Myths and Mistakes

When folks complain about the ODFW draw, they are usually upset because they didn’t draw a tag.  In my opinion, the ODFW draw method is far superior to the methods used by other states – many are now modeled after Oregon.   Even with a good system, people make assumptions and they make mistakes. Here are some of the common mistakes that I’ve seen over the years.

Don’t Make a Clerical Error!   Verify what you applied for by looking at the number on your receipt and check it with the regulations.   Every year someone with a bunch of points applies for the “spike only” tag in a unit that also has “an any” elk (big bull) tag available.  They don’t realize that they, or the clerk messed up on the hunt id (maybe by one key stroke) until they buy their tag and it says “spike only”.  Realize that once the draw has occurred, the ODFW isn’t going to change anything, regardless of who is at fault.

Be careful what you post on on-line forums.  I personally participate on several on-line hunting forums, they’re great for sharing and getting advice.  But be mindful that there is a lot of internet scouting.  Postings on these sites can be read by anyone, even folks that are not members of the site.  Please, post your stories and pictures and maybe even a general location.  But if you post something like “We only had a 20% chance of drawing hunt 123Z, and we drew!   We tagged out on all trophy bulls!”, people will likely look at the odds of that hunt and make a note to research it further.  If you have a favorite hunt, try googling the hunt ID and see what you find!

Oregon’s youth hunting opportunities are incredible, use them! There are hundreds of hunts that only youths can apply for. The seasons are three months long on some, that will accomodate anyone’s schedule. Learn about youth points – they can earn up to 6 points for any hunt series before they are 12. Understand the first time hunter program – its an automatic tag for hunts that can take up to 10 points. Learn about the Mentored youth program, kids can start hunting at age 9.

If the odds say a hunt has a 100% chance to draw with 8 preference points, and you have 5 points, you’ll have 100% chance of drawing it in 3 years.  This isn’t true.  It could take 10 years, depending on the hunt.  In order to determine when you will draw, or more specifically, when your point level will be part of the 75% pool draw, you must consider the number of applicants that are applying for the hunt; in particular, those that have more points than you have.  Look at hunt 256Y Wenaha in 2008.  It is 100% at 13 points.  Even with 10 points, there are still 119 applicants with 11 and 12 points that won’t draw this year.   Since only 15 or so tags are drawn in the 75% pool, it will take several years before all of these applicants draw, and the 10 preference point slot of today becomes the top slot. 

If you are a non-resident or hunt with one, understand what the non-resident quota is. The quota does not guarantee that a non-resident will get a tag. If the quota is 10, it does not mean that 10 tags will be given to non-residents. What it means is that no more than 10 non-residents can draw. Every year I hears to groups adding a non-resident to their party application because they see the non-resident quota is not met and adding a non-resident to their part makes drawing a sure thing. This is not correct.

Know how many points you really have – check it on line.  If you don’t know the exact number of points that you have, these odds of drawing are useless. 

If you apply in a party, know how many points every applicant in the party has.  Check it yourself.  You trust them, but they may also be wrong.  This error could effect your hunt selection.  Note that when someone is mistaken on the number of points they actually have, they always believe they have more than the actual number. 

Don’t throw your application receipt away, ever.  If you have applied for an antelope tag for 10 years and the ODFW database says you have 4 points, you’re stuck.  But if you have the receipts from the past 10 years of applying, you’ve got a pretty good argument and it will likely get fixed.  The ODFW has lost points.  They lost my nephews points, but we had the receipts and could prove it.  Bottom line, the burden of proof is on you and not the ODFW.

Are the odds better if I apply as a group or by myself? You will always have better odds of drawing when applying by yourself, than when your preference point level is the same as the parties average.  However, the difference could be so small that it is insignificant.  Whether the difference is significant or not depends on how many tags there are in the hunt that you are applying for.  If there are many tags (say 200+) available, the odds are only slightly better if you apply alone.  If the tag count is less, the odds can be much better if you apply alone.  The size or your party also plays a part in the odds.  Take a look at the Question and Answers page, there is a detailed description on this topic.

Realize that some hunts are almost impossible to draw if you do not have enough preference points. Yes, there is always a chance, but people often do not realize what .1 % really means.  It means 1 in 1000, which is similar to saying that if you applied for a thousand years in a row, you would draw once.  

Don’t waste your points by applying for a hunt with your first choice that can be drawn as a second choice. I’ve listed all the hunts that can be drawn as a second choice.   If you draw your second choice, you don’t loose your preference points, instead you gain one.

Don’t apply for a hunt with your second choice that doesn’t have a 100% draw with zero points.   For example, you apply for a branch bull elk tag as your first choice, the neighboring unit’s branch bull tag as your second choice and the spike tag as your third choice. This is a mistake! Most likely the neighboring unit’s branch bull tag takes several points to draw, so there will be no tags left over after the first round of drawing.  By applying for it as a second choice, you are only making your fall back hunt, the spike tag, your third choice.  Even if there are left over spike tags after the first choices have been processed, there may not be any left after the second choice applications are processed.

Some hunts are becoming more popular, others less popular. Take a look at the trend line.  Negative numbers mean that overtime less people are applying at that preference point level each year.  A positive number means that applicants who applied for other hunts in the past are now applying for this hunt.

Be careful when adding non-residents to your group application. Non-residents can cause your group to not draw, even if your groups’ preference point average indicates that you have a 100% chance of drawing. Only 3% (antelope and bear) and 5% (deer and elk) of the tag pool can be drawn by non-residents. Once the non-resident quota has been met, group applications with a non-resident as a member will not be considered, regardless of what the group’s preference point average is.  As an example, consider the antelope hunt series.  Only 3% of the tags are available for non-residents.  If the hunt has 66 tags or less (which is most of them), there will be only one tag available for non-residents.

Over 200 people applied for a sheep tag that they could not legally draw.   That many people cannot all be stupid, so my conclusion is that they believed they were getting a preference point for a sheep hunt.  The preference point system is not used for sheep or goat tags, applying for a hunt that cannot be drawn gains nothing.  Also note that people apply based on how many applied the year before.  If the odds were better last year, they apply for that hunt this year.  This causes odds for some sheep hunts to jump back and forth every other year.

Are these odds accurate?  A better way to ask this question is under what situations are these odds not accurate.  The biggest cause of problems is a change to the number of tags that the ODFW issues.   The tag counts are based on the regulations, but the ODFW can change the tag count after the regulations are printed, yet before the draw.  The ODFW reserves the right to change the number of tags as it sees fit.  Another situation that can affect the odds is a dramatic change in the number of applicants that cannot be predicted.  For example, several years ago one of the largest mule deer ever harvested in Oregon history was taken within the Starkey Experimental Forest.  The news about this one animal caused the number of applicants to triple the following year.Not planning on hunting this year? Buy a preference point!  I had never intended to hunt in any of the 800 series hunts, but I bought a point anyway.   I hoped that one day the ODFW would add a hunt to the series that I was interested in.  When the ODFW closed that series, they moved the 800 points to the 600 series.  There are a some great 600 series hunts.  If you don’t hunt antelope, buy a point anyway.  This is true for spring bear too!  You never know when they might come in handy.