One of the things we like to tell our members is to think about the years to come, but to also get out in the field now. This is not only for experience once you do pull that tag-of-a-lifetime, but it’s also to get some boots on the ground and learn a unit if at all possible. We understand time and budget are huge factors, but there are many opportunities that can help you justify purchasing some of these non- refundable licenses during the application season, like blacktail in California, elk in Utah, and deer in Arizona.
Colorado has many options when it comes to maximizing your time in the field. Between over-the-counter elk, landowner tags, and easy to draw deer permits, the opportunities almost seem endless. One of the coolest things in Colorado is their overlapping season dates for deer and elk, which makes this state optimal for “scouting with a tag in your pocket.” There are many approaches you can take, and one of the most interesting is for deer. Colorado is known for great deer across the state as well as for their mass numbers of elk. It is a pure preference point state for deer, so for the most part, you know when you are going to draw the license. Archery, second rifle, and third rifle elk licenses are available over-the- counter. Before you pull the trigger on a tag- of-a-lifetime, I encourage you to make time to get out there on an OTC license, scout the unit, look for deer, learn the roads, and also chase around elk.
If you can afford and find one, a landowner voucher for the species and season date you are looking to hunt is a great option in Colorado. Another thing you can do is pick up an OTC archery elk license and hunt in the unit you may want to use your elk points on for muzzleloader season because in Colorado there is an overlap in archery and muzzleloader seasons. If you’re catching my drift, you have probably read ahead. Another cool thing you can do is double up on licenses.
If you have pulled the trigger on your deer license for archery, second, or third rifle, you can pick up an OTC elk license if the unit you are hunting is available. All of the above information obviously falls to these over-the- counter options continuing to stay unlimited and for Colorado to not remove units from this OTC option, which we have already seen them do in the southwestern portion of the state. See the Colorado Opportunity section for more information on Colorado’s OTC options. Utah is a little more difficult when it comes to matching up easy to obtain tags to units and seasons of those highly sought-after permits. The first struggle is that not many of the seasons besides archery and muzzleloader actually lineup when you are crossing species. One great option is to hunt Utah on a general season deer permit every couple of years. There is a lot of crossover between general season deer units and limited-entry elk units. During the archery and muzzleloader seasons, you will basically have the same season dates as those of the limited- entry elk hunts. Side note, in Utah you can build both limited-entry deer and general season deer points.
Utah’s spike elk hunts are an awesome opportunity to hunt elk in a unit that you have been applying for for years. Although you are limited to what you can harvest, especially for an archery hunter, you are basically hunting your “big bull permit” in the same unit with virtually the same dates. You may fall in love with the unit and only apply for it for the rest of your life, or you may hate the unit and cross it off your list. See the Utah Opportunity section for more information on Utah’s OTC permits.
In a state like Oregon where it is virtually impossible to draw a permit as a non- resident, there are still some opportunities to get out there and explore the country they have to offer. Like many other states, their opportunities for over-the-counter permits are dwindling. However, it is still a great opportunity to hunt blacktail or Roosevelts on the coast. Though most of those permits are available over-the-counter, there are still some really good, hard to draw permits that allow you to learn the unit with an OTC tag.
This time of year, it is really easy to put your head down and say maybe next year, but we are here to say that there are still some options for you out there. Use the tools you have in hand with your Huntin’ Fool membership and cross reference our state sections with the opportunity sections. Some very helpful digital tools that every membership type has are the 3D Mapping Tool, which allows you to start e-scouting now, and the Draw Odds Calculator that will take the guesswork out, especially when you are looking at states that have a preference pass in the draw. Also, don’t forget that you can chat with a Hunt Advisor. Our state sections do a great job of showing the pertinent information about the draws in each state, but this time of year, we focus heavily on the opportunities that are still out there because most of us don’t have oodles of points or a landowner tag budget. Don’t wait until you have a once-in-a-lifetime tag to learn your unit!