A sense of excitement and anxiety comes about when I look at the calendar. Christmas is by far a favorite for myself and my family. Snow, cold air, getting bundled up and presents under the tree that bring smiles to the kids faces. As I think about all of these great details, I cannot help but fantasize about the new year and all of the states that I need to apply to for my tags, preference points and where I will be hunting next year.
An assumption of mine is that most readers are avid whitetail hunters which is absolutely fabulous since that is the most sought after big game animal in North America. On the other side, I encourage everyone if they have the chance, to accrue points and get out there to experience the other great animals we have in North America. I certainly get excited to think about the points I will be applying for this year and what tags I could potentially draw this year!
It was December 5th when I realized that Alaska draw applications were about to be due in 10 days! I looked over all the big game options that could be possible over the draw and thought to myself, this year I won’t be applying in Alaska because there is no bonus point or preference point benefit to applying in Alaska. It is all a random draw and if you don’t get a tag, you just reapply next year. A preference point is where you gain 1 extra point when you apply next year in some states. In most states with preference points, as you build them up, you have better odds of getting the tag and you can tell based on past history if you stand a chance of drawing that tag and when it will happen. A bonus point is a bit different because it means that you will get your name put into the draw as a “bonus” which would increase your odds that way but there is no guarantee on if you will draw or not. Since Alaska doesn’t give either of those benefits out, I figure if I really wanted to hunt there this year, I would get a guaranteed tag in a certain area and go that route.
So what exactly is a good strategy for applying for these states?
Well, it all depends on you and what you would like to hunt. Recommendations are always an email or post away so please feel free to shoot a message over but I will give you a run down of my own ways and hope that it helps you as well.
I apply for just about every state that has a point system in the hopes for a few different experiences. Here is what I think about when it comes to hunting.
- I want to hunt in as many states as possible because these are experiences that I will have forever in my mind and hopefully on a camera as well.
- I am a meat hunter that will take the chance of getting a large mature animal if it presents itself. First and foremost, I love the organic meat and the pride to share it with others.
- The different terrain, temps and overall challenge of hunting new areas is going to continuously make me a better hunter for years to come.
With all that said, here is the plan for the coming year in order to continue on this hunting path for the next 10-15 years.
Arizona: The potential of great sized animals is a reality in this state. I will be applying for Bison, Elk, Antelope, Deer and Bighorn Sheep
California: This state is a bit funky with not the friendliest of hunting parameters. I’ll keep my opinions to myself here but I do believe that Elk and Bighorn sheep are something to put your sights on even with rough draw odds.
Colorado: My former home state and one of the best places to hunt. The variety of animals and the public hunting opportunities are very exciting. Moose, Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, Elk, Deer, and Antelope are all on the list. I have quite a few points for mule deer and look forward to a very great hunt for 2017 for a monster mulie!
Iowa: I will be applying here for the first time. I think in 2 years I will be able to hunt in one of the best areas around with either an outfitter or gain some private access and make it happen.
Maine: Moose, Moose, Moose. Super cheap and another chance to hunt something on the east coast. Why not eh?
Montana: Another state to apply all over the place. Elk, Deer, Antelope, Bighorn Sheep, Moose, Mountain Goat and Bison are all in my sights. My chances are increasing more and more as I have most points for sheep!
New Hampshire: Moose, Moose and More Moose. This is very similar to Maine for me. It is $25 to apply so why not take the chance.
Oregon: Deer, Elk, Mountain goat and sheet are on the list.
Pennsylvania: Did you know they have elk there? This is one of the most pressured states when it comes to whitetails but they also have a heard of roughly 900 elk that is being managed. $11 bucks for a point! CHEAP!
Utah: This is a fantastic state to build points in. I would say as far as management goes, Utah and Arizona are the best. Utah gets me for elk, Deer, Bison, Moose, Mountain goat and Desert Bighorn sheep.
Vermont: Another Moose State. $25 a point. Enough Said.
Washington: Moose, Sheep and Mountain goat.
Wyoming: This is my favorite state for Pronghorn with their large herds. What a fast and fun hunt. If you haven’t done it, it is a must! I’ll be going after Antelope, Deer, Elk, Moose and Bison.
You might think some other states are out there and why not apply to those? Well, either odds aren’t good or they don’t have the ability to build up points. A couple other ones I won’t apply to this year are Idaho and New Mexico because of that. However, Idaho is one of my favorite states to hunt in for a multiple of reasons. Wolf and Bear hunts can be very exciting and nice on the pocket book. There is also a large abundance of deer and elk without driving too far to get to any particular spot because they are all over the place. I have a buddy that lives in Couer d’ Alene and within 30 minutes of a drive, we are in golden spots in the mountains. The state also allows rifle hunting in the rut in certain areas for Elk. That should bring a huge smile to your faces.
Essentially there is something to apply for almost every month beginning December of 2015. Most of the application dates are in the month of May for 2016 so that can get a little scary when you look at a credit card statement. Now, I know what you may think…. How in the world can I afford this and how could you? Well, I use a credit card and store a solid $1,000 for license costs at the beginning of the year and continue to stash a little bit here and there every month moving forward. For the most part, you can put the cost on your credit card and you will receive the money back within a month of two. You will pay a little bit on the interest side of things and it will be a bit of a cost when you have to buy the license itself to just apply to some states. A good example is Arizona. In order to apply, it is $160 for a license and then you can apply for points. Another example might be Colorado where you have to buy the license but then you also have to front the fee for the tags. That will be roughly $700 that hits you all at once or it could be $5,000 depending on what you are applying for but once again, you will get that money back if you don’t draw and with their preference point system, you should know if you will draw or not. One idea is using a 0% balance transfer option that most credit cards have these days and just pay it off when you get the tag fee refunded to you. In the case you draw, that will most likely be the one or two tags that you will get for the year and you should have the money in your stash to pay for them. At the end of the day, you can do this on a budget and make it work if you are smart about it.
What happens if you want to hunt and all you do is apply for points in certain states?
There are plenty of states that have options to get over the counter tags or leftover draw tags that you can purchase. Something that I like to do is apply for as many points as possible to get in great areas and if I really have nowhere to hunt, I can always get a leftover tag or over the counter tag for a last minute option out west. Otherwise, I will be hunting at home for the season.
I hope you are all as excited as I am for the upcoming year and you have the dreams to get hunting out in other states for the experience of a life time.
Scout, Hunt, Repeat