The Art of Drawing Hunting Tags

June1picThe demand for premium big game permits always exceeds the availability. One of the most inconvenient aspects of hunting desirable animals in desirable states is that hunters must compete against each other in some form of hunting tag lottery just so they can have the privilege of hunting certain animals. However, not all tag lotteries are equal and understanding the specifics of how each state’s lotteries work can be extremely difficult.

To begin with, you have to make an accurate assessment of your hunt objectives. Besides choosing a weapon, considering geographic locations and deciding who you want to hunt with, you will need to decide if you want an opportunity to kill an above-average animal or a trophy of a lifetime. If you have these queries figured out, you will need to start thinking ‘points.’  

You will need to know the difference between preference points and bonus points. Preference points do as exactly as their name implies, they give a hunter preference. If a hunter has accumulated 10 preference points over the years and another hunter has accumulated nine preference points, a state operating on preference points automatically awards the hunter with 10 points the tag. The more preference points you have, the more preference a hunter has over other hunters with fewer points.

Bonus points are a whole other animal than preference points. They are almost worthless in my opinion and they give no preference. Basically, any hunter who unsuccessfully applies for a tag gets awarded a bonus point which allows their name to be thrown into the hat an extra time in the next lottery.

Some people mistakenly think that they have twice the chance to draw a tag if they have a bonus point, but they would be wrong. The true statistical ‘bonus’ of a bonus point is so infinitesimal in popular lotteries, that they really exist to give people a false sense of hope to keep the fees flowing into any given state’s bank account. In other words, they barely provide any value or improved opportunity. They are part gimmick.

If you are eager enough to apply to multiple states, it can get tricky. In fact, some of the heavies in the hunting industry get help when it comes to applying to multiple states and you can too.  One such person is the legendary Elk hunting writer, Jim Zumbo. He applies for some tags himself, but he also uses a licensing service to help him with the bulk of his applications, as do many hunters who seek multiple state hunting opportunities.  

Licensing services navigate the application processes for different states and they apply for you for a small fee. Some even front the fee money and have you pay the later after the draw procedure. Some such outfits are United States Outfitters (, Cabela’s T.A.G.S. ( and Huntin’ Fool Tag Service (

Finally, the absolute key to ever winning any tag lottery is to actually apply for one.