Bonus Points Run Aground

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A system of "bonus points" for controlled hunt drawings has run aground.

Based on requests from hunters, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission earlier this year asked the Department of Fish and Game to put together a proposal for a system that would assign points to hunters who enter controlled hunt drawings.

Fish and Game took public comments, surveyed hunters, and submitted a proposal for a "bonus point" system for deer, elk, and pronghorn hunts. Hunters who persistently enter the drawings, would accumulate points over ensuing years, eventually increasing their odds of drawing a tag. The proposed system was similar to the one Nevada uses.

Under the "bonus point" system:

* A person who applies for a hunt but is not drawn would get a point for the next year's drawing for that species.

* Every hunter's point total is squared each year before the drawing, and each hunter gets one additional point added for the current year's application. Thus, in the first year hunters apply, they have 0 points and get 1 point for the application. In year two, all hunters have 1 point squared plus 1 point = 2 points. In year three, hunters have 2 points squared plus 1 point = 5 points. In year four, 3 points squared plus 1 point = 10 points. In year five, 4 points squared plus 1 point = 17 points. Each year, the hunters add another point to the total that is squared.

* Persistence is rewarded by increasing the number of points in the drawing over time, but it never guarantees a tag.

* A hunter may apply points accumulated in a hard-to-draw hunt to an easier-to- draw hunt for the same species.

* Once a hunter draws on a species, all points are erased and the hunter starts over.

* Successful applicants for antlered hunts would not be eligible for a permit for that species the following year, but they could apply for a "point only" hunt with no permits for that species.

* No points could be bought or transferred.

The Commission, committed to funding new programs without affecting others, proposed legislation that would allow Fish and Game to raise controlled hunt application fees to pay for the bonus point program. The enabling legislation passed the House but failed in the Senate.

No bonus point system will take effect in this year's draw. "If sportsmen want a bonus point system in the future, they will need to make their case to both the Commission and the Legislature," Fish and Game Director Steve Huffaker said.

Early projections estimated the additional cost per application to be $5. Later estimates presented to the commissioners put the additional cost to hunters at $2.35 to $4.05 more per application. The total cost was estimated at about $210,000 annually plus $99,000 in one-time startup costs spread over three years.

The most recent estimate would include overhead - about 18 percent of the cost - raising the cost to $247,800. The cost to hunters would be $2.70 per application.