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Feature Article: Luck of the Draw

Luck of the Draw

BY DURWOOD HOLLIS/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Jan 30, 2019

Big game hunting anywhere in the West demands that you play the drawing game!

Not too many years ago, planning a big game hunt almost anywhere in one of the western states was a slam-dunk! You’d get together with some buddies, pool your hunting gear and off you went. Hunting licenses and various tags were easily purchased over the counter at a sales agent in the hunting area. That was then, but this is now! Over-the- counter licenses in most western states, with few exceptions, are a thing of the past. Furthermore, in areas with open public land, the demand for licenses generally outpaces availability. While the reasons behind these changes are many, no matter, if you want to hunt big game in the west you’re going to have to play the odds.


takingatrophyTAKING A TROPHY ANTELOPE anywhere in the West is going to take both research and luck. PHOTO BY RON GAYER


Most states have some form of a lottery system to allot hunting licenses / tags. Applying in one of those lotteries can begin quite early in the New Year. And if you miss the deadline, then your window of opportunity is most likely closed. Depending on the region or Game Management Area within a particular state that you want to hunt, many times there are far more drawing applications than actual license / tag availability. The only way to be assured of drawing one of the coveted license / tag is to use all the tools available to applicants.


Draw Odds: In most western states the Department of Natural Resources or Fish and Wildlife publish license / tag-drawing odds for previous years. You can use this information as a guide to which area that offers the greatest opportunity for drawing success. In some areas the odds may be as little as less than 5 percent, while in other locations similar odds may be near 100 percent.


Public vs. Private: Another factor that should be considered when entering into a license / tag drawing is land ownership. Areas with lots of public land are generally oversubscribed, while land held in private ownership may have much greater license / tag availability. Even though an area is primarily private property, contact with the local Chambers of Commerce, Game Wardens and local Biologists may provide contact with owners willing to allow hunting — albeit for an entry fee — on their property. Even taking out an advertisement in a local newspaper can lead to hunting opportunity.


Preference Points: In some states the practice of purchasing additional drawing points can provide increased drawing odds. Of course, such an arrangement adds to license cost, but the advantage is well worth the increase if you’re serious about hunting in a particular area.


Multiple Applications: If you really want to be assured that an opportunity to hunt big game for this year comes your way, then be prepared to enter license / tag drawings in multiple states. In most instances, if you don’t draw a license / tag, with the exception of a small fee, most of your money is returned. The only problem with submitting applications in multiple states is the matter of hunt timing. It’s advisable to apply for hunts that don’t overlap one another. If you draw more than one license / tag in different states where the hunt periods conflict, you may have to forgo one for the other. And on one likes to eat (been there, done that) a license / tag!


Don’t Delay: Quite frankly, the license / tag drawing clock is already ticking. Application submission period generally expires early in the year, so the time to start doing Internet research (your best source for drawing odds) is now! Submit your license / tag application(s) as soon as possible, that way you’ll be able to better plan for this fall’s upcoming hunt. Good Luck!


drawinganelkDRAWING AN ELK license in one of the western states can be both difficult and costly. PHOTO BY RON GAYER


obtaininganoverOBTAINING AN OVER-THE-COUNTER deer license has become increasingly more difficult in recent years. PHOTO BY DURWOOD HOLLIS


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