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#7217554 - 07/06/18 06:09 PM Western Hunting for Newbs #2
HS2 Offline

Registered: 06/26/14
Posts: 239
There was another thread on introduction to hunting in western states, but it seemed to me that it didn't really give an introduction to those who are truly new, so I thought I'd give my try at an introduction.

In Texas anyone can buy a hunting license, but since there is very little public land, hunters end up having to pay for a lease, buy property, or find a landowner who will let you hunt. If you have a place to hunt, you can go anywhere and hunt anything that anyone else can hunt. Not so in most western states.

Most of these states require hunters to buy a tag for a specific type of animal before you can hunt. You can have a mule deer tag, or an elk tag, or an antelope tag, but that would require buying three tags. Since there are more hunters than animals, they typically have a "draw" system. Think of it like a lottery: you buy a chance for your name to be drawn; if your name is drawn, you can buy a tag, if your name is not drawn, you can't buy a tag.

Further, hunters generally have to apply for separate draws for separate animals. You buy a chance at a deer draw, another chance at an elk draw. Still further, most of these states are divided into "units" which are just areas of the state. You will apply for a draw in a particular unit. As you might expect, some units are better than others--some units have food, water, and cover, and are great, while some units are crappy.

I was fortunate to get to go on two hunts in Wyoming. It was fantastic. But I learned that in the pioneer days, the US gov't allowed settlers to obtain land. The people who built ranches out there all settled near the water sources and had large ranches, such as 6000 acres or more. But no one settled in the dry areas, and there are VAST areas of land that are owned by the federal government. They allow people to hunt for free. So if you get a tag in a unit with land owned by the US ("public land") then you can go out there and hunt in a "do it yourself" (or DIY) hunt. Or you can pay an outfitter to take you on one of the large ranches. The ranch owners can get lots of money to lease their ranches to guy I met was getting almost $80,000. The outfitters turn around and charge people several thousand each to hunt there.

So you can hunt public land if you get a tag. But like I said, some units are great, some are crappy. And no hunter will tell you their secret spot.....if they've found a honey hole, they're not going to tell you or me about it. So you put in for a draw, and if you get drawn, you have to do a lot of research to find a place to hunt. Keep in mind there are no fences or land it's almost impossible to know where the property boundaries are. So everyone ends up buying satellite GPS maps on hand-held devices or apps for your smart phone. This is almost essential....if you end up trespassing, you'll find out how angry the locals get.

I just checked this year's results from Wyoming. One unit had 526 people applying for 5 tags. Another had 837 people applying for 1,077 tags. Why the difference? Remember I said some units are great, and others crappy? Or, some units don't have much public land, while others have lots. If you don't get drawn, you'll get most of your money back, but you've given a several month loan to that state. The states also allow people to buy extra points.

So you want to do a DIY hunt on public land. Cool, just apply for a tag and if you get it, go. It's really that easy. When you get there, you'll find that you might have to walk in. Which means backpacking your food, water, gun, ammo, and gear. If you hike in two miles, you might be elbow-to-elbow with other hunters and no game. If you hike in 10 or 15 miles, you'll have fewer hunters. There might be game, or not. But remember, now you have to pack out the meat. An elk leg can weigh 100 lbs. An elk can take several trips back out to the truck, then you have to go back and get your gear. So that 10 mile hike in might take a half dozen trips.

But what if you don't get drawn? You get a "point." If you apply next year and don't get drawn, now you have two points. You can get points for deer, more points for antelope, and more for elk. The points are like extra lottery tickets....two points give you a chance to put your name in twice. 10 points gives you the chance to put your name in ten times. So the hunters will save up points and put them into draws on the better units, which might take 5 years or more to get your name drawn. So what do you do while you're waiting? Remember you can apply for a deer draw, an elk draw, and an antelope draw. If you do this across 10 western states, now you're in 30 draws, and you might hit one. If you don't, you'll have points in all those states for next year. Meanwhile, often there are some "over-the-counter" or OTC tags, which are ones you can buy at a sporting goods store or online at the state website. These are usually the ones that there were not enough people in the draws to fill them. Don't plan on getting a bull elk tag in a prime unit by getting it OTC. But you might get a doe antelope tag, or sometimes get something else good, if you're willing to walk a bit. When I went to Wyoming, there were tons of wild turkey and no one hunting them.

So the "game" they talk about it this: buy a bunch of chances in a bunch of draws, hoping you'll hit one. When most of then don't hit, save the points for next year and try to get a OTC tag in a decent unit. If you put into enough draws every year, you'll hit a good one in some state every 2 or 3 years. Meanwhile, if you do enough homework, and are willing to walk a bit, you can get some decent OTC tags on the in-between years.

Remember the homework I told you about? It's significant. As I said, no hunter is going to tell you where their honey hole is, and without being out there to scout, you have to do a bunch of research to know where to hunt, and even then you strike out sometimes and go on hunts where all you learned is where to not go back to. Remember all that time you spent filling feeders and building hog pens in Texas? If you "play the game," you'll spend that much time (and more) doing research on where to apply. But as some have said, staying in Texas means you'll spend a pile of money and take a bunch of time anyway, so why not do it in the mountains?

For all the hassle, it really is fun. The scenery is fantastic, the experience is addicting, and it really doesn't take much more time and money than staying in Texas does. We had a great time and enjoyed it a lot. It's a whole different experience than Texas.

If you're interested, go for it. You're not getting any younger.

Edited by HS2 (07/06/18 06:19 PM)

#7217638 - 07/06/18 07:09 PM Re: Western Hunting for Newbs #2 [Re: HS2]
maximus_flavius Online   content

Registered: 04/24/13
Posts: 914

Can we get a summary?

#7217774 - 07/06/18 10:28 PM Re: Western Hunting for Newbs #2 [Re: maximus_flavius]
rifleman Offline
Sparkly Pants

Registered: 11/19/08
Posts: 44375
Loc: Kingwood
Originally Posted By: maximus_flavius

Can we get a summary?

You canít hunt if you donít figure out how to go, but understand much of the prime habitat will be sitting on private...thus the relationship between quality/quantity of the animals and habitat will drive up the required number of points. In conclusion...apply for hunts. In some states you can treat it somewhat like TX and it be a pay to play hint. Vouchers where we normally hunt (year before last), went from $2200 a lowballed 2nd season (forum member snagged that one), up to $15.5k for a 4th season. 3rd season split the difference. If youíre in a great unit, thereís really nothing like it that compares here, we just donít have the herd density like animals flocking to winter range.

#7217956 - 07/07/18 09:09 AM Re: Western Hunting for Newbs #2 [Re: HS2]
Wytex Offline

Registered: 12/07/16
Posts: 525
Loc: Wyoming
Well, some if it's right and some not.
Your preference points get you into the draw for tags but in Wyoming you only go in once for a drawing, PP does not equal chances in the draw. Top PP holders go into the draw for tags in 1 st choice draws, only the folks with the most points get drawn.
Every draw license also has a small number set aside a random draw tags, anyone has a chance to draw them regardless of points.
You can not buy "extra " points in Wyoming but you can purchase a PP if you did not apply for a tag this year or last year.

Each animal has it's own tag to hunt. Even turkeys are a draw tag in some areas.
Some of our best areas to hunt are very much public lands, ie BLM. National Forest, state lands and BU Reclamation.
You do not need private access to have a great hunt, our best deer region ,judged by many, is national forest land. Same can be argued for elk too.
We have cow/calf and doe/faw tags for less money, all have to be applied for in the drawing.

Best way to figure out if you can draw a tag is go to the WG&F website and look up drawing odds for each tag and area. They also have a map that shows public lands and area boundaries for each species. Yes they are all different but it is not that hard to figure out where you are. A GPS with an OnX chip is valuable, but get some paper maps and learn to read them.

Many will help with app advice and areas to go.
You'll be surprised at the info given out on other western hunting forums, Hunttalk and Eastman's.
I myself have given out spots we hunted in the past to NR. Most residents don't mind helping out a NR that needs some info.


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