Leftover Licenses

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Now that most of the big game drawings are completed throughout the West, leftover license lists are also starting to pop up.  While it should be obvious that not all tags are created equally, people will frequently buy a license without doing sufficient research.  Others routinely turn their noses up at leftovers, thinking they are all poor quality licenses.  They certainly aren’t all created equally, but it would be a mistake to those looking to maximize their opportunities to outright dismiss all leftovers or to think they are all useful to the public land, DIY hunter.

As with all licenses, the two main factors that play a role in license availability are supply and demand.  There isn’t always something wrong with a license in order for it to be a leftover.  In highly populated units, the game departments can issue a lot of licenses.  And since they respond to yearly changes in the populations, and the quotas are usually set after the application deadlines, it’s not at all unusual for spiking populations to have a lot of leftover tags.

Far more dangerous to those who don’t do enough research are the licenses that are available in areas of limited public land.   There generally isn’t much demand for licenses in areas without good public land access.  Conversely, there is often too much demand for licenses with mediocre populations, but excellent public land access.  A good trick here is in finding licenses with just enough public land to discourage the poorly prepared hunter, but enough for you to hunt  (when well armed with maps).   Even better are areas with a sudden increase in licenses due to a booming population, but chances are if it was a really good unit to begin with, there still shouldn’t be leftovers.

Wyoming puts little asterisks alongside unit numbers that have what they consider to be poor public land access.  I’m not entirely certain what exactly the criteria are to meet that designation.   My group routinely hunts one of these units on a combination of leftover and draw tags.  And while there isn’t a lot of public land available outside of the Hunter Management and Walk In Areas, there is still enough, even if we didn’t have access to those private lands.    In the areas of sparse public land, we NEVER encounter other hunters.  I’m fairly certain that a large percentage of hunters are neither competent nor confident enough with a BLM map to attempt to hunt these scattered public lands. 

My favorite little honey hole in Wyoming is literally right off the highway and the first piece of public land that you come to.  It’s neither marked as public or private.  It’s only a square mile and there’s no fence separating the private land, but it always has antelope on it.  The only fence is alongside the highway.  When we first hunted this unit, I was watching mile markers and landmarks as we approached it, and refused to believe that the first piece we had targeted had nearly 75 antelope on it.  So, we drove back to a landmark on the map and retraced our steps, just to make sure.  My point here is, if you know what you’re doing with a map, you can access all sorts of scattered lands in under hunted areas.  This unit always has leftovers for the type 7 season, which starts one week after the type 6 season and runs the whole month of October.   And there’s another reason it’s a leftover…it’s because the opener is a week later, and everyone wants to hunt that first weekend.  I guess if we were trophy hunting, we might want that first weekend, but we usually only shoot does.

While it should be obvious that you need to do your homework before buying a license, many people do nothing of the sort.  I’m going to help you go through a few thought processes on some of the available leftover licenses that are available throughout the West.  Just taking a quick glance at the Colorado leftover lists, you’ve got a great selection of 4th season rifle bull or either sex tags, but a poor selection of 1st season tags.  There’s always a good selection of cow tags, and continuing a trend of the last several years, the deer tag leftovers are pretty thin.   We’ll see about Wyoming by the end of the month, and I’ll go over mostly the deer and antelope options.  In New Mexico, there are usually a few deer tags available and I’ll take a look at those too.  After those, I’ll take a look at some of the other western states and see if there’s anything else worth considering outside of the usual OTC options.

As we go over the leftover options, I’ll go into whether or not there are access issues either due to landownership, roads (or lack thereof) or even inappropriate habitat.  Then we’ll delve into some of the population and harvest data and why or why not you might want to consider the tag.  


hunter25's picture

Waiting for the leftover tags

Waiting for the leftover tags to come out is something I have been doing every year for most of my hunting life. Fortunately it has always been for doe tags with only one exception and that was for a second buck antelope license in Wyoming. I have always been fortunate to draw my antlered tags in the area I desired and only use the leftover tags to get extras for more hunting. Using this approach we have all had 2 deer tags here in Colrado every year they have been available. We have also had up to 4 doe antelope tags each in Wyoming as well. The biggest thing here is like the article says in doing your homework. The firat year we went to Wyoming with blm maps in hand we found out it was part of a hunter management area and most of the blm itself was off limits until we had gotten the proper permission slip. We did get one but lost a day in driving back to town and the game and fish office.

The great thing is these tags are cheap and a great way to extend yuor hunt with some great meat after your bucks tags are all filled.

GooseHunter Jr's picture

I am patiently waiting for

I am patiently waiting for the list to come out for Colorado.  I just wish they did not wait so long to release the list....releasing the list in August does not give you a whole lot of time to make some plans if neccasary.  I was gonna look for a leftover archery season tag, but I think I will go with a OTC as I can start some scouting this coming weekend.  Do not wanna wait til August to scout and I also do not want to scout an area that may or may not have any tags leftover.

niceshot_smitty's picture

we are still a couple months

we are still a couple months from knowing if there will be any left over tags in New Mexico.  they wait tell the last second and don't give you anytime to do research.  i bought my wife a left over tag last year for bow in unit 17 for deer and went in there blind.  luckly we saw deer opening morning, but couldn't get close for a shot.  New Mexico use to be over the counter for tags but about 10 years ago that all changed and your hunting season is in the hands of the state.  Which is good for some units but others, we are starting to see more deer car wrecks.