Hello, Colorado – you have company. The long and short of the situation is Colorado is not the only state experiencing the phenomena of “point creep.” The Wyoming deer draw has experienced massive amounts of point creep over the past few years. I took a small sampling of a few Wyoming deer areas from the 2011 MRS section of EHJ and then compared them to this year’s draw. The results are anything but comforting for nonresident deer applicants.
For instance, the famed Region G tag this year required 6 preference points in the regular draw and 5 points in the special draw. Compare that to the 2011 draw where the same tag only took 3 points regular and 1 measly preference point in the special draw. That’s a whopping point creep of double in the regular draw and 5X the point requirement in the special draw. Keep in mind, this tag is an over-the-counter deer tag for resident hunters and with the steep rugged country, I really believe this tag to be worth about 2 or 3 points to a nonresident hunter. But, but I guess a tag is as good as the demand it garners in such a system. They do kill some very good deer in there each year, but of the 800 nonresident hunters, I would guess that no more than 50 of them kill bucks in the 190+ category. It can be a very tough hunt, way too tough for most hunters to wait six years.
At first glance, you may think the increased pressure on Region G tags has eased up the pressure on some of the limited quota only areas in the state. After doing the same analysis on a few of these areas it yielded even more drastic results. Take Area 89 for instance, a very consistent blue chip area. In 2011 this hunt would take you about 3 or 4 points to draw at 100%. Now in 2016 that tag required an astonishing 9 points to draw at 100% in both draws. WOW!
Now let’s grab a solid green chip area like Area 34, which took only 1 or 2 points to draw in 2011. Today this area takes 6 and 9 points to draw a tag. With this said, even though Area 34 was this year upgraded to a blue chip unit, which didn’t really help its cause I’m sure, we are seeing point creep in the limited quota areas between two and six times the 2011 levels five years ago.
The cases for this are two-fold. First off, significant tag quota reductions. With the exception of Region G, which has had the exact same tag quota for more than five years now (800 NR tags), a vast majority of the limited quota deer areas in Wyoming have seen tag reductions so deep that it virtually destroys the mathematical models the state used to build the point system in the first place. As an example, Area 89 had a tag quota of 275 tags available in the 2009 hunt draw – contrast that with the measly tag quota of only 75 tags in the 2015 drawing. That equates to a total tag reduction of over 72%!!!! Area 34 has seen a 50% drop in tag quota over the past five years.
The other factor causing point creep in the Wyoming deer system is what I call the “Colorado effect.” This happens when high point holders begin to panic and change their application strategy from “hold out for the very best tags” to a strategy of, “I just want to get out and hunt.” The net effect is high point holders who have not been applying for tags in the past, just sitting back and buying points, instead drop into the draw system and swoop up the available tags with more than the required points, which in turn disrupts the system substantially and makes the tag odds very hard to predict.
For instance, for Region G, in the regular draw there were 255 total nonresident tags available for preference point holders. Of those 255 tags, applicants with 7 or more preference points snapped up 107 tags, or nearly 42% of the tags. Deer applicants with 8 preference points or more picked up 20% of the tags.
There just seems to be a stigma for some reason at 10 preference points. Thanks to Arizona, Nevada and Utah, most hunters just don’t seem to want to gather more than 10 preference points for a deer or antelope hunt. Long and short of the story, once guys get close to 10 points, they get the proverbial itchy finger and really want to pull the trigger on a tag. And the really bad news is, there are still around 6,000 nonresident hunters in the preference point pool with more than 9 preference points to burn going into next year’s draw.
The name of the game here is, hope for a mule deer herd rebound in Wyoming in the near future and remain patient and stay the course in the meantime. In next year’s draw if you have 6 preference points, apply for an area that required 5 points this year, or buck up the extra cash and step into the special application. Consider the extra $240 as an insurance policy against point creep.