Hunters to Comment on Bonus Point Choices

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Meeting November 16-18 in Jerome, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission decided to offer hunters another opportunity to pick among bonus point alternatives.

Bonus point systems are used in some states as one way to alleviate hunters' criticisms of purely random selection in controlled hunt drawings. Details of the points systems vary widely but are intended to weight the selection process so that applicants who have entered drawings multiple times without being drawn may have an increased chance of success.

The Commission has discussed establishing a points system for nearly a year and the department has conducted surveys of Idaho hunter opinion. Brad Compton, state big game research manager, presented results of the surveys and told the Commission that results were fairly evenly split. He summarized the results as a tendency to favor the idea of a points system but "not a lot of willingness to pay for it."

The costs of keeping drawing records on Idaho hunters and administering a bonus points system are estimated at about $6 per application, which would be charged in addition to the present $6.25 application fee.

Compton suggested the Commission consider a staff idea that entails automatically giving unsuccessful applicants two chances in the next drawing for the same species. The plan would affect deer, elk, antelope and moose hunts. Successful applicants would have to wait two years before applying again instead of the current one year, a move that would reduce the pool of applicants. This method would cost the department little and would result in no additional fee.

Compton also showed that the method used in Nevada hunt drawings sometimes works the way hunters expect but does not in other instances, especially in highly-prized hunts with small numbers of tags available. The Nevada "squares" the chances for unsuccessful applicants in each successive drawing.

The Commission voted four to three to consider the approach suggested by Compton when it meets in January. No final vote could be taken in this meeting because it had not been placed on the public agenda as an action item.

Commissioners revisited the matter on the last day of the meeting and decided to ask hunters to choose between three alternatives: leave the Idaho system as it is, approve the staff suggestion, or move to a new system similar to Nevada's.

The Commission asked the department's wildlife bureau to devise a survey of hunters that will produce results before the January meeting.