Understanding Hunt Draws

and Why They Need to Change?

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MAR 31, 2022

Hunting Stories - Piedmont Game Calls - The Inside Spread

Category: Big Game

We are firmly into hunt draw season, where many hunters pray that they will be selected this year for a coveted tag for Elk, Sheep, Deer, and more. It can be a daunting procedure for a hunter to get into these draws, especially if you are a new hunter.

 It brings many questions to mind like where to apply, how to apply, how to pick areas that you will be successful in being drawn, and how to do bonus/preference points play into this. It can make a hunter’s head spin, but it is the game you have to play in many states. We are here to shed some light and question how hunt draws continue to push the boundaries on the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation and what we should do about it.

History of Hunting Draws

It is tough to find information that points to a single time in history when hunting draws began. Hunting tags and bag limits history, which started in the mid-1800s due to market hunting, is well documented. Hunting draws go against the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation as it is hard for the regular hard-working Joe to get a tag. Still, typically the well-funded or wealthy individuals get more opportunities to get tags because they can be bought or significantly increase their odds. This violates the spirit of the model, crossing the line on principles number 1 (Wildlife resources are conserved and held in trust for all citizens.) and 6 (Every person has an equal opportunity under the law to participate in hunting and fishing).

Are Hunt Draws Fair for All Hunters?

The short and simple answer here is no, but hunt draws are far more nuanced. Hunting draws have many rules across different states for residents and non-residents, making it difficult to understand or find opportunities to hunt beyond what hunters are used to hunting. Due to these challenges, it is nearly impossible for every person has an equal opportunity under the law to participate in hunting. There may be equal opportunity in certain states for certain species, but it does not constitute that every person has that equal opportunity.

These are the overarching challenges with hunt drawings. We haven’t even discussed specific areas to states like preference points, bonus points, landowner tags, donations for increased odds, conservation, retail giveaways, etc. These are not inherently wrong ideas, but it does come at a cost to what is available for the ordinary hunter. More and more states are making hunters “play the game” of draws with no change in site.

How Can We Make Changes with Hunting Draws?

The Inside Spread always encourages you to get involved in your local and national conservation groups. In addition to that, get involved in your State Game & Fish by attending meetings and speaking up to get your voice heard. Whether you support hunting draws or not, get out there and let your representative know what you think. If you want hunting to continue in this great land, we all need to do our part to make sure that happens. Let’s not leave it up to politics to decide our future hunting opportunities.

Hunters have to be willing to challenge the commerce of tags by state agencies that reduce opportunities because of the cost and fees from every hunter that applies. We all have to hold them accountable to the tenants of the North American Hunting Model of Wildlife Conservation.

Hunting Draws Fee are the New Wildlife Commerce

An example of this is Montana, they have some of the best Elk hunting in America, but as a non-resident, you have to pay a steep price. It costs a minimum of $1,100 to apply for a General Elk Combo with a Preference Point; they only refund 80% of your tag if you don’t draw and your application fee. In addition, they also charge over $32 surcharge that is non-refundable. This is a significant barrier for many hunters seeking to hunt in Montana. This may be only one state; however, more and more states are turning to systems like this with drastic variations.

The collected license and tag fees do go to a good cause, which is to conserve resources and plan for future hunts. However, about 6600 non-residents applied for a tag last year, and as a baseline, we will use a $1,100 fee for General Elk Combo; this means that Montana brought in $7,260,000 just at application time. If you did draw, congrats, you are one of about 1900 to do so. This would bring their total down to approximately $2,090,000 but don’t forget if you didn’t draw, they keep 20% of tag fees for roughly another $1,034,000 for one species on non-residents. If you spend the time doing the math across all species, you will see the new hunting commerce is the hunt draw tag system.

 The National Shooting Sports Foundation estimated in 2016 that US Hunters spent $646,700,000 on licenses and tags. This has only grown as Statista records over $918 million in hunting licenses in 2021; this is a 41% increase over five years. You can imagine where this is going in the future, and it will reduce hunting participation numbers over time.

Is There a Better System than Hunt Draws?

This is a challenge that all hunters can be thinking about for the future. We don’t have all the answers, but if you have something that you feel is worthy of discussing on this topic, we would love to hear from you, go ahead and email us at info@kennethf23.sg-host.com or head over to the contact us page. We believe that we need to continue to uphold the North American Hunting Model of Wildlife Conservation principles to continue to share hunting with our family and friends for generations to come.

**If you have a topic or story that you would like The Inside Spread to write about, reach out at info@kennethf23.sg-host.com or contact us here.**