Wyoming begins preference point draw system

Editor's note: We finish our three-part series on Western big-game application deadlines with a look at Washington and Wyoming below. See Part 1 for Alaska, California, Colorado & Montana; peruse Part 2 for Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah.

While Wyoming has long been a popular destination for nonresident hunters interested in its abundant opportunities, the Cowboy State hasn't offered much risk or reward for serial applicants. Preference points have been available for years in the moose and bighorn sheep categories, but not for applicants for other big-game hunts.

That's changing this year with the institution of preference points for elk, deer, antelope and mountain goats. And an option that allows you to buy points without participating in the drawing is a good one for nonresidents with shallow checking accounts, though you'll pay handsomely for the service.

Still, the preference points are an incentive to get involved in the drawings, says Ron Arnold, fiscal officer of Wyoming Game and Fish.

"Any nonresident ever interested in drawing one of the hard-to-draw elk, deer or antelope areas in Wyoming should begin getting preference points this year to get on top of the list," Arnold said.

Changes aren't so drastic in Washington, where game managers are proposing a few increases in the coveted moose and bighorn sheep quotas but most elk and deer regulations will see only incremental changes.

Here's a look at both states' licensing structures for this fall:


Application deadline: June 20 for deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat hunts.

To apply: Call Washington's Department of Fish and Wildlife (360-902-2200) or go to www.wdfw.wa.gov.

What's new: Among the proposals that were unveiled by the state agency just last month are significant changes in elk management in the Colockum and Hanford areas, where game managers hope to get a handle on depredating elk in non-traditional areas.

Early department proposals to institute spike-only elk hunts in western Washington, three-point whitetail deer hunts in northeast Washington and permit-only mule deer hunts, have been dropped.

Fee increases: None for this year


Application deadline: Residents can relax, but out-of-state applicants will have to plan for 2007. Resident deadline is May 31 for deer, elk and antelope. The deadline for all moose, sheep and goat hunts was Feb. 28. It's Jan. 31 for nonresident elk; March 15 for nonresident deer and antelope.

To apply: Call Wyoming Game and Fish (307-777-4600) to request application materials, or you can go to the department's Web site at gf.state.wy.us.com or gf.state.wy.us/wildlife/applications/index.asp.

What's new: Look for moderate increases in some deer and antelope quotas and new hunt areas for elk immediately south of Rawlins and moose on the east shore of Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

Moose Area 38, which encompasses the Snowy Range, will be expanded to include the Vedauwoo/Pole Mountain area east of Laramie.

Easily the biggest news is the institution of preference points for deer, elk and antelope. According to the new system, 75 percent of tags will be distributed on the basis of preference; the remaining 25 percent will be allotted randomly, so even first-time applicants have a shot.

Buying a point without participating in the draw is a costly proposition. Sheep points cost $100 and moose points are $75. The new points are $50 for elk, $40 for deer and $30 for antelope. There is no preference for mountain goats.

Fee increases: They've been instituted for the state's trophy animals, and they're pretty steep. Nonresidents now pay $1,213 to apply for moose, $1,813 for mountain goat and a whopping $1,913 to apply for bighorn sheep.

And unlike other states, where your credit card is charged only if you draw the tag, you'll pony up that cash just to apply. Of course, you'll get your money back if you're unsuccessful, but Wyoming's high-priced licenses are one reason the ability to purchase just a preference point is likely to be well received.

"With a preference point system, hunters will be rewarded for their persistence and will be able to calculate how long it will take to draw a license," says Arnold.

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