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Crazy Politics of Wyoming Wildlife!

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Legislative season is here in Wyoming and once again we have a bill that died in committee which attempted to start a preference point system for residents. We already have a point system for trophy species such as Bighorn Sheep, Moose and Mountain goat. Non-Residents already navigate the point game in Wyoming and as it stands right now, there are many who are sitting at the top of the point pool waiting for the right year to cash in their points.

In our office we have all debated the topic and truthfully we can’t even come to a consensus on what would be the “perfect” system for Wyoming residents. My brother, Ike hasn’t fared very well in our current draw system for elk but on the other hand, I have been able to draw several good tags for bull elk over the last few years. This is an example of one family that shows exactly why some residents so desperately want a point system and others are vehemently opposed.

The idea of building up enough points to cash in eventually, sounds like a great idea to many resident hunters. Hunting a general unit for several years to build up enough points to hunt the prime units of your choice is alluring to many. This year’s iteration of this bill assigned a point for every year that a hunter applies for a limited quota tag and pays the preference point fee. You can also miss a year of applying and still keep the points.

The next piece that added another level of complexity to the bill is the youth hunter element. Any party up to six members, would have been able to add two youth hunters who would have had no net effect on the point totals of the adult hunters. This meant that any adult in the max point pool could have brought along a youth hunter of their choosing without having to average their point total with the smaller total of the youth hunter. In this scenario, the youth hunter would have lost the points they had acquired in previous unsuccessful years, the negative side is that one youth hunter could have tagged along with multiple adult hunters and draw the same premium tag many times if a family were to use max points in multiple years.

However, this bill died in committee because the majority of Wyoming residents still like to gamble every year and hope to beat the odds. This is the reason that preference point bills have died in the past two legislative sessions in Wyoming. 2014 was a rough year for Wyoming tags in our office but 2015 is a new year with new opportunities to try and beat the odds. The question is, do you want the proposed preference point system?





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About Guy Eastman, Editor-In-Chief

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Following in the footsteps of his father, Guy has taken up the reins and is now at the helm of the Eastmans’ Hunting Journal and the Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal. A fine hunter in his own right, Guy has taken several trophy animals and has become an expert in trophy hunting as well.

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  1. Keith Cauwenbergh

    Perhaps if the States’ DNR departments would sell off prime tags to organizations to be sold to the highest bidder, there would be more available for residents! Or perhaps the DNR is not doing a very good job managing the herds of animals they sell tags for. All data I see says the number of hunters is shrinking, so too many tag applications should not be an answer. This is precisely why I tend to hunt up in Canada where all this mickey mouse does not exist!!!!!

  2. We have had a resident preference point system in Colorado for as long as I can remember. In my opinion, it works very well and is the fairest way to award trophy tags.

    The youth compnent that is mentioned in this article is interesting but I can see problems with equity among all hunters. I certainly am for incentives to get youth involved in hunting, but I’m not sure that would be the way to do it.That would likely cause some animosity when a youth draws a coveted tag but didn’t have the points required that an adult would need.

    Like Guy said, some will be happy, some will not. I personally think a preference point system is a positive thing.

    • With the creep in the point system, it is not a good idea, I have 17 points for moose and 6 points for plains turkey. I started putting in for Moose when I was 57 you figure out how long it takes to draw a tag. I read story’s about teenagers shooting big Moose here in CO.

  3. I enjoy the points system here in Utah. Half of the tags go to people with the most points and other are randomly give out to all applicants. This gives those who are not in the top tier of points a chance to “beat the odds”. I like knowing that even if I don’t “beat the odds” and draw early, I will eventually be guaranteed a tag.

  4. If a resident system is put in place it needs to address the party permit problem that exists in the nonresident draw now. Nonresidents who apply as a party split their points to draw. I know of one who has bought points for several non hunters for years and now splits with a new partner each year to acquire enough points to draw the tag he wants. This is an expensive option as a nonresident buying all the points and 2 tags but as a low cost resident it would be far more common. Example, buy points for granny and 5 other ladies from work. in a few years at $7 a point you would have a bank of points to split as a partner in 4 years for $140. Now use one of your partners points with your 0 points and draw any tag that takes 2 points.. Keep buying points for the rest of your partners and next year split 5 points, then 6 the next year etc. until you are back to the first partner who now has 4 points again. if this cheating the system is addressed I would be in favor of a resident system. If not stay where we are.

  5. In Wyo non- res. hunters get a 75/25 split for point holders vs non point holders, I like that better than the UT 50/50 split.

  6. Utah is currently on a point system, I am on the fence with the point system. My problem is that it may take as many as 18 years to draw a premium area, but when you draw the tag it is an awesome hunt. I drew my limited entry tag with 9 points in a premium area with archery tackle. All though I did not kill a monster bull, I had the opportunity. Best hunt I had ever been on.

  7. The problem is population growth..More hunters ,,same amount of game,,only works for awhile..I live in Co. now after 16 yrs in Wyo..Wife and I applied four yrs. in a row each without drawing deer..Now they keep app money if u didn’t buy some kinda license yr before(about $36)..I’m done..I will hunt out of state or go to Africa again before paying non resident prices in Wyo…Cost is rediculous for what used to be fun..May just quit altogether..

  8. Hell no! leave it to the odds game!!!

  9. I love a preference point system. Here in California, it seemed as though I would never draw my tag. Now, with every rejection, I know I am one year closer to drawing my tag. You can also plan for future years better knowing approximately what year you will be able to draw the tag you want.

  10. I live in Colorado and am not a huge fan of our point system. I like the way Utah does a 50/50 split. A draw line that keeps everyone in the hunting game!

  11. Chance Marshall

    I do not think that the preference point system for Wyoming residents would be a positive thing for the future of hunters in Wyoming. I understand the frustration of never drawing a tag, but that is part of the game.

    At least with a lottery draw our kids will have just as good of a chance to hunt Wyoming’s premium units in their lifetime as we do. With decreasing tag numbers if we start a preference point system now, I don’t believe there will be enough tags for any species (especially mule deer) that will allow us to avoid a massive point creep for those “beat the odds” units. For example, will a 12 year old hunter starting to apply now ever have max points draw a premium Moose or Sheep tag in Wyoming? The answer is NO, they will never have a chance to accumulate max preference points because every year the number of max points creeps up… so their entire life they must draw in the random! The same would happen for low quota premium deer units like 87, 89, 90, 101, etc. The resident preference point system would be fine for us that are old enough to start right away and eventually wait it out and hunt deer in one of these areas ONCE IN YOUR LIFE, but would suck for all future hunters in Wyoming.

    Instead of a preference point system, why doesn’t Wyoming take an approach similar to New Mexico as far as High Demand vs. Quality vs. Standard license fees? Meaning if you are a resident wanting to apply for deer in 102 (a High Demand unit), you should be willing to pay more for the successful application than just buying a general tag (I’m not rich but would be willing to pay 5x the price of a resident deer tag for a better chance at drawing a premium unit). We already kinda do this for the Special vs. Regular draw for Non-residents…why not residents??

    If we MUST do points and want to reward residents like Ike who have applied forever, then why not do a bonus point system for residents kinda like Nevada does? At least every year you apply, statistically your odds get better, unlike our preference point system that ONLY rewards residents who are old enough to be max point holders

    • In Nevada, statistically the point pool just gets deeper because everyone is acquiring points while you are. So statistically, everyone makes no gains. The only mathematical advantage is the people that just drew tags in the previous year are now out of the point pool for a year.

  12. I had 8 Non-resident elk points that took me 10 years to acquire in Wyoming. The last time I applied was in 2012. In 2013 I was fighting cancer and quite frankly buying points in September or applying in for tags in January was not on my radar whatsoever in 2014. As I have fully recovered from my stint with cancer, I decided to start applying for Wyoming in 2015. When I went to check my points, WDFG website said “no record on file. Please call customer service.” So I did. WDFG rep said I have now lost ALL 8 Bull points. I told her that I can understand losing 1 or maybe 2 points, but to have all 8 taken is criminal. She said I can appeal to which I responded “Forget it, I won’t ever come back to your state again nor will my hunting buddies! Your state will never get another red nickel of my revenue” As far as I’m concerned, Wyoming’s legislature can smell my ass. I will remain in my home state of Nevada and travel to Idaho instead. All these legislatures don’t realize this is not how you treat people…like walking ATM’s. I guess “rules are rules and like it or not they are the rules”…But after beating cancer, I don’t really give a crap about the rules or even hunting after this experience with WDFG. The state got approximately $500 out of me for free…and that’s all they will ever see. So as far as I’m concerned, the residents there are in for a real treat by the state when you invoke the point system. Don’t get sick, cuz if you do, then you get screwed too!

  13. As far as I’m concerned the residents of wyo should not have to share the 25 percent of the tags that are set aside for non- residents! They should be for the residents first. But it’s not about that is it. Always about the dollars to support a poorly managed state agency that can’t operate without raising the cost of tag prices for residents and trying to suck in more non- residents to support their excessive overhead to keep themselves employed!! Why pay more money for that. Just take a look at what has happened to our mule deer herds and the moose hunting opportunity in the western part of put state. Let alone the decline in our elk herds. (Wolves).
    I say we should cut the fat within our state agency and get some experienced biologists in here and fix the problems that exist in the here in now so my grandchildren may still have an opportunity to have a chance a a quality trophy in their home state. If and when that happens should a preference point system be considerd. That is just my opinion even though it may be a bit on the tough side. Wyoming game and fish gets a F for fail in game management for the last 10 years

  14. Preference points systems only favor the people that get in early. Future hunters, kids, even those that miss a year or two applying (sick, military service, economic hardship, whatever) are really screwed. And even for deer and elk, there will be no “guarantee” of drawing a tag sometime. Every resident cannot draw “the best” deer unit in their lifetime, there just aren’t that many tags. (Now what really makes a unit “the best” is a whole other conversation.)

    The only truly fair system is the current straight up, random draw. Everybody has the same chance each year. You can decide each year whether to put in for “the best” units, or try to draw a unit with reasonable odds. Perhaps as a new hunter, any deer will do, but in 20 years you may be ready to be more selective. You are screwed in a preference point system if you don’t start acquiring points from the beginning.

    Perhaps Ike hasn’t drawn his elk tag for a few years because he only puts in for “the best” tag that everyone else wants. He could certainly have drawn other tags. Those advocating for a preference point system want to gain some advantage over other hunters. Precisely the definition of an unfair system. Yes, some will always be “luckier”, but over time luck tends to average out for everyone.

    Keep the draw the way it is.

    • I personally would like to see Colorado go to a Non-resident preference pt system similar to Wyoming or Utah. Both of those states still allocate tags to a random drawing and you still have a chance to draw that premium tag without any points. That I think is the fairest way to allocate tags if there absolutely must be preference points.

      • CO’s Hybrid Drawing system does put a few premium tags in a random-draw pool (no points needed), though the pool is probably very small. Here’s an excerpt from the 2014 Big Game booklet:

        “To continue expanding quality opportunities to big-game hunters, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission offers a “hybrid” drawing for select elk, deer, pronghorn and bear licenses for the 2014 hunting seasons. Th e purpose of the drawing is to give hunters additional opportunity to draw a license for some of the state’s premier deer, elk, pronghorn and bear hunting areas. Hunters who normally would not have enough preference points to draw these licenses now have a slight chance to draw a small number of the most coveted licenses through this process.”

    • Preference points stink! They should do away with them. I’m a nonresident with 8 points I missed one year applying there are more people with 9 points so to draw say 102 is unrealistic so now I’m going to use my points on a region tag no way I’ll ever draw 102 cause of missing one year they need to change it back to the way it was before

    • WyoMarineCowboy

      I have lived in Wy for over 16 years now. I have been putting in for the area that I live in for 10 years. I got a type 1 license my very first year and now have gone 9 years without drawing a type 1 license after applying every year. I know friends and acquaintances that have drawn type 1 for 4 and 5 years in a row! That is not ‘random’ in my book! Something just isn’t right in this system here! Why are those odds that stacked for them and stacked that against me? Something smells really bad with those mathematical statistics to me!….my suggestion isn’t really a point system but that if you draw a type 1 for a particular area, you are not eligible for a type 1 the following year! As well, if you live in the area that you hunt in, you should have a weighted chance along with the previous recommendation. Residents should come first before non-residents. I wouldn’t expect better odds to go get a non-resident tag in a different state than a resident. However, WyG&F, along with other state’s agencies, only look at the almighty dollar. Who is gonna pay the most to give us the most income to our state! I, along with others, don’t just hunt for antlers but for meat! At the same time, I should be allowed to go after an antler every 5 years on average, in my opinion. When this is looked at as a rich man’s sport, the meat hunter suffers greatly!

  15. Colorado needs a resident only season! Too many non resident deer hunters scaring the elk to private property “scouting” days before the season starts.

  16. Here in MT we have the bonus point system, which just gets your name in the hat a few more times. The last few years FWP has been squaring our points to up the odds of drawing. I don’t know, I have max points for elk (11) and still no permit. Maybe the old fashioned random draw is best – ?

  17. I know it seems like a good idea to use a preference point system but I can tell you as a person who has hunted in Oregon every year since 1966 that we use to be able to hunt anywhere in Oregon that we wanted and the biggest problem was how to get there. Over the years the Fish and wildlife department has continued to whittle down our options in the name of conservation and now the options for a good quality hunt are so limited that you are lucky to draw a tag one out of four years in most areas and in the really desirable sections it is about one in twelve. We have fewer hunters because of the discouragement and yet the options continue to diminish rather than grow. Soon we will conserve ourselves right out of the joy that I use to look forward to each year with my family. Already my children, who at one time enjoyed the sport, no longer even apply as they have to plan so far ahead for vacation from their jobs. DON’t get it started as there is no turning back and I can’t see that it has enhanced anything other than looking like the fish and game are actually doing something.

  18. I’ve hunted Wyoming off and on for many years, as a non-resident. It is actually still my favorite western state to hunt, the system seems basically fair, though expensive to the non resident. I think I am sitting at 6 Elk and Deer points and 3 Antelope right now, for both myself and my teenage son. Over the years we’ve made many friends in WY, and one thing that a point system could possibly address would be how difficult it is to hunt with a resident buddy. The draws happen at different times, and with no points for residents it is an entirely different system, so both friends have to basically win the lottery in order to enjoy a fall afield together. The only other beef I have with the system in WY is the designated “Wilderness” areas not being available for non residents. It irks me that most of that is Federal ground, and I can’t hunt there. We prefer to hunt the “Back Country,” on foot, and to be honest the places we like to go are places that even most residents don’t make the effort to go, so we aren’t competeing with anyone but the Guides and Outfitters association. Yet, I had a lady at Fish and Game tell me that it was a “matter of safety”. They didn’t want “Rookies running around in the wilderness getting hurt because they don’t know how to deal with the conditions.” I laughed out loud. Mostly becuase I’m pretty sure I’ll be ok after this many years of doing it. And, secondly, I can’t go back there to hunt becuase that is to dangerous, but it is ok if I go back there and hike, pick berries or fish, right? Dumb, and an obvious ploy to channel money to the Outfitters. I’m not against Guides or Outfitters, just agains monopolies.

  19. For 0ver 30 years now in CO we have had a point system. In that time I have successfully played the point game, if the measure of success is drawing high point tags. I will tell you that without exception it is never as good as advertized and I have drawn some of the best. The reason I believe is, we are only managing one component of sound wildlife management, Hunter opportunity. This is not the most important piece of wildlife management, Habitat, Sex and age classes and predators play a much larger roll in our game herds. These are at work 24-7- 365. The purpose of hunting is to Harvest the excess after those components have been taken in account. I think we hunters as a group have lost sight of that or in a lot of cases never knew. We as hunters we are perhaps too interested in the coveted tag and perceived easy Big one, than whats best for the animals we pursue. More over should we not be using the The knowledge and money we supply our game departments to help and in some cases force them to manage to sustainable and quality herds every where. Instead of long discussions about access and opportunity in small units, lets spend more time on herd condition, habitat, proper sex and age ratios in all, if we do that the trophies will come. Hunting and game management is not a competition, it is not a right, it is a responsibility, a passion,an art. My wife and I 5 years ago decided to no longer play the the point game, Knowing full well that at some point we may not be able to hunt our home state or Wyoming again. That is truly what is at stake for all of us if the point systems all over the west are allowed to continue or expand. Example there is at least one tag in CO that it takes 18 preference points to draw a youth tag. In those 5 years we have concentrated on the Art of hunting, with passion and hard work. We are not rich we have never done a guided big game hunt. I’m not even in shape. We hunt in areas that we can draw every year on public land. In that time we have taken 4 bulls over 300″, 1- 350″ several bucks over 160″ and enough pronghorn to eat. We can hunt with our friends when we want because they can draw to and we can help the young hunters into the art. If we truly want to encourage new hunters and leave a great legacy of sound game management we need to change the discussion.

    Greg N.

  20. I like knowing about (or exactly) when I can expect to draw tags in here in Utah, and in Wyoming, Arizona, and Colorado. Helps me to get a good tag every couple years and not miss for a decade and then draw several all at once. And if I know I’m up for a really good tag in one of those states I often don’t put in for New Mexico or Idaho because of their lack of a point system. Like one of the previous hunters wrote, it does make it frustrating for those who don’t get in at the beginning, but there is never going to be a system that pleases everyone.

  21. It’s all about money for the state agencies. The game we hunt belong to the people no matter what state you are from. The state agencies say they belong to the state. That would be right if they did their jobs and managed the game. Utah and Arizona are the two states that I feel actually manage their game and earn their money. All other western states just keep jacking up fees to fatten their pockets. NR do fund most of the dollars for these agencies. As the cost keep going up less people are able to afford it, which in the long run is affecting the local economy as well will be passed on to the residents. Is there a fix, sure there is but it’ll never happen. These agencies will never cut their own throats

  22. Interesting responses. Seems as though a lot of folks want to take pieces from other states’ laws and drop them into Wyoming without looking at the overall system. Right now residents are discriminated against interms of the lack of a point system. Longrange planning is the main benefit as “Stan” mentions. Wheather you use a 50/50 or a 25/75 split of the licenses the chance factor is still there. Yep, Wy. G&F has management and funding issues. Put those aside and look at what’s best for the game and most fair for the hunter. If the decision was made on that basis we would listen to the entire resident population and let the bill get to the floor where a good debate might result in postive long-range changes. Mr. Niswender’s points are good. Get the politics out of it and manage the resource and the hunting heritage based on something other than $$$.

  23. I have 4 pref points for elk. I have bought a pref point this year but it wont be good untill next year, when I draw a tag I will have a pref point that i cant use. you should be able to use the point you paid for the year you applyed. also with 50.oo a point you need to be a wealthy person to hunt especially if you go with family members when it takes 5 or more points to hunt a good unit. I also think its a money game for outfitters and not fair for nonresidents not to be able to hunt national forest ground if its a wilderness area. I have fished ,rode horses,hiked,and camped in wilderness areas. I pay taxes and feel I should have the right to hunt wilderness areas if I desire.I f it is not safe to hunt wilderness areas,then it is not safe to enter into them for any other reason, but that would be stupid. so let the nonresidents in without a guide,we own the guound, it’s national forest.

  24. It time for Wyoming to go to preference points. Last limited quota tag I got was in 2003 it’s getting old not pulling a tag and watching the same people get them year after year.

  25. Waiting periods are better than points. Especially points for hunts which take a lifetime or two to draw. I live in a state with points and waiting periods. I’d choose waiting periods every time.

  26. I would like to see Colo. go to a weighted point system for all big game, like it currently has for moose, sheep and goat. In essence, you can accumulate a max 3 points. After that, you accrue weighted points, which gives you a slight mathematical advantage but it is still a random draw. Anyone in the 3 point pool can be drawn for a tag, even over people who have more weighted points. With rare exception, you must have the 3 regular points to even be in the game.

    The analogy I’ve heard for weighted points is it is similar to having your name in the hat additional times. It doesn’t work exactly like that, but that is the closest example of how it works. This combines the pref point system with a straight draw.

    This eliminates the point creep issue where some tags will be impossible to draw for many people as it takes more points each year to draw.

    It probably wouldn’t be necessary to go to this statewide as many limited tags are undersubscribed or take few points to draw. But it would be good for those units that historically take say 10 or more points to draw.

    Maybe this would work for WY and other western states too?

    • Kevin, maybe you think the point system is fair , however after 18 years of putting in for moose I can tell you there are many who will never see a moose tag, so the weighted 3 points do nothing except let you hope

      • uncas,

        I understand your frustration and you are correct, due to the small number of tags vs. the large number of applicants, some people will never draw. That is true with many coveted tags and no system will change that mathematical equation. This is true of any system, including a straight draw.

        • Kevin, if the draw was set up so the more points you have you would be put into a different pool that would give you a better chance, I have read where a 18 year old boy drew a moose tag in area 171 how he got that tag is beyond me.
          I guess at this stage it is just not feasible to not keep putting in.

          • uncas,

            Read my first post again (about weighted points). You obviously don’t understand how they work. ANYONE who has 3 points can be drawn. That’s how the 18 year old kid drew. He had 3 points so was in the pool. You do not have 18 points. You have 3 points, just like he did. Anything you have beyond 3 points are weighted points and give you only a sight mathematical advantage. It is still a random draw so if you are in the 3 point pool, you can be drawn.

            With moose, a lot also depends on which unit you are applying for, sex, season, etc. There are a lot of variables involved.

            With a regular preference point system (no cap) it may be mathematically impossible for someone who starts applying now to draw a moose tag (or sheep & goat too) in their lifetime. That is why they have the weighted system for those species as there are so few tags available and so many people applying for them. It truly is a more fair system (in my opinion).

            Good luck in this year’s draw!

          • I do understand the system, what I am saying is it should be so that once you do have many points there should be a better chance of drawing by putting your points into a different drawing allowing for the amount of points to give better odds to draw.

  27. In Australia each state does their own management but a “resident” is classified as anyone Australian regardless of where you live in the country. This means we all have equal opportunity to hunt public land as much as anyone else.

  28. No matter what happens, there are always those who will not be happy one way or another.

  29. Kenneth Schfer

    Ken 3-11-15 Wyoming has about 20%+ for non residence permits on Moose. I ran the number on the 2013 permits, per unit some were over 20%. The residence of Wyoming have a hard time drawing moose permits because of the high percentage of out of state permits. I have been applying for 9 years maybe this year will be the one. Most area you need 15 to 17 points. I did not run the numbers on the percent for the other species of big game permits. The hunter in Wyoming that I have talked to would like to see a 10 % across the board on out of state permits. Which would but Wyoming in the same percent of out of state permints given out as the surounding states. It may be time for the resident hunter in Wyoming to start a movement to have our legislators pass a bill bring down the number of out of State permits and raise the cost for all permits to make up the difference.

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