Utah Big Game Draw 2017
Time is running out if you plan to apply for the big game permits for this fall, the deadline to apply is March 2nd 11pm MST. A few things have changed for 2017 that you should be aware of. Information on all changes, hunt dates, fees, and everything else you need to know can be found Here in the 2017 application guidebook. I will just touch on two of the changes that I feel have the most impact on the upcoming draws.
The first change, is the preference point loophole for general season deer permits which has now been closed. In the past, applicants that did not draw their first choice, but drew 2nd-5th choice, received a deer tag and a preference point. This is no longer the case… if you draw any of your choices 1st-5th, you will lose any accumulated preference points—I suggest you choose wisely. The chart below shows how the new general season deer draw will work. All applicant’s first choice will be considered, in order of preference points, before anyone’s second choice is considered. This will hopefully allow more people to draw the tags they want, instead of being behind someone that is building points through the loophole system.
The second change, in 2016, the Utah Legislature passed a law that allows younger hunters to apply for limited-entry and once in-a-lifetime hunts. If a youth turns the age of 12 by Dec. 31 2017, they are now eligible to put in for these hunts. This means there will be lots of extra applicants for every limited-entry and once-in-a-lifetime hunt. This shouldn’t affect draw odds for guys with lots of bonus points too much, but it will affect those of us in the random pool (I’ll explain regular and bonus tags later). Whether you are for or against this change, one thing is certain… there will be some excited youth that are lucky and draw an awesome permit.
Playing the odds for Limited- Entry and Once-in-a-Lifetime
I apply for big game permits in many states here in the west and have drawn some great (and not so great) permits. Quality out-of-state permits are hard to come by in most states, especially with how some of their draws are set up. However, Utah has one of the best drawing systems in the west—not only for hunters that have applied for years, but for new hunters as well. Every year that a person applies and doesn’t draw a permit, they receive a bonus point for that species. Each bonus point you have, gives you a better chance of drawing the tag you want. Every bonus point gives you another proverbial name in the hat. The thing I like about Utah is they take care of their top bonus point holders, but also give everyone a chance at a permit. This is how it works. If a hunt has 40 available permits, 20 permits (50%) will go to applicants with the highest bonus points. These are called bonus permits. The other 20 permits (50%) are for everyone else that applies… these are called regular permits. Regular permits may be drawn by first-time applicants with 0 or few bonus points… maybe even one of those lucky youth applicants! Draw odds for permits and bonus point information can be found Here
I didn’t draw any tags now what?
Draw results typically come out around May 20th. For many of us, we won’t draw the permits we have been dreaming about for many years (going to be 14 years in a row for me). The excitement and anticipation of drawing the permit you wanted is now gone, but you still want to be out hunting this year. If you don’t draw a permit, there are still opportunities to be out in the field hunting this fall. Applications for antlerless hunts will be accepted May 25th- June 15th. This is a great opportunity to pick up one or more antlerless permits to fill the freezer with venison and make memories doing it. General season over-the-counter (OTC) permits go on sale July 11th. There are several different types of general elk permits (see chart below). Just be sure you are in an area that allows general season elk permits. Rifle OTC elk permits have a quota and do sell out every year, archery permits are unlimited. More information and maps for OTC elk permits can be found in the big game guidebook. The general season and antlerless elk hunts are my favorite. It gives me an opportunity to hunt every year and learn new areas for when I do draw a limited-entry elk permit. Any remaining general season deer permits go on sale July 13th (there may be quite a few with the new preference point rule). Also, worth noting, on July 13th youth general season archery permits go on sale for any youth that didn’t draw a permit. This is another opportunity for our youth hunters. No matter what happens in the draw this year, you always have opportunities to hunt every year in Utah. Get out there and enjoy this great resource we have available to all of us and make memories that will last a lifetime.
Best of luck!