Conundrum n. (kuh-NUN-drum) - a problem without an apparent solution; a puzzle; a mystery.
For the last two years, I’ve written an article in this issue of Western Hunter Magazine regarding the application process in each of the western states. The first year I titled the article, “The Application Game”, as in a game of chance. Last year I titled the article, “The Application Competition”, as I observed sportsmen willing to do anything to improve their odds of drawing even the slightest amount.
Western Hunter President Floyd Green with his 2011 Arizona archery bull.
After the completion of the 2011 big game draws around the West, I had to sit down and scratch my head (I have a few scars to prove it). After six years in the application business, I have multiple clients who have built a substantial war chest of bonus points, so I was expecting a fair number of high value tags to be drawn. After thousands of rejections, I was sure that I was going to be making a bunch of those fun calls. “Guess what? You drew a ____tag!” Sadly, just about every tag my clients drew were ones we felt they had enough points in order to be guaranteed to draw anyway. Being an optimist (and a Red Sox fan), I’m convinced that we will beat the odds next year, but this year the odds beat the snot out of us.
I only read a few print magazines these days. Western Hunter magazine is one of them. It is unique in that its articles are about hunting only in the western states that I love and seem to be drawn to about 10 times per year!
So, with that in mind, let’s take look at the application process in each of the western states and some of the premier species available in these states. With this basic information, you can begin to devise a plan for the 2012 application and hunting seasons, and planning is critical. Each year one state or another raises the cost of simply applying for a tag or even just a bonus point. In fact, this past year it was possible to spend over $2000 on mandatory hunting licenses, application fees, bonus point fees, and convenience fees, and this is not including the 20% interest most credit card companies are charging. That’s a lot of money! By developing an application strategy and then sticking to that plan, you’ll avoid wasting money in the short run and losing tags in the long run.
When it comes to bighorn sheep, it's all about being lucky. Your best bet is to apply in as many states as possible.
First of all, if you decide you just don’t want to mess with the details, then I would recommend you hire an application service. There are a number of companies, which for a fee, will handle every aspect of the application process for you. I have operated Western Hunter Services for a number of years and would be glad to talk to you about the process. We will build a customized strategy based on your hunting goals and budget.
If you intend to handle your own applications, then you need to pay close attention to each of the following tools. 1) The Huntin’ Fool magazine has been operated by Garth Carter and his family for many years. They pioneered the concept of delivering exclusive hunting information and application services, and they are still the benchmark in the industry. An annual subscription will cost you $100, but it’s money well spent. 2) The website MonsterMuleys.com has an online information system listing the drawing odds for all of the units in each of the western states. It breaks down the number of applicants for each hunt, how many points each applicant had, and all the information is free! 3) Also, if you aren’t a Western Hunter Magazine “fan” on Facebook, then you need to be. Starting in January, as each of the states’ application deadlines loom, we will share the most up-to-date information possible. This information will also be available on WesternHunterMagazine.net. Armed with these tools, you will have a good chunk of the information available.
As a side note, I’m of the opinion that too many hunters are so hung up on drawing the right tag in the perfect unit that they are missing some great hunting experiences with easy-to-draw or over-the-counter tags. Seriously, if you draw an archery deer tag in the Arizona Strip but you’ve never even launched an arrow at a mule deer, then what do you really think your odds will be of having a successful hunt? Don’t let your hunting skills atrophy due to lack of exercise! Make sure you are honing your skills each year so that when you are presented with the opportunity of a lifetime, you have what it takes to finish the deal. Each state offers at least one of these types of hunts, so pick the closest or most convenient hunt and start making a plan.