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The Myth Of Preference Points!

WY Resident Preference Points – A Very Bad Idea for a Number of Reasons:

And here we go again. Another legislative session in Cheyenne and for some reason the same bad ideas seem to keep coming up, over and over again. Most of us here in Wyoming think of ourselves as much different from those in Washington, D.C. and for the most part we are. However, when it comes to the subject of resident preference points the bad idea just won’t seem to go away much like those bad ideas that seem to surface over and over again in Washington.

A preference point system for Wyoming’s residents is a bad, poorly thought-out idea and here are 12 reasons why from my point of view with over 40 years of Wyoming residency and nearly two decades of writing and compiling extensive analysis on Wyoming’s draw and application system from a perspective outside the agency.

1) HUNTER RECRUITMENT – Every single state that has implemented a point system has seen resident hunter recruitment drop drastically. Try telling your pre-teen son or daughter that he or she has to wait 33-years to draw a high-quality Wyoming elk tag and see what happens. The X-Box starts to look a whole lot more attractive in a hurry. Colorado has been one of the absolute worst cases for this.

2) POINT CREEP CRASHES THE SYSTEM EVENTUALLY – All true preference point systems eventually drift toward a random draw process in the end. Once the system becomes completely overloaded with applicants the mathematics no longer work and the system becomes a random draw system for those who got in on the ground floor and shuts out the low point people almost completely in the process. Point systems don’t solve anything in the end. Case and point, the point system got so bad in Arizona that the State had to carve out a portion of the high demand tags for a random draw to keep hunter/applicant interest up which in turn really ticked off the high point holders as the State changed the game midstream on them.

3) A RANDOM PROCESS IS MORE ATTRACTIVE – The states of ID and NM have no points systems and are beginning to see higher amounts of new hunter traffic for that reason. The old-school style, straight-up draw has become more and more appealing for younger hunters and those that have been late to the game, so to speak. Everyone having the same chance is exciting for people. That is why the lottery does not have a point/loyalty system; new people would refuse to participate, collapsing the system. Everyone has the same chance and that’s a good thing for interest and excitement. 

4) LESS REVENUE LONG TERM – Since when has a government entity strategically planned for the long-term? Um, probably never, but the fact is a point system, while appealing from a revenue standpoint in the short term, can create a loss of revenue over the long haul. Once a high point holder draws a tag he will not go back into the system. He is either too old, or too discouraged by facing another 20-year wait. This has a huge effect financially on the system. The states of AZ, UT and NV are seeing this and it is hurting them big time in their budgets and revenues. A good-sized portion of the guys that draw those high-point elk tags in AZ never apply again. 

5) HUNTER DISCOURAGEMENT – In the outlined AZ elk model above, unless the guy is in his 20s when he starts applying for tags, 33 years of diligently applying will put him past his core hunting age by the time he draws. I am already seeing this with the current WY nonresident point system. Guys are getting too old to hunt with 12-14 years vested into the system and do not plan on coming back to WY to apply once drawn. 

6) EXTREME EXPECTATIONS – Once a guy or gal waits 33 years for an elk tag there better be a bunch of giant bulls out there for him to chase. His expectation for the hunt is so darn high he will never be satisfied unless the state can produce a bunch of 400” bulls which WY historically does not. We are already seeing this in the nonresident point system. This will cause a giant headache for the G&F Department as resident feedback must be considered on nearly every single management decision the department makes. This creates a process where the big game managers feel it necessary to cut the tag quotas drastically to even have a hope of producing the types of bulls the public expects, leaving more bulls to die of old age on the mountain. This become a no-win situation for the department in the end and no one is happy. Ask the State of Utah. When they were producing massive amounts of 400” bulls in the early 2000s they had to drop the elk quotas to such an anemic level that virtually no one could draw a tag, causing outrage from the public and headaches with the ranchers.

7) REGRET – Nearly every state game agency insider I have talked to has in some form conveyed regret for the implementation of their points systems over time. Most of them wish they would have just kept their systems clean neat and random in the end. To run some of these systems, it takes massive amounts of computing horsepower and programming time, which is extremely costly and complex.

8) THE BIG MYTH – There is a myth that a point system will miraculously solve the problem of too many applicants and not enough tags. This is totally false. There will never be enough tags to satisfy the hunting public and a preference point system will not remedy this. A point system can possibly equalize the 1% or 2% of the very lucky folks that always seem to draw tags placing those tags back into the pool for high point holders, however this change is usually statistically irrelevant. There will never be enough overly lucky applicants to even begin to compensate for the masses that find themselves unlucky. Placing two “lucky draw” elk tags from Area 30 back into the pool would not even budge the draw odds by three tenths of a single percent for the remaining applicants. Sorry, guys.

9) EXCESSIVE COST AND HEADACHE – Point systems are expensive to run and create a lot more work, processes and systems for the agencies to manage. This creates an extremely complex process where people are so vested in the system, that even the slightest mistake made can create outrage that would certainly make the front page of every single newspaper in the state. Most of these systems are outsourced to high tech out-of-state companies that know nothing about hunting or wildlife management. Ask the State of Colorado how this has worked out for them, as they have found themselves in the middle of a complete disaster after last year’s draw process changes created a mountain of applicants so large that they will never see or hear the end of it.

10) SIMPLICITY AND THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE – In war they say the element of surprise is a massive advantage. Although this is nothing like war by any means, the element of surprise that a random process brings usually creates a very high level of excitement. If you know exactly when you are going to draw a tag, the excitement just isn’t there from year to year. I have seen this happen over the years with Wyoming’s current process. The nonresident draw is usually lackluster and ho-hum. Most of the guys that draw expected it to be that way anyway. To residents however, the draw results are nearly like a second Christmas in June. The excitement levels are through the roof with text messages and Facebook posts and phone calls to family, friends and neighbors. This excitement is good for the sport and the system, the type of excitement that only the simplicity of a random draw process can create.

11) THE LION’S SHARE – The Department knows this all too well. From a purely mathematical and statistical perspective a preference point system is not needed in WY for residents for nearly 90% of the hunts. Wyoming residents get the lion’s share of the tags (84% for elk), and with less than 500,000 residents, it is mathematically ridiculous to implement a points system for the entire system just to try and fix a few extremely high demand hunt areas. The average limited quota resident bull elk tag in Wyoming has nearly 40% odds of being drawn. There is no need for a preference point system in Wyoming, not to mention, the points system has not fixed anything for moose and sheep and it won’t for deer, elk and antelope either. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but no mathematical gimmick in the world will increase your odds of drawing the elk tag in Area 100. With only 77 tags and nearly 4,000 applicants, you are either going to have to get really, really lucky or wait roughly 52 years. I’ll take the luck, thank you very much. Even a 20-year-old would be over 70 years old before he could be assured that elk tag.

12) LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES – The final reason may not be the most obvious to most but could be the most devastating of the bunch. All too often government tries to fix a perceived problem and what actually happens as a result ends up making the problem worse. And if that weren’t bad enough, the fact that most government “fixes” cannot be easily reversed makes the disastrous change permanent. In my opinion, this scenario will be more of the same. Once the point system is put in place, a promise is made and cannot be reversed. The whole idea is to move way from a random draw and into something less random and “more fair.” What will really happen is we will move away from a random draw and into something much more permanent and much more dedicated. When a state first initiates a preference point system three things happen, guys get 100% serious and dedicated to the system. Everyone wants to be on the ground floor of the new system or be left behind forever. Look at the mathematical prospects of entering nearly any state’s preference point system at this point in time with no points to your name. Not good. Second, with the cheap cost of resident tags, many applicants get serious and dedicated for others as well, applying their kids, wives and friends without ever missing a single year. And last, guys begin to work the system to their benefit. All three of these things result in one thing, more applicants than ever before. I would not be surprised one bit to see the total number of resident applicants in the draw to increase by 20%-30% or even more. I know a lot of guys that forget to apply or just hunt general for meat, or don’t apply for their kids because they have football in the fall. This will all be gone. Guys will get serious in a hurry to get in on the ground floor of this system. The resident deer hunter who prefers to just hunt over in Region G each fall will now apply for preference points. My neighbor who just likes to hunt cows will now become a trophy hunter and apply for points, to ensure a future bull even though he really doesn’t want one, but now he has to or forever be left behind. And the guy who got laid off last week that is going for forego the draw this year for financial reasons, will now sell a gun or some tools to make it happen. This will only ensure one thing and one thing only, we could get less than we already have as a result, with a permanent increase in applicants and serious ones.

These are just a few of the drawbacks of a point system. The G&F does not want a resident point system because they know the stats behind what they already have in place and I believe if the public could see those stats they wouldn’t want a point system either. Too many negatives, and once you start down that road, you can never, ever, ever go back, and that is a dangerous road to travel even for the government.

 

About Guy Eastman, Editor-In-Chief

Guy Eastman, Editor-In-Chief
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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74 comments

  1. Guy, I am the 2018-2018 House Chairman of the Wyoming Travel, Recreation and Wildlife Committee. I also hate preference points and agree with your article. I’d really like to talk to you about who is behind this in the legislature.

    • Jim as a Wyoming resident I’d ask you to share this in public. It would be nice to know. Also, by and far, in the sportsman groups I am associated with, people do not want to see PP system.

    • The sponsors of the bill are who are behind it right?! Can you please connect with me. Starckdesarae@yahoo.com I have a letter I’ve typed up to send umoit on my opposition.

    • Why don’t you talk with people that are normal hunters in this state instead of the ones who can “fair chase” with the highest paid guides around. Or buy governerns tags. I’ve never drawn in 23 years…not once so obviously that system is working right? I mean if I can’t draw my buddy should get the same tag I can’t every year right?

    • Jim Allen WAS the Chairman of TRW and while he was in that position he fought hard to make sure that Past Shooters of the Lander One Shot hunt get a premium antelope tag every year WITHOUT going through a drawing. He stacked hearings with testimony to favor his position and admonished those that wanted the practice, of giving away our antelope tags to a group that discriminates against women, to stop. He also publicly blames the Shoshone tribe for the anti-woman overtures in the event which is completely false. Now he wants to advise Guy about something related to draw systems?

  2. Very interesting reading and well presented Guy.

  3. While effectively discussing res/non-res issues, how about the ridiculous rule preventing non-residents from hunting wilderness areas without an outfitter? I’d like to see what Eastman’s has to say about this.

    • Me too please. I’ve hunted many wilderness areas…just not in Wyoming.

    • Agree! Non-res should be able to hunt wilderness areas. We can in just about every other state. WY G&F needs to change this rule.

      • No, the wilderness is the last place residents have which will not be infiltrated by non residents.

        • The Wilderness areas are Federal lands…everyone’s tax dollars support them.

          • Most all of Wyoming’s nonresident hunting takes place on Federal lands that belong to all US citizens. When hunting on Federal land such as BLM, National Forests and Wilderness Areas everyone should have fair access. These hunting licenses should all be issued in a fair and impartial manner, everyone in the same pot with the same chance. Remember the draft? Looks like the only time Wyoming hunters like nonresidents is when they are walking the wall in Iraq or Afghanistan together. Oh and when they are at Mayo Clinic having one of those nonresident Doctors trying to save their life. There is way to much criticism for nonresident hunters, we are all in this together and most of the hunting occurs on our shared Federal Lands. It might be time to challenge these license draw systems in court again, times are a changing.

          • you are not hunting federal land. You are hunting state owned wildlife. Therefore the state will decide where and when and what you hunt. By your reasoning a private landowner should be able to do what they want with the wildlife on their private property.

  4. Amen, brother. Keep preachin’.

  5. The point system is also bad for nonresidents!

  6. Guy, be sure your intentions are good and not based on you ability to get tags currently because you can afford to buy anything you desire. I am not sure I like the point system either (I am in Oregon), But hunt draws need to be fair to all that enter. Do you not like the point system because it will make your life miserable? Or because it is not good for everyone?
    I have put in for Antelope for 15 years and should be able to draw this year, and you are correct, I will not be putting in again after I draw.
    How would points affect guides, landowner and those with more money than most?

  7. Guy, I have never written a response before. I got in on Wyomings NR elk preference points at year one and plan to cash out this year before I get to old, I am 49, as I realize this may be my only chance in a limited entry unit.
    I live in Missouri, which arguably has the premier wildlife agency in the nation, and supports itself for every resident and non residents through a miniscule 1/8 of one cent sales tax and dirt cheap tags for resident and non resident alike. We have vast areas of public use areas funded equally without favor to any one interest.
    I am angered Wyoming has jacked up my non resident tag price in an attempt to bolster their financial short comings and I will likely in the future drive a few more miles and spend my hard earned money in Idaho. As an outsider I resent being expected to bear the cost of wildlife management alone.
    Preference points, excessive fees and legislated wildlife management (wolves, bears, and now mountain goats!) Have me looking to spend my resources elsewhere.
    Good luck Wyoming!!! Brent

  8. They dont want us in their precious wilderness because we might invade their space, It’s a way of limiting the majority of us non-residents that can’t afford a hunting guide. And they always claim to be DIY hunter friendly. They also don’t think we could take care of ourselves. What they need to do is put tag quota’s on residences in region G and H to improve the age class of the herd

  9. I’ve had same luck with the special bow hunting for Elk area lots reference points but never got it now too old to get down in the mountains oh well I have a grandson that killed his first year this year was a longbow wood arrows so he’ll keep up the tradition in family. I love your show

  10. As a non-resident I can attest that the Pref pt system is flawed and in the end Wy will have to figure out a way to convert to a totally random draw. I’ve been applying for moose or buying pref pts since 2000 and sometime in the next 16 yrs I may get a license. It’s kind of like going to infinity! At 55 it doesn’t look good. For the younger folks I would tell them to look at Alaska.

  11. Terrible article with zero basis or stats behind it even though he claims there is. Guy you say theres point creep when the system is overloaded with applicants, you can easily access the draw result odds and applications for residents for the past 10 years and look at the changes in applications. Theres very slight increases in applications and would take a huge increase in order for there to be a problem…by huge I mean wyoming would probably have to double in size. Wyoming population went up by 10k in the past 8 years so probably not happening. Point creep happens in areas like Arizona because when theres 100 tags and thousands upon thousands people applying it’s easy to to up. In wyoming its 100 tags to 1000 applicants. So unless the entire population gain of wyoming hunts, hunts elk, and applies to the same elk unit, theres no significant point creep. It’s ridiculous how people like you spit out random numbers saying people wont draw for 33 years without any basis of factual numbers. Why dont you take a look at the application history yourself and figure it out instead of just saying the same “it will be like every other state”. Obviously other states dont have entire population growth of 1k a year. Do you know what it actually takes for a point creep? If so please look up and pretend weve had points for the past 10 years. In area 111 it would have required about 14-15 points, now it would take about 6-7 points.. WHAT!! the opposite of point creep??? How is that possible? Because our state is unique and always will be until we are long gone.

    • Well Ty, u are right. Wyoming is unique and all not in a good way. Where are your stats, to back up you running your mouth, since u seem to have it all figured out. When u have a moose quota of 5 tags and at a minimum 22 preference points, you can easily see how 33 yrs to draw is quite realistic. WG&F has this info on their website if u care to look. If you also subscribe to Guy’s magazines, you would understand your AREA 111 decreased points because he has explained it but obviously u don’t because then u would know what u are talking about because it is obvious u don’t. Nothing better to do on a week day?

    • Actually unit 111 bull tags took fewer points last year because the quota increased. A little known fact is that during several of the last seasonss, there were NO nonresiident tags available in the general non resident draw because they ALL were taken by non resident landowners prior to the draw.

    • Ty, take the time to watch this series where Idaho looked at PP and has math to back up what Guy is saying…..https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EujSy-L4Rww

  12. I tend to agree with the vast majority of Guys’ arguments, although I would love to see the actual research to substantiate his claims on new hunter recruitment being correlated with preference points, or the lack of preference points being correlated with an uptick in hunters in NM and ID, or the revenue streams being correlated with preference point or non-preference point systems.

    I also agree that a resident preference point system is not what Wyoming needs.

    However, I am surprised there is no reference to a BONUS POINT system as an alternative. True, the currently proposed legislation isn’t looking at bonus points, but I would argue there is merit in bonus point systems and states that are using them (Nevada being a strong one, Montana, etc.). Moreover, Wyoming may be one of the few states that a bonus point system for limited quota areas would work quite well (or arguably as well as states with just random draws).

    All points are not created equal.

    • Bonus points – yes. Most hunters don’t know the difference and treat the subject the same. Use the Nevada model where pointsvare squared.

  13. Great article!! I agree on PP systems being a bad system.

  14. California puts 75 percent of its elk, sheep, antelope and premium deer tags aside for max points holders. How in the hell is a kid that just got their license even have a fair chance? I’m all for random draws, the point hoarding is just ridiculous and a pain in the ass. Miss one year and your absolutely screwed!

  15. I am torn on this issue. I have used the current point system to my advantage for Moose. Does it make any sense to keep the draw random and then if a hunter draws a limited quota area there is a stipulation he cannot apply for that area again maybe for a 2 or 3 year period? This might increase odds for others trying to draw that tag. It would not prevent the lucky hunter from applying for another LQ area. Just a thought and would like to hear others thoughts on this.

  16. Guy, I totally agree with you and feel the same way. I’m a non resident and live just across the border in Colorado, I’ve dealt with the point creep in this state and it’s gotten much worse in the past years and got worse with the new concepts they introduced last year. So your beliefs and comments about this are to ght on! I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with you several times at the Denver Sportsman show as to specific elk units. I’m like so many others that got in the first year for WY. I’ve applied for a tag and buying preference points ever since. Doing both normal pts and special pt process. I have the max pts and hoping to draw this year. However after applying for the same unit for those years and with the very limited quota for NR’s (2-3) tags my chances have and will continue to be extremely poor even with 14 pts…So having a point system really hasn’t worked for so many of us… At 66 I don’t have another 10 years to wait, so even the guys with all the pts need to be LUCKY too. If I draw this year I will have roughly $2000,00 invested in the elk tag.. Like you mentioned above, my expectations will be high for a really good bull!

  17. Lived in Wyoming 31 years. Personally I believe the point system is the correct way to give everyone a equal chance over time. The license always sells out and they should go to those who have waited the longest for a special tag. I now have 18 non-resident moose points and I doubt if I’ll ever draw area 1 but why should anyone have the same chance as I in their first year and I have been waiting 18 years.

    • The PP system really doesn’t give everyone an equal chance, anyone that gets into hunting later in life, past 28-30 has almost no chance. Plus watch the series Idaho did, she actually gives stats on why the PP system sucks.

  18. I guess my sons will be glad to know that 8 years so far in the random draw to hunt elk on the family ranch is great, probably only have to wait till hell freezes over to get a permit. Non-resident in the preference point system has been 4-6 years.

  19. I am from AZ, i’ve Had a hard time getting a deer or an elk tag in the last 20 yrs. I finally decided 12 yrs ago to put in only for a premium tag for deer and got drawn last fall. I see no reason to try again, I got lucky with 12 pets. At 62 y/o. As for elk, only one archery tag in the last 22 yrs. I did get 2 rifle tags in units as 3rd choice, they were 70% private with few elk. Antelope almost impossible. Totally agree with you

  20. Well written and brings up points I have never considered…. I hate the points game, but the way its set up, you either play or don’t hunt those states…. I definitely prefer Idaho’s straight up draw, no wonder they get more money out of me that any other state.

  21. David W Miller Jr

    Dave 1/10/19

    Guy,
    I couldn’t agree with you more on the preference point sustems. However in AZ there is a slight difference from most of the other preference point type systems. In AZ they have what they call a “Bonus Point System”. The difference is that If you have max points and put in for a premium hunt, you will most likely draw that hunt, or increase your chances considerably. If you don’t have max points, you can still apply for that hunt. Also if you have max points and don’t draw from the max point pool, then your application gets thrown back into the general draw, and you get another chance to draw that same tag. Because the first draw is for 20% of the tags will go to the max point holders. Anyone that doesn’t draw with max points will get kicked back into the draw for the remaining tags for that hunt. For example: I have a friend that put his wife and daughter in for a couple of the premium elk hunts last year. His daughter had 4 bonus points, and his wife had 16 bonus points. The max bonus points for that species was 21 I believe. They both drew an elk tag in one of the premium areas that most hunters would die to have. So you still have an opportunity to draw that special tag (although very low odds) but just the same you can still apply, unlike Colorado, and some of the other states as you mentioned before.

  22. I wonder if the Eastman’s fought so vigorously when they started the points system for non-residents. They seem to have stake in this one so they speak up because it is going to hurt them…

    Ya…..and the non-resident not being able to hunt wilderness areas is complete bullshit.

  23. As a Colorado resident I love the PP system. At least with it in place I know that eventually I will get to draw a good tag. Without it I might never draw the tag I want while someone who is a brand new hunter does. This year my daughters and I should have enough points to draw the pronghorn tag that we want and get to hunt together. Without points one of us might draw but the odds of all 3 of us would be astronomical. And if we do, we will start building points again.

  24. I am all for the lottery draw system currently being used for moose and others in Colorado being used in the “trophy” areas. Last year, 68 people with less than 3 PP drew cow moose tags in some pretty good areas. If I was that lucky, I would had at least two shot opportunities in the area I was hunting elk.

    I don’t agree that PP systems require massive computer resources to manage draw systems. I manage databases with far more data points on a desktop PC.

  25. So I am a 26 year Wyoming resident I was born and raised here. I have heard most conversations on preference points and the thing I take away from is what Guy said. Residents in my experience are never really excited when applying for moose and sheep tags with our current system because it takes 5 minutes to check draw odds with relation to your points to know whether there is even any hope at all. I’ve always thought a change would be good. Here’s a thought why don’t we keep it random but every year that you don’t draw your first choice deer,elk antelope you earn a chance not a point but another name in the hat for the next year. So people that are just starting out have a chance with no preference given and guys that have struck out over the course of x amount of years have that many chances or names in the hat. The odds would favor people that have applied longer but there individual chances wouldn’t be any better than a 12 year olds first chance. Preference points are flaud in the way that 1-20 points really means nothing if max points is 25. Why not have 1-20 names in the hat instead. It would give every one a chance and would in theory give the people with the most chances the higher odds of drawing without eliminating people with 1-20 years of applying. In fact it would give hunters hope when applying. You would still have hunters beating the odds and drawing tags back to back and what not. And you would also have guys put in 30 years and have 30 chances and they may never get pulled on some of these tags but it would be random. This is all speculation but take an area that is 40% for bull elk type 1. You would always have a mixture of people drawing the tag once the system started. Some people would draw with one chance and others may miss out with 3 or 4 chances but in the end they would no they had the better chances and the randomness just wasn’t in their favor that year. Just a thought let me know what you think.

    • This is how Oklahoma conducts their “controlled hunts” using PP. Everyone has a chance of drawing, but those with PP have a greater chance by having your name in the hopper more times. I hunt multiple states and find this more fair than most. Most folks favoring the current WY or CO PP system have been putting in for years and want to be protected, rightfully so, from change. I expended 15 PP in CO two years ago and started back at zero last year, when CO changed their application process…based on life expectancy I may never draw a premium Elk area again because application numbers sky rocketed. Under Oklahoma’s system I would at least have the possibility to draw again, just not the probability.

  26. Sport hunting has entered the world of gambling, as a Nevada brochure touted. The first problem of discouraging new hunters the basic opportunity to hunt, or harvest abundant game, is enough to trash quotas altogether. Boom game populations provide harvest opportunity, until they don’t, with winter kill, and then hunting is recreation or social activity among family and friends. So?
    ALso:
    1. Costs. Tags prices are so much higher now that I can only play at the resident California table now, and wait at least five years to hunt a mule deer zone with preference points. Retirement in Wyoming was considered an option, but maybe not now. Good luck with that.
    2. False equity of social engineering. Build a stupid wall of points – where? Even residents will not necessarily harvest anything, as I even passed on huge bucks in prime zones here and in the Kaibab when I got a tag there with 2 percent chance of being drawn, waiting for the next one. Everyone knows us unwashed nonresidents can’t hunt or hit anything, right? Better jack up game populations for resident suburbanites as well as for youth? Scoring preference points is a fool’s game. The big ones are still back in the designated wilderness where I can’t walk while hunting in Wyoming anymore. Oh, wait, some trophy areas weren’t designated because Wyoming thought federal wilderness created too much of a wall?

  27. As a Wyoming resident I believe the legislature should first address the over-generous nature of non-resident licenses to appease the Wyoming Outfitters. 20-25% of licenses to non-residents is ridiculous. This is only because of the clout of the Outfitters lobbyists. Wyoming residents who apply to other Western States see max quotas of 10% going to non-residents. “What is good for the goose is good for the gander!!”

    • Carl, I hear what you’re saying… I’m not sure on one thing though, are you saying that all limited quota units are getting 20-25% of the tags for non-residents? Or just the Outfitters in specific units get those numbers? The reason I ask that question, in the limited quota unit I’ve been applying now for 14 years. That unit gets 2-3 tags for each of the draws (Normal PP draw and Special PP draw) which is 10% of the overall tags allocated for residents and non-residents in that unit. So I’m not sure if your statement is correct or there you got your information. In Colorado, the CPW allocates percentage of non-resident tags per unit and I’ve seen as high as 35% going to those applying. Maybe other states only allow 10% but not Colorado. As a footnote, I’ve spent $700.00 in just preference points alone over the years and with the increases to the non-residents tags… I will have a lot invested if I ever draw a tag but that’s my choice to continue in these draws that might be fair or not..

      • Terry, The only state more generous to non-residents than Wyoming is Colorado. The statistics you are not looking at is the non-resident landowner tags. They get first preference before the Special Draw and Normal Draw. There are units that virtually all non-resident tags go to the non-resident landowners. Wyoming by statute due to Outfitter Lobbying results in non-residents getting 20-25% of all licenses. The average non-resident hunter should be screaming to have Wyoming go to complete random draw.
        Why you ask?
        1) Non-resident landowners have “guaranteed” tags.
        2) If you didn’t get in on the ground floor of the Wyoming Point system you are completely wasting your money. 60% of tags to special draw. 40 % to random.
        3) Calculate the time value of your money to take 15-20 years to draw a premium elk tag if you just started putting in.
        4) I have 20 sheep points as a resident. Would hope the system will disintegrate as my three kids will most likely never get to hunt sheep or moose.
        5) Guy is DEAD ON in this entire article. Everyone should check there facts.

  28. Kill most of the wolves & bears and the population of elk, moose & deer will increase so more tags will be available in the draw. Simple. Modify the point system so the max pt still get a higher percent of the tags- guaranteed . Then have tags in a random draw but instead of everyone having a equal chance, make pts a bonus system like AZ. Now the guy with 15 pts has 15 chances, the guy with 5, 5 chances, etc so the longer in the draw you are the more chance you have vs only in it for 2 yrs.
    If younger recruitment is a issue then why so much competition for tags now? Bottom line is too few tags for too many hunters.

  29. Well done Guy.

    My biggest heartache is with the state of Colorado and you hit the nail on the head about preference point systems. With 24 elk preference points and at an age of 68, I’ll probably never draw one of the preferred tags at least at an age when I can make the most of it. I write the Commission every year and diplomatically argue my case for changing their system. In years of doing so, I’ve never received a response.

    I always used the Nevada model with their “square the points system” in suggesting a change to Colorado’s system. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but in the 25 years of applying for tags in Nevada, I’ve drawn 4 top quality deer tags, one Shell Creek range bull elk tag, and just last year a Sheldon range antelope tag. For a guy that cannot purchase auction tags, I’m very satisfied.

    Eastmans’ Hunting Publications get the credit for enlightening me on the drawing processes over the years, but as you point out, it’s a new game especially for the young generation and our future.

  30. Preference points!
    To help better the possibility of getting a limited quota elk license!
    If you draw a limited quota elk license one year. The following year you cannot put in for a limited quota license. Unless there is left over tags. That means every other year, your chances are much better of drawing!

  31. I am now a 50 year resident of Wyoming, i have lived my entire life here. i support a preference point system maybe a 50-50 split. 50% going to hunters with the highest points and the other 50% random draw. i have had a difficult time drawing in one limited quota area, i have applied for 11 years and have not been successful when the draw rate was between 34% and 46%. statistically i should draw every 4 years. i have friends that have drawn 8 of the last 10 years. i do agree that there should be some amount of random chance, but there should also be some degree of “if i try long enough i will be successful”. this is a resident issue and i feel that non-residents, land owners and outfitters have to much influence on the game and fish decisions. i agree with Carl, we should limit non-resident quotas to 10% MAX. i pay my money every year, and wait on that special day when results are published… and i will continue to do that.
    I feel that Wyoming should institute a points system for big game.

  32. I am not for the current proposal but I am torn on this, the proposal is for 75% of the tags to go to points so 25% would still be random. Would anyone appose 50% so 1/2 remain random? I’m just asking for ideas and thoughts. A lot of people just say no but don’t propose an option does that mean don’t change anything or what? How about bonus points instead of preference points for a percentage of no more than ?? of the quota?

    • 50% of tags to a bonus system and 50% random draw.

      If you care about kid’s ever having an opportunity to hunt Wyoming Trophy Game.

      NO PREFERENCE POINTS see Guy’s comments regarding the Law of Unintended Consequences.

  33. Well said you are exactly right Here’s my proposal that will work and will also raise more money for the game and fish when I was a kid Wyoming had a pink card system I suggest we go back to this system when you applied for a special deer or elk permit you had to purchase a general license before applying by doing this the true hunters will have better odds of drawing because if you want your grandma to apply she will have to fork out the money to try and draw this will result in way less applicants thus better draw odds it will also result in more revenue for the g and f because unsuccessful applicants will receive a general license. In addition to this I propose a $150 big game permit that must be purchased before purchasing a big game or trophy license. Bottom line this will be a big win for the game and fish and will reduce the draw odds in wyomings coveted areas. Face it hunters we need to pay if you want good hunting. People put everyone in their family in for these tags hoping to draw something because they have no money invested maybe when granny don’t draw and gets a general license she can go rent a horse like the rest of us. If you like this proposal spread it around. I know this is the best solution. The legislature can call this the granny bill. Let the hunters hunt but make them pay for abusing the system

  34. Guy:

    Guy, you have hit the nail on the head! I have been an avid student of preference points, application processes, deadlines, etc. for more years than I care to admit. For years I have poured over regulations and proclamations and studied statistics and draw odds religiously. I lived and breathed this stuff and for the most part I know it well. For many years I annually applied to 10 different western states for sheep (desert, California, Rocky Mtn), goat, elk (Tule, Roosevelt, Rocky Mtn), deer (Coues, black tail, whitetail, mule), antelope, bison, and moose, and racked up preference points in many areas for many species. Over the years I have drawn some exceptional tags (once-in-a-lifetime for sure) and have had both successes and failures in punching those tags. My shot group is now much narrower. Now, I only apply to three states plus my home state of Wyoming and species applications have similarly narrowed. Why have I pulled back? Because of several important points you have raised in your article. Here are some observations based on 20+ years of “playing the game” and talking to folks in various states that deal with these programs. 1) Every state is different. I can honestly say there are things I like and don’t like about every application process I have participated in. Some seem to be overly burdensome in terms of the time, effort, and cost that a F&G Department must endure to administer and process their preference point systems. For example, it has never made any sense to me that some F&G Departments require hefty fees up front and then they have to spend an additional effort to issue refund checks. That is just a lot of unnecessary work and expense. There are simpler, easier, and less expensive ways to administer these programs. 2) Point creep is real. Anyone that says it isn’t doesn’t know what they are talking about. I am not sure that the people who originally dreamed up and implemented these systems could foresee how point creep would eventually play out 20 years later. How could they? In the beginning, everyone jumped on that bandwagon and nobody had experience or precedent for guidance. 3) When I originally entered a particular applicant pool, I pretty much knew what I was getting into in terms of price, odds, and the likelihood that I would draw a tag 3, 5, 10 years down the road. After 20+ years of doing this, two things are certain—prices will increase, and the rules will change. In my experience, tag prices have doubled, tripled, and in some cases quadrupled to the point where it has priced me out of the market. Whereas, I might be willing to pay $1000 or $1500 for a non-resident tag, if F&G increases the price to $3,000, they lose me as an annual applicant and that has happened. It is no longer worth it to me to play that game. So, the question gets asked, how can F&G Departments get away with this? The answer is because they can. When you see that some limited “Governor’s Tags” are auctioned off at various banquets for $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000, it comes as no surprise there is no shortage of hunters who are willing to pay $3000 for a tag–but not me. In addition, rules change. For example, as a non-resident I used to apply for Rocky Mountain Sheep and Mountain Goat tags in NV for several years. I paid my money and accrued my points. And then it was determined that non-residents could no longer apply for either of these species. Poof! My points vaporized. In another state I applied for a limited entry hunt where the annual allocation for non-residents was 3 tags per year. Currently I have over 20+ preference points for that hunt but in the intervening years the tag allocation went from 3 to 1. When the allocation was three, I was pretty much assured that sooner or later I would draw that tag. At 1 tag per year, I am no longer certain. I may not live that long. Will I quit and drop out? At this point, no. I am too heavily invested in this game to quit now. After 20+ years and a few thousand dollars I keep rolling the dice hoping I’ll get lucky again. 4) The Dirty Little Secret. Here is something that no F&G employee will ever admit. If you are a young hunter just starting out and you have zero preference points and you want to apply for a primo dream hunt (Arizona Strip for mule deer, Missouri River Breaks for sheep, Red Desert for elk) the odds that you will ever draw that tag is essentially ZERO! Yet, they will encourage that person to apply and take his/her money for the next 25 years knowing full well that that person will most likely never draw that tag. This really seems disingenuous to me and we wonder why the number of hunters in America is declining. 5)The Nuclear Option. There are many states in the west that have preference point systems or something similar. Over the years I have grown to dislike them for many of the reasons you have enumerated in your article and this is coming from someone who is sitting on 20+ preference points for several good hunts in multiple states. I think the unintended consequences (and there are many) now out-weigh the benefits. But here is the problem. If a F&G Department decides to scrap their preference point system and start all over again with something different there will be guys like me who have been playing the game for 20+ years and have invested thousands of dollars who will go absolutely ballistic. They know they have created a monster with many negative, unintended consequences but they are reluctant to pull the trigger and kill their respective programs. I fully understand this. Why kick the hornet’s nest? So, they kick the can down the road one more year; the problem persists, more veteran hunters like me drop out, and the young folks never join in. We will rant and rave but in the final analysis what I think or say will have no bearing on the final outcome, especially given the fact that I am a non-resident. I don’t live in their state. I don’t vote in their state and I don’t pay taxes in their state, so my voice and opinion can and will most likely be ignored. And, that is sad. I truly believe that many of these systems are broken and are long overdue for major overhauls. The handwriting in on the wall. The hunting community in America continues to shrink every year. We are in a death spiral and have been for many years and yet we continue to delude ourselves about this dire reality and focus on our conservation success stories which are certainly real and something to acknowledge and applaud. Patting ourselves on the back certainly makes us feel good and wildlife populations and habitats have certainly benefited from our collective efforts; however, our self congratulations ignores the fact that we are a dying breed. The death spiral is real too. As the number of hunters decline, our voice and influence in the arena of public discourse will continue to become increasingly irrelevant and the financial impact to state F&G agencies that rely on our license and tag sales for operating revenue will get worse. I believe in the grand scheme of things that preference point systems are now a detriment to recruiting new first-time hunters. Without sufficient recruitment, any population, be it hunters, deer, or ducks will eventually die out. That won’t happen in my lifetime, but I hope that those who have their hands on the steering wheel of F&G administration will step back and look at the bigger picture and take a longer view into better strategies for hunter satisfaction, expectation, recruitment, and retention.

  35. I was 27 years old when I drew my last Wyoming Resident Any Elk tag. I’ve applied unsuccessfully every year since, and I’m 52 now. Very frustrating to watch the same people draw multiple times in the same areas. I’m all about providing opportunities for kids and beginning hunters. It’s critical to our future…and who doesn’t enjoy taking a young person into the hills? My best hunting memories are those shared with my own kids (both of which have drawn Any Elk tags in the area that I apply, and I’m thankful). But it would be great if there was something in place to help out us unlucky older folks.

    I guess maybe I’d be most in favor of a 50 – 50 split with Bonus Point System and Random draws.

  36. Somehow I smell a rat in this article. Another wealthy guy angling to make it easier for himself to get the tags he wants for filming purposes. Sorry GE but get in line like the rest of us. We purchase our points every year in different states to plan & schedule our hunts over the years. It’s a fair and balanced system of earning your right to hunt. There are going to be downfalls in any system wildlife managers develop. I’m sorry your not interested in hunting in other states but Wyoming or Colorado but a lot of guys don’ t have the money to buy astronomical numbers Super tag points and guarantee a hunt every year like yourself.

    • Montanahunter, Huge difference between preference points and bonus points. You are talking apples and oranges. It is not a fair and balanced system in Wyoming.

  37. Plenty of interesting comments. Bottom line: too few tags for the thousands of hunters. When there are 50 tags and 5,000 applicants, no system will work well. The chances are too small, with or without points. And no points is just as bad as point creep. I know people who have applied in NM for years and not drawn, me being one. Get the predators in check and the populations of big game will increase slightly. That will help but won’t solve the problem. There is no solution readily available. I’ve experienced point creep in CO for area 61 to the point I knew I wasn’t going to draw before I was too old to elk hunt (71 now). I’ve also applied in NM for decent units for yrs and no tag. Solution: buy and OTC archery tag in CO and be in the woods every fall. Killed a nice cow last year.
    Resident vs non resident is always the interesting topic. Far too much non-resident bashing. The western States economies receive a huge influx of money from non-residents. Residents don’t have any problem taking the money. Whatever division the State makes between resident and non-resident tags is their decision. If I don’t like it, I vote with my pocket book. That’s why I’ve never applied in AZ and never will.
    And who controls the game populations? I never want to see the Feds in control of game management or the land use. That would be a complete disaster. And I know the feds already control the Federal land.

  38. I don’t love the preference point system but am not as opposed to it as you are because if you hunt multiple states like I do (and I’m strictly a DIY guy) it helps to know which states I’m likely to draw so I don’t go five years with no tags and then have three or four in a single year. I love Wyo, the land and the people, but what really burns me the confusion about crossing corners where there is a public/private checkerboard and also the idiotic notion that only Wyoming residence should be allowed to hunt wilderness that is federal land, the land that is owned by ALL U.S. citizens, not those who live in a particular state.

  39. No offense, but you ALL have missed the most important point——it is ALL about $$$$$$$$$$, for both preference and/or bonus points. Do the math and run the numbers. I live in Utah and the UT Division of Wildlife Resources(DWR) makes a million dollars each year BY NOT SELLING BIGHORN SHEEP tags !!!!! That is to say DWR makes many times more money selling bonus points for bighorns than it does from selling actual sheep licenses !!!!——-The same is true for all the high quality elk and deer units in the state, such as the Henry Mountains. First, both residents and NR’s have to purchase a big game hunting license before they can even apply and then there is the cost of the application/ bonus point itself. Again, run the numbers and do the math. Moreover, even if you are lucky enough to draw a covet, limited-entry tag, the trophy quality through out the West generally sucks, as Eastman mentioned. For instance, it took me more than 30 years to draw a NR, rifle bull elk tag for the CMR in Montana. I spent the entire 5-week season on CMR living in my wall tent and despite hiking more than 200 miles and spotting 100’s of elk, there was not a single bull worth shooting. I should add that I shot my first bull elk back in 1966, when I lived in MT, and he taped out at just under 360—as measured by an actual B&C scorer after the 60 day drying period. Since then I have killed 58 elk in multiple states—-all on self hunts—–and I have never seen a bigger bull. Not even when I have conducted aerial elk counts for clients—–I have a Ph.D. in wildlife ecology having worked on elk mismanagement in Yellowstone.

    There is , however, a solution—-Quit wasting your time and money here in the states, as I have, and instead save up for a trip to AFRICA !!!!!!!——It may come as a surprise, but plains game hunting in South Africa and Namibia is the most cost-effective big-game hunting on the planet —-bar none !!!!! and the trophy quality is outstanding. There is a fixed daily rate, usually $350-450/day —-plus a fixed cost on everything that you shoot, which is all laid out in your safari contact. On a 10 day hunt you can expect to come back with 7-10 different animals , all at a cost LESS than the cost of one trophy elk of deer hunt on a private ranch here in the West. Plus you get to hunt in shorts in what the locals call “winter”, all the while staying in what would be called a 5-star hotel back in the states—and you will never see another hunter, except in camp—and not even then if you plan it right. All the animals that you shoot should make SCI—unless you are trigger happy or hunting with the wrong safari company—-and if you are selective , Roland Ward is within reach. I have been to RSA 4 times and have taken a number of animals that scored very high in SCI and which also made RW.—–a fifth trip is planned for this coming Sept. Be advised, however, that if you want to go, you need to go now, as South Africa is poised to go down a shit-hole. RSA is in the process of amending its constitution so that the central government can confiscate (steal) all white-owned lands without paying for them. So the estimated 20,000,000 plains animals on private ranches are about to go into the stew pot just like they did in Zim.

  40. Dear Mr. Kay,

    It is interesting to me that after telling us readers about all of your DIY Public Land hunts in the US over a period of many years that you would now have a preference of shooting high fenced animals at a bargain price. With no disrespect intended towards you personally, there just doesn’t seem to be any comparison between hunting free-range animals indigenous to the US and exotic African animals. To me, there is just no substitute for hunting for a good buck or bull in the good ol’ US of A regardless of cost. I am an old schooler and have found that no one other than yourself really cares about the trophy class of animal you take. You have to hunt because you love all aspects of it. A hard earned average buck on public land can be extremely rewarding and satisfying. Once in a while we all take a good animal either by luck or by effort. I have hunted long enough now that I can honestly say that I am still optimistic about the future and will keep trying to find that “over the top” buck. I may get him, I may not. It’s the gift of being able to put boots on the ground year after year that inspires me.

  41. I think the problem is that some tenants of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation have been abandoned by the western states wildlife agencies. It certainly has in CO. The CPW could care less about hunters, resident or non-resident. Their entire paradigm is all about self and revenue and the wildlife is their personal cash crop. As a Govt monopoly, they will always choose the course that allows them to make more money, buy nicer trucks, expand programs, start new programs, hire more people, expand benefits, and grow. That’s what Govt does, it grows, especially when completely unchecked. We could solve all of this by quitting hunting for the next 3-5 years…who’s with me? Buhler…Buhler…

    The “Futures Generation Act” just passed in CO is a joke. It’s CPWs blank check…forever! Residents will now pay $50 for a PP for M, S, G. So, my family of 4 will spend $600 just to build points for what really amounts to a once in a lifetime hunting opportunity. Neither my wife or I have drawn any of those and we are in our mid 50s with 17+ points each for S; somewhat fewer for M & G. If I want my kids, who are still youth hunters, to hunt those animals while still in their prime, they need to be building points now. If I cant afford those points anymore that cost falls to them…and I know they cant afford it. Not sure how spending money for points entices more youths to take up hunting, must be new math. And while it’s just S,M, & G now, you can bet paying for a PP is coming in CO for the rest of the animals. Why, because someone will pay it. It’s that simple. Those who cant afford to pay it are simply cleaved out of the opportunity to participate which is irrelevant to the CPW as there will always be someone who will pay. And, hunters are a small enough group and historically not well organized as a whole to do anything about it. Anyone think the CPW in CO cares that a family of 4 will now have to pay $600 to apply for S, M, And G? Do you care? My guess is not really, the $600 is my unfortunate circumstance and you have your own concerns. See my point? And so we are back to the abandonment of the NA Model. Agencies aren’t really concerned about anything but their own revenue and hunters as a whole will continue to bitch about it but the bottom line is enough of us will pay in the end and that allows the agencies to do as they please.

    https://www.fws.gov/hunting/north-american-model-of-wildlife-conservation.html

  42. No citations?

    Tells me everything I need to know.

  43. I agree with what several other non residents have written. Welcome to our world Guy. Point creep and nearly all of your arguments apply to the non resident hunters. How going to bat for us also.

  44. 23 YEARS TO DRAW AN ANTELOPE TAG HERE IN OREGON! SUCKS

  45. On the other side of the spectrum, I’m an AK resident and have applied for a specific sheep tag for 7 years and never got it, while a friend of mine has drawn it twice in the same time span. So, is that better or worse? Given the number of applicants every year, I would have easily drawn in a preference point system.

  46. I’ve replied to previous articles and this one needs this input: I too got in on the ground floor of WY’s preference point system. 8 years in I missed my opportunity. At point there was zero reason to continue, and I haven’t. Of bigger issue is https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/ . This tree hugging group actually promotes it’s followers to join in the preference point systems and drawing tags that will NEVER be used! All of us need to know what this group stands for and use every possible resource to combat this group. It is a WAR and we will lose it if we don’t band together to present adequate resistance.
    As a resident of CO, I got hosed last year! A tag drawn for 10 consecutive years was no longer available to me… Time to move, or time to find a new hobby..

  47. Stumbled across this article because I get the emails from Eastman’s. I hate to do this but I have to touch on this non-residents not being able to hunt the wilderness area thing. This is by far one of the 3 dumbest things I have ever heard of, not on MSNBC. “You are not hunting federal land.” What… Why do they call it a National Forest? “You are hunting state owned wildlife.” Even more laughable of a statement. I have been hunting all over the West for 20 years, I have yet to see a deer or elk with a brand on it. I didn’t know I needed a Wyoming tag to hunt the Paradise Valley in Montana, because those elk migrate out of Wyoming… All these years I didn’t even know I am a poacher. State owned wildlife…. The state does not, by any means, own the wildlife, they are responsible for managing the wildlife. That is like me saying when people from Wyoming need to drive through Colorado they cannot use Interstate 25 because even though it is federally funded, state highway patrol men and women manage it so only Coloradoans can use I25. I love states like WY and most of the people in the state, but even though the low population of WY really makes the state attractive, it also makes it such that a very small amount of people can control the entire state. I definitely get a sense of “Land Baron” illness going on in Wyoming…. Only non-residents can hunt wilderness areas unless you have an outfitter, that crock of shit reeks of lobbyist and not so good ole boy politics. I believe this is a law that I will see changed in my lifetime. Eventually, someone with more money and time on their hands than me will challenge this law against the constitution and it will definitely get changed. There is no reasonable mind out there that can justify this law. Again, the state manages, it does not own, and the state can even be trumped on their management practices… Otherwise we would have a grizzly season.

    This is the first time I have EVER posted anything online, I don’t even have a facebook. I just simply could not read this lunacy and walk away. I also cannot stand the selfishness in this world today. “The wilderness is the last place residents have which will not be infiltrated by non residents.” That statement astonishes me as well. This country takes all of us together. We just fight fight fight each other. We already have so many people fighting against our right to hunt and access to public lands, but instead of uniting as hunters, we just fight each other out of pure greed and selfishness. Its so astonishingly ironic I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    Ok, I’m done. Everyone have a nice day and I wish everyone luck next hunting season.

    God Bless!

    • Point of Order: In Wyoming, the state owns the wildlife. Look up the state ordered wildlife proclamation. You MAY not be an idiot but you are very uninformed. It is called “states rights” As a Wyoming Resident I believe many residents would be in favor of the wilderness restriction on non-residents being changed if we could get the lobbyists in the state legislature that side with the outfitters to drop the non-resident tag quotas. Most Western states cap non-resident tag quotas at 10%. Wyoming gives 20-25% of tags to non-residents. Many of us hunt only wilderness to get away from non-residents. Lets use Deer Region H as an example. Current non-resident quota would be cut in half. Many of the Region G non-resident hunters would now begin putting in for H instead of G. If you took current numbers non-residents would still only draw a deer tag in G or H every 6-8 years at current numbers. Problem here in Wyoming is the Outfitter’s Lobbyists have more pull than the Sportsmens’ Lobbyists. If you cut the tag quotas in half you would put roughly 1/2 the guides and outfitters out of business.

  48. I just don’t see how PP could end here in Wyoming as one cannot “put the genie back in the bottle”…. Imagine a hunter with 23 PP’s being told he’s back to an “even field””! My business partner finally drew a Wyoming sheep tag when he was 76, but didn’t have the health to hunt as high as was required…. No kill… One of the responders above had the same idea as I: I skip applying for sheep and moose and GO TO AFRICA. For the price of a non-resident hunt in Wyoming you can get 10 big game animals in ten days, hunt unlimited birds and fish your heart out! I’m 63, so if I apply now I might get a license when I’m 85! Rubbish….

  49. I’ve ranted for years about point systems. How do you feel when you read the regs the following year and see people with zero points get tags in front of people with 6 .. never made sense.

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