How To Draw an Elk Tag

Gone are the days of walking up to a license dealer the day before elk season opens and buying a tag over the counter. Today you must apply well in advance, competing with thousands of others who share your dreams. Unfortunately, doing so has become a jumble of confusing paperwork and application deadlines.

First you must call the states you want to hunt to receive the hunting-regulations booklets and application paperwork. Most states require applicants to send money for a hunting license and the tags they hope to draw. This often amounts to several hundred dollars, which deters many would-be elk hunters. If you don't draw, the state refunds all but a small processing fee. Often you can apply over the Internet using a credit card. The chances of drawing a tag are less than 10 percent in some of the better trophy units, and sometimes it takes a decade of accumulating preference points just to be in the game. These difficult odds also keep many people from applying. The fewer hunters in the draw, of course, the better your odds of picking a tag.

The following chart will help you make sense of the process and recommends some of the very best hunting areas. The odds can be long, but someone has to draw. Why can't it be you?

Notes About Deadlines: 2004 application deadlines, drawing dates, and seasons were not set at press time. Estimations here are based on 2003 dates. Be sure to check the exact dates with the states.

ELK TAG INFORMATION AND DATES

State

ALASKA 907-465-4112 www.state.ak.us/adfg

Preference/Bonus Point Program None Estimated Application Deadline May 31 Estimated Draw Date mid-July --Separate Hunting License $85 --General Tag $300 --Special Elk -- Recommended Unit/Draw Number DE318, DE322 2003 Season Dates for Recommended Units Sept. 1-30; Oct. 1-31 Details for Recommended Unit Excellent but tough hunt for Rocky Mountain elk on southeast islands (early hunt is archery only)

ARIZONA 602-942-3000 www.azgfd.com

[Preference/Bonus Point Program] Bonus [Estimated Application Deadline] June 10 [Estimated Draw Date] July 26 [--Separate Hunting License] $113.50 [--General Tag] $371 [--Special Elk] -- [Recommended Unit/Draw Number] 3A, 3C [2003 Season Dates for Recommended Units] Sept. 12-25 [Details for Recommended Unit] Awesome bowhunt, huge bulls, but odds of drawing only 7% in 2002

COLORADO 303-297-1192 www.wildlife.state.co.us

[Preference/Bonus Point Program] Both [Estimated Application Deadline] April 1 [Estimated Draw Date] June 20 [--Separate Hunting License] $483.25 [--General Tag] -- [--Special Elk] -- [Recommended Unit/Draw Number] 201 [2003 Season Dates for Recommended Units] Oct. 1-10 [Details for Recommended Unit] It takes at least 14 preference points to draw this hunt, but you can apply for points only

IDAHO 208-334-3700 www.state.id.us/fishgame

[Preference/Bonus Point Program] None [Estimated Application Deadline] May 31 [Estimated Draw Date] July 10 [--Separate Hunting License] $128.50 [--General Tag] $338.50 [--Special Elk] -- [Recommended Unit/Draw Number] 29-1 [2003 Season Dates for Recommended Units] Oct. 1-24 [Details for Recommended Unit] Drawing odds in 2002 were 1 in 6; you must buy a nonrefundable hunting license to apply

MONTANA 406-444-2535 www.fwp.state.mt.us

[Preference/Bonus Point Program] Bonus [Estimated Application Deadline] mid-April* March 15** [Estimated Draw Date] June 2* mid-August** [--Separate Hunting License] $7*** [--General Tag] $578 [--Special Elk] $628 [Recommended Unit/Draw Number] 313-11 [2003 Season Dates for Recommended Units] Jan. 2-Feb. 9 [Details for Recommended Unit] Best migration hunt in the state, although you must have a combination license to apply

NEVADA 775-688-1507 www.ndow.org

[Preference/Bonus Point Program] Bonus [Estimated Application Deadline] April 21 [Estimated Draw Date] June 21 [--Separate Hunting License] $111 [--General Tag] $1,000 [--Special Elk] -- [Recommended Unit/Draw Number] 076, 077, 081 [2003 Season Dates for Recommended Units] Nov. 15-30 [Details for Recommended Unit] Only 2 nonresident tags issued in 2003; drawing odds about 1 in 162. Virtually all bulls taken are 6x6 or better

NEW MEXICO 505-476-8101 www.gmfsh.state.nm.us

[Preference/Bonus Point Program] None [Estimated Application Deadline] April 26 [Estimated Draw Date] July 14 [--Separate Hunting License] $481 [--General Tag] $766 [--Special Elk] -- [Recommended Unit/Draw Number] Valle Vidal [2003 Season Dates for Recommended Units] Oct. 11-15 [Details for Recommended Unit] Once-in-a-lifetime tag, tough to draw; an awesome wilderness rifle hunt with big bulls

OREGON 503-947-6000 www.dfw.state.or.us

[Preference/Bonus Point Program] Preference [Estimated Application Deadline] May 15 [Estimated Draw Date] June 20 [--Separate Hunting License] $58.50 [--General Tag] $306.50 [--Special Elk] -- [Recommended Unit/Draw Number] Wenaha #2 [2003 Season Dates for Recommended Units] Nov. 8-16 [Details for Recommended Unit] Need 8 preference points to draw, but best public-land rifle hunt in state; rugged country

UTAH 801-538-4700 www.wildlife.utah.gov

[Preference/Bonus Point Program] Both [Estimated Application Deadline] Jan. 31 [Estimated Draw Date] April 30 [--Separate Hunting License] $333 [--General Tag] $483 [--Special Elk] -- [Recommended Unit/Draw Number] 322 [2003 Season Dates for Recommended Units] Sept. 13-23 [Details for Recommended Unit] Relatively easy unit for a rifle hunt; can produce some 350-plus bulls; very tough to draw

WASHINGTON 360-902-2464 www.wa.gov/wdfw

[Preference/Bonus Point Program] Bonus [Estimated Application Deadline] June 22 [Estimated Draw Date] Aug. 3 [--Separate Hunting License] $394.20 [--General Tag] -- [--Special Elk] -- [Recommended Unit/Draw Number] 2008 Peaches Ridge A [2003 Season Dates for Recommended Units] Oct. 20-Nov. 2 [Details for Recommended Unit] Must have license to apply for this rifle hunt; in 2002, 98 tags were issued for 3,170 applicants, with 36% success rate

WYOMING 307-777-4600 gf.state.wy.us

[Preference/Bonus Point Program] None [Estimated Application Deadline] Jan. 31 [Estimated Draw Date] Feb. 28 [--Separate Hunting License] $410 [--General Tag] $610 [--Special Elk] -- [Recommended Unit/Draw Number] 63 [2003 Season Dates for Recommended Units] Oct. 1-21 [Details for Recommended Unit] Best public-land rifle hunt available for those who draw the general $410 or $610 tag

*(combination license) **(special elk) ***(conservation license)

PROFESSIONAL HELP

The application process was simplified more than a decade ago when New Mexico outfitter George Taulman of United States Outfitters began his Professional Licensing Service (800-845-9929), the first of its kind to do the research and fill out the application paperwork for nonresidents. Today there are many others. One that I find very helpful is Garth Carter's Hunter Services Inc. (435-386-1020; www.huntinfool.com). Carter, a former Utah state game biologist and serious trophy hunter, specializes in researching the best trophy areas in various states, and providing that information to his clients in a monthly magazine, along with details on tag application procedures and some outfitted hunting opportunities. His service is well worth the $100-per-year membership fee. --B.R.