Sitka Mountain Gear
Young Hunter - Preference Point Help
Contributors to this thread:
ViperDerek 03-Mar-16
drycreek 03-Mar-16
sticksender 03-Mar-16
MathewsMan 03-Mar-16
tommygun 03-Mar-16
ViperDerek 03-Mar-16
sticksender 03-Mar-16
ViperDerek 03-Mar-16
Straight Shooter 03-Mar-16
sticksender 03-Mar-16
Bake 03-Mar-16
ViperDerek 03-Mar-16
drycreek 03-Mar-16
Turk 03-Mar-16
njbuck 04-Mar-16
ViperDerek 04-Mar-16
njbuck 04-Mar-16
Bake 04-Mar-16
MedicineMan 04-Mar-16
g5smoke21 04-Mar-16
TreeWalker 04-Mar-16
uteangler 05-Mar-16
MaBow 05-Mar-16
bowhunter57 05-Mar-16
MQQSE 06-Mar-16
ViperDerek 07-Mar-16
Zim1 19-Mar-16
JacobNisley 19-Mar-16
willliamtell 20-Mar-16
wytex 16-May-16
elkstabber 16-May-16
From: ViperDerek

Let me start by saying I am an avid young hunter (28 years old) from PA. I spend most of my time chasing whitetails in the fall and turkeys in the spring. I have been exploring my options and really would like to start looking into big game hunting in the Western part of the US. After hours of research, I have come to the conclusion that it can be pretty confusing! Being as I am young, I am looking for input as to what states I should start acquiring preference points in? I am more interested in states where just a preference point can be purchased. Being a young professional, I don’t have a lot of income to be tied up in licenses and waiting on refunds, etc.

My primary interests are Moose and Elk hunting.

At my age, what would you consider good states to put in for preference points for non-resident Moose? I have been thinking about starting to purchase non-resident Moose preference points in Wyoming. Are there any other states I should consider?

Any states I should accumulate preference points for Elk?

Are there any once in a lifetime preference points I should start accumulating? I would really like to do a Big horn sheep hunt at least once at some point.

In the meantime I think I am going to start going on OTC elk hunts every few years, in CO most likely. Just to get some experience out west and get the feel for things in the big mountains.

Any input as to where I could start accumulating points for the long run would be greatly appreciated!

From: drycreek
No help from me, because I'm just a voyeuer when it comes to elk hunting, but I think you have the right idea to start while you're young.

Well, I will offer one piece of advice. Don't discount a pronghorn hunt at this stage of your life. It's a good way to break the ice on western hunting. Good luck, and you have come to the right place. There are a lot of hard core elkers here that get it done year after year.

From: sticksender
So many factors make it difficult to advise without a little more info. Like how much are you willing to spend a year on points-building? Are you focused on trophy animals, or maybe you are a meat hunter? Will you be a DIY-only hunter or hire guides?

As far as spending, you can spend a little or a lot, and it's largely a judgement call, dependent on your goals. I can tell you from experience that it's fairly easy to spend 3-5k per year if you apply in almost every state for almost every species, then top it off with several raffle ticket purchases. Alternately, you can apply in just 2 or 3 states and spend only a few hundred per year.

If I was only interested in Elk, I'd probably build points in Colorado and hunt the lower-demand type units. Cost is under 100 per year. And also build points in Arizona and maybe hunt there every few years in the lower-demand units. Point cost is a little under 200 per year. And maybe add Wyoming if your budget allows. Point cost for WY elk is 50 per year. The other "trophy" states are NV and UT, which you can also consider if you want to spend another few hundred per year. They're both longshot draws for NR's, so participation depends on whether you're a gambler or not. NM also has good elk hunting, but no point system. There's also the option to forget points and just buy landowner tags, auction tags, outfitter-tags and etc. Much more predictable, but of course more costly too.

For Moose, there are no western states where you can be guaranteed to eventually draw Bull Moose by building points. Best odds are probably Wyoming, but still poor lifetime odds, especially for someone just starting out. Idaho has the best odds for NR Bull Moose, but no point system.

From: MathewsMan
If you are interested in hunting, and not focused on "trophy" horns or antlers as part of the hunt, your most reasonable way to ever do a Moose or Sheep hunt is if you hunt females- cows and ewes.

If that is not the case, good luck- Non-resident Sheep, Goat, and Moose anyplace is a long shot.

In Colorado, female tags could be a reality right away, most Cow Moose Non-resident licenses do not even get taken up, they go back into the Resident pool on Moose except for the small few that get applied for. You can draw this with No Preference Points normally. At the most a year or two and you will certainly draw.

Cost is an issue, lots of guys are not willing to pay the non-resident price for a Cow or Ewe which is why this is so attainable. Currently around $2900 for the tag.

Moose in Wyoming is currently going to cost you a lot of time unless you get very lucky, and some monetary outlay- you would be better served doing a DIY hunt for Moose in Alaska as long as that is still on the table in the next few years, they continue to examine guide requirements and there is a possibility that could change.

Idaho is one to examine closely.

From: tommygun
If your interested in hunting moose best way is go to Newfoundland. Probably best bang for your buck and if you factor in the time and $ building PP in the states, maybe cheaper. You'll get tons of info on here about NF moose hunting and outfitters. And buy PP in Wyoming. OTC elk hunts in Colorado. And yes... Get in a antalope hunt! Most states require no points and some good areas 1-2 to get you a great hunt

From: ViperDerek
I appreciate all of the insight so far!

Drycreek and tommygun– Pronghorn sounds like a great way to get my feet wet out west. I will certainly look into that over the next few years.

Sticksender – Good questions! I would love to experience some OTC type hunts that I could do every few years. In which case, these would be more DIY and more about the experience then the trophy. However, what I am really looking to do with the preference points is acquire points over time for more of a trophy type hunt. These hunts I would not be opposed to spend the extra money on a good outfitter. That’s part of the reason I want to start acquiring PP’s now, because it will give me years to save for the trip itself when the time does come to draw. As far as a yearly budget for PP’s, I would probably like to stay in the $200-400 range. That’s why I don’t like the idea of needing to pay for the license up front and waiting on a refund if not drawn. Also, I am kind of relying on the time it takes to build PP’s to save money for the trip. It is not something I would want to draw immediately. I am looking to go more the 2-3 states route. Any recommendations there?

MathewsMan – I am not afraid of the time it will take to draw the tag. Hopefully I am still in decent enough physical shape in 30+ years to be able to handle the terrain. How does Idaho’s PP system work? That is one state I haven’t looked at yet.

From: sticksender
Quote: "acquire points over time for more of a trophy type hunt.....stay in the $200-400 range.....I am looking to go more the 2-3 states route. Any recommendations there?"

Elk: Arizona, Utah, Wyoming

Quote: "Moose.....How does Idaho’s PP system work?"

Idaho Moose is a random draw with a NR cap at 10% of the quota. Annual cost to apply on-line is 226.89 non-refundable.

From: ViperDerek
Sticksender - I took a quick look at Arizona and Utah. Arizona appears to be a bonus point system. That essentially would mean I need to apply each year and have the chance to draw any given year, correct? I think I am looking for more of a preference point system where I can accumulate points and apply for a tag when I have money saved up and am ready for the hunt. Am I understanding that correctly?

For Utah, what is the cost each year for a preference point only? I was having a hard time finding that information. I was able to determine that just a preference point is able to be purchased each year.

Thanks again!

For Utah the cost of a pref. point is $10 bucks, keep in mind you have to buy a $65 dollar hunting license to apply. You should be looking at a couple other states as well, don't overlook NM there is no points just straight draw.

Good luck.


From: sticksender
PM sent

From: Bake
Do some research on Preference v. bonus systems. It's been explained way better than I can explain it.

But the short answer for AZ is No. You can apply for for just an AZ point and not be in the draw.

With your budget, I'm with Sticksender. . . ELK: WY, UT and AZ will take up most of your $400 budget.

WY--$50 point cost per year. Arizona--$160 license plus $15 point each year. UT--$65 license (good for two draw periods), plus $10 per point.

Nevada is a trophy state, but it's $160 or thereabouts for a license each year, and $10 or so for each point, and LONG odds

MT has long odds for sheep, moose and goat, and it will cost you around $200-250 non-refundable to apply there for those species (if I remember correctly)

In CO you can get points, but you do have to front the cow elk cost I believe (at least you did 3 or 4 years ago), just to get an elk point

Some of these states, if you're buying a license to get an elk point, you might as well spend another $10 or $15 per species and buy points for everything

Moose is a long-shot wherever. . . someone above mentioned WY moose, I've never gotten into that game as it is a preference system, and I'm not sure I could ever catch up to draw it. So I don't play the moose, sheep, goat game in WY. Just elk and pronghorn and mulie

Disclaimer. . . I'm not nearly the draw guru many other folks on this site are, and the above numbers are based on my faulty memory. . .


From: ViperDerek
Bake - Thanks for the information! That was very helpful.

Sticksender - This may sound like a ridiculous question, but how do I access my PM's? I'm extremely new to the site and can't find it anywhere.

From: drycreek
Viper, on the big game forum, just look to your right. PMs are there under My Private Messages.

From: Turk
I will tell you what I did and you can take from it for what you want. When I was working long hours at least 5 days a week with little vacation time, (and extra money) I knew that hunting was an important part of my life. I also knew that I wanted to hunt as many different animals as I possibly could. With that in mind and knowing that I would have little chance of drawing some tags for many years, I started building points. I figured that some day I would hopefully have more time and money. If not, well that was a chance that I was willing to take. I would recommend you buy at least a one year subscription to Huntin' fool. It will give you basic information for every western state. Its a good place to start. Start building points for anything that you may want to hunt (within your budget). Things will change, but you can always drop out, but you can't get points for years that you didn't apply.

From: njbuck
I am alittle older than you are, 35, and I started applying for a number of animals in a number of states about 7 years ago. With that said, I am happy I started for some and I am upset that I started with others. The problem in the majority of states is point creep where it takes additional points to draw the same tag each year. When this is the case, it is almost impossible to draw the tag. For example, when I started applying, in Wyoming it took 7-9 points to draw most moose tags. Now it takes 15-16 to draw the same ones. Not really knowing much in the beginning, I said ok, Ill put in for 7-8 years and will draw my tag. Fast forward 7 years and I am still 7 points or so away from drawing that tag, and in reality with point creep it will be much much longer than that.

Like you, I am also from the east coast and flying out to various states to scout is not really an option with running a business and having a young son. For that reason for me personally I will be using a guide for most of my hunts. With that mind set, if i were to start over, I would rather buy land owner tags or guaranteed tags and hunt the animal that I want when I want as opposed to playing a point game that I may or may not ever draw.

Some things for you to think about.

From: ViperDerek
njbuck - Thanks for the advice! You were in a very similar situation that I am currently in. I am glad you mentioned WY Moose, as that was one of the PP's I was going to begin purchasing. I will look into that a little more now. You mentioned being happy in starting on some. Do you mind saying which ones you are happy with 7 years later and why?

Turk - Thanks for mentioning Hunting Fool. I have looked at that before and will probably do that. Which species and states did you put in for over the years?

From: njbuck
Viper- My best advice is to sit down with a pad of paper and honestly think about the animals that you want to hunt and when you would like to hunt them. You also have to think about what is your priority, meaning, do you want an opportunity at an animal regardless of size or are you wanting to hunt top end trophy caliber animals? This will certainly factor into your draw strategy.

For me, my personal hunting goals are to hunt as many of the North American 29 as possible. With that said though I have no desire to shoot a small or immature animal just to say I shot one. I also do not really care when I hunt each specie as I am young and have lots of time. Luckily for me I have a great job so it will open up lots of potential hunting opportunities in the future which will allow me to not have to worry about drawing as many tags as others may need to. Each persons situation is different and you really need to figure out what is best for you.

That said, I am happy that I put in Wyoming Elk as I have hunted a ranch in Unit 7 and I will draw that tag next year. That particular tag though I do not know if you could ever draw it if you were just starting now. I also put in for Iowa whitetail and Colorado mule deer. With just a few points you can hunt some really good places in CO for mulies. I am in no mans land now for Wyoming Moose so I don't know if I will ever draw a tag but I'm in it far enough so to me it doesn't make sense to drop out now. I also put in for Arizona elk and mule deer and would have been able to draw the elk tag I was hoping for in the next year or two but with the new changes to the draw we will see what that happens.

From: Bake
I think you also have to sit down and figure what hunts you could foreseeably do in the future per your income or prospective income.

I personally will never plop down $65k +/- on a guaranteed desert sheep tag. Even if I were able to, other international species have a priority for me. So I put in for every desert sheep tag I can. At 34 years old, hopefully I can draw one in the next 30 years. I am currently in double digit points for desert sheep in some states

Same thing with bighorn sheep. . . .I put in for every one I can (except WY, as I don't feel I can ever catch up to draw), as other species have a priority for me over buying a guaranteed tag in Canada

Mountain Goat as well, even though a much cheaper hunt in Alaska or Canada then a sheep hunt, other species are more important to me, so I put in for points to be able to do DIY someday

As far as elk and mulie, I put in for some states for hard to draw tags, and in other states for easier to draw, but less trophy-type tags, or plan on doing OTC

For antelope, I'm just kinda banking points at this time. Don't really know what I want to do with some of them. I've got 8 or 9 AZ pronghorn points, and no plan at present to use them. Same in NV and WY, although have been thinking about WY lately

It's a fun game to get into, expensive at times, and frustrating most of the time, but I really do think it's important to sit down and figure out what you want, what you might want, and what you might be able to do in the future with or without points (i.e. guaranteed tags)

When I first started this game in my mid-20s, I thought I'd gather points for things like elk and do one guided hunt some day. Well, I went OTC in CO one year, and that changed my whole strategy. I'd like to draw every elk tag I can, and do it DIY. Some states I want to draw mid-range tags, others I'm saving for high end tags, others aren't worth it for me.

I've done the same with mulie strategy. I used to think I wanted to do an extreme high-country type mulie hunt. I've gotten fat, and now I want a easy terrain big bucks hunt :)

I don't regret starting points in any of the western states. Even though I don't even buy points in CO anymore for elk, I don't regret the fact that I have a few. Maybe I'll want to try a muzzleloader hunt some day, and need a couple points?

Have fun. It's addicting.

From: MedicineMan
Viper- I'm in the same boat as you are, age included. I just started really doing points this year for multiple states (started CO a few years ago) and am truly kicking myself for not applying for points during the years I was in school so I'd be closer to hunting now vs a few years down the road, but cant turn back time now!

Glad you put this on the forum for others to share their thoughts and wisdom on. It really has been helpful reading.

From: g5smoke21
Same group also...I'm 25. I have been applying for elk Lope and mule deerin WY but have decided that I will be heading to newfoundland in 2018 for moose and 2017 for mtn goats in BC. There is alot of people who have alot more points than myself and just don't want to wait till I'm to old to start harvesting more species. Just work hard and save your money the best you can (set up a hunt fund and place a set amount in each month) and most hunts can be found to be somewhat affordable. I'm blue collar and can do it so most can to. Also an understanding fiance helps.

From: TreeWalker
The bonus and preference points game is a racket. You will be a non-resident in 49 states. Most states allocate around 10% of big game tags to non-residents. Some more. Some less.

The underlying challenge for the states and us as non-residents is there are only so many premium tags (bull elk in rut, bighorn sheep, etc) which is never as many as the demand.

Most of the primo tags I try to draw are never better than 1:40 for deer, 1:80 for elk, 1:200 for bighorn, etc. Let that sink in. That means in each state I have around 1 in 40 chances to draw a deer tag and that means on average I will draw once in FORTY years. I do apply in around 14 states for deer so should draw a primo deer tag each 3 or 4 years. I got into the points game about 25 years ago so have benefited by being in some "Year 1 Max point pools" though that ship sailed unless ID or NM put a points racket in place.

Here is my appraisal of where can draw tags so can have a chance to draw a tag with plenty of OTC public land to chase a 80" pronghorn. 150" buck mulie or 300" bull elk.

You can draw a very nice pronghorn tag in WY every 3 to 5 years where will have lots of public land and some mature bucks that are pushing 80" which is very representative for a buck and as big as the largest bucks that some states produce. You could instead build points trying to draw the best 3-5 units in the state and be drawing for 25% of the NR tags in the random pool with 1:200 odds. The likelihood is you will not pull a random tag in a primo unit and you are 30 years from getting to max pool. A lot can happen in those years. Winter kills can reduce tags, laws can reduce tags, droughts can result in subpar horn or antler growth, fires can close a unit, family member gets sick, etc. I prefer to hunt more often than wait for decades for a dream hunt that might end up a nightmare. Hard to not be bitter if the dream goes badly.

You can build points in WY for deer and elk as well and eventually have a nice hunt at around 10 years though might be able to get a General tag as 2nd choice some years thus not lose your accumulated points. A lot of units in WY have 160 class mulies and 300 class elk.

You can build points in CO for pronghorn, deer, elk, moose, goat and sheep. You may never draw moose/goat/sheep and will be drawing dead until 4th year. Each 5-10 years can draw a decent deer or elk tag for a 150 class mulie or 280 class bull elk.

You might draw a moose tag in CO eventually. The points system there does not heavily reward the higher point holders. Lots of moose, sheep and goat tags go to folks with less than max points.

ID moose is around 1 in 12 for NR and is most likely you best odds for pulling a moose or goat or sheep tag in less than 20 years of applying in a state.

NM has some Barbary sheep hunts which is a way to hunt a "bighorn" substitute. I drew a public tag for Barbary in TX and got a representative buck free-range. Impressive, thick horns. Not a bighorn but has big horns and gives me something to look at as wait for the Tag Gods to reward me for my 250 unsuccessful applications for bighorn sheep over the years.

NV, UT, OR, WA and CA are tough draws. I think AZ is a tough draw as well though with 10 elk points could draw a nice archery unit. MT ends up being a general hunt since limited entry tags are difficult to draw and I prefer to avoid hunts with 50 or more hunters parked at the trailhead.

From: uteangler
These guys all have great info for you. My advice would be to begin NOW. Go hunt Antelope in August, somewhere, anywhere. In the meantime put in for as many draws as you possibly can, or begin saving for 1 of your dream hunts, but do it IMMEDIATELY. I am 35 and I wish I had begun alot sooner. You're right, looking over every different state and species can be confusing and overwhelming, but just jump in head first because the research is one of the funnest parts of the "off season" anyways. But please, get started NOW. Good luck!

From: MaBow
I would start applying in Maine and New Hampshire for moose.

From: bowhunter57
I would look at British Columbia for moose or Canada in general for ease of tags.

I started when I was 28 and am 45 now. I've drawn so many tags that it's silly. Start applying!

From: ViperDerek
I just wanted to thank everyone who has provided advice in this thread! It has been very beneficial and I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds!

From: Zim1
Viper, I have been in the points game over 20 years, when all the applications were paper snail mailed. Much better odds back then!!! I drew better tags in the 90's with 0-3 points than today with 15-20. These days I am at 40 total apps in 10 states. Plus some local deer & turkey draws within my state of Illinois. I've gotten to hunt some of the best units in the US, but so much has changed. My points have been cheapened by legislation in all but one state, New Hampshire. Nonresident quotas have lowered, outfitter welfare has increased, auction tags have increased, raffle tags have increased, landowner tags have increased. Fees have all increased. The state's have morphed their hunt lottery systems into marketing machines based on profiting from selling the opportunity to NOT hunt. Drawing the primo units just isn't in the picture for young guys today. They need to target 3-5 point mediocre units they can hunt repeatedly and gain knowledge in.

Newbies must be aware of the new SFW model for wildlife conservation that includes stealing the most premium tags from average Joe, funnel to the select few wealthy, while orgs responsible big dogs pocket hefty percentages for their own personal bank accounts. That did not exist 20 years ago when I was filling out my paper apps and drawing great tags. Now in places like Utah your draw odds for mediocre and piss poor tags are dismal, akin to Powerball! While SFW peddles 500 auction & raffle tags.

So you young guys should be aware of what you are buying into, and the state's ability to bait-n-switch the value of those points you buy. Don't for a minute think they won't be cheapened down the road because they most definitely will. Much of it as a result of SFW's nefarious model for our hunting future. Sucks but that is the reality, not just an opinion.

From: JacobNisley
I'm 22 now and am just starting with some basic antelope and muley points. I did a muley hunt in ND back when I was 19 and got skunked and did an otc pronghorn hunt in WY when I was 20 with 3 of my best friends and had the absolute time of my life. It wasn't a unit known for big bucks but we had buck and doe tags and there were pronghorn everywhere and we stalked and stalked and stalked and I ended up killing a doe on a stalk. Eastern whitetails haven't been quite the same since. So what I'm saying is do apply for points for the future, but get out West somewhere on a cheap otc hunt for pronghorn or mule deer (it cost me about $1000 with gas and everything). It's a totally awesome experience especially if you have good friends along.

From: willliamtell
I've been playing the points game for a few years and have observed some of the problems mentioned above (point creep, kings game) but also know that it is an investment in my future hunting.

If 200-400 is what you can afford, so be it. You should really try to build that nest egg so you can get as many applications in as many states as you can. As pointed out above, you would have to beat some really steep odds to draw top districts for moose and elk, so don't worry about putting in for states that don't let you go points only on the chance you'll draw - you won't. But 10 or so years of applying and a few hunts under your belt and you can start taking a serious look at some medium points districts.

Moose will likely always be a long shot. However, many states let you add species for a nominal fee once you have paid the for the out of state license. Given that moose are kind of the dummies of the animal kingdom, if you really want to nail a moose, seriously think about a booking a guided Newfie hunt as often you can afford one. Plus the animals are so damn big (they make an elk seem modest-sized) that the logistical help a guide provides can be invaluable in getting your meat home in good shape.

There is no substitute for time on the ground with elk hunting, so don't put off feeding your passion too long - go west young man and try a state like Wyoming with a couple of points.

From: wytex
Wyoming is a great state to start your points in. The moose hunting here is terrific no matter what everyone else thinks. Over half of our state is public land and no outfitters are needed for any hunting. We have been filling 3 large freezers for 29 years without the help of an outfitter. Wyoming also allows archery and rifle hunting on the same tag, provided it is not an archery only tag. This year a non resident was able to draw a primo moose tag without max points. We have reduced price doe/ fawn tags and cow elk tags that will help fill the freezer. If Colorado has so many more elk why do they all come up here to hunt- less pressure.Wyoming is a great state to hunt on your own. Buy some points and do some research on the Hunting Fool. Not everyone is a fan of the way they do business. Cabelas Tags is a good service. You can hunt Wyoming next year if you buy points this fall.

From: elkstabber
Wytex wasn't completely right when he said, "no outfitters are needed for any hunting".

Outfitters are required in WY when hunting in any wilderness area for any animal. WY is the only state in the nation with this requirement.

Otherwise WY is a great hunting state as wytex stated.

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