Controlled hunt drawing entry period closes soon

For hunters seeking a Washington big game controlled hunt permit eleven days remain in which to act.

Internet or telephone applications must be submitted before midnight Wednesday, May 20, and there can be for first timers a lot of work to do before then.

This is the sixth year of Washington’s expanded limited-entry hunt system that offers 28 categories of fall permit drawing pools into which hunters may toss their hats. Would-be entrants may apply for as many different drawings as their pocket-book, licensing, age and/or training qualify them for.

Depending on per-requisite qualifications, among this range of special hunt groups are eight focusing on deer, seven for elk, six for moose, five for bighorn sheep together with one each for mountain goat and fall turkeys. Within each species options are drawing categories reserved for master hunters, seniors, youth and disabled persons.

In each pool or category managers have arrayed scores of numbered hunt unit opportunities (either existing GMUs, elk or deer areas that are composites of portions of GMUs or combined GMUs or special hunt areas such as ones for mountain goat or bighorn sheep) that are specially intended to focus very limited hunting effort on specific populations of animals.

Some hunts have just one or two permits up for grabs while others have scores and hundreds that are awarded.

Besides the aforementioned participant classes, special hunt drawings also can and do carry weaponry limitations, that is to say, a specific hunt or hunts may only be open to tag holders of either the archery-, muzzleloader- or modern rifle persuasion, but not all.

Fall/winter cougar hunts no longer are controlled and the drawing for spring black bear and the multi-seasons hunt permits has come and gone. Fall wild turkey hunters do have limited entry permit options available.

If a crowded schedule denies you the opportunity to take a special hunt this fall, there’s still a valid reason to send in an application this time around.

By filling in a specific ‘ghost’ number for a hunt that you may view for next year or further out, but not now, you won’t be drawn this year but will improve your odds in out-year lotteries for being drawn for the exact species hunt you want.

Unless you’re a controlled hunt drawn veteran, one thing that’s not good to do is put off to the last minute do all the home work required in making a number of choices and them filing separate applications for each.

Another practical reason for not waiting to the eleventh hour is that there’s usually a rush of procrastinators who clog the state system’s telephone and Internet application portals. That can deny hunters access to actually making last minute submittals.

The benefit from doing all the paper and electronic work that goes into filing a special permit drawing application is that the $7.10 regular and $13.70 ‘quality’ e-application fees derived from this effort go into the department’s Private Lands Access Program. That money is used to cooperatively open more fee-title (private) land to the public for hunting.

Out of the blocks

The first step for all special permit seekers regardless of their familiarity with past year’s opportunities is to get a copy of the 2015 Washington Big Game Hunting Seasons and Regulations pamphlet. It, with all essential information such as hunt choice numbers, can be had at any fishing and hunting license dealer or an e-version is available to view at or download from the department’s Web portal: wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.

Most would-be applicants then also need to immediately buy their hunting license before going proceeding.

However, applicants for bighorn sheep, moose or mountain goat drawings need not heed this step. Because there are so few of these tags and they cost more, entrants in those drawings may wait until the drawing results are out to commit to buying a license for their newly won permit.

Also, if successful youth permit applicants reach age 16 before getting a license and transport tag, they must pay the full adult rate to redeem their permit.

Another key advanced requirement for deer and elk hunt applicants is to make sure to coordinate their transport tag choice with the weapon mandated for their targeted special hunt.

Look to page 14 in this year’s big game hunting pamphlet where a complete list of special hunt drawing categories by species is found. It includes all available choice categories or drawing pools plus qualifications, if any, which would-be applicants must meet.

Consult each big species’ section of the pamphlet for the lists of hunts offered in each special permit category and by weapons choice. You’ll also find the rendering of the odds of being drawn and the average number of preference points required to make the cut.

Details matter

Knowing the boundaries of a special hunt area is an essential element to making sure where you want to hunt is where your permit says you may. This especially goes for locales where the majority of land is privately owned and you must have permission to enter.

It’s strongly suggested that deer, elk, moose and turkey permit applicants look closely at how much privately owned land there is in each special hunt unit or area. If a would-be entrant doesn’t have prior permission to go onto private property that may dominate a hunt area, holding a special permit for that area may be of little to no value.

Every game management unit or special hunt area that is actively hunted or explicitly closed by order is described in writing toward the back of the big game pamphlet starting on page 100. DeLorme’s Atlases, other gazetteer type reference maps folios and U.S. Geological Survey topographical maps will help applicants zero in on special hunt area boundaries and provide indications of land ownership.

When you’ve decided on the permit hunts for which you want to vie, you can then buy the appropriate e-application for each drawing you wish to enter. The application selection includes those for individual or ‘single’ hunters, ‘quality’ type hunt permits or group or partnership hunts.

Those purchases can be done on-line, by telephone or over the counter at any fishing and hunting license dealer (see column two on page 12 of the regulations).

Improve your odds later

As mentioned, if a limited-entry hunt this fall in Washington is not in the cards, it’s worthwhile to take the time to file a ‘deliberately non-selectable’ application for one or more hunts or species you’re interested in.

Washington’s controlled hunt drawings like those in many other states are governed by a favor-weighted selection process designed to improve the odds for applicants who in previous years were not selected. Every year they are not drawn, while in active contention in a specific hunt pool, hunters earn so-called preference points.

Persons deliberately applying with a so-called ‘ghost’ or point option choice hunt number are removed from contention, but in submitting such, they accrue a preference point to add to their total for that specific drawing category.

You’ll find ghost hunt choice numbers on page 13. When those drawings occur, similar non-selectable applications can be made in future years for multi-season permits for deer and elk as well as spring black bear drawings.

Tossing your hats

All drawing entries must be filed either via a special toll-free telephone number 1-(877) 945-3492 or on-line at wdfw.wa.gov/hunting.

Prepping for the call or on-line interactions is key to ensuring you get your name in the correct cyber hopper(s) for the permit(s) you’re seeking.

The references on page 12-13 tell you exactly what information you’ll need. A worksheet for setting up to make multiple applications is included in the pamphlet on page 15.

Make sure you explicitly follow the additional steps required of leaders and members in the ‘party’ or group option, as well.

A final critical step that will ensure, you’re in contention, whether you apply individually or in a hunting group, is to be sure to write down the confirmation number at the end of each application transaction you make.

If you do not get confirmation numbers for each submittal it means they didn’t go through and you must call a special telephone number, 360 902-2464, to get the matter corrected.

Finding out

Applicants must log on to the fish and wildlife department Web portal at the end of June to find out whether or not they were successful.

Your last name, WILD number and date of birth are required to make this cyber inquiry.

Those drawn will receive their special permit or permits in the mail by the middle of July.

In most cases, hunters will be allowed if they draw two permits for a species in two different categories to hunt on both permits. But they must stop once they harvest their animal unless the other permit is good for a ‘second animal’ (mainly for deer).

As mentioned, there is a grace period for claiming specialty permits for which you have been selected. Upon its expiration, unclaimed permits will be offered to alternates.