Arizona Offers Winter Draw for Elk and Antelope

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The Arizona Game and Fish Commission adopted its 2007 antelope and elk hunting regulations on Dec. 9 to launch a newly-created winter draw process.

This is the first year of having a winter draw for elk and antelope. The idea of the earlier-than-usual antelope and elk draw is to let hunters know early enough whether they have been drawn for these two popular big game animals, prior to their applying for fall deer, turkey, javelina, bear and buffalo hunts during the traditional application process in the spring.

Hunters should keep in mind that the antelope and elk regulations will be posted on the department's Web site at azgfd.gov by around Dec. 20, so you can start applying during the holiday season. The printed regulations will be available at hunting license dealers in early January.

The deadline to submit an application is 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of February, which is Feb. 13. Postmarks don't count. The grace period for the winter draw will end at 5 p.m. on Jan. 19. During the grace period, if a paper hunt-permit tag application that is manually submitted contains an error, then the department will make three attempts within a 24-hour period to notify the applicant by telephone (if a phone number is provided).

Don't forget the hunt-tag fees have increased for 2007. You can find the new fee information in the winter publication for antelope and elk or in the 2006-2007 Arizona Hunting and Trapping Regulations – new 2007 fees table (pages 9 and 10).

During the adoption process, the commission tweaked the elk permit allocation process to make it more equitable. In the past, the allocation pie – the formula for determining the distribution of permits among general firearms, muzzleloader, and archery hunters – has focused on application pressure and hunt success primarily for bulls to allocate the available harvest.

Arizona Game and Fish Department Game Branch Chief Leonard Ordway told the commission that over the years, this permit-allocation process has resulted in an inequity, where those applying for archery permits for antlerless elk have been able to obtain a disproportionately high percentage of the available permits compared to general antlerless season applicants.

Ordway explained the original formula for distributing the permits developed in 1986 was based on the assumption that hunters desired bull elk tags, so the formula grouped bull and antlerless elk hunters together. "Over the ensuing years, we have seen a demand develop where hunters are consistently putting in for cow elk as their first and second choices. When you compare the draw harvest allocation, preference for permits and success rates of archery versus rifle for those tags, an archery hunter had a disproportionate chance of being drawn as compared to a general season applicant," Ordway told the commission.

The commission agreed the inequity that has existed should be eliminated and adopted the department's recommended allocation of elk permits separating and managing the bull elk allocation away from the antlerless allocation.

General season permits are 15,310, an increase of 615 permits from last year. Junior antlerless elk hunts are increased by 40 to 1,185 permits. Archery elk permits were decreased by 1,375 (primarily due to an adjustment in antlerless permit allocation and an overall decrease in antlerless harvest across the state) to 4,864.

For those getting new calendars for 2007, you might want to mark the second Tuesdays of February, June and October: These are the deadlines for the winter draw, the fall draw, and the spring draw.

But don't expect to have hunt-set meetings in January as in years past. The commission is now setting the hunt guidelines on a two-year basis. The guidelines for 2008-09 will come before the commission during its August meeting, and the public process for developing them will occur in early summer 2007.