Just 9%, remember that number. As most of you who applied for a tag in Wyoming now know, the odds are getting tougher than ever before to draw a top quality big game tag. With a sheep herd that is on the wane, a moose herd that has been all but decimated by wolves and drought, an elk herd that has suffered one of the most drastic declines in modern history, a deer herd that has been on a steady downhill slide for more than 20 years, an antelope herd that was severely damaged by drought and disease and add to that an increase in demand, and you guessed it – we have the perfect storm for big game draw result disappointment. Although things seem to be looking up for the future, the present can be a bit on the depressing side of things for those nonresidents looking to the Cowboy state for a big hunt for this fall.
Being somewhat of a math geek at heart and by education, I did a little bit of digging into the odds and was able to flesh out a few nuggets that might help us understand what happened inside that devilish Wyoming Game and Fish computer. If you don’t want to read any further, the bottom line is this – half of the total decrease in draw odds was due to decreased quota and half of the decrease can be blamed on increased demand, or more applicants. The details of this are as follows.
We will take the Region G deer tag as an example. With a fairly high demand and a healthy quota of about 600 tags, this tag is a good representation for most of the Wyoming big game stats for the most part. In the 2015 draw 2,648 nonresident applicants applied for one of the 600 tags available in that particular region. This would represent a relative draw odd of about 23%, if there was no preference point system in place.
In 2011, four short years ago, 2,137 applicants applied for one of the 800 total tags available in the draw, or a relative odd of 37%. In the past five years, 511 or 24% more people have begun applying for Region G, while the tag allocation has dropped by 200 tags or 25%. As you can easily see, the cause for the decrease in drawing odds for Wyoming is about even, with 50% of the problem being more applications or higher demand for tags and 50% of the problem stemming from decreased quotas due to poor mule deer herd conditions.
Interestingly enough, the 2015 Region G deer tag took five points to draw with 100% surety in both the “regular” and the “special” draw the extra $240 didn’t buy you much in this year’s pool. In 2011, the Region G deer tag took three points on the “regular” draw and only two points in the “special” draw. As referenced above, one point worth of creep is due to more people applying and one point can be blamed on a decreased quota. If we tear apart the statewide odds, many of the areas and hunts for both deer and antelope would have similar outcomes.
Some might rush to blame those pesky “max point holders” for the increased demand and due to the nature of the Wyoming system this is somewhat true, but not completely. Here is where the 9% comes in.
During my little research project, I found that only 9% of the max point holders are actually applying for a deer tag in Wyoming. Yes, you read that correctly, less than one in ten of the nonresident applicants with max points are even applying for a deer tag, the vast majority are simply buying points and orbiting the system patiently waiting to re-enter the atmosphere and suck up a tag when the time is right.
Of the nearly 2,700 max point holders in this year’s Wyoming deer draw pool, only about 246 actually applied for a deer tag, the rest simply bought preference points. God help us if they all decide to drop into the system at once in the future. These 246 applicants with nine preference points did not apply for the Region G tag for the most part. Only about 2-3% of them did. As for the limited quota tags, which is where the vast majority of them chose to apply, about 20% applied for Area 101 and 102, while 9% applied for Area 105 and 130 and 25% applied for the late-rut hunt in Area 128. These five hunts represented about 85% of the total applications with max points. That in itself represents some good news for the rest of the pool. As long as you steer clear of those five areas, you still have pretty good odds to draw a deer tag in Wyoming with less than max points.
We can only hope that the future brings us increased quotas and more hunting opportunities in Wyoming to choose from. Growth in tag quotas seems to be the only way to put the system back into balance at this point. Pray for another mild winter and plenty of moisture.
Footnote: For those of you who now have 10 preference points for deer in Wyoming, there are some very difficult decisions headed your way in the future. Wyoming just doesn’t have a deer hunt worth 10 or more preference points in my opinion.
-New show on the Sportsman’s Channel, “Point Hoarders-Those Who are Constantly in the Hunt for a Hunt.”