Colorado Elk Hunting: The Drawing Stats
Now that we’ve covered some of the basics of how to identify areas you might want to hunt using the harvest stats, it’s time to talk about how to read the drawing stats and how to apply that knowledge.
The 2011 Colorado regs book is out, and there are two hints that the DOW provides that can help you before you even start delving into the preference point requirements, draw summaries and hunt recaps. For starters, there is an asterisk in the sex column of any hunt code that went to leftovers last year. There may have only been one leftover license, or there may have been over 1,000, either way it’s good to know which licenses you may be able to count on not having to apply for.
The other important symbol to recognize in the regs brochure is the “plus” symbol in the sex column. For those hunt codes, it takes an average of at least 6 resident preference points over the last 3 years to draw. It’s fair to assume nonresidents will require 10 or more points on all those hunts.
So, just by looking at the brochure, not even touching the statistics on the website, you ought to be able to see which hunts are available over the counter, which ones go to leftovers, which ones you’ll have to draw for, and which hunts require too many points to even think about. Oh, and the back page also shows the administrative boundaries of the National Forests so you can determine some of your public land hunting opportunities. It does not show BLM lands on there, which are quite prevalent in the western 1/3 of the state.
I guess this is as good a time as any to explain how the drawing and preference systems work. In units or seasons where hunts are not available unlimited over the counter, and where demand exceeds the tag quota, there has to be a way of assigning tags to those applicants. Colorado uses a pure preference system for all but the highest demand hunts (those are referred to as hybrid draw units-but we’re not going to worry about those). Tags go to those with the most points, and then are distributed randomly to applicants with the minimum point value. Unlike states like New Mexico or Arizona, Colorado tries to fill all first choice hunt codes first. If a hunt draws out in 1st choice, you are wasting your choice by applying for it with a 2nd choice. You earn a preference point for succeeding years if you do not draw your first choice. The hunts with tags remaining after the first round will have tags randomly assigned to applicants in 2nd, then 3rd and finally 4th choice. You do not use or gain preference points in 2nd through 4th choice.
I’m going to use Unit 4 1st season as my example. It’s a high success, high pressure, good access, high demand hunt in relatively easy terrain. The hunt code for the either sex 1st rifle season tag is EE003O1R and includes units 3, 4, 5, 214, 301 and 441. As I mentioned in the last article, unit 4 is one of the few units in the state where over 1,000 elk are killed each year.
Now lets look at the preference point requirements for this hunt. The statistics are available here.
Looking at EE003O1R, you’ll see that it requires no preference points for residents and nonresidents to draw. However, that’s just a small part of the story. Now let’s look at the draw summary for this hunt. It says there were 1,075 tags in the original quota and the chance of drawing with your first choice says 49%. But that’s a combination of both residents and nonresidents, and residents receive 65% of the licenses. So now look at the license allocations. 699 licenses went to residents and 376 went to nonresidents out of 1358 resident applicants and 804 nonresident applicants. No tags were issued in 2nd, 3rd or 4th choices, as the quota was completely filled in 1st choice.
But figuring out YOUR draw odds as a 0 preference point resident or nonresident applicant is not as simple as dividing 699 by 1358 or 376 by 804. This does not factor the preference points of the other applicants in. You’ll need the hunt recap for this.
In the hunt recap, on the right hand side, you can see the preference point break down of the applicants. In 2010, there were 408 1 point resident applicants, 32 with 2 points, 12 with 3 points, 8 with 4 points, 2 with 5 points, 4 with 6 points, and 1 each with 7, 9, 10 and 15 points. All of those applicants would have been guaranteed the license, leaving just 225 licenses in the resident quota for 888 applicants with no points. Those tags are allocated randomly, so your 25% chance isn’t nearly as good as the published 49%, or the 51% if you divided the resident tag quota by the resident applicants (699/1358). For a nonresident with 0 points, your odds are even worse. Only 20 tags were left for 448 applicants with 0 points last year, leaving just a 4% chance of drawing. I’ve got to believe that this hunt will require a preference point to draw for nonresidents next year because there were more applicants who did not, than there were tags available.
In the hunt recap, you can also see the number of applicants who put in for this hunt with 2nd, 3rd and 4th choices. If you add those up, 739 people wasted an opportunity to draw a tag by using a 2nd choice on a tag with no chance to draw.
Well, whoopdidoo, now we know how to compute our actual draw odds. But what do we DO with this little bit of trivia? I’ll address draw strategies next time, including how to gain preference points and draw decent tags in the same year, how to not waste your application choices, when to utilize OTC tags, how to take advantage of the hybrid draw and other ways of making maximum use of the present system.