Missouri Offers Preference Points for Managed Deer Hunts

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Responding to hunters requests, the Missouri Department of Conservation is changing the way it runs the annual drawing for managed deer hunts to give preference to applicants whose names are not drawn.

Between July 1 and Aug. 15 each year, the Conservation Department takes applications for drawings to determine who will get to take part in more than 80 special hunts. The events, which take place from September though January, include archery, crossbow, muzzleloader and modern firearm deer hunts. Some hunts help managers of state parks and other areas achieve deer-management goals. Some allow managers to allocate limited hunting opportunities while ensuring safety.

In the past, every applicant had the same chance of being drawn every year they applied. This was fair in the sense that everyone had the same chance of being drawn. However, it was unfair in the sense that hunters who got to hunt one year had the same chance the next year as hunters who had never been drawn.

"Quite a few people told us they wanted a system that gave an advantage to hunters who were not drawn," said Wildlife Programs Supervisor Bill Heatherly. "We developed a new system of preference points in response to those requests."

Under the new "Weighted Random Drawing System," applicants will receive one preference point for the year of the drawing and one preference point for each year they apply and are not drawn. Hunters who are not drawn this year will have two preference points if they apply again in 2008. If they are unsuccessful again next year, they will have three preference points when they apply in 2009.

"Basically, having a preference point is like having your name put into a box with all the other applicants," said Heatherly. "A hunter who is unsuccessful four years in a row will have his or her name put in the box five times the next time he or she applies, providing a five times greater chance of being drawn than a hunter who was drawn the previous year."

Points remain valid even if hunters do not apply in some years. However, hunters who are drawn lose any accumulated preference points and start the next year with one point.

Heatherly pointed out that, while the Weighted Random Drawing System multiplies unsuccessful applicants' chances of success, the system is still random, so every hunter has a chance of being drawn each year they apply.

"Your buddy could get drawn two or three years in a row while you aren't," he said. "It's still the luck of the draw."

Hunters may only apply for one hunt each year. Because many more people apply for managed hunts than can be accommodated, the overall likelihood of any given hunter being drawn in a given year is small.

Hunters can shift the odds in their favor, however. Applicant success rates range from 3 percent for some hunts to 100 percent for others. To help hunters decide which hunts to apply for, the Conservation Department publishes applicant success rates for the previous year's drawings on its Web site, www.mdc.mo.gov/7454.