“Did you apply for an elk license this year?” I asked my friend who repeatedly wanted to hunt Wyoming backcountry elk. “I forgot,” was his glum response knowing that the nonresident deadline had passed and he would have to wait another long year to put his name in the hat for a chance at a premier elk hunting license.
The days of over-the-counter deer licenses that are as easy to purchase as a Reese’s candy bar are coming to an end. Most states are transitioning to nearly all draw licenses for big game to help manage or even micromanage populations in specific units. From whitetails to bighorn sheep, you need to apply to play the game and missing a deadline keeps you on the sidelines for an entire year. Even if you apply you may not be on the starting roster due to your fumbling of preference and bonus points that increase your odds of landing a winning tag.
I get it and you get it. We are all busy. Sure, the pandemic may have kept you at home, but for the average wage earner, life has few yield signs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the average adult is still working approximately 40 hours per week, especially those in the 25-54 crowd, but we all know that does not reflect actual reality. Entrepreneurs, small business owners, managers and the likes are as married to their professions as they are to a spouse. And if you and your spouse have children, pets, or land, they all require babysitting after the closed sign goes up at the business. Those kids are not going to drive themselves to soccer practice by themselves.
A busy life requires organization. To ensure you never miss a bucket list hunt requiring the drawing of a premium license, you need a plan. There are two options. First, you can go the DIY route and coordinate your license applications yourself. Expect less sleep, but you will save money and understand the various state licensing systems better than you understand your DVR. Next, your can hire professionals to manage your licenses. Here are the breakdowns.
DIY LICENSE APPLICATION
It is already established you have limited time in your busy lifestyle to put towards research and license application chores. If you plan to do it all, you need to decide how many states and species you plan on applying for in license lotteries. Take elk hunting as an example. You probably are looking at elk-hunting opportunities beyond your state borders and if you live in a state without elk, you are perusing options across the country.
As it stands today, you can hunt from coast to coast as elk restoration efforts succeed along the East Coast. That equals applying for elk hunting opportunities in approximately a dozen popular elk hunting states including eastern favorites like Pennsylvania or Kentucky. If you wish to add whitetail deer, mule deer, pronghorn, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and other species, you have your work cut out for you.
Here is the math. To research species, units and the application process, plan on at least three hours per state. Honestly, you will spend more time than that unless you have a friend in those states willing to share information on top units per species. The guestimate time is just for research and learning. After the schoolwork, you must wade through the process and expect to add another hour depending again on how many species you plan to apply for each year. Take that amount of time and multiply it by the number of states you have decided to apply in. That gives you the estimated hours you will need to accomplish the licensing portion for your future chance at a bucket list hunt. Every year you will need to set aside that amount of time.
There is another headache once you have decided to apportion part of your spare time to applying for great hunts. You need to hit deadlines. It is possible to do many species per state all at one sitting, but you will need to set calendar alarms to notify you of upcoming deadlines as application deadlines vary widely. Wyoming has a nonresident deadline in January and many states wrap up applications before the spring equinox.
Finally, the last bit of worrisome news is that you need to finance all your applications personally. Some states require you to purchase a general hunting license to apply and others make you pay up front for a license you have not even drawn yet. Preference and bonus points also cost you extra. Fortunately, the trend is for states to take your credit card information and only charge you if your name is drawn from the hat on a big-ticket license.
There is some good news. As you become familiar with the application system of each state the process becomes simpler year after year. Nevertheless, the beginning learning curve could have you jumping ship by the end of the first state application process.
OUTSIDE APPLICATION ASSISTANCE
Like all problems that come up in life, from legal battles to financial bungles, there is help available for a cost. Application help is available if you have a savings account dedicated to hunting. Yes, there is more math for you to consider. According to the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the national median family income for the United States for FY 2021 is $79,900. With inflation growing faster than a spring dandelion, not to mention your mortgage, vehicle payment, college funds and your retirement, you need to squeeze your application assistance from an already stressed bank account.
For those of you still reading after a mental financial review, consider professional application services, like Worldwide Trophy Adventures. Other consultants and booking services provide similar assistance in this pay-for-application atmosphere. What can you expect for your payment? Consultants advise you for free on the best units for trophies, the best units for license draws and the process to build bonus points toward your goals. You just pay the state application fee, tag processing fee and any required state hunting license, or stamps. Some businesses, like WTA, float your license fee while others ask for your credit card information.
If you draw the license, the services do not end there. Most consultants can team you up with a qualified outfitter, recommend drop-camp options and answer questions about particular units, even suggest DIY options. As you form a relationship with an application service, the annual allotment of time also decreases just as it does if you do it yourself. Your consultant understands your objectives and keeps on track to apply for the units to meet your lifetime hunting goals.
If all this sounds expensive, just remember the commonsense phrase that “time is money.” I have teamed with Worldwide Trophy Adventures for more than a decade. Sure, it costs me a portion of my hunting funds every year, but it is paying off as my preference points accrue for quality hunts. I even set my son up with an account as soon as he started hunting. He is in the service now, but he is building points for some great future hunts when he decides to cash in on options for elk, sheep, moose and mule deer. Think about jumpstarting your kids’ hunting future as well with a consultant of your DIY preference point initiative.
The New Year is upon you. You cannot put applications aside until summer or you will miss many state deadlines for premier hunts. Plan now. Do not procrastinate. Your road to more than one hunt of a lifetime starts now. Good luck.