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What Really Happened In The Wyoming Big Game Draw?

newsletter 7 15 WY draw results

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.

GuySig-1 (1)




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.”


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. As you Know or should by now your publication and most all the blogs and other magazines are the no.1 reason for the increased preasure for area G and some of the other popular draw units. I’ve hunted wyoming when I can for years, the increase in preasure started just about 10 years ago when H. F. and your back of the magazine hunt odds started giving the lazy hunter an easy way to figure out where to go with out doing the research themselves. this is great for selling print but not so much for drawing tags.

  2. Geoffrey Robinson

    Great article Guy.

    Don James – What you say is true, though I don’t think Eastman’s or HF can be blamed. After all, the information they provide is mostly public information anyway. They simply make it concise and easy to understand… And, at least HF and Eastman’s charge a fee for the info! In Oregon there is an online site that details all of this same data and much more for free! This is the age of information. Unfortunately the good ole days of honey hole secrets are mostly gone, in my opinion. We, as trophy hunters, must change with the times or be left behind.

    • Geoffrey,,,Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!! Dangit. 🙂
      We dont need more applicants in Oregon. We need more animals.

  3. I read and heed Eastmans every year to plan my strategy and get the most bang for my buck. All this info however, must be tempered with ones personal needs and requirements. I’ll bet I’ve drawn good tags on a regular basis as often as anyone. Thanks for helping a non-resident navigate the system. I’d be stupid to ignore good intel.

  4. What it boils down to is the $$ with the Wyoming F&G ie preference points, super tag and trifecta its all about $$ and the non-residents pay a lot of if it. So as a resident on a limited budget it makes no difference what magazine you buy, it is al about the $$. Thanks

  5. More hats in the ring, Don is exactly right. Its a classic catch 22, we all love hunting and some, like the Eastman’s have found a way to make living in the industry. In order to make that living they have to share info with as many people as possible. I personally know people who read the magazine and put in for the exact units labeled “blue chip” The reality is its no ones fault. Its the nature of the beast. Its just funny how the numbers show hunting in general is on the decline while trying to get a license to hunt a hand full of “blue chip” areas in is getting harder to come by.

  6. Wow, is all I can say. I wondered whether the extension of the application period for deer and antelope had anything to do with units having leftover permits last year, being totally sold out this year. I didn’t notice a large drop in available permits in the units that I put in for, but I could be wrong. With all the public info available nowadays and all the TV programs showing every hunter having their pick of animals to shoot, I see a huge increase in the numbers of hunters. Maybe it’s time for me to stop spending money on big game hunting and start a new love affair with waterfowl. I can only bang my head against the wall for so long. At least I know from year to year that I will be able to hunt without the drawing disappointment and there will be one less hunter for you all to compete with. How do we teach the young to hunt and remain interested if they can only hunt big game once every 4, 5 or 6 years? I received an e-mail from the NRA the other day that informed me that I could hunt on their, ” exclusive 100,000 acre leased properties”, for elk at the bargain price of $8500. Guess I could drive a 1973 Pinto station wagon for the rest of my life but I’m sure the hunt would be fantastic. I’m sure my wife and kids wouldn’t mind me raiding the college fund. Do I seem disappointed? After so many years, that’s an understatement!

    • While I hate not drawing a tag as mich as anyone (yes, a friend and I lost out on Region G with a combined 4 points. All the doom and gloom about having to give up on big game hunting is just ridiculous. Lear to hunt something other than one species! Here in UT, if I strike out on deer, there is always OTC elk, or if I play it right an antlerless elk, deer, or antelope tag. That’s just for the guy that doesn’t want to hunt out of state and pay the fees to do so. If you hunt out of state and do your homework, you can pull a tag about every year. So please save us the “I’m giving it up” complaint. It’s old and tiresome…get out and learn something new! YOUR kids will thank you for it.

      • Really Mike, I can tell you must not hunt out of state much, you must have the whole system figured out if you think you can hunt every year with the “right research”‘, in another state. You can draw a tag on units with a high percentage of private land easily, then try to find good country to hunt or without having to pay high trespass fees or being restricted to certain days. You’re right about one thing though, it’s old and tiresome putting in for decades for tags. You assume me to be a lazy slob who wants an easy hunt for huge animals every year. I look forward to big game hunts now like I did when I was a kid 45 years ago. Is your LEARNING curve based on your Utah general deer and elk hunts? How enjoyable are those? How about your antler less hunts , special learning there? You shouldn’t assume that I do don’t do homework and try as hard as I can to obtain tags, not only for myself but for the son that I’m trying to get to fall in love with the thing that I’ve enjoyed my entire life. If you’re idea of what you’d like to hunt is an anterless, whatever, or a Utah two point mule deer, more power to you, enjoy, mine isn’t. You’re ridiculous attack makes no sense to someone’s who has 16 elk points in Utah and multiple preference points in other states and can’t draw a tag or to an 18 year old son who may not draw a good tag until he’s 38. Please don’t tell me to learn something new, rookie!

        • Come on Wallows get real here. You’re the one saying you’re going to give up big game hunting to chase waterfowl (not that there’s anything wrong with that – I grew up waterfowl hunting, and still enjoy it when I go out). If you want to get your kid out, tell me this – is he going to learn to enjoy hunting sitting at home listening to dad moan about not getting a tag and throwing in the towel, OR is he going to learn to love it by getting outside and doing it? I get it that we all want to shoot big animals. You have 16 points in Utah, so you’re looking for the big boys. Should I venture a guess that you’re looking at mid-tier to top end hunts in the other states as well? Again I get it, but your younger son might just be OK shooting smaller deer or elk, or heaven forbid, even an antlerless animal. Do that stuff so he can learn the ropes and get the hunting juices flowing and then, when that dream tag comes, both he and you will be better prepared for it.

          There really is no excuse to throw in the towel. There are opportunities out there if a person wants to take them. They may not get you a 180″ mulie, 330″+ elk, or 80″ speed goat, but there is always the chance you might get lucky and make some memories in the process. Definitely better than sitting at home on the couch wishing the time away and watching your son find other pursuits.

  7. That’s funny!! Let’s explain to the poor non residents why they can’t draw a license. There are a ton of residents myself included that can’t draw a limited quotatypes 1!!! Extremely sad when we can’t draw in our own backyard. 22 years for myself but hey the non residents bring in the revenue!! Poor them boo boo

    • shootbrownelk

      Jay. Like you, I can’t seem to draw a license in an area with a 50% chance. Been applying for 5 years before I drew it. I wish us residents had preference points. One moose tag in 30 years….just unlucky I guess.

  8. Demand is up, those are the facts, yet all I hear is that we have to recruit more hunters or hunting will end as we know it. Same is true in Colorado, it is harder and harder to draw a tag and unlike Wyoming, with many Colorado species tag numbers are actually up.

    So if tags are up and draw success is down, one can only conclude that demand has risen at a rate greater than the tag increase.

    Getting back to my point – so where is it that we really have declining hunter numbers and the end is near?

  9. All the previous comments raise valid points.
    Two professional money managers tell me the U.S.
    economy is recovering and will be hitting on all cylinders
    next year.
    So this is probably a factor as well.
    Good Hunting to all who hunt this fall.

  10. All of the information they provide in on point and very helpful. The fact of the matter is that most of everyone isn’t willing to put in the actual work you need to do in order to kill a trophy animal deep in the back country. A common hunter just wants the big animals, but never puts the work in. You can’t just kill a trophy buck if you read Eastmans Hunting Journals. They give you great information but that doesn’t mean you’re just gonna go out and kill a trophy. There are still areas that are extremely remote and every year I never see another sole in the back country where I go. Look at Cameron Hanes, if you read his book front to back like I have he states that he was so worried that if he published his book that people would find his honey hole, but for 13 years straight he’s never seen another person in his spot 16 miles back in the back country. Put in the work, and success will soon come guys.

  11. Lostelkhunter

    The U.S. Population increases every year at a certain pace, however hunter recruitment as a percentage of the overall population, isn’t keeping up. At the same time demand may still increase because the overall population is at a higher rate, and there is more recruitment in hunter. A statistician could go over the specific data, but there is the list of it. I was dearly waiting for a leftover license for a certain unit that had licenses leftover last year, but now see this year that the unit was drawn out completely. 🙁

  12. As a resident of wyoming living in region g for deer, I can shed some additional light on what is happening. First, there is a discovered mule deer herd that has some dandies in it. It has been over publicized in the last few years while others decrease. Second and most damaging is the outfitters in this area are starting to fly to spot on a regular basis. Not all outfitters can do this but non-typical outfitters of alpine wyoming do the lion share. This allows over hunting of the big buck. Pressure builds pressure and soon you have three outfitters after the same buck with big money on his head. Outfitters here are all about the money and could care less about trends in herds as long as they fill their camp

  13. I agree with you wyofirst I also live in the valley and have noticed the hard pressure from the relentless outfitters. Region g is a great spot for hunting in general and let’s keep it that way and I think that they should reduce the non resident quota and make the Greys river range 4 point or better to keep building our outstanding mule deer genes.

  14. I have been applying in Wy sheep and moose for 14 years with no tag. HF printed the number of sheep applicants with points and if the non-residents get 50 tags/year it will take me another 20 years to be guaranteed my tag( excludes any random draw issued). I spend over $1000/ year for points, and haven’t drawn a top pick tag since Arizona unit 8 archery in 2009. With so much time and money invested, it’s sad to see states reducing the NR quotas and increasing fees and auctions to absorb it. I sold my land in Mt because what was once a guaranteed archery elk tag now takes 4 points to draw and $800 fees to keep those points. Their sheep tags are for the rich and / or famous. ever wonder why Mt asks your occupation on their appl?? So if Garth says to apply for a unit, find a different one and maybe it won’t take 20 years. Chances are by the time you draw, new regs or trophy potential will be very different. goodbye Missouri Breaks, hello Kentucky!!

    • Brad finally drew a tag! Nv California bighorn – wasn’t even my top pick. The real surprise was drawing a Jarbridge archery elk tag also, however after speaking with a wildlife biologist for the unit I turned it back in.Crazy??? as for Colorados 2018 drawing, I don’t really believe that just because a hunter didnt have to pay the whole tag fee upfront that the applicants would triple. i suspect there may be some non-profit groups trying to destroy our hunts . Russian collusion I bet.

  15. Popular units are always going to be difficult to draw. And it is fine to wait for and draw difficult tags. But if you are going to put in for those difficult to draw tags don’t expect to draw. If a guy wants to hunt out of state every year for deer and elk it is very easy to do. If you can’t figure out how to do 2-3 or more out of state hunts every year that’s your own fault. Stop reading HF and eastmans and start doing some research. There are plenty of easy to get tags out there that will provide guys with hunts of a lifetime. Stop complaining, do some research, and go hunting.

  16. How is it that the TV hunters always have tags. These guys hunt Trophy elk, mule deer, moose, sheep, goats, bear you name it. They even bring friends along with tags that we all know have not been applying for years and accumulating points. Do they get special treatment because they film TV shows? Just wondering.

  17. I applied and got a Mule deer tag in region B. Last year I seem to remember there was a quota of 1000, this year 800. There were no leftovers this year. It would be interesting to see how many applied this year in that region.

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