I have never been more excited to get to hunting season than I am this year. It is time to leave all this craziness behind and get to an area without cell phone coverage with family and friends to share in the sport that we all love. A little reflection on this past season draws shows that it is becoming increasingly important to have a multi-state application strategy to consistently have hunting opportunities every year. With increasingly difficult draw odds and increasing prices across the West, it certainly has me fine tuning my application strategy and it feels more like a game of chess than checkers.
Hunts that were once thought of as “last resort” or “backup” are now becoming primary hunts that must be planned in advance in order to secure your hunting trip that year. It has been somewhat of a slow burn leading up to Idaho non-resident elk and deer tags selling out before the August deadline for the first time ever. It started in 2017 when Wyoming non-resident general elk tags were not a guarantee to draw in the Special Draw for the first time, followed up by the Montana non-resident general elk combo licenses not being guaranteed in the draw in 2018. Now we have Idaho non-resident general elk and deer tags selling out before the August 1st deadline when they would become available to residents to purchase as second tags.
The good old days of waiting until the last minute to plan a fall hunt is becoming a thing of the past. Even though other states still have unlimited over-the-counter elk tags (Utah is only unlimited for archery and has a statewide quota for rifle and muzzleloader), this will eventually change to some type of quota system for all hunting. Colorado will most likely take the brunt of non- resident hunters still searching for OTC elk hunting, and it won’t be long until we see these quotas put in place and we have to change our game plans once again. I am not writing this as a doom and gloom article but more as a wakeup call in putting a little more preparation into your multi-state and multi-year application strategy to make sure you get the hunts you want and don’t get left out of another year of hunting in the West.
This will be the second issue covering states that have leftover and/or over- the-counter tags. Unfortunately, the Idaho section will be more for hunters who planned ahead and already picked up a tag, but Oregon still has over-the- counter archery tags available for both deer and elk. Take advantage of these states while it lasts and plan for the future as these states will not be able to sustain unlimited over-the-counter tags with other states going to a draw and limited non-resident quotas. Let us help you plan your hunt strategy going forward as our options become more and more limited.