Starting next year, an applicant will have reason for consolation if he fails to draw one of Washington’s computer-selected big-game hunting permits.
His chances will get better and better every succeeding season until he finally draws a tag.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife has approved a weighted system under which applicants will receive one or more points every time they apply and fail to be issued a permit. The computers will be programed so that the more points an applicant has, the better his odds.
The department annually receives about 81,000 applications a year for special hunts to take bighorn sheep, cougars, mountain goats, moose, as well as special-entry or antlerless hunts for deer and elk.
The traditional drawing system has been random, which, as any veteran applicant can tell you, means that some hunters seemed to get tags every year while other hunters could never draw a tag.
Under the new system, hunters will continue to earn points every time they don’t draw a permit. If the hunter does not reapply for several consecutive years, he will be purged from the system, said Jim Rieck, Fish and Wildlife Department big-game program manager.
As soon as a hunter draws a permit, he goes back to zero points for that species. However, the special permits for moose will continue to be issued on a once-a-lifetime basis. Bighorn sheep hunters cannot reapply for a permit once they have filled one of the coveted tags.
However, hunters who don’t fill tags for bighorns, mountain goats and cougars will no longer have to wait one-to-five years before they can reapply under the new system.
Washington hunters also will, for the first time, have a multiple-choice application for each species. That way, if they don’t get selected for their first choice, they have a shot at a tag in another unit.
The new system is scheduled to be in effect this spring. The deadline to apply for Washington’s special hunting permits is March 31.
The new system will cost the department about $73,000 a year, Rieck said, but no increase in permit prices is planned.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Hunting fees compared