understand the Arizona big game draw process

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It’s important to know the Arizona big game draw process if you’re going to strategize properly

Arizona conducts their draw process uniquely.  ‘Bonus points’ are what Arizona uses to reward habitual applications.  These are different from the ‘preference points’ many other states like Colorado use.  While ‘bonus points’ do help your draw odds they don’t work the same as other point systems. Arizona’s big game draw process actually proves to be the most frustrating if you’re trying to gain an advantage.  They must be doing something right…

Draw Process – get draw deadlines HERE

You must first understand how Arizona chooses draw winners.  Arizona randomly generates a number for each applicant once they apply.  This number dictates the order in which the tags will be filled for each draw.  Thus, the lower number you draw the better your chances of drawing are.

Bonus Points and the Arizona big game draw process

Bonus points allow more chances to get a randomly generated number, thus increasing your odds of getting a low number.  Arizona did this process to accomplish two things:

First, unlike preference points, no matter how long you’ve been applying you still have a chance of drawing even if it’s slim.  This isn’t always the case in some states that use preference points.  In some states you have to apply for 15 years before you have a chance of drawing for some hunts. And that’s if the preference point rates don’t increase over time (as they do).  Second, this system still rewards applicants positively who haven’t drawn recently with increased odds from the bonus point system.  You can also get a permanent bonus point if you take the Arizona’s Hunter Education Course.  This bonus point will be with you forever and will never re-set if you successfully draw. Road trip for a permanent preference point anyone?

Lastly, you gain a loyalty point if you apply for the same species for 5 years in a row.  This point will disappear if in any year you fail to apply (thus making it not 5 consecutive years).  You need to purchase a license to enter the draw but this fee will be returned if you aren’t successful.  If you choose to purchase a bonus point, the only the cost is the license fee plus a $15 bonus point fee.  It’s slightly less for residents.

The downside of this system is that it’s difficult to war game your draw strategy because of the true random number generation.  In contrast to preference points, where you know exactly where you will fall in the draw.  Pass two and three are still a true random draw in which even if you have a lot of bonus points you could still just be unlucky.  While I tend to dislike this system it actually seems the fairest of any states system.

Arizona countryside big gameFirst Pass

This is the first pass of the draw.  20% of the available tags will go to applications with the most bonus points.  This means the draw will take each application(s) with the most bonus points; group them by number of bonus points, then assign a random number to each application with that number of bonus points.  The application with the lowest random number’s are then evaluated.  They will start with that applications first choice and if it’s available that applicant will be drawn for that hunt.  If not, they will move to that applicant’s second choice.  This process continues until 20% of the tags are drawn.

Second Pass

The second pass is more of a true random draw.  This (middle) 60% will evaluate each applicant’s randomly generated number and any additional random numbers that applicant has based on their preference points.  For example, if an applicant has 4 preference points, they’ll be given 5 randomly generated numbers.  One number for their application, and four more for each bonus point.

Third pass

This pass works similarly to the second.  Instead it looks at the remaining tags 3rd, 4th and 5th choices and fills them according to that tags (or that tag’s bonus point) low randomly generated number.  As you can see this process is the most difficult to devise a strategy for.  It truly does allow for new applicants to draw while rewarding habitual applicants with better but not guaranteed odds.

This process is the same for resident and non-resident except there is a non-resident threshold.  No more than 10% of drawn tags for each hunt can be non-resident hunters (but can be less than 10% depending on demand – usually not an issue).   This applies to all hunts except for big horn sheep and bison which only 10% of the species can go to non-residents (as apposed to each hunt).

Strategy for the Arizona big game draw process

One of the most important things to consider when strategizing for the Arizona draw is knowing how to rank your hunts.  Knowing that they look at your first and second choices in the first two passes and your 3rd – 5th choices in the last pass is critical.  Based on the draw odds, there’s no reason to place highly sought-after hunts in your bottom three choices.  This is because, even if your application is drawn in the third pass, the low odd hunts are likely already be filled.  Similarly, you can strategize your first two choices to be more ambitious because your application will still be considered in the 3rd pass.  The best way to approach this draw is to have your first choice hunts (1st and 2nd) and your second choice hunts (3rd-5th).

Arizona is a great state to add to your big game hunting strategy.  Although Arizona’s big game draw process and their use of bonus points makes it hard to game, they have some of the best trophy hunting areas in the world.

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