Western States Draw Strategy

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bowhunting elk

In the last several years, more and more hunters have started expanding their hunt opportunities by traveling to other states to hunt. With so much of the fall open for hunting throughout the various states, the opportunities are immense, but the more you take advantage of, the more time and money it’s going to cost.

We just got an email from Jacob R. in Texas about this. Here’s what he asked:

Hey Jay, big fan of the MTN project show. Just looking for any advice that you might be willing to give out.

Me and my hunting buddy are both firefighters from Texas looking to change up the way we hunt.

We have both been chasing whitetail deer in Texas our whole lives on paid hunting leases and have decided to head out west in hopes of a mule deer or Antelope or Elk.

The whole process seems stressful and we are just looking for a push in the right direction from someone that has been there and done that

We are planning on putting in for TX, NM, CO, AZ, & WY draw. I feel like any more that that would be biting off more than we can chew.

Realistically we can probably only do 2 out of state trips with kids, jobs, wife’s and home responsibilities. So we are trying to choose wisely.

If we strike out and don’t draw any tags we were planning on going anyways and buying over the counter tags and giving it our best shot.

Anyway, I am writing you because I like the show and think you guys are doing it right and hope you have some advice.

Thanks man
Jacob R.

I sent Jacob a response (see below) but then opened it up to the rest of the group. This is what everyone had to say.

Chase:

A good strategy starts with knowing your odds.  Second, knowing the draw system in the state you are applying for.  Each state is different and with a little bit of research, they are easy to maneuver through.  

Apply for New Mexico, all three choices.  If you don’t draw you still have a chance at Colorado.  If you strike out in Colorado there’s always Arizona Coues.  Some of these Coues hunts are 100% draw odds.  

Best of luck!

Sam:

My strategy is to classify hunts in each state in one of three types, Long game, short game, and wildcard/filler. For example, applying for elk in Wyoming for me is in the long game. I haven’t made it a priority to go often for the general season rather, I am applying for points each year until I know I have enough to draw a decent mid-quality limited entry hunt. This allows me to take time to figure out what unit I really want to use those points for. In Wyoming for antelope and Utah for deer,  I put these in the short game category, it takes a few points but not many, so I make it a point to go as often as possible to general units, usually every 2-3 years. Then for states like New Mexico who don’t offer bonus points and its always a random draw, I like to use my 3 choices spread between great hunts and average hunts…. if I draw, then great, that’s why I call it wildcard. Lastly, I look at states that offer OTC opportunities and try to use those as filler after all the draw results come out. 

Overall it is a bit overwhelming and expensive to apply in all the western states. My advice is to pick two states that have bonus points this year and get the ball rolling on point collecting. Then apply for a state like NM that has a random draw and look for units that have reasonable odds. Next year add one or two states to the list. Every state is different, so adding one each year gives you time to really focus on learning the ins-and-outs of their process. In a few years, you will have a resume of points, a little more experience and a better plan to go more often. 

Making friends in the state you want to learn is key, not so that you cant take their hunting spots but so you have a mentor in learning a new system and lay of the land.

Good luck! Let us know what you draw.

Jay:

My advice is to apply for as many states as you have the money for. Have a couple of them that you use as likely to draw tags, and the rest as long-shot hard to draw tags but you’ll rearrange everything to make the hunt if you do happen to draw it. Hunts like on the Kaibab in AZ, really good chances at a great buck, but slim chances at drawing. But because of the way preference and bonus points work, even if you can’t hunt every state that you’re applying for, you need to be accruing points. Even if that’s just buying the license and points, and not actually applying for the draws.

Focus on states like New Mexico, where bonus points don’t factor into the draw. It’s really hard as a non-resident to draw some of the best hunts because of the way those draws are structured. A lot of states that have hunts that are nearly 100% draw odds. Montana and Idaho are a few that come to mind right away.

Also, look for over the counter opportunities and leftover permits. We tend to hunt a lot of hard to hunt units because the odds of getting a permit are easier, and we’ll hunt hard nasty country that deters a lot of people.

GoHunt is an excellent tool as you start to move into and research other states, and the information is well worth the membership fee.

Josh:

Hunting/applying in multiple states is something newer to me… I personally started by asking people with knowledge/experience as well as researching apps/podcasts/YouTube videos.

I’m a numbers guy, so I started with ODDS. I would get really familiar with one or two states and continue to grow your bonus points. Once you start, don’t stop… Get comfy, and then add another state or 2. A lot of small info that adds up. ie: If you apply for a certain species for 5 consecutive years in Arizona, you receive a loyalty point for that species and it stays even when you draw. (As long as you continue to apply with no gaps) AZ also has a point for Hunters Ed that stays for life. 

Arizona is very promising, as there are multiple hunts you can go on, with little or no bonus points. As well as attacking the OTC hunts if you don’t draw.

The above is a short answer to the difficult question… Thank you for watching!

P.S. Good luck and hunt COUES. 

Cole:

I live a busy life filled with family, work, and a whole bunch of fun! We are likely pretty similar if you’re reading this blog and want to maximize that fun category.

The best place to start is identifying what your goals are in both the short and the long term. Pick your top priority hunts first, are they premium rut tags in trophy units? Or just an animal you’ve dreamed of pursuing since you flipped through hunting magazines as a kid? Identifying these goals first is critical to have a strategic plan in place to apply in the states that will offer the best opportunity to fulfill those dreams.

The Information Age has been a game changer for myself in applying in other states. What a time to be alive! In minutes you can go on GoHunt, Eastman’s hunt resources, or a dozen other websites and pull past draw odds, info on upcoming hunt opportunities, past success, trophy quality, etc. Use these online resources to look at the numbers, break down the odds of drawing in those states, and get your name in the hat. I like to balance growing points in a few select units/states for trophy quality animals/unique species knowing they may take 10-15+ years to draw.

I then fill in my calendar every year with other OTC opportunities for archery elk, archery deer, easy to draw hunts, and helping close friends fulfill their dreams.

It has never been more difficult to draw quality hunt opportunities so diversifying your skill set to archery hunt, backpack hunt, or just grind it out on more difficult hunts may be necessary! Identify your goals, work hard at identifying opportunities using online resources that fit your goals, and get out there and hunt hard!!