Utah Big Game Draw Process and Strategy

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So the Utah big game draw process is like the Plymouth Prowler.  It was dreamed up by some mad scientist in a lab, might actually be a good car but, nobody really knew what to make of it.  That’s the Frankenstein that is Utah’s big game draw process.  Utah has a very aggressive approach making the process as equitable as possible.  While they do have preference points (called bonus points) they also only allow you to draw one big game species a year as well as have wait periods after successful draws.

The basics – of the Utah big game draw process (get big game draw deadlines HERE)

While your individual species are tracked for preference point purposes you’re only able to draw one premier (limited-entry, etc…) big game animal each year.  While you can apply for multiple species, success for one species could effect you being considered in another species.  Once you are selected for specific hunts you are out of the ‘hunt’ for the others.  While that seems extreme, if you really are building a multi-state strategy for getting good big game hunts, you likely are not drawing more than one hunt in any one state each year.

Bonus Points

Utah calls it’s preference points ‘bonus points’.  They act as true preference points and not like the bonus points in Arizona, for example.  Utah’s bonus points work by awarding tags to the applicants with the most accrued bonus points and working down to applications with less bonus points until all tags are gone for a given hunt.  Using the correct species and hunt-type code, you can choose to purchase bonus points which is critical if you are interested in drawing a specific species later.

If you’re a nonresident, you may apply for permits or bonus points for all limited-entry and once-in-a-lifetime species. However, you may not apply for a permit and a bonus point for the same species.  This means you are either building points or trying to draw, so be careful.

the Draw Sequence is critical in Utah’s big game draw process

Each hunt type is drawn at a specific time in relation to the other hunts.  This means the entire draw takes place in a specific order.  Which allows Utah to no longer consider your application for subsequent draws (even of differing species) if you are drawn for some(italic) hunts higher on the list.  The draw order is below.

Drawing Order:

1 – Buck Deer

  • multi-season premium limited-entryantelope european ready
  • premium limited-entry
  • mulit-season limited entry
  • limited-entry
  • management buck deer
  • cactus buck (early season buck with at least 50% of antler in the velvet)
  • CWMU and handgun-archery-muzzleloader-shotgun-only hunts2)

2 – Bull Elk

  • multi-season limited-entry
  • limited-entry
  • CWMU hunts (resident only)

3 – Buck Pronghorn

  • limited-entry
  • CWMU hunts (resident only)

4 – Once-in-a-lifetime (if you draw any above you will be excluded from drawing in this hunt)

  • Bull Moose
  • Bison
  • Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
  • Desert big horn sheep
  • Mountain goat

5 – General Buck deer (Lifetime License Holders*)

  • Archery buck deer
  • Any legal weapon buck deer
  • Muzzleloader buck deer

6 – General Buck deer (Dedicated Hunters**)

  • Archery buck deer
  • Any legal weapon buck deer
  • Muzzleloader buck deer

7 – General Buck Deer (Youth – 20% of tags)

  • Archery buck deer
  • Any legal weapon buck deer
  • Muzzleloader buck deer

8 – General Buck Deer

  • Archery buck deer
  • Any legal weapon buck deer
  • Muzzleloader buck deer

You can only draw 1 of the top 4 hunts (Buck Deer, Bull Elk, Buck Pronghorn or Once-in-a-lifetime).  If you draw one of the first four hunts, you will still be able to drawn for a General Buck Deer tag (one of the remaining 4 pools) as long as one of the hunts you drew was not Buck Deer.  In short you can only draw one of each species.

Waiting periods

All of the premier hunts (non-General Buck Deer) have a wait period after each successful draw.  This means you must wait for the specified period before applying again for these species.  Once-in-a-lifetime hunts you may only draw (each species) once.

  • Buck Deer – 5 years
  • Bull elk – 5 years
  • Buck pronghorn – 2 years

Strategy – for Utah’s big game draw process

While the strategy for Utah is relatively straight forward.  The execution is where it becomes tricky.  Generally, you should start by finding the hunts you’re interested in and building a list of hunts you want to draw.  Then, you create time-frames based on the Draw odds. In Utah you’re either actively trying to draw a hunt or purchasing a bonus point.   Meaning you might as well just purchase a bonus point if your goal is to accrue points as you don’t have multiple hunt options where you can draw a hunt like a latter choice and still gain a bonus point.  Like some other states. Because of the way Utah’s draw works, it’s more important you don’t make a dumb mistake than it is that you do anything fancy.  The biggest risk in ruining your strategy to build bonus points, is making a mistake that could clear out your bonus points.  For Example:

  • If you draw a General-season deer permit, you’ll lose the bonus points you may have been accruing.
  • If you purchase a General-season buck deer tag that remained after a drawing, you’ll lose any preference points you have for general-season buck deer.
  • If you obtain an antlerless permit that remains available after the drawing, you’ll lose any preference points that you’ve accrued for that species.

Other Important Information

*Lifetime License Holders: If you are a lifetime License hunter you have been around for a while. Lifetime licenses have not been sold since 1994.

**Dedicated Hunter Program: The dedicated hunter program is an application program where you gain additional preference points as long as you abide by its stipulations. Check out Utah’s Division of Wildlife run down because there is quite a laundry list of requirements.

Utah’s Big Game guidebook

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