On April 2nd, Arizona Game and Fish announced the draw results for the upcoming elk and antelope seasons. All over Arizona, and even in other states, there are ecstatic hunters and disappointed hunters. I don't think there is a more fun and interesting aspect to hunting in Arizona than the draws for big-game tags.
Frequently, non-hunters ask me why we have a draw, and how it works. Honestly, even a lot of seasoned hunters don't really understand the draw process. First off, game populations in Arizona are carefully managed for optimum population and optimum male to female ratios. Biologists use data collected every year to recommend how many animals can be taken in a given area, that will either have minimal impact (or even improve) the population in that area. Arizona is divided into Game Management Units and each Unit has at least one Wildlife Manager assigned. There are a number of factors that go into tag recommendations, including season duration, types of weapons, moon phase data, population surveys and more.
Hunters apply for tags based on species, Unit desired, and tye of weapon (general firearm, archery, etc). They pay a fee to apply, have to have a license and then they put up to 5 tag choices per species on their application. Then the waiting begins! Depending on whether they put in for cow or bull (in the case of elk), the weapon f choice, and the desireability of the Unit - odds of getting drawn can be pretty good, or extremely low. Some hunters wait years for the tag they want, others get drawn with regularity.
It is the "mechanics" of the draw that get people confused. According to Arizona Game and Fish :
The Arizona Game and Fish Department conducts three separate application and draw cycles for big game hunt permit-tags. Beginning in 2007, the Department for the first time held a separate draw for antelope and elk. This change was made to let hunters know earlier if they have been drawn for these two popular big game animals. The three draw cycles are:
|Pronghorn antelope, elk||Second Tuesday in February (pending Commission approval)|
|Deer, fall turkey, fall javelina, bighorn sheep fall buffalo, pheasant||Second Tuesday in June (pending Commission approval)|
|Spring javelina, spring bear, spring turkey, spring buffalo||Second Tuesday in October (pending Commission approval)|
For the most part, game and Fish offers a pretty good explanation of the draw process here: http://www.azgfd.gov/eservices/BigGameDrawingProcess.shtml Here is the jist of it:
How does the Big Game Drawing work?
There are 3 phases to the Big Game Drawing – the Bonus Point Pass, the First-Second Choice Pass, and the Third-Fourth-Fifth Choice Pass. Before each of the three passes in the drawing, each application is processed through a random number generator program. One random number for the application plus an additional random number for each group bonus point (which includes the Hunter Education and Loyalty bonus points) is generated for that application. The lowest random number generated for an application is used in the drawing process. An application receives a new random number for each Pass of the Big Game Draw.
Group Bonus Points occur in the Big Game Draw when 2 to 4 applicants apply on 1 hunt application. Group bonus points are calculated by adding the genus bonus points, loyalty bonus point, and hunter education bonus point for each applicant on an application and dividing that total by the number of applicants. The Department shall use the average number of bonus points accumulated by the individuals in the group, rounded to the nearest whole number. If the average has decimal digits equal to or greater than .5, the total will be rounded to the next higher number otherwise it is rounded down.
When an application is read and the hunt choices are checked for available permits, there must be enough permits available in a hunt choice for all applicants on the application, including nonresident caps; if not, the application is passed and the next one is read.
Arizona also utilizes a "Bonus Point" system which, mathematically, gives previously unsuccessful applicants an advantage. You can learn more about Bonus Points here: http://www.azgfd.gov/eservices/BonusPointProcess.shtml
One of the harrowing thing about the draw is we don't really know when the actual date is. As the period draws to a close, hunters start to get anxious. They're watching their credit cards, which will now get charged if they were successful. The hunting message boards are going crazy with speculation. There is a lot of nervous anticipation. Once the results are finally announced, hunters can be crestfallen or excited beyond belief, having drawn the "tag of a lifetime".
According to Game and Fish there were more than 142,000 applicants for this year's elk/pronghorn antelope draw for hunts or bonus points, and 26,308 tags were issued. The total number of applications, including those submitted on paper and online, was approximately 103,665.