As I write this I’m awaiting the Wyoming resident draw results for antelope, deer and elk. I’ve only got roughly 432 hours, 16 minutes and 23 seconds before I find out my results, but it’s no big deal. Really.
Seriously though, that’s exactly the anticipation that most folks who apply for western big game tags experience each year. It’s almost as if applying for tags and waiting for results is as much fun as the hunt itself, almost.
But what happens when you don’t draw the tags you’ve applied for? Is your western big game season a bust? It most certainly doesn’t have to be. You have options and if you’re anything like my luck inhibited self you’ll need those options to put antlers on the wall and meat in the freezer.
I’m talking leftover tags, General/OTC tags, and doe/cow tags.
Yes, you still have time to get your name in the hat for leftover draws or buy leftover tags in many western states. These draws are mostly held in the summer to allocate whatever tags don’t make it in the first go round. Be sure to check with your state of choice for these application deadlines and drawings.
As for General or OTC tags? Well, these can be excellent choices to keep yourself in the field every single season. For example, as a Wyoming resident I have superb General elk and deer tags available to me if or when I don’t draw my limited quota tags.
Being a resident helps but there are OTC opportunities for non-residents as well. Idaho has tweaked their first come first serve model and you’ll want to dig into that if hunting Idaho is on your list. Colorado still has its second season OTC elk tags and while the hunting can be very tough it still gets you in the mountains hunting and honing your skills for when you do get a crack at that dream tag.
The last option are antlerless tags. I know that many folks cannot justify traveling to a western state and coughing up relatively big money to shoot a doe or cow. But hear me out!
Say you’d like to start applying for a specific elk unit in Wyoming. It’s the hunt you want, no doubt and you don’t mind waiting 8-10 years to draw the tag. Instead of waiting to draw the tag and then have to learn your unit in a hurry and have little to no experience hunting the unit, if you had been applying for and most likely drawing cow tags for that unit you’d have a wealth of experience and knowledge at your disposal when you drew the bull tag. AND you’d have put thousands of pounds of elk meat in your freezer over the course of those years of waiting as well thanks to relatively inexpensive cow elk tags.
This is an especially solid option for areas where the point spend isn’t a decade or more of one’s life. I also really like this approach when it comes to hunting antelope.
Antelope doe tags are cheap and in states like Montana and Wyoming, plentiful. Having those tags in your pocket gets you in the field, learning an area and putting meat in the freezer and if you’re not eating antelope, you’re missing out. When handled properly it is, in my opinion, the best meat the West has to offer.
To make all of this a little easier, Eastmans’ TagHub is our brand new tag/application research tool that has thousands of searchable data points to help you find exactly the tag you want. This includes OTC and General tags as well, so make sure you sign up now, heck, there may even be a promo running as you read this. Head over to TagHub and find out more. https://taghub.eastmans.com/subscribe/