk - Bull||Bonus Point||Both|
|Conflict Reduction Goat||Bonus Point||Both|
|Fall Turkey||Bonus Point||Both|
|Mountain Goat||Bonus Point||Both|
|Multiseason Deer||Bonus Point||Both|
|Multiseason Elk||Bonus Point||Both|
|Quality Deer||Bonus Point||Both|
|Quality Elk||Bonus Point||Both|
|Bighorn Sheep Ram||Bonus Point||Both|
|Bighorn Sheep Ewe||Bonus Point||Both|
|Bighorn Sheep Juvenile Ram||Bonus Point||Both|
|Moose - 65 and Older||Bonus Point||Both|
|Moose - Disabled||Bonus Point||Both|
|Deer - 65 and Older||Bonus Point||Both|
|Deer - Disabled||Bonus Point||Both|
|Deer - Master Hunter||Bonus Point||Both|
|Elk - 65 and Over||Bonus Point||Both|
|Elk - Disabled||Bonus Point||Both|
|Elk - Master Hunter||Bonus Point||Both|
|Bighorn Sheep Ewe - Disabled Hunter||Bonus Point||Both|
|Bighorn Sheep Juvenile Ram - Disabled Hunter||Bonus Point||Both|
|Deer - Second||Bonus Point||Resident|
How to build points
Points are acquired through the annual big game draw, and there is no opportunity to acquire them outside of that draw. Even to purchase points, an fee must be paid per species, making it cost prohibitive for many to acquire points in the state.
Tags, Licenses, and Pricing
Hunters must pay the Special Permit application fee for each species applied for. For elk and deer, they must also purchase a general tag upfront. Because of this, building points is an expensive approach in Washington unless you already intend to hunt the general tag.
|Item||Resident Price||Non-Resident Price|
|Special Hunt Permit Applications||$7.10||$110.50|
|Special Hunt Permit Application - Quality||$13.70||$110.50|
|Multiple Season Permit Applications||$7.10||$110.50|
|Item||Resident Price||Non-Resident Price|
|2nd Elk Tag||$22.50||$341.50|
|Multiple Season Elk Tag||$182.00||$182.00|
|2nd Deer Tag||$43.40||$252.40|
|Mulitple Season Deer Tag||$139.10||$139.10|
|2nd Black Bear License||$24.00||$222.00|
Washington Hunting Regulations
- Individuals born on or after January 1, 1972 are required to provide proof of completion of a hunter education class or show that they are not a first-time hunting license buyer in Washington when applying. Those applying online should take note that hunter education documentation must be submitted before a license can be purchased, and it is recommended to apply early to allow for sufficient processing time.
- There is no minimum age to apply or hunt in Washington
- Mechanical broadheads and lighted nocks are allowed.
- Draw weights must be 40 pounds or greater and a maximum of 80% letoff.
- Scopes and other electronic devices attached to bows is prohibited.
- Crossbows are not allowed in archery seasons.
Washington state allows for party applications in which one member serves as the group leader and is responsible for creating the application, entering hunt choices, and submitting the group application. Other members of the group then apply separately using the same confirmation number. Points accumulated by each member are averaged and applied to the group application. However, it is not recommended to apply for sheep, moose, and mountain goat permits on group applications due to the limited number of permits available. It is important to note that the group leader is responsible for sharing the confirmation number with other members and ensuring that all necessary information is submitted.
Washington Hunting FAQ
Landowner Tag Options
Return / Transfer Tags