First Western Tag Deadlines of 2008 Loom

Ever dream of putting a spot-and-stalk on a wild bison bull somewhere in the Rocky Mountain West? Well, then get it in gear — because the first Western big game tag application deadlines of 2008 are looming at month's end. Lynn Burkhead

Pancakes, hot coffee, and elk don't seem to go together at first glance, but last night at the local IHOP, those items were both the sustenance and the topic of conversation between my Western big game hunting pal, Doug Rodgers, and yours truly.

Despite the threat of freezing rain and sleet moving into the area and glazing the roads, we stayed well into the night — through several coffee pot refills — hashing out our hunting plans and dreams for 2008.

After all, when it comes to Western big game hunting application deadlines, a hunter has got to take care of his business, Old Man Winter or not.

This year, the first order of business — applying for Wyoming elk and any big game species in Utah — is defined by meeting the Jan. 31 application deadline in each state.

Not to mention buying a non-resident hunting license, as is now required in Utah to get into the tag draw.

Why go through all of this fuss over preference points, unit draw odds, bull-to-cow-ratios, buck-to-doe ratios, non-resident tag numbers, fire information, and gut-level hunches?

Simple. If you want to do the big game hunting dance in the West this year with a bow, muzzleloader, or rifle in your hand, you've got to get everything out on the table now.

Even if that means a little spilled syrup on occasion.

If you're one of those who thinks no one ever draws those coveted limited entry tags, think again.

Two years ago, with only scant preference points accrued, I beat the lottery-like odds and drew one of the West's best archery elk hunting tags.

Unfortunately, I never got to use the tag, since a life-threatening medical emergency kept me sidelined while others hunted that fall.

But I hardly feel cursed. Instead, I feel blessed the Creator has allowed me to see another hunting season, let alone another year with my wife and kids.

Besides, if I were able to beat the horrible draw odds in the computer once, I guess it's possible to do it again, don't you think?

Maybe lightning does strike twice. (In my mailbox, that is.)

Next week right here at H365, be sure to tune back in for a complete rundown of each Western state and their various tag application deadlines, procedures, and trends.

In the meantime, if you dream of chasing bugling elk, big mule deer, pronghorn antelope, wild sheep, mountain goats, or even Shiras moose or bison, keep the following "10 Commandments of Big Game Tag Drawing" in mind.

(Believe it or not, they do occasionally work.)

Hey, somebody's got to draw those tags, right? I'm living proof, in more ways than one.

Hunting 365's Ten Commandments of Big Game Tag Drawing:

    • Make sure applications are filled out properly and accurately; most states reject improperly filled out applications.

    • Get applications turned in on time. Miss the deadline, and a hunter is another year behind in the game of acquiring points, and possibly drawing the tag of a lifetime.

    • Submit as many applications as possible.

    • Use primitive weapons (muzzleloader and archery) options. Fewer hunters apply for these, and the odds of drawing a tag increase accordingly.

    • Select areas that are difficult to hunt. Again, fewer hunters apply for these areas, increasing draw odds.

    • Be aware some states give an advantage to applicants who have contracted with an outfitter to take them hunting, should they draw a permit.

    • Use all of the preference and bonus-points programs available. These point systems (which vary by state), help to increase a hunter's odds each time they are unsuccessful in a drawing. Some states like Arizona, Nevada, and Utah require hunters to purchase a non-refundable, non-resident hunting license to obtain points.

    • Participate in the "Buddy System" or "Party Application" system when offered by states. That way, if you are drawn, so is your hunting buddy, which can help reduce trip costs.

    • Be persistent and keep building points! They are the key to drawing dream tags in most states.

    • Plan ahead and have a backup hunting plan in place — like hunting an over-the-counter area — since drawing premium hunting tags is usually not a one-year deal.