Top 10 Controlled Hunt Misconceptions:
SALEM, Ore.—It’s that time of year when many hunters are poring over big game statistics and summary reports, trying to figure out what controlled hunts to apply for. (The deadline to apply is May 15.)
After software engineer Ron Wold didn’t draw a tag he was sure he would, he created the Oregon Tag Draw Percentages website to help hunters figure out their chances. Hundreds view his website or contact him each year to get a sense of their chances. The book Oregon Tag Guide also helps hunters understand their odds.
Wold spoke with ODFW about the most common misconceptions and mistakes about controlled hunts he sees among hunters:
- The process itself: Here is a step-by-step process of how the random computerized controlled hunt draw works:
- Each application purchased is assigned a random 10-digit number.
- Members of the public are invited to ODFW headquarters to randomly choose a 10-digit draw seed number for each hunt series. (Call 503-947-6108 to participate in the drawing.)
- Applicants for each hunt are grouped by preference points and first choice hunt selected.
- Tags are awarded in each preference point group beginning with the applicant whose 10-digit number matches, or is closest to and above, the seed number. The selection continues with the applicant having the next higher 10-digit number, until 75% of the tags have been awarded or until all first-choice applicants have received tags.
- All remaining first-choice applicants are rearranged solely by 10-digit random number and the remaining 25% of tags are awarded randomly among all first-choice applicants for the hunt.
- If there are tags left, the process restarts for second choice hunt applicants. (Preference points are not a factor for awarding 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th choices.)
Most hunters don’t understand how the draw works, says Wold. “While the regulations describe the process, they read that and make assumptions, or it differs from what their brother-in-law told them 20 years ago,” he says.
For example, people assume that because a hunt has a 100% chance to draw with 8 points, and they have five, they will draw it in three years. “This isn’t true. It could take 10 years, depending on the hunt,” says Wold. “In order to determine when you will draw, or more specifically when your point level will be part of the 75% draw, you must consider the number of applicants.” Wold goes into more detail on his website.
- Non-resident tags: There is a quota for the number of big game tags that can go to non-residents (a maximum of 5% for deer and elk, 3% for antelope and bear and 5-10% for sheep). This doesn’t mean that percentage of tags automatically goes to non-residents; it just means no more than the maximum can go to non-residents. Non-residents must also realize that under Oregon law, a number equal to one half of non-resident deer and elk tags drawn in the previous year go to guides and outfitters, so trophy hunts can be particularly hard to draw.
- Wasting points on hunts that could be second-choices: Don’t waste points by putting a hunt that you can draw as a second choice as your first choice, Wold advises. You will lose all your preference points instead of gaining one. Wold lists hunts that are typically safe second choices on his website, or see the Oregon Big Game Regulations and notice which hunts have many more tags than applicants.
- Making a second-choice hunt third-choice: Even “safe” hunts run out of tags. “Putting down any hunt as a second choice that takes any number of points to draw is a mistake,” says Wold. So be careful not to put your second choice as your third choice, or you might miss out on a controlled hunt opportunity altogether.
- Misunderstanding summary reports: ODFW’s hunting statistics page includes point summary reports with information about the previous year’s drawing but these reports can be difficult to understand. See this link for an explanation of point summary reports. ODFW does not calculate odds of drawing a tag but Wold’s website helps hunters understand their odds as does the book Oregon Tag Guide.
- Speculation on hunt changes: Another frequent question Wold hears is how hunt changes will impact the draw. He speculates that the new Ochoco archery bull elk tag will cause rifle tag applicants to slip a bit, as some hunters move to the archery tag. He had no predictions on the new controlled archery elk tags for Mt Emily, Walla Walla and Wenaha. However, having drawn the Walla Walla and Wenaha tag, Wold believes the new limited-entry system will help improve the hunting experience as it’s currently a very crowded hunt area.
- Hunts losing or gaining applicants: Wold urges savvy hunters to keep an eye on hunts that are losing or gaining applicants. For example, elk hunts that need 9-12 points to draw are starting to get more applicants as people jump ship from the “Big Three” elk hunts (Wenaha, Mt Emily, Walla Walla) due to the 13 or more points it requires to draw them as a resident. For example, last year for the Wenaha rifle elk hunt (#256Y1), two applicants had 17 points, six non-residents had 16 points and 36 had 15 points. So by the time the draw got to the 15-point level, only 17 tags were still available.
- Remember there are NO preference points for goat and sheep hunts: Bighorn sheep and Rocky Mountain goat tags are a once in a lifetime hunts and hunters don’t accrue preference points by applying. Every hunter that applies has the same odds.
- Maximize your opportunities to earn preference points: If your children are going to be part of your hunting party someday, you can start getting preference points for them at age 9 (they will need to have a hunting license, $14.50 for youth). Kids age 9-13 that hunt under the Mentored Youth program can get a mentor youth preference point for each year they hunt (some special rules apply to use these points). Also under a new program meant to spread the cost of tags and licenses throughout the year, hunters that didn’t apply for a series during the draw can apply for a preference point from July 1-Nov. 30.
- Get the basics right. Clerical errors can mess up applications and hard won preference points. Double check your personal information, hunt number and party details every time you apply. (Look on your receipt before leaving a license sales agent and make sure you applied for the right hunt.) Also be sure to include a current phone number so ODFW’s licensing staff can get in touch if there is a problem.
Application changes can be done up to June 1. Call the Licensing Department at (503) 947-6100 or send a corrected copy of your application to ODFW Controlled Hunts, 3406 Cherry Ave NE, Salem, OR 97303, fax (503) 947-6113 or 6117.
If you have any questions on the process or would like to be at the drawing for seed numbers, call ODFW’s controlled hunts supervisor at 503-947-6108.
More about controlled hunts
Some of Oregon’s big game hunts are limited entry, including almost all rifle hunting of deer and elk east of the Cascades and pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, and Rocky Mountain goat hunts. These hunts require a controlled hunt application. Last year, more than 130,000 fall big game controlled hunt tags were available and 365,975 applications were received.
Hunters can apply for a controlled hunt online, at a license sales agent, at ODFW offices that sell licenses, or by mail or fax order using the application found here or on page 17 of the 2013 Oregon Big Game Regulations. The cost is $8 and applicants also need an annual hunting license ($29.50, $14.50 for juveniles age 17 and under). Don’t forget to apply by May 15, 2013.
Proposed tag numbers should be posted on the ODFW Hunting Resources page in early May. Final 2013 fall big game tag numbers will be adopted June 6-7 by the Fish and Wildlife Commission at the monthly meeting.