Best Hunting in Idaho

Lush forest with tall pines, a serene lake, and a majestic mountain backdrop in Idaho. Wildlife abounds, including deer, elk, and bear
Shaman Mountain is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission on certain links, at no additional cost to you. Learn more.

Idaho, often referred to as the Gem State, offers a unique experience for hunting enthusiasts. With expansive tracts of public land, ranging from the rugged backcountry to grassy prairies, you are provided with diverse habitats and a variety of game species. Whether you’re drawn to the thrill of tracking elk through dense forests or waiting silently for whitetail deer in clearings, Idaho’s wilderness sets the stage for a memorable hunting adventure.

Clearwater National Forest

When planning your hunting expedition, the expansive Clearwater National Forest offers some of the best opportunities for big game species. The forest continues to be a prime location for hunting elk, deer, and specifically mule deer.

Elk Hunting:

  • Habitat: Occupying over 1.8 million acres, the forest boasts diverse habitats ranging from deep canyons to high ridges, creating an ideal environment for elk.
  • Seasons: Hunting seasons can vary, so it’s essential to check with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for dates and regulations.

Deer Hunting:

  • Mule Deer: Known for their high-quality mule deer habitats, you’ll find their populations across the mixed conifer forests.
  • Whitetail Deer: Also thriving in the area; look for them in the lower elevation regions with dense underbrush.

General Tips:

  • Preparation: Your wilderness hunt will demand skill and preparation. Understand the topography, get in shape, and study local maps.
  • Respect: Follow all guidelines set out by authorities, like the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, to ensure sustainable hunting and respect for the environment.

Make sure to familiarize yourself with the specific zones within the Clearwater National Forest, as each zone may have different regulations and animal populations. Happy hunting!

Sawtooth National Recreation Area

Lush forest, rolling hills, and a tranquil river in Sawtooth National Recreation Area, perfect for hunting in Idaho

When you set your sights on hunting in Idaho, the Sawtooth National Recreation Area (NRA) is an exceptional destination where you can immerse yourself in vast wilderness and a sea of outdoor opportunities.

The Sawtooth NRA boasts a landscape of rugged beauty, enshrined by jagged peaks and tranquil lakes. Grasp your binoculars and trek through acres of sagebrush-dotted terrain, where game abounds and nature’s quiet far surpasses the noise of bustling cities. Your hunting adventure here is accented by the serrated backdrop of the mountainous horizon.

While glassing the area for wildlife, you’re also within the embrace of the Jim McClure-Jerry Peak Wilderness. Whether it’s the ripple of a creek or the rustle of leaves in the breeze, your surroundings are a tapestry of Idaho’s natural splendor, offering memorable hunting experiences for seasoned and novice hunters alike.

Remember to respect the regulations set forth to protect and maintain the ecological integrity of this wilderness. Prepare to traverse the wilderness responsibly, maximizing your experience without leaving a mark on the pristine environment.

EssentialsWhy to Bring
BinocularsFor spotting game across landscapes
Hunting GearSuitable for varied terrains
Navigation ToolsTo traverse the vast wilderness
Wildlife GuideIdentify local species

Embark on your journey to the Sawtooth NRA, where every corner turned is a new chapter of your Idaho hunting story.

Payette National Forest

Rifle hunts for deer and elk in Payette National Forest

When planning your hunting trip in Idaho, the Payette National Forest should be at the top of your list. Managed by the U.S. Forest Service, this vast area is noted for its diverse wildlife and expansive landscapes.

Hunting Seasons and Species:

  • Big Game: Includes species like elk, mule deer, and black bear.
  • Predators: Opportunities to hunt mountain lions and wolves.
  • Small Game: You may also find forest grouse and other small game species.

Permits and Tags:
The Idaho Department of Fish and Game regulates hunting in the state, and you will need to secure the proper permits and tags before you embark on your trip. Tags are often species-specific and may be limited to ensure sustainable wildlife populations.

Hunting Pressure:

  • Early Season: Typically sees less pressure, providing a more secluded hunting experience.
  • General Season: Expect higher competition, as rifle hunts for deer and elk are popular.

What You’ll Need:

  • Proper licensing and tag from Idaho Fish and Game.
  • Knowledge of the area’s topography and access points.
  • Appropriate gear: Weather can be unpredictable, so pack accordingly.

Tips for Success:

  • Scout Early: Familiarize yourself with the terrain and animal patterns.
  • Respect the Land: Follow all posted regulations to help preserve the hunting ecosystem of Payette National Forest for years to come.
  • Stay Safe: Be prepared with a first aid kit, and make sure someone knows your hunting plan.

Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness

When planning your backcountry hunting expedition, the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness is unmatched in its vastness and diversity. Covering about 2.4 million acres, it’s the largest contiguous wilderness area in the Lower 48. It’s a sanctuary where you can immerse yourself in a traditional wilderness hunt, targeting game like elk, mule deer, and bighorn sheep.

Getting There:
To access the remote hunting areas, you’ll commonly use horses and mules. They are not only an authentic mode of transportation but also essential for traversing the rugged terrain and for packing out your game.

Hunting Options:

  • Guided Hunts: For an experienced approach, consider hiring an outfitter like Middle Fork Outfitters for a full-service guided hunt. They offer extensive knowledge of the wilderness and maximize your chances of a successful hunt.
  • Drop Camps: If you prefer a self-guided hunt but still need logistical support, services such as Wilderness Mule Outfitting provide drop camp options, where you are taken to a campsite with supplies but hunt on your own.

Seasons and Game:
Hunting seasons run from September through November, aligning with the various game migrations and habits. The earlier parts of the season are ideal for elk, while late October and November cater to mule deer enthusiasts.

The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness demands respect for both the land and the wildlife. As a hunter, it’s your responsibility to adhere to conservation practices, ensuring the sustainability of the ecosystem and the hunting heritage.

When venturing out into this cherished wilderness, your respect for the natural environment and the game you pursue will lead to an unforgettable hunting adventure.

Panhandle National Forests

The Caribou-Targhee National Forest offers a diverse hunting experience with abundant game in 3 million acres of wilderness in southeastern Idaho

In the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, you’ll find exceptional opportunities to hunt various game species. As a hunter, you’re likely seeking locations known for healthy populations of game and the Panhandle delivers with its abundant wildlife. Hunting in these forests can yield encounters with species such as elk, deer, and in certain zones, larger predators like bears, mountain lions, and wolves.

Elk Hunting:

  • Seasons: Vary by unit; check for specific dates.
  • Permits: Required; nonresident tags are limited.

Deer Hunting:

  • Opportunities: Both white-tailed and mule deer abound.

Predator Hunting:

  • Bear: A viable population allows for sustained hunting.
  • Mountain Lion/Wolf: Requires additional permits; research regulations.

Nonresidents must be particularly diligent in securing their permits in advance due to quota systems. To optimize your hunting trip, planning early is crucial. The success rate depends on your preparation and familiarity with the hunting units.

Regulations: Stay informed on the latest by visiting the Idaho Fish and Game page.

When you’re in the forests, remember that the terrain varies. Hunting strategies may need adjustment based on elevation changes and forest density. Always respect the wilderness and follow the principles of ethical hunting to ensure these resources remain for future generations. Whether you’re a resident or a visitor, the Panhandle National Forests beckon with the promise of a memorable hunt.

Caribou-Targhee National Forest

The Caribou-Targhee National Forest provides a vast hunting ground with diverse wildlife in southeastern Idaho. The expansive wilderness of over 3 million acres offers a rich and varied hunting experience for passionate hunters

The Caribou-Targhee National Forest offers a substantial and diverse hunting experience for those passionate about the pursuit. You will find over 3 million acres of expansive wilderness, where game abounds in southeastern Idaho.

Archery Hunting
If you’re an archery enthusiast, take advantage of the forest’s numerous roadless areas, providing a prime backdrop for your hunt. The solitude and rugged terrain promise not just a hunt but a true backcountry adventure.

Rifle Hunting
Rifle hunters are also well-accommodated within the Caribou-Targhee. The vast landscape gives you ample opportunity to track and hunt various game, testing the skills of both novice and seasoned marksmen.

  • Guided Hunts
    • Benefit from local expertise
    • Navigate the forest’s best locations
    • Optimize your chances of a successful hunt

Guided hunts can significantly enhance your experience. Experienced guides know the terrain and animal patterns, which can substantially increase your success rate. For those seeking guidance, local outfitters like Saddle Horn Outfitters offer tailored hunting excursions.

Success Rate
While hunting success can never be guaranteed, Caribou-Targhee’s vast and fertile landscape means that your efforts are more likely to be rewarded. Staying informed about the area and employing stealthy tactics can improve your chances.

Remember to check with the US Forest Service for the latest rules and regulations before planning your hunt. Happy and safe hunting!

Salmon-Challis National Forest

In your pursuit of the best hunting experiences in Idaho, the Salmon-Challis National Forest provides a premier destination. Comprising over 4.3 million acres, this is one of the vastest national forests in the contiguous United States. Here, you are afforded the opportunity to hunt a range of game in diverse habitats.

Hunting Opportunities:

  • Elk
  • Deer
  • Mountain Goat
  • Bighorn Sheep
  • Predators like Wolves and Mountain Lions

The forest, with its stunning alpine climate, offers you not just an exciting hunt but also a cool retreat during the summer months. If you venture to the forest near Stanley, a small town known for its rustic charm, you can enjoy clear views and potentially productive hunting grounds.

Seasons and Access:

  • Hunting seasons open as per state regulations
  • Accessible terrain varies by location and time of year

Be sure to check with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game for current information on licensing, seasons, and specific hunting units. Experienced hunters and beginners alike will find this forest to be an immense natural area full of challenges and rewards.

Local Services:

  • Guided tours
  • Hunting outfitters
  • Equipment rentals

Stanley – A Nearby Base Camp:

  • Accommodation options
  • Supply shops

Remember to respect the wildlife management rules and enjoy the serene beauty and robust wildlife populations that make the Salmon-Challis National Forest a distinguished hunting location in Idaho.

Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest

Lush forest with tall trees, clear streams, and abundant wildlife. Rocky mountains in the background. Ideal hunting grounds in Idaho

When planning your hunting trip in Idaho, the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest offers a vast terrain worthy of attention. This forest, spreading over 1.8 million acres, stands as a testament to varied habitats and rich wildlife. You’ll find this gem in North Central Idaho, encompassing mountains and river drainages that provide a home to an array of game animals.

Roads and Access:
To explore the dense forest and vast landscapes, be prepared to traverse through a network of rural roads. Your planning should include a solid understanding of the forest’s road system, as accessibility could affect your choice of hunting spots.

Carry a GPS, map, and compass; they are essential. Your gear should also include appropriate clothing and camping equipment for potentially abrupt weather changes in this mountainous region.

The Nez Perce-Clearwater is a mix of rolling hills and steep terrains, hosting species such as elk, deer, and bear. Its diverse habitats mean you’ll need to tailor your hunting techniques to the area you choose.

Rules and Regulations:
Adherence to the hunting rules as laid out by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is crucial for a lawful experience. Make sure you’re aware of the hunting seasons, tags, and permits required for different species and hunting units.

Hunting units in this forest, like the Lolo Zone, have specific quotas and limitations to ensure sustainable wildlife populations and management. Before you set out, identify the unit you’ll be hunting in and familiarize yourself with its unique regulations.

In preparing for your journey, consider also checking the resources provided by local outfitters, and explore options for guided tours if you prefer a more structured hunting experience.

Boise National Forest

Mule deer grazing in Boise National Forest, surrounded by tall trees and lush vegetation

In the heart of Idaho, you’ll find the vast expanse of the Boise National Forest, a prime location for your next hunting trip. Spanning over 2 million acres, this forest is managed by the U.S. Forest Service and offers you abundant opportunities to hunt a variety of game, including mule deer.

Before you set out, be aware that Idaho Department of Fish and Game regulates hunting activities within the forest. It’s essential to familiarize yourself with their rules and the specific seasons for the game you’re pursuing. Regulations are in place to ensure a balanced ecosystem and a satisfactory hunting experience for everyone.

Hunting Areas:

  • Unit 39: Known for its wildlife variety.
  • Outside National Forest boundaries in Units 23 and 24: Only permitted areas.

Amenities and Services:

  • Mystic Saddle Ranch: Offers horseback riding and hunting services tailored to enhance your experience.


  • Idaho City Ranger District: Milepost 38.5 on Highway 21, for information and assistance.

To make your hunting excursion both successful and enjoyable, you might consider services such as those offered by Mystic Saddle Ranch. They provide guided experiences that merge local expertise with the adventure you seek. Always make your own map and plan accordingly; accurate mapping data can be found on Idaho’s Hunt Planner website.

By adhering to regulations set forth by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and with the assistance of local services, your hunting experience in the Boise National Forest can be both memorable and responsible.

Owyhee County

Rolling hills, lush forests, and abundant wildlife in Owyhee County, Idaho. Ideal for hunting scenes

When you venture to Owyhee County for hunting, you’re in for a remarkable experience. Known for its expansive landscapes and robust wildlife, this is a destination that offers not just a challenge, but also a profound connection to the rugged outdoors.

Deer Hunting

In search of a memorable deer hunt? Your target area is Unit 40: Owyhee, where mule deer thrive among the sagebrush and canyons. Patience and skill are your companions here as you navigate vast tracts of land in pursuit of a big buck.

Notable Hunting Areas:

  • Silver City area
  • The deep gorges of Owyhee Canyonlands

Expect large deer and challenging terrain. Know that finding these elusive creatures requires perseverance and sharp eyesight for long-distance glassing.

Elk Hunting

For elk enthusiasts, the Owyhee Zone elk is noted for its management objectives that focus on sustainable hunting practices rather than numerical targets. You’re likely to encounter vast landscapes where aerial surveys are impractical, meaning your encounter might be the result of serendipity as much as preparation.

SeasonalCheck regulations, as they may vary annually
TagsLimited, often requiring draws

Familiarize yourself with local guides and access notes to enhance your hunting expedition. With its unique challenges and the magnificence of the hunt, Owyhee County is your ideal getaway for a pursuit steeped in the traditions of the American West.

Related Posts:

Lush green forest, snow-capped mountains, and a crystal-clear river winding through the landscape. Wildlife roam freely, including deer, elk, and bears

Best Hunting in Montana

Montana offers a rich tapestry of wildlife and varied landscapes, setting the stage for some of the most exceptional hunting experiences in the United States.

An RV parked in a clearing surrounded by tall pine trees and snow-capped mountains in the background. A campfire burns nearby, with a couple of camping chairs and a small table set upAn RV parked in a clearing surrounded by tall pine trees and snow-capped mountains in the background. A campfire burns nearby, with a couple of camping chairs and a small table set up

Best RV Camping in Idaho

Idaho offers a diverse landscape that’s a haven for outdoor enthusiasts looking to explore the great outdoors from the comfort of their RV. With its

Majestic Moose amid the Pristine Wilderness and Mountainous Terrain of Alaska

Best Hunting in Alaska

Alaska offers a selection of some of the most exhilarating hunting experiences in the world. With its vast and pristine wilderness, you have the opportunity