Getting kids into the field and excited about hunting requires some planning and preparation. Understanding the variety of opportunities across the West that are available to youth can make the process easier and even enjoyable. Youth often have opportunities adults only dream about. As you probably know, every state manages hunting a little differently. Some states offer special seasons for youth, some require bonus or preference points to draw, others offer over-the-counter hunts. In many states, youth receive reduced application fees, hunting license fees, and hunt permit costs. Their early years are a great time to get kids involved. Taking advantage of these special, and often inexpensive, opportunities, before kids turn 18 years old can result in fantastic hunting experiences. Additionally, building points early can set them up for greater hunting success when they are adults. The states covered below offer some special hunting opportunities for youth.

Arizona is a state that offers a significant cost break for youth ages 10-17. The hunting/fishing combination license is very cheap at only $5. That makes Arizona a place where you should at least be building points for your kids. By taking advantage of the cheap licensing and point building as youth, you can prepare them for some great tag options later on down the road. Arizona is a state in which youth can begin planning for their long term hunting goals. Additionally, it also offers some good options if you are looking to get your kids hunting in the near future. Generally, Coues deer hunts in Arizona can be drawn with just a few points and are typically a more warm weather hunt, which may make their initial hunting experiences even more enjoyable. There are also some good late season opportunities for elk that can be obtained with a few points. Some of these hunts are easy to draw and can provide youth with an opportunity to chase elk early in their life. One thing that is very unique to Arizona is their opportunity for permanent bonus points, there are two types of additional bonus points. The first is a loyalty point which a person can obtain after applying for 5 consecutive years, the point is maintained as long as the application is renewed each year thereafter. The other is an Ethically Hunting Arizona (EHA) bonus point which can be obtained by taking a course that is administered online by Arizona Game and Fish. The EHA point is a permanent bonus point once the course is completed. When you receive this point, it gives you a point for every species that Arizona has a draw for.

Colorado harbors some amazing opportunities for youth and is a state we strongly suggest getting your kids hunting in. The price tag for youth is very low, at $1.40 for a hunting license, and a $10 application fee, it’s a no-brainer. The cost of tags for deer, elk, and antelope is $116.50 per species. All combined, to hunt Colorado as a kid is very affordable and provides a great chance for youth to have a fun hunt, on a regular basis, and gain experience. Overall it is a state we think people should hunt often, short to medium term goals are realistic in this state. In Colorado youth can start hunting big game at the age of 12. At age 11, youth can buy or apply for a license if they turn 12 before the end of the season for which they are applying. However, they can not begin hunting until they turn 12. If they turn 12 during the calendar year, but not in time for a hunting season, they can apply for the preference point-only option. Youth and adults alike can apply for second choice tags on their application and if you draw your second choice permit, it does not use your points. This can get youth hunting while still building points. One benefit to building points in Colorado is that they will hold your points for 10 years before they purge them. So, you can buy your kids points until they are 18 and then they have 10 years to take over their portfolio before losing their points.

In Idaho, youth can begin to hunt big game at the age of 10. Many of the guys in the office have had their kids harvest their first big game animal in the state of Idaho. With their draw being a true lottery system, anyone can draw at any time. Conversely, if you don’t apply for a year, you are not missing out on any points. We highly suggest putting Idaho on your radar from year to year for youth deer, elk, and antelope hunts. For kids 10-17, Idaho has a reduced price Junior Mentored hunting license at a cost of $91.75 which is considerably less than the adult cost of $185. The Junior Mentored license allows a youth to buy a reduced cost mentored species tag. Keep in mind, if they plan to use this tag, they do have to be accompanied by a licensed adult, 18 years old or older, who possesses the same tag for the same species, and be within normal conversation or hearing range, without shouting or the use of electronic devices. If the youth is 12-17 and possesses a full price hunting license and full price species tag, they are not required to follow this rule in the field.

Montana is a great state to take youth, especially if you have a deer or elk tag of your own. Montana provides an opportunity for nonresident youth ages 12-17 to purchase an over-the-counter general big game permit. The youth must be accompanied by an adult, immediate-family member, who possesses a current deer or elk license. The abundant herds of deer, elk and antelope make Montana a great place to bring your youth and have a tag in both of your pockets. Montana has both a bonus point and preference point system. Bonus points-only applications are accepted from July 1 through September 30 and the general combo preference point application period is July 1 through December 31. Cost of points are the same for both adults and youth at $25 per species for bonus points and $100 for the general combo preference points.

In Nevada, youth can start applying at age 12. Nonresident youth are treated the same as adult nonresidents in all aspects of hunting, other than the reduced price hunting license. A nonresident youth hunting license for Nevada is only $15 versus the adult license of $155. This makes it extremely affordable to build points for your kids. Take advantage of the cheap points as youth and they will thank you later. The Nevada draw is a points squared system. Meaning each year your species points are squared, plus one more for that year’s application. That number is the total amount of chances you have in the draw for that species. After that, their draw is totally random. You have a chance to draw a tag any year that you apply. Nevada considers 5 choices before they move on to the next applicant. A good strategy to use is making the first 1-2 choices your top picks and then moving to hunts you are willing to accept. We suggest always applying in Nevada for your kids because everyone has a chance to draw every year and it’s cheap to build points if they are not drawn.

In New Mexico, there are no age restrictions for hunting. A hunter must have their hunter’s education complete in order to apply but, with that, they can apply at any age. This gives kids an opportunity to hunt much earlier than in other states. They do not use any kind of points system and their draw is a fully random draw each year, for all species. New Mexico considers three hunt choices on your application before moving to the next applicant. Additionally, New Mexico offers separate hunts with dates specifically for youth, for most species. However, youth can still apply for any hunt they would like and are not limited to applying for the youth-only hunts. There is a cost break for youth hunters as well. A youth hunting license is $15 whereas an adult license is $65.

Wyoming is well known for abundant deer, elk, and antelope populations most years. They also offer lower license and permit fees for youth. A nonresident adult regular permit for deer is $389, but a youth nonresident regular deer permit is only $125. One thing to note about Wyoming is, if you apply a youth for a special priced license instead of a youth regular license, they will be charged the expensive special priced permit fee which is the same for both youth and adults. Another unique thing is the age restriction rule. If a kid turns 12 in the calendar year, they can apply for a hunt and hunt at the age of 11. As you consider youth hunts in Wyoming, keep in mind the devastating effect the 2022-2023 winter had on the deer and antelope populations, specifically in the southwestern portion of the state. Permit numbers in portions of the state will likely decrease, but there is still plenty of game and opportunities in other parts. If you want to apply your kids for points, but are not looking to actively hunt Wyoming, they have a points-only application period from July through October 31.

Overall, there are many youth opportunities around the West. We highly recommend taking advantage of the unique opportunities available for kids and hope this brief overview can help you get your youth out hunting. If you have any questions or need help, feel free to reach out and we would gladly answer your questions.