I love a raffle. Hope is a wonderful and nearly irrepressible emotion. Anticipation is a close second.
Folks who don't hunt out West may not realize it, but most of us who chase deer, elk, or antelope have to do our planning half a year ahead, even if we live within a few miles of our quarry. I'm not even talking about oh-so-valuable scouting and general familiarity with terrain or game.
No, the reason for such early planning is because almost all big game hunting in most of the western states is limited as to the number of permits available. You cannot just buy a license and go hunting, at least on public land. Each spring, the game and fish departments do a census of the game populations and an assay of the habitat and determine how many permits for the various cervids they will release that year. Hunters are provided with the number of permits released for a given area (generally called a Game Management Unit or something similar) and the number of applicants for permits in that area. Generally speaking, hunts are anywhere from 5 to 10 days long in the rifle seasons and from 5 to 30 days long during the archery seasons. Hunts which occur later and permits for cow elk are generally less popular. Later hunts because the animals are spooked and utilizing remote areas and escape cover to the best of their abilities and cow permits because most hunters dream of getting a big bull, at least once.
Because of the limited availability and high demand for hunting opportunities, each of us hunters enters into a calculus balancing the popularity of an area (usually indicating the game population and likelihood of a successful hunt, or at least the likelihood of seeing game) against the chance of drawing a tag. Some hunts are undersubscribed for good reason- finding an elk, deer or antelope in that region will require a lot of work and even more luck. This is where local knowledge or scouting offers a true advantage. I've had good luck, for the most part, putting in for early cow hunts. Most meat hunters seem to favor the later hunts, when bad weather is likely to push the elk down into more accessible country. On the other hand, my best bet for a bull elk, as far as chance of drawing and likelihood of success, is for a hunt which is largely dependent upon a decent amount of snow to push the elk into a series of terrible canyons a bit lower down. Higher up, they aren't on public land. Lower down, serious country protects them but gives a few of us a shot.
Anyway, a short time back I posted that fall is over. Already it has started again in a small way. Now is when hunters talk to partners, add up dollars, calculate vacation time and likely commitments, pore over game management maps and printouts of past success rates, then make our wishes to find out something about the shape of the next fall.
Y'all keep your fingers crossed for us, especially my bunch. Since my poor sister has decided to throw her hat in the ring, we've gone almost a decade (nearly a decade and a half for me) without an antelope tag.
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