Knowing Your Odds
With state draws coming to a close across the west (I know we’ve got a couple more to go) it’s very common to hear friends, coworkers, and even strangers shout with joy, or moan and complain about their personal draw results. Many of us have been in both of those situations, if you haven’t — either you don’t apply for Limited or Controlled Hunts, or you are full of crap.
Take this year for example — I pulled a Elk tag out of the hat in Utah. Well, I might not say it was out of the hat because I fully expected to draw when comparing and examining application trends and bonus points over the past 5 years. When comparing draw results with buddies I got mixed responses. I heard everything from “That’s so awesome! Can I come?!” to “You suck, I hate you. I have been putting in for 40 years and still haven’t drawn!” (okay not fourty but you get the point). Personally I find this very interesting, and can tell which of my friends understand the drawing process. This tag was not a suprise to me at all because I knew I would draw with the points that I had. I was expecting to be in the max point pool and have upwards of an 80% chance of drawing it –comparing to the last few years.
On the other hand, my Dad drew a Wyoming moose tag. He also had one 5 years ago. In Wyoming you have to wait 5 years to apply again after you drew. So he had no points, he beat the odds – which happens. So of course I was right there saying “You suck, I hate you. Blah Blah Blah.” Actually I’m super excited for him and hope he kills a great one. (just not as big as my shiras, ha ha)
So why not research and know when you can expect to draw. I typically compile a 5 year list of what hunts I want to do and with a little research, I know I can do them – either by building enough points until my odds are 100% – or getting lucky and drawing before that.
This may be a little too late this year but I wanted to share a few FREE resources I use to keep myself informed on my odds for upcoming hunts.
1. www.hunterstrailhead.com: Hunter’s Trailhead has developed an application that provides application and license draw statistics for most western states. Every year these statistics are updates as made available by State Wildlife Management Agencies. While Hunter’s Trailhead does have a membership fee to gain full access – they have plenty of information available for any hunter to see their odds. I have compared their numbers to the raw data and think they are very close. While they don’t show who actually drew and what the actual results were for each point pool, they do give accurate probabilities for drawing in for every unit, species, and number of points you may be interested in viewing.
2. State Wildlife Agency Websites: Almost all states publish draw and application result statistics. These vary from state to state, but you can get a good idea of where you stand “odds wise” by checking these out and becoming a little more familiar with them. Most states have this information available for the past few years. By looking at consecutive years over a 3+ year span you can start to understand the trending and point creep.
A great example of this is Wyoming. Their non-resident preference point system for elk, deer, and antelope is not that old (6 years). I got into the point game one year too late. So with one less than max points, it looks like I have a decent (25%+) chance at some of the premier units in the state next year. By looking back a few years I can realize that I am still several years out from even being in the max point pool. This is referred to as “point creep” and should be looked into for any unit you are applying for.
3. HuntAddicts.com: Of course I have to give myself a plug. Take some time to check out our Hunt Info section. While I’m working on adding more states as time allows – I try to explain each state’s point system, application deadlines, license fees, and even publish picks for the top units from each state. I hope to have at least 3 more states added by the end of the year. Comment below if there is a state you would like to see covered here.
4. Online Forums: Online hunting forums can be very beneficial, but not always. Some folks are very willing to share information – especially for hunts that they may never hunt again. General season or easy to draw units are a different story and this information is much more guarded. Don’t get frustrated with stupid responses as you are bound to get them, and use the “Private Message” feature to discuss specific areas with other hunters.
5. Check your own Notes: This step implies that you have made notes along the way. Over the years you should be able to look back and understand application trends, drawing percentages, and point creep, to be able to have realistic expectations of what your odds will be for any given year. Remember that application numbers can shift year to yeaer — sometimes drastically. There are a lot of sources of information out there and a few big magazines who make big money from telling hunters where to apply. This “hot-spotting” can result in big shifts in application numbers. Easy to draw areas that have great hunting can become difficult to draw overnight if word gets out.
I hope luck has gone your way this year and you have at least one great tag in your pocket. Be sure to send in your field photos!