A large bison standing in a field.
Travis Smola

The 8 Most Coveted Hunting Tags and Licenses in America


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These hunts are about as good as it gets here in America.

We're fortunate here in North America to have so many cool big game animals to hunt. And in most cases, your average Joe will at least have a chance to try for one of these animals. Although the odds may not be in your favor because many of the best places to pursue a big moose, elk, or bison are also the ones that receive the fewest tags. These are often the high percentage areas where large animals are common and success rates are extremely high. These areas are also the ones that receive the most applicants season after season.

In fact, there are some hunting tags most hunters can only dream of getting some day. It's not uncommon to hear of wait times spanning 15, 20 years, or even more for a trophy bull elk or moose tag. Sometimes longer for animals like a bighorn sheep ram. Some hunters apply season after season. The process of applying becoming as much of a tradition each year as actually getting to hunt.

Today we're looking at some of those notoriously difficult to draw tags. Many of the tags we're highlight today can be so hard to get, you can apply for them your whole life and never get one. Others come at such a high price, they're available exclusively to the rich. These are the eight most coveted tags a hunter could ever want.

We may never get drawn for one of these tags, but it is fun to dream right?

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1. Grand Canyon Bison

A bison standing in a field.

Travis Smola

The national park service is usually looking to thin out the grand canyon bison population each year. Usually with a goal to bring the population down from around 600 to a manageable 200, the NPS will be looking for volunteers to hunt bison in Arizona. These tags will be limited to a few qualified volunteers over the next 3-5 years.

2. Montana's Bighorn Governor's Tag

Bighorn ram tags are very hard to get anywhere in North America. Let alone Montana, which is one of the toughest spots. The fabled unit 680 tag is virtually impossible for hunters to score. Even with a bonus point system, most will apply their whole lives and never get one. Additionally, the Governor's Tag is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Montana's tag set the record for the all-time largest amount paid for a special permit at $480,000. No matter who you are, that's a lot of money going back to Montana's wildlife.

3. Arizona Elk

Unit 9 in Arizona is an Elk hunter's paradise. There are plenty of bugling bulls that face little to no pressure. The terrain is great for finding bulls, too, as all you have to do is look for water sources and higher elevations. The problem is you'll probably have to apply for at least 20 years before you can get this tag.

4. Utah Henry Mountains Mule Deer

Two mule deer bucks in a snowy field.

Travis Smola

You can find some of the biggest mule deer bucks in the country in the Henry Mountain range of Utah. Rumor has it that 170-inch bucks are common in the mountains south of Hanksville. However you can hold out for a 200-class if you're willing to gamble with such a rare tag a little. However, there are only 24 resident tags issued for the area every year with an average wait of 15 years.

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5. Michigan Bull Elk

Bull elk standing in the forest.

Travis Smola

I might be biased, but the great elk hunting in Michigan flies under the radar for most people. Probably because this hunt is open to residents only. A Michigan bull is truly the trophy of a lifetime, as once you harvest one, you can't shoot another one for the rest of your life. It's worth it, though, as Michigan is home to some trophy-class elk and uses a bonus system to increase your odds. However, I've lost count of how many years I've been applying and still haven't gotten a tag.

6. Bighorn on the Snake River

This one's on the list because it's the most unique. If you manage to land the ONE tag in Oregon's unit 59 you are in for a treat. The most common tactic is to float the snake river and glass. While you're there, you can also experience some of the best fall salmon fishing in the country. Not to mention, rams aren't the only things you can set your sights on. Deer, elk and chukar are also plentiful. If you have the vacation time, go ahead and blow it all on this hunt.

7. Bison Bison Bison

That's actually it's name. Any animal is challenging to hunt in Alaska, and the Copper River buffalo is no exception.  The terrain is tough to get in and out of and so is your luck in getting this tag. With no bonus points in Alaska, the odds of getting a Copper River tag are low. And, just like Michigan elk, this is a once-in-a-lifetime affair and successful applicants can't apply again.

8. Colorado Moose

Every hunt is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But with Colorado moose, you only get one shot. Literally. You can never be drawn again once you get a tag. If you blow your chance, well, you're out of luck. Moose in Colorado's units 7,8, and 191 are growing in size and population. The numbers grown 35 percent in the past two years. These units have also produced some of the biggest bulls in the lower 48.

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